Here I will share my travels throughout the majestic White Mountains of NH and also delve into some of the area's rich history and forgotten places. I do this in hopes of getting others excited about exploring these wonderful places.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sandwich, with a side of Noon and Jennings - 8/25/09

I’ve been toying with the idea of working on another list of peaks. The New Hampshire Hundred Highest (NHHH) includes the 48 4000 Footers, and some other lower mountains, many of which are without trails. This list is similar to the New England Hundred Highest (NEHH), but includes some slightly more obscure peaks, since it only list mountains in the state of New Hampshire. This list is also NOT officially recorded by the AMC, while the NEHH is an official list. I’m not sure if I’ll actually make an attempt at finishing it or not (still new to bushwhacking, and not sure I have an affinity for it), but it will inspire me to get to some interesting places. That much I am sure of.

This past week, I went to a place that I’ve been wanting to visit for quite a while. It just so turns out that this spot is the highest peak on the list outside of the 4Kers, Sandwich Mountain (AKA Sandwich Dome). When I traversed over the ridge of Mt. Tripyramid last July, one of the most interesting features I spotted was not Sandwich Dome itself, but the tiny summit of Jennings Peak to the right (North) of it. This summit rises abruptly from the ridge, and from some angles almost looks as sharp as Owl’s Head (Cherry Mt.) does from 115. For whatever reason, these “sharp” peaks seem to beckon me to visit them. I think it’s the thought of standing at the pinnacle, with the world falling away steeply on all sides. Whatever it is, I’m more than happy to oblige the call.

Jennings Peak (center), and Sandwich Dome to the left, seen from Mt. Tripyramid

Since I wanted to visit Jennings Peak, I decided on using the Sandwich Mountain Trail. This trail leaves the East side of Rt. 49 just before the Waterville Campground. The trail passes a power substation just before crossing Drakes Brook and beginning the moderate climb. The trail was a little wet on a couple of the early sections, but was relatively dry compared to a lot of the other trails I’ve been on this summer. The steepest part of the hike is probably the first part, before you reach the first outlook on the shoulder of Noon Peak, at about a mile and a half from the trailhead.

One of the steeper sections of the Sandwich Mountain Trail

This outlook took me a little by surprise. I didn’t expect to see such a sweeping view from the first and lowest outlook of the hike. On this particular day I was treated to beautiful blue skies, without the view-ruining haze of humidity. Already I could see the Osceolas, Carrigain, the Tripyramids, Mt. Washington, and a host of other peaks I couldn‘t quite identify.

The view from the outlook on Noon Peak

I was re-energized and set off for the day’s star attraction, Jennings Peak. The hike along this section of trail is fairly level and passes over ledges with a couple more outlooks, with views to the peaks ahead and out into the Sandwich Wilderness.

Jennings Peak up ahead

From the junction with the spur trail it only a couple tenths of a mile up to the summit of Jennings Peak. At the top, the wooded true summit is easily discerned, but the real highlight is the ledge just below the summit on the South side. The view here sweeps from Mt. Carrigain on the left all the way around to the town of Campton on the far right, with Sandwich Dome dead center.

Part of the view from Jennings Peak

A most interesting little knob presents itself just to the Southwest along the Acteon Ridge, known as Sachem Peak. This little peak is trailless, but I imagine the view from the ledges at it’s summit are worth the effort. I would very much like to visit it one of these days.

Sachem Peak

After soaking in the sights for a while and a short rest, I hoisted my pack and was on my back down to the Sandwich Mountain Trail. One back on this trail it’s only a little over a mile to the summit of Sandwich Mountain. Here I passed a small group of hikers who had just come down and they assured me the view was great. After exchanging pleasantries I began the fairly easy climb up to the top. Once there I was again taken by surprise.

Summit of Sandwich Dome

While the view from the top is restricted, it is one of the best (And slightly lesser-known) I’ve seen in my travels. I spent about an hour here, eating my lunch standing up and picking out as many peaks as I could. Moosilauke could be seen on the far left, then the Kinsmans, Tecumseh, Cannon, and the Franconia Ridge just to name a few. It was truly an All-Star view, and it is now placed among my favorites.

View from Sandwich Dome

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mt. Martha & Owl's Head - 8/18/09

Owl’s Head - a spur of Cherry Mountain, not the peak in the Pemi Wilderness - has been on my list of places to visit ever since I saw it on my drive home from my first trip to the Northern Presidentials. When seen off to East from the area of the junction of 115 and 115A, it’s a very striking peak. It rises into an almost perfectly shaped cone, almost begging to be hiked up to. I always thought it must be a great spot to visit, even if it a wooded summit, as is visible from even that distance. I did a bit more research after and found out that it has one of the most highly touted views of the Presidentials, seen from a ledge just below the summit. This sealed the deal on my visiting it.

Owl's Head seen from 115

While I had originally planned to directly ascend Owl’s Head from the North, I changed my plans a few days before the hike. I decided I would hike up the Cherry Mountain Trail and visit Mount Martha first, the highest peak of Cherry Mountain. This extended the hike a bit and gave me more to explore.

Cherry Mountain Trail lot

The few days before I had done this hike had been very hazy, hot, and humid and today was no different. I got an early start in hopes that I would beat the worst of the humidity. The trail was moderately steep and had excellent footing, making it fairly quick work to reach the ridge.

One of the steeper sections of the Cherry Mt. Trail

I arrived at the junction with the trail to Mount Martha’s summit in a little over an hour after leaving my car. This particular spot was very pleasant. It’s wide open and has a lot of ferns and other low growth due to it being an old road. Whether it was used by past logging operations, or to access the firetower that once stood at the summit, or both, I’m not entirely sure. It does make for a wonderfully peaceful little spot though.

Junction with the Mt. Martha spur

A few minutes later I was at the site of the firetower at the summit area. There are a couple little viewpoints here, one with a little bench, the other past the tower a few yards. It was very hazy, which made the views obscured, but it was still sunny and a glorious day to be out in the woods.

Site of the former fire tower

View from Mt. Martha towards Twins and Franconia Ridge... somewhere in there

I set off for Owl’s Head on the lovely little section of trail between the two peaks known as Martha’s Mile. This went by rather quickly, even with a couple stops to look at some interesting plants, like the Indian Pipes, aka the Ghost Plant.

Indian Pipes

Before long I was making the short climb up to the ledge below the summit. Even with all the haze, this was the highlight of the trip. I took in the sights briefly, before climbing up to the summit, only a few yards further. The actual summit is wooded but is still a great little spot, with quite a few viewpoints nearby. Just below the summit on the North side is a little outlook to the North and East out to Rt. 2, and another out to the Mt. Washington Regional Airport, and further Northwest on clearer days.

View Northeast from Owl's Head ledges

I returned to the main ledge and dropped my pack. I ate an early lunch and studied my haze-enshrouded surroundings. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the entire line of the Presidential Range became barely discernable in the distance. It took some squinting, but I could make it out all the way from the North peaks down to Crawford Notch. This must be an incredible sight on a clear day. Perhaps a crystal clear winter day? Hmmmmm…… Mental note taken.

The main view from Owl's Head, completely hazed over. (Presies faintly visible when enlarged)

Anyway, I sat for a good long while before hoisting the pack and departing back the way I came. I met a couple about a mile from the trailhead, these being the only people I had seen all day. I was glad to finally know what the top of that wooded cone looked like and to have added Mt. Martha to the itinerary. It quickly became a personal favorite and I’m sure it won’t be long before I return.

Mt. Martha seen from Owl's Head

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mt. Jackson - 8/4/09

My friend Jessica and I have been trying to get in some hikes together this summer and she decided that she was ready to attempt her first 4000 footer. Together we opted for Mt. Jackson the lowest peak of the Presidential Range (not counting Mt. Webster). This is one of the easier peaks, but it’s also got a great view, one that I only partially saw on my first trip this past winter. So I was just as excited to get up there as she was. We kept a good steady pace from the outset, but took our time negotiating the wet, slippery rocks. Not too long after starting we arrived at the outlook on Bugle Cliff. This little ledge offering a nice view back to the Highland Center and Crawford Depot.

The view from Bugle Cliff

After a short break here and a few pictures we were back on the trail and walking along, enjoying the absolutely perfect day. The trail alternates between flat sections and short steep climbs, strenuous at times for newcomers to hiking, but never too overwhelming. A steady pace got us to the junction of the two branches of the Webster-Jackson Trail in good time. I remember really enjoying this particular spot on the quiet winter day on my last trip out here. The brook can be heard down the slope a ways, and the woods are beautiful, making this another great spot for a quick break.

Fork in the Webster-Jackson Trail

About a quarter-mile below the top is a clearing between some trees that perfectly frames the summit cone ahead. Jess was glad to see the end approaching, but she was doing really well and, most importantly, was enjoying herself. In a few minutes we began climbing up the rocky knobs just below the summit, which soon turn into the wide open ledges at the top. Jess was blown away by the view and I was too. Last time I was here the majority of the view was socked in by clouds, but there were hardly any in the sky on this day! Not even a single one over Mt. Washington, a rare sight.

View of the Presidentials, and Montalban Ridge to the Right

View South, three-humped Carrigain on R, Chocorua way in back on L
(click to enlarge)

We walked over to the ledges on the North side of the summit area and sat down for our lunch. While here, I was excited to see a couple Gray Jays land a branch next to Jessica. I told her to hold a piece of bread in the palm of her hand,which she did. The bird quickly landed on her finger and took the morsel. She was ecstatic. I did the same an the other bird followed suit and landed on my hand, a first for me as well. It was a great feeling, and I must say the little buggers were adorable.

Making new friends the easy way. With food!

After stuffing our new found friends full of bread crust and taking pictures of the views, we put our packs back on and set off back down the way we had come up. Jess was tired, but I knew the Gray Jays alone had made this an experience she’d never forget, and I was glad to be there for it. This is definitely a great mountain to introduce people to hiking the higher peaks.

Jessica takes in the view across Crawford Notch to the Willey Range and beyond

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mt. Adams - 7/28/09

Mt. Adams was one of the mountains that I really had been wanting to revisit (seems so many fall into this category). The first time I had been denied any view at all from the summit and I had heard so much about it being among the best of them all. This time I decided I would take my time and skip climbing it’s neighbor Mt. Madison, but I would choose a different route this time. I wanted to check out King Ravine too, as I enjoy challenging trails and I had heard many good things about this area. Not to mention I had been fascinated gazing into this cirque from the Knife Edge above it on my previous trip.

Walls of King Ravine seen from the ravine floor

I got a slightly later start than I was hoping for, but was still on the trail fairly early and was making my way along the Air Line. I meandered along, branching off onto the Short Line. On the later sections of this trail are some gorgeous spots along the brook and Mossy Falls is a pleasant distraction as well. At the junction with King Ravine Trail, I dropped my pack and had my lunch in the shade, enjoying the sun filtering through the trees, despite it being rather warm and sticky.

Some large boulders on the ravine floor

After lunch I shouldered the pack once more and set out up to the ravine floor. This is an amazing place! The most striking thing about the ravine, other than the views up the towering walls, was the gigantic boulders strewn about. I opted to take the route called “The Elevated” and bypass the caves, figuring I check these out the next time I visited. I began the steep climb up the ravine wall shortly after.

Some big slabs on the higher portion of the King Ravine Trail

This climb, while steep, isn’t as exposed as something like the North Tripyramid slide or the Huntington Ravine Trail, but I can’t say I’d want to descend via this route, as I saw one couple doing. There aren’t really any long slabby sections to friction climb up, but there is a lot of large boulders to clamber up and over. These, however, make for great places to sit down and take in the sights. Directly across the ravine is the Randolph Mountain Club’s Crag Camp, a small hut perched rather dramatically on the wall of the ravine.

The view across the ravine, if you look hard you can find Crag Camp (click to enlarge)

After climbing up through the Gateway at the top of the King Ravine Trail I emerged back on the Air Line trail. Here I took another breather before setting out for the summit of Adams. Mt. Madison and the hut below the peak, were abuzz with activity. I began the climb to Adams, following the cairns along the rocky footway (hard to call it a trail at this point). Many people were coming down off the top as I made my way up.

"The Gateway"

As I reached the summit I was pleasantly surprised to see I had it all to myself. I stood with jaw dropped, taking in the best view of Mt. Washington and the Great Gulf I have ever seen. Mt. Jefferson to the right looked majestic as well. I couldn’t have been blessed with a better view.

Lovely little meadow near the top

Mt.Washington rises over the Great Gulf, Clay and Jefferson to the right

The late afternoon sun cast a golden light over everything and I was glad that I had got a later start than planned. I took pictures aplenty and let my legs rest for a bit, before beginning the hike back to the car. I descended using the scenic Air Line, which traverses the Knife Edge of Durand Ridge. By the time I got to the car my legs were beat, but my spirits were high. I had finally got to see the view from Adams in all its splendor, as well as the experience of hiking up through King Ravine. Needless to say, I look forward to many return trips!

Mt. Madison rises over Star Lake, the minor peak of John Quincy Adams in the foreground

The sign at the summit, the only thing I could see on my last visit