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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mt. Chocorua - 5/20/09

For my birthday this year I was given the gift of a great book entitled Our Mountain Trips (part 1 of 2, the second of which I promptly purchased after reading the first). This book is culled from the journals of a couple newlywed hikers in the early 1900s. It’s a fascinating look back in time and especially interesting when one is at least a little familiar with the mountains in which they travel.

Highly recommended read!

Far and beyond, their favorite mountain “tramps” took place on Mt. Chocorua. They visit this peak far more often than any other. In fact, Chocorua is one of the most hiked of all the White Mountains. It’s height lie under the 4000 foot mark, but the summit is a giant mass of open ledge that is easily spotted from more places than I can even begin to count. In fact I had seen it from both of my past two hikes, Whaleback and Hedgehog. I made plans with a couple friends and on a slightly cloudy morning we set off over the Kanc, once again, headed for the Champney Falls Trail.

Champney Falls

Mark, Samantha, Kevin, and I were off and taking the relatively easy grade pretty quickly, reaching the falls in good time. We all hopped around taking pictures of the various cascades, and conversing with the other people out for the day. Not long after we were on our way again, climbing up the steep set of stone steps before rejoining the main trail. We made our way up at a steady pace, stopping for the occasional flower or peak identification. As we made our way up, the treadway began getting more rocky and the trees were getting fewer and farther between. Ledges and rocky knobs started coming into view, the summit was seen not long after.

The summit of Chocorua

We each meandered and picked our own way up to the top, Mark and I in search of the famed spot where Chocorua, an Indian chief, had famously leapt to his demise. Whether we found it or not, we had a good time either way. We got to the summit under some dark clouds and there was a brief light rain while we were there that hastened our visit. We took our pictures, ate our snacks and set off toward Middle Sister, the second of the rocky knobs on the shoulder of Mt. Chocorua known as the Three Sisters.

The remains of the firetower atop Middle Sister

Before long the remains of the fire tower atop this little dome was becoming visible. After a quick stroll we were taking in the sights from atop the stairs on the tower foundation. After our stop here we began our descent long the same trail, this time skipping the falls. The rain never showed up again after the light shower at the summit and we still got great views. It was a great day, spent in good company. Now I have an itch to go back and read those books all over again.

View North from summit of Chocorua

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Whaleback Mountain - 5/19/09

Whaleback has been calling me for quite some time. Driving into Lincoln from North Woodstock it can plainly be seen to the right of Big Coolidge, and I glance up to it each and every day. The first things that catch the eye about it are the massive ledges that adorn the Southeast side of the peak. Today was the day to finally answer the call.

View of Whaleback from Lincoln

Part of the mystique of Whaleback to me is the fact that it is no longer traversed by any “officially” maintained trails. The AMC’s original Osseo Trail used to go over this summit on the way to Mt. Flume, but the trail had to be rerouted in 1983 due to the building of the Clearbrook condos. The new Osseo Trail branches off of the Lincoln Woods Trail and does not traverse the summit of Whaleback anymore. However the trail abandoned trail is lightly maintained by some of the condo owners, and is fairly easily followed.

This section was like a normal trail

After about a mile’s walk, a small campsite with a simple shelter appears on the left side of the trail, right next to a crossing of Clearbrook. After carefully crossing the brook on a fallen tree I rejoined the trail. From the campsite on the trail becomes slightly more overgrown and a little more difficult to discern. There are, however, some blazes along the way.

Nice stream-side camp site

Toward the middle of the hike the trail actually becomes a stream for short distances, with large volumes of water moving along the path and dry-looking pits of boot-sucking mud before and after these sections. It is during this part that the trail must carefully be followed, as I found out by quickly losing it altogether. Once back on track the trail began to get quite a bit steeper climbing through a series of switchbacks. On one of these corners I was surprised to find an old AMC sign still bolted to one of the trees.

Old AMC sign

On another of these corners is a short side path to a rather dramatic ledge, that is actually quite dangerous. You can’t walk far out on this sheer rock face but it offers an interesting, sweeping view of Loon Mountain, Scar Ridge, the peaks of Mt. Osceola, the Tripyramids, and further beyond.

View toward Loon and the Osceolas and Tripyramids

After I was on the way again it wasn’t too long before I came to another old sign and another side path. This time to the view I had been awaiting the most. The opposite of the view I get of it every day. This a sunny little clearing with a great view including Mt. Liberty, and across to other ledges also on Whaleback and the backside of Big Coolidge (the other mountain calling my name). The Kinsmans, Indian Head, Mt. Wolf, Moosilauke and the towns of Lincoln and North Woodstock can all be seen from here as well.

View to Kinsman Ridge, Moosilauke and town of Lincoln; Mt. Liberty poking up at far right

This view point isn’t too far from the summit and shortly I arrived there. The only thing that marks the wooded summit is a single spruce tree in the center of a small clearing. This clearing also has a side path to another view back to Scar Ridge, etc. I dropped my pack here and enjoyed a nice lunch in solitude, accompanied only by some hyperactive songbirds.

Tree marking the wooded summit

After lunch I walked a short walk past the summit on the trail and then bushwhacked out to a small clearing that offered the surprise view that turned out to be the best of the day. This view looked Northeast and immediately recognizable was Mt. Washington and to the right of that was the majestic trio of the Bonds. I always love a view to these peaks in particular.

Great surprise view

After this it was time to head out, back over the same trail which actually seemed harder to follow in the downward direction at times. Shortly after an hour later I was back at my car and anxious to get a look back to the top of it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hedgehog Mountain - 5/13/09

After really enjoying the rather leisurely trip out to Lonesome Lake I decided to take another shorter hike, one that I could take my time with. I had always heard that Hedgehog Mountain was a good “Bang for your Buck” peak, meaning it offers good views without an overly strenuous hike. After a sunny drive East over the Kanc I arrived at the parking area, down a short dirt road opposite the Passaconaway Campground. In short order I was geared up and hit the trail.

Spring on the UNH Trail

At the outset it was a lovely, completely flat walk. The trails in this area are also used as cross country ski trails in the winter, and I imagine they are quite nice in that season. After taking some pictures of flowers along the way I arrive at loop intersection. I had decided to do the loop clockwise, going to the East ledges first, for these are the most heralded views of the hike. I tramped along at a relaxed pace, trying my hand at identifying the various trees and flowers, and taking more pictures.

Close-up of Hobblebush flowers

The trails passes over what only seem like minor ups and downs for about a mile before beginning the fairly tame climb up to the ledges. Before long I was walking on exposed rock and soon came out on the broad expanse of rock with a view even better than I was expecting.

View from the East ledges; Passaconaway on right

After taking some pictures and a quick snack break I hoisted my pack and set off for top. The ledges then swing along to the right and the ledgy knob of the summit then comes into view, not far ahead. Not too much later I came out onto more ledges with views of varying degrees of impressiveness. The views from the top are interspersed among a few different open ledges. Potash Mountain is close at hand, and views to the East and North are opened up. I had my lunch on one of the ledges, gazing off toward Carrigain and Lafayette.

View Northwest from summit; Passaconaway on left this time

I continued on the loop and was now on the descent which seemed to be a bit steeper than the other side, but still pretty mild. After what only seemed like a few minutes I arrived at the signed side path to Allen’s Ledge. This is an interesting three-tiered viewpoint. Oddly enough the higher ledges off the more restricted views, but the uppermost outlook atop the knobby ledge offers an interesting look back to the summit. The lowest is the most open and is the most dramatically perched, almost like a balcony.

View from Allen's Ledge

After taking in these sights I was back on the path and on my way down. This was quick business, and soon after I was back at the loop junction only a short walk from the car. I vastly enjoyed this little loop and would certainly like to return.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lonesome Lake 5/12/09

It was a beautiful morning but the forecast called for it to get cloudier later in the day, with a chance of rain, so I decided to take a shorter hike. I had never been to Lonesome Lake but had seen some gorgeous pictures taken there, so why not take the short trek out to it? This is one of the most popular family hikes so I knew to expect easier grades and only moderate climbing along a nice trail with good footing. The Lonesome Lake Trail passes through some lovely forest on a shoulder of Cannon Mountain on the West side on Franconia Notch and offers nice little glimpses of the Franconia Ridge along the way. I also saw the first wildflowers of the season and had to snap a few pictures.

Painted Trillium

After a little over a mile I arrived at the Eastern shore of the lake and took in the expansive view of the entire body of glinting water and the peaks of Kinsman Mountain beyond. After snapping some photos I headed South on the Around-The-Lake Trail.

View West across Lonesome Lake, Kinsmans beyond

After a few minutes of walking along the wooden pathway, the AMC’s Lonesome Lake hut soon comes into view and a dock on the shore offers the best view of the day, across the lake the entirety of the Franconia Ridge rises prolifically to the East. After a quick break I continued along the loop, passing through some breathtaking bog scenery. The long grass and calm water all around invites you to take your time through this section. After another half mile or so I arrived back at the Lonesome Lake Trail and set off for the car. I’m glad I was finally able to see this famed view for myself and I look forward to making a return trip in winter sometime.

View East to Franconia Ridge, Cannon on Left

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mt. Moosilauke - 4/29/09

Moosilauke was another one of the places I had really been wanting to get back out to. I have a great view of it from many of the hotel rooms at work and always find myself looking at it, vowing to get up there soon. This was the day. It was gorgeous and fairly warm, so I set off for Ravine Lodge Road. To my delight and surprise the gate was open and I didn’t have to hike up the road like I was planning. I was already off to a good start. The Gorge Brook Trail being the chosen route of the climb up. What a pleasant walk it was!

Lovely, open section of the Gorge Brook trail

It never really seems to have any long sections of climbing and travels through some lovely forest and has some nice viewpoints along the way. It almost feels like cheating. This probably explains why it’s the most popular summertime path on “The Moose”. Before you know it, the trees are getting smaller and you pass an area with a great view back down to the Ravine Lodge.

Looking down on the Ravine Lodge

Right after passing this you emerge from the trees with the broad dome of the summit ahead. This summit is broad and rocky , but is also blanketed in an expansive alpine meadow and is one of the windiest spots I've encountered in the whites.

Approaching the broad, dome-shaped summit

The 360 degree views are seemingly endless, with as far as Canada and as close as Lincoln all visible from the same spot.

View over Lincoln toward the Franconia Range, Pemi Wilderness, and Mt. Washington

This mountain also has a long history. Including the Carriage Road, the hotel that once stood at the summit, and the nation’s first downhill ski race was held here back in 1927.

The remains of the foundation where the summit hotel once stood

After a quick bite to eat behind one the wind shelters, and a marathon picture-snapping session, I set off toward the South Peak, a spot I had yet to visit in my travels but had heard much about.

The South Peak seen from the main summit

After a nice walk along the ridge, with many interesting views off to either side, I arrived at the spur path leading up to the southerly knob and after a quick climb up I was admiring the sights.

The main summit seen from the South Peak

In addition to fine panoramic views, this peak also offers another perspective of the main peak and a great bird’s-eye-view of Tunnel Brook Notch, it also feels a bit more remote than the main peak. A great side trip.

View from South Peak; Looking down into Tunnel Brook Notch, Black Mountain behind on the center-right

Before long I was back down and on the Carriage Road, which was also an interesting trail. I was imagining horse-drawn carriages, not to mention Model-T Fords, going over it in years past. Shortly I arrived at the Snapper Trail, which also didn’t have a sign at the junction and, having had much less traffic, barely felt like a trail at times. I highly enjoyed the slightly more “wild” feel of this route. Not long after I arrived back at the Ravine Lodge and looking back on a great day.