Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Piper & Whiteface Mountains - Short, Easy Hike; Big Views

Today we wanted a short hike so we headed off to the Belknap Range in Gilford, NH.  There we found a short, easy hike that offers frequent and amazing views.  The bang for the buck on this one is hard to beat.

Hike Stats & Info
Distance:  5.1 miles
Elevation Gain:  1,400'
Total Duration:  3 hrs. 50 min.
Trails Used:  White, Old Piper, Piper-Whiteface Link and Whiteface Mountain Trails
Difficulty:  Easy
Water Availability:  None
Directions to Trailhead:  Take Belknap Mountain Road from Route 11A in Gilford, NH to Carriage Road which is on your left.  Follow Carriage Road until it ends at the upper parking lot (loads of parking).  Gear up and then walk back down the Carriage Road from the parking area a little less than .2 miles to the trailhead (blazed white).

About this hike:  Starting on a short segment of the White Trail you will soon reach the orange blazed Old Piper Trail.  After a total of only .7 miles with at best 400' of elevation gain you'll reach the summit of North Piper.  As you proceed towards the summit there are at least two great viewpoints before you come upon a large open area with many cairns and stone seats.  From here there are views of several lakes and Belknap Mountain.  You'll likely find yourself wanting to just sit and take it all in for some time.  We did so, both on our way in and out.

Continue .2 miles from these open ledges along the blue blazed Piper-Whiteface Link trail to find the actual summit of North Piper Mountain which is marked only by a large cairn.  There are no signs indicating that this is the summit but it is clearly the height of land so you should be able to recognize it.

We continued from North Piper along the same trail and it eventually became/merged with the Whiteface Mountain Trail.  From here you will begin to descend along many ledges with great views all around.  After reaching the low point you will cross a small field where the trail then joins a rough jeep/ATV road.  Follow this road to the left until you reach the open ledges on the north side of the summit.  There are more excellent views from here.  As with Piper, the true summit is about 150 yards past this point in the middle of a large open field.

We merely reversed our direction to return.  Here are some photos:


 This is a beautiful spot where the Piper Mountain and Old Piper Trails meet.  The open ledges 'feel' like the summit but the true summit is about .2 miles further along.

 Here is the cairn marking the true summit of Piper Mountain.

 Lake Winnipesaukee stands proud and if you look closely that white spec is the Mount Washington cruise ship.

 This is the summit of Whiteface.  The best views are just shy of the summit on the open ledges.

Lake Winnisquam is the furthest lake away from us. I believe Opechee Bay is the lake closest to us on the right hand side.


Gunstock (background) and Belknap Mountain (foreground).   


 One of the things I did not mention in the text above was just how cool it was today.  Temps were only in the mid-to upper 60's for much of our hike, the air was very dry and the wind was blowing which made it feel even cooler.  Even though it is officially summer and the end of June, it was one of those days where you stop and want to add a layer because you felt cold.  Heading down the ledges towards Whiteface from Piper we ran into this trail squatter; Mr. Snake.  Mr. Snake was very lethargic which I believe was due to the cold.  He would barely move when the ground around him was moved about.

How cold was it?  Well, here is some evidence.  On our return from Whiteface Mr. Snake was in the same spot and all he had done was wiggle his way down into the pine needles for cover.  Is he ill or is he cold? I hope the latter.

THE END!  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mt. Resolution & Mt. Parker; "52 With-A-View" List Completed!

We did it!!  One of the hiking lists we've been attempting to complete is called NH 52 With-A-View.  Today's hike covered the last two mountains needed to finish that list, Mt. Resolution and Mt. Parker.

Hike Stats & Info
Distance: 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain:  3,420'
Total Duration:  7 hrs. 10 min.
Trails Used:  Davis Path, Mt. Parker Trail, Mt Langdon Trail
Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult
Water Availability:  There are a few water sources during the first mile or so of the Davis Path and around the last mile on the Mt. Langdon Trail.  In between, it's dry as a bone.  You'll need to carry whatever water you need for the entire trip.  Note:  Some say that there is a water source about 2.2 miles before the end of our chosen route, if heading towards the shelter on the Mt. Stanton trail (we did not confirm this).
Driving Directions:  The trailhead at the start of the Davis Path is well marked and easy to find on the side of Route 302 where there is a huge parking lot (directly across from the Notchland Inn).  At the other end, where you'll need to spot a car if you follow the same route we did, you'll find the Mt. Langdon Trailhead.  That parking area can only hold 4-5 cars however, across the street there is a large dirt parking area overlooking the Saco River which could be used.  To locate the Mt. Langdon Trailhead use your GPS to find River Street in Bartlett, NH (directly across from Bear Notch Road) and follow it until it crosses the river.  Look ahead and slightly left and you'll see the small parking area.

About The Hike:  During this 7 hour hike we never saw another person on the trail.  At one point, after we had passed around the dome of Mt. Crawford, we did look back and saw someone on the summit but he/she was a long distance from us.  Short of that we did not see anyone else during the entire hike. 

Beyond the benefit of the peacefulness of this low traffic route, there are many views to be enjoyed so this trip is, to my thinking, very worthwhile.  It is however a long haul.  An alternative would be to do the two mountains on separate hikes.

The Mt. Parker Trail between Mt. Resolution and Mt. Parker is very underutilized and as a result is overgrown in a number of places.  There are also dozens of blowdowns.

Prior to this trip we had read that the Mt. Langdon Trail was poorly marked and difficult to follow.  No doubt the blazes are few and far between and those that do exist are badly faded but we did not find this trail hard to follow at all.  There was one particular stand of beech trees that would make a short section difficult to follow in the fall after the leaves had fallen but the rest of the trail was fine as long as you followed the trodden path.  Someone had recently done maintenance on the waterbars on the Mt. Langdon Trail, of which there are many!  Clearly there is a trail adopter working on this trail.  Thanks to that person or team!

There is not much else to say about this hike.  We had perfect weather today with temps in the mid-70's and very low humidity.  That made the air clear and one could see for miles and miles and miles; wait, isn't that a song?

Maybe there is one more thing to say.  The two trailheads are 7 miles apart by road so you must spot a car.  We live nearly 2 hours away and it is a pain to drive two cars up just for this purpose.  So we did a little digging around and found a taxi service that would transport us between the two trailheads.  We had arranged for the taxi to pick us up at 8:30 at the Mt. Langdon trailhead where we had parked our car.  The driver actually arrived just before 9:00.  That was irritating enough but then we were charged $60 to drive the 7 miles to the Davis Path trailhead.  In fairness, I expected to pay more than the meter rate because of how far out we were but that price seemed a little over the top.  I take responsibility for not having asked for a price estimate.  Lesson learned I guess. 

Even though we had just paid $60 for a 7-mile cab ride we were still smiling.

We used our WMG Online tool (www.wmgonline.org) to plan this hike.  This program is so worth the small cost of $12/yr. for AMC members and $15/yr for non-members. If you hike, you should get this tool!

About 2 miles in on the Davis Path you reach the first of several ledges with great views.


Here we've hiked around the dome of Mt. Crawford and are looking back up to it.  We had been to this summit before so we decided not to take the spur to the summit.  Our planned route already covered 10.5 miles so adding another .6 miles to that was not an exciting prospect. We took a vote and it was 2-0 to skip the summit and move on.

Crawford Notch in the distance. 


Here is number 51, the summit of Mt. Resolution.

Just before the actual summit of Mt. Resolution (some 50-100 yards) you'll reach this great open lookout.  It was a perfect place to have lunch and enjoy the views.  And what a day it was!

Goal Achieved!!  This is number 52, the summit of Mt. Parker.

Mt. Washington in the distance.


Near the very end of our hike we were treated to this pretty little cascade.

THE END!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shelburne Moriah Mountain

Shelburne Moriah Mountain, not to be confused with Mount Moriah or Middle Moriah Mountain, is one of the summits in the 52-with-a-view list.  Without a doubt it has some stunning views, in particular for the last half mile or so as you approach the actual summit.

Hike Stats
Distance:  11.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,380'
Total Duration:  7 hrs. 30 min.
Trails Used:  Rattle River & Kenduskeag Trails
Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult
Water Availability:  Water sources exist in multiple locations along the initial 4 miles of this trail; always filter or treat your water!!
Driving Directions:  Head East from the intersection of Routes 16 & 2 in Gorham, NH for 3.5 miles.  An ample parking area exists on the right hand side of the road.  

This hike begins on the Rattle River Trail which runs alongside the Rattle River (brilliant hey).  I always enjoy hiking along a river and listening to the cascading water.  On this hike you will cross the Rattle River and other tributaries a number of times.  Two of the water crossings are a bit more challenging but with the low water flow today they were not too bad, though the rocks were slippery.  In times of high flows these crossings would be more challenging.

The Rattle River Trail, up to its junction with Kenduskeag, is a part of the Appalachian Trail.  If you are doing this hike from about mid-July through mid-September you are bound to run into some AT hikers.  Not so today.  In fact, we only saw 10 people all day and that was on a Saturday.  I like that kind of peacefulness.

The first 1.7 miles from the trailhead to the Rattler River shelter is a walk in the park with under 500' of elevation gain for the entire distance (spread out almost evenly).  The next mile or so climbs a bit more but is still easy to moderate.  Then the heart thumping begins all the way to the junction of Kenduskeag and along this section you will climb dozens and dozens of stone steps.  

Once on the Kenduskeag Trail things begin to open up after about a half mile and you will spend significant time exposed.  You'll be treated to views of Gorham and Berlin area as well as the Androscoggin River, several of the Presidentials including Washington and a stunning view overlooking the Wild River Wilderness.  Watch for a short spur trail to the right well below the summit of Shelburne Moriah which takes you to a rocky knob overlooking the Wild River Wilderness.  You will see the knob on your right well before you reach it so it is easy to find.

So, how far is it from the Rattle River Trailhead to the junction of Kenduskeag?  I guess it depends if you are going up or going down.  I always get a kick out of disparities in signage like these:


Sign at the lower starting trailhead says it is 4.2 miles to the junction.

Sign at the junction says it is 4.5 miles to the trailead.

So, which is it??

In closing, this is one of the prettiest hikes on the 52-with-a-view list, though it is certainly one of the more challenging ones due to the distance and elevation gain.  Now on to some more photos:


  

Definitely not a Four Seasons Resort but shelter nonetheless.

This 'hairy' boulder needs a cut and color.

 There are many, many bog bridges on this hike.  Even so, more are needed. 

This is a photo of some folks on the knob that I noted in the text above that overlooks the Wild River Wilderness. 

  This is Sue's "so why are you taking another picture of me" look.

Shelburne Moriah in the distrance.


 Still some snow on Washington.

Clouds are moving in across the Wild River Wilderness.  It was rather beautiful.

THE END!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

No. Straightback, East & West Quarry Mtns

West Quarry is one of the 12 mountains required to obtain a Belknap County Sportsman's Association Hiking Patch.  Though we've previously summited North Straightback Mountain, we decided on a route to West Quarry that would take us across this summit again, then on to East Quarry and thru to West Quarry.  There are shorter routes to reach this goal but we wanted a longer hike.  We retraced our steps to return.

Hike Stats
Distance:  6.8 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,400'
Total Duration:  4 hrs. 20 min. (incl. stops which were brief due to black flies!!)
Difficulty:  Moderate
Driving Directions:  Trail is an out and back departing from the main Mt. Major parking lot.  The entire world seems to know where the parking lot for Mt. Major is so I won't detail it here. 

This hike begins by using the Main Trail (Blue - RH side of parking lot) to Mt. Major.  While on this section you will be accompanied by what seems like hundreds of hikers and non-hikers alike.  You will soon reach the Brook Trail (Yellow - continue straight) which only about half the Mt. Major hikers use to ascend or descend, so the heavy traffic slows a little here.  Fear not, things will quiet down when you reach the green blazed North Straightback Link trail which veers to the right.  From this point on we only saw two people for the rest of our hike.  Perfect!

Here the trail steepens while climbing the backside of North Straightback.  Just 10 yards shy of the actual summit, the Quarry Trail will depart to the right (sharp right and easy to miss coming from this direction).  From here it is a bit interesting as there are a number of PUDS (pointless ups and downs) to be covered and we were not certain if we had reached either East or West Quarry.  Things were made worse by the fact that there is a downed pine tree near the summit of East Quarry which was obstructing the summit sign.

We knew we were on the correct trail but we felt lost.  I had brought along my Garmin hiking GPS however, when charging the batteries the night before I had forgotten to turn it off.  So, when we reached the parking lot and I attempted to turn it on, it was already on and nearly dead.  No worries, I 'always' carry a spare set of batteries.  But not so today.  Knowing this was a short hike I had decided to leave my spare batteries at home.  Not a good decision!

Like all safe hikers, we had a paper map with us but knowing where we specifically were on that map was a bit of a challenge.  So, as we meandered about I finally remembered that I had only recently downloaded a GPS hiking app on my phone.  I had gotten the idea from Philip Werner who writes a daily hiking blog called sectionhiker.com.  If you have not signed up to receive his daily blog you really should.  I've learned a lot from him.

Sure enough I queued up the GAIA GPS app on my phone and within seconds we found our location to be just past the summit of East Quarry.  I am now sold on having this app as a fallback (never depend solely on a cell phone).

We eventually reached the viewless summit of West Quarry.  There are however several small views of Lake Winnipesaukee along the way.  You should also know that there is a trail junction at the summit of West Quarry that does not show on my maps.  It was blazed in yellow??  We were in a hurry to get back to attend a graduation party so we did not investigate this further.  On to some pictures:

One of several limited views of the lake.

The summit of North Straightback.


The turn for the Quarry Trail.  You'll approach this sign from the backside so it is easy to miss.


Evidence!  We did find it...
As seen in the next couple of shots, though this hike covers some of the 'baby' mountains of the Belknap Range, there are some short but challenging and fun sections. 

The East Quarry sign and summit partially obstructed by a large fallen pine tree.


 Here I've zoomed way in with my camera to the crowds on Mt. Major in the distance.

 Lady Slipper flower.  Learn more...


The End!!