We used the Daniel Doan trail in and out. The trail is named after the author of two books we often use when planning our hikes. Dan wrote both "50 Hikes in the White Mountains" and "50 More Hikes in New Hampshire". The Dartmouth Outing Club named this trail in honor of Dan (a graduate of Dartmouth) just before his passing in 1993. If you are an avid hiker, you need these two books. Dan's beautiful descriptions of each trail are fabulous. We carry both in our car during every hiking trip just in case there is a last minute change of plans.
Certainly this trail is not as popular today as it once may have been. We were the first car in the small parking area at 10:00 am (fits 4-5 cars). We saw no one until we reached the summit (more about that later) and we saw no one on the way down. When we got back to the parking area it appears we had been the only car there all day.
There has been some recent trail rerouting and repair and more is planned as several areas were marked with surveyors tape with notations indicating additional rebuilding is forthcoming. Certainly this trail needs some TLC but all in all it was an enjoyable hike. Our trip took just under 5-hours. So did the RT drive. Not a good ratio.
One thing you should know about this hike. There are no views or lookouts. BUT -- luckily there is a fire tower at the summit allowing for a stunning 360 degree view. Today our views were limited due to haze (it was a humid day) and clouds. It will be a sad day for Smarts Mountain when this fire tower ages and is no longer usable. It is in decent shape now but I did notice that two of the four support cables (I assume there were four) are missing. Other than that the steps and upper deck seemed more than safe.
Back to the group we met at the summit. The Appalachian Trail runs across the summit of Smarts Mountain. I believe that this is the first 3,000' mountain the AT reaches when it first crosses from Vermont into NH. There were four hikers resting at the summit and it was clear that they were not out for a day hike. After I said hello, the first thing I asked was whether they were hiking the AT, which they confirmed. My reply to their affirming my suspicions - God Bless you guys! I am always impressed when I run into AT through hikers. They said that they hope to finish by mid-September (Katahdin in Maine). This group looked tired. It was hard for me to imagine they had another month or more to go. Sometimes when I am hiking I struggle to finish the last mile or two of my 'day' hike. How physically and psychologically difficult is a through hike of the AT! Kudos to them...
There is one sad point to make about our running into this group. I mentioned to Sue on the decent that we offered them nothing. Here we were over provisioned for our lowly little 6-mile hike and we offered them nothing but our company for 3-minutes. I had extra Cliff bars, gorp, yogurt pretzels and more and I offered them nothing. I will never let that happen again if I run across a through hiker on the AT. Both Sue and I felt really guilty about it.
On to some pics:
Every hike starts with a trail head photos.
Earlier I mentioned it was a humid day. With Sue only able to carry 1-liter of water and nothing else, i am doing double duty carrying a pack with supplies, food and water for both of us. Combine the humid day with the extra weight (not to mention an overweight and asthmatic hiker) and the result is a hiker who looks interesting when he takes a break. Yes, look closely. That is actually steam rising from my body!
A perfectly formed spider web between these rocks.
Near the summit a spring feeds this flow of water down the trail.
Careful around the hatch inside the fire tower. It is in need of some repair. And, it is heavy so watch you head on the way down.
We sit inside the fire tower and have lunch.
This shot and the next few are from inside the fire tower.
The saga of the golden mushroom continues. You will need to read my other posts to understand.