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, 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

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