Lambert Ridge

A grey day but a nice outing.

For a few months I’ve been thinking of returning to Lambert Ridge, a ledgy section of the Appalachian Trail up Smarts Mountain, not far from here. The first section is steep, leading up to a series of granite ledges with broad views that belie the relatively low elevation at this point on the trail. The climb to these ledges is a worthwhile dayhike, and brings back memories. Read on!

A ledge outcrop near the trail up Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire.
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Moosilauke

A very blustery day!

After yesterday’s good news from Georgia and horrific news from Washington, I was grateful to spend a few hours in one place on earth that gives me great peace: Mount Moosilauke. As I drove east out of the Connecticut River valley and over the shoulder of Mount Cube, I could see that Moosilauke’s summits were clouded in – disappointing – but I also enjoyed a deep-red sunrise among the clouds near the eastern horizon. A bright spot in a gray day. Read on, and check out the photo gallery for videos and more pix!

Kathy pauses on the ridge as we approach the summit of Moosilauke.
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Blueberry mountain

A hike on a blue-sky New Years’ day.

Tim, David, and Kathy, on a hike to Blueberry Mountain.

It has long been a tradition for my Dartmouth friends and me to hike a mountain on New Year’s Day. Today we were fortunate to have outstanding weather: a blue-sky day with moderate temperatures (20-30º), and a fresh (though thin) layer of powder snow at higher elevations. We had eyes for Moosilauke – our traditional destination for New Years – but with weather this nice, we anticipated huge crowds. Instead we headed for Blueberry Mountain, a pretty little (2,663′) bump to the southwest of Mount Moosilauke.

I’d been up here once before, but from the east, and today we came up from the west. The west is a longer approach, but a pretty trail nonetheless. We were the first to travel this trail since the snowfall a few days ago. To be more precise, we were the first humans on the trail since the snowfall – we were following a coyote’s tracks for most of the way up! Indeed, the coyote often provided clues about the route when the trailbed was not so clear.

The view from the summit is partly obscured by trees, but Moosilauke was visible and delightfully clear from this close. It must have been a grand day up there! In the photo below, the south peak is most visible.

On the summit of Blueberry Mountain: Kathy, Tim, David, David.

The sign at the trailhead advertised 2.2 miles, but my GPS track shows we walked 8.52km round-trip (5.3 miles, or 2.65 mi each way). Two smartwatches also indicated a distance closer to 2.7 miles for the ascent.

A fresh dusting of snow decorate the trail near the summit of Blueberry Mountain on New Years’ Day.

Hike stats:
distance 8.52km
gain: 423m
time: 3h15m

Blueberry is at left: blue trail is today’s route.
Moosilauke is at right: purple is the Glencliff trail in November; red is the Gorge Brook trail in July.

Mount Cube

Returning to an old favorite with old friends.

There’s something magical about gathering with old friends, even after a long absence. It reminds me of the experience of slipping on a well-traveled pair of hiking boots: they fit just right and enable you to walk for miles in comfort. So it was for us today, a group of friends who have been hiking together for more than three decades. We met at the base of the Rivendell Trail on Mt. Cube – a trail that is one of my local favorites, because it gives one a dose of the “White Mountains” without a long drive or a major hike. Standing apart, and forgoing the usual hugs, we donned a layer of warm clothes as the wind whipped through the trees overhead. Read on!

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Trout Pond

A local favorite.

Lyme is home to many hidden natural treasures. Trout Pond is one: nestled in the hills on the north side of town, at the end of a dirt road followed by a forest road and reached by a footpath, this small pond offers quiet respite from the bustling world outside its little valley. It’s not a long hike, nor a difficult climb, barely clocking in at 2 miles round-trip along a fairly level route, but it’s interesting in every season.

Today, the woods were entirely snow-free after the Christmas rainstorm, but there was a fresh dusting of powder along the exposed rocks and coating the skim of ice across the pond. A canoe and paddles, apparently left for anyone who wishes, rest on the shore where trail meets pond.


As noted by the page on TrailFinder, “The land around Trout Pond has been a working forest for some two centuries, while stone walls, foundations, and barbed wire seemingly swallowed by trees indicate that the western part of the tract had an agricultural history. By 1855, several families homesteaded in the area near the present trailhead. The Piper brothers, who ran a steam-powered sawmill near the outlet of Trout Pond, bought the timber lot in 1891. Two other sawmills on the brook also processed lumber that was probably cut in the Trout Pond Forest. A stack of hemlock bark, found on a ridge south of the pond, suggests this material was gathered for the leather tanning trade. By 1870, the Pliny Allen place had found its future as a cellar hole, and by 1946 so too the Gilbert/Smith place.”

I know little about black & white photography but decided to process these snaps of the pond in black & white because, well, this presentation seemed to fit the monochrome pond, gray sky, and dark forest. In contrast, here’s a photo of the trail along the shoreline:

Ascutney

A fine hike in fine winter conditions.

The snowstorm five days ago brought us a sudden beginning for winter, laying down deep powder across the mountains and trails. I’ve been out every day to enjoy the snow, prime conditions for skiing and snowshoeing. With bad weather looming for tomorrow and the next day (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), Andy and I set out today to make the most of the snow before the rain spoils it.

Tracks in deep snow on Mount Ascutney’s Windsor Trail.

Although we were interested in a return to Moosilauke, the favorite, the forecast showed morning sun with increasing clouds and I feared we’d simply climb into the clouds. So I selected Ascutney; it has lower elevation but 360-degree long-distance views. And heck, it’s been more than four years since I was last there in winter.

The Windsor Trail is very popular, so it was not surprised to see it broken out. Indeed, it had clearly seen a lot of traffic… skiers, snowshoers, and bare-booters. Andy and I made good time in bare boots for the first half of the climb, passing only three other hikers, and then switched to snowshoes as the snow became deeper and softer.

Andy hiking up Mount Ascutney on a snowy winter day.

Soon we were at the summit, climbing the observation tower. There’s really no way to capture the scene with a mere smartphone camera, but the 360-degree views span nearly all of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Andy surveys the wintry view from Mount Ascutney.

Clouds were moving in, pulling us under an overcast sky… but to the northeast, the summits of Moosilauke, Franconias, and Presidentials were blindingly white in the afternoon sunshine. (No wonder the range is called the White Mountains.)

Our descent was speedy, boot-skiing down the trail, passing only two other hikers. A fine hike indeed. A few more photos in the gallery.

Hike stats: 5.6 miles (per the guidebook), elevation gain 2,800′ (per Apple Watch). 4 hours.

The Windsor Trail begins at Parking in the upper right and ends at the summit (the middle yellow peak).

Lyme skiing

Cross-country skiing on the downtown trails in Lyme.

On Saturday and Monday (today) we went cross-country skiing, right here in Lyme. One of the wonderful things about our little town is that there are miles of beautiful skiing trails available to the public, thanks to the generosity of the landowners and the hard work of volunteers who maintain the trails in summer and groom the tracks all winter. It really is an incredible resource, especially in the covid era when activities outdoors in the fresh air are more important than ever.

I’m especially grateful to Kevin and the crew who maintain the Stone House Farm trails in downtown Lyme (where I skied today), and to Bob and the extensive network out at the Greens (where Andy skied today).

Skiing the Stone House trails in Lyme.

We went from zero snow to a solid base, in this recent storm. The conditions softened today, with temps exceeding 32ºF (gasp!), but were still a joy to ski. Sadly, the rest of the week will bring more warm temperatures and rain on Christmas Day. Let’s hope for little rain and then a new snowstorm to bring back the skiing soon!

Home woods

One of my favorite places to go when I have little time or ambition is just across the street. Between River Road and Route 10, between Hewes Brook and Grant Brook, is a sizeable block of roadless forest, with rolling hills, steep ravines, and a variety of forest regions ranging from firs to pines to maples and oaks. Most of it is managed for timber, so there is ample room to meander under the mature trees and there are skidder trails here and there that provide walkable paths – some even skiable. The hill rises steeply across from our house, giving one an immediate workout, but once up on the ridge, or down in the valley on the other side, it’s a magical place.

A hardwood forest – seen in black & white.

I mostly visit here in winter, on snowshoes or skis, traversing above the litter of the forest floor and pondering the many tracks animals leave behind. Deer tracks are never out of sight; mouse and squirrel tracks are common; bear and fox are an occasional treat. There were plenty of deer tracks criss-crossing my path today, as my snowshoes waded through the fresh powder laid down by that storm two days ago. I happened to look up at the right moment to see a huge owl gliding through the treetops ahead of me, totally soundless in this quiet snowscape. Someday I hope to have a chance to photograph these elusive neighbors.

Snowshoeing through an area dominated by firs and pines.

When I head into these woods I rarely have a plan or a particular goal; I follow my whims, noting landmarks familiar from two decades of wandering or exploring new directions to see what I might discover. Today I went further north than ever before, eventually popping out on the Lyme Hill – Grant Brook trail, as expected, giving me an easy exit down to River Road for the walk back home.

Enjoy the snow

The day after a snowstorm can be a wonderful thing. Today was bright and sunny, the trees were covered in snow, and the meadows glistened with fresh powder. I had a little time to explore the yard this morning, and I went out snowshoeing with the kids in late afternoon. I’ve added a few photos to the gallery, starting here. Here’s just one:

Andy and Mara snowshoe on the trail around Crossroads in Lyme.

We ended the day in the center of Lyme, outside the home of the Lyme Historians, where they had decorated an antique sleigh and invited families to stop by. It was a photo op not to be missed!

Mara and Andy in an antique sleigh in Lyme NH.

Holts Ledge

Sunset traverse of a local favorite.

Another local hike, a repeat of a fall-colors hike I did at the end of October. Today it was chilly, as a cold front blew in and the winds whipped through the leafless trees on the slopes of Holts Ledge as I climbed the Appalachian Trail toward its ledgy summit. There was a dusting of fresh snow on the leaf litter, which crunched slightly under my feet, following the footsteps of a few others who ventured up this trail since last night’s snow flurries.

I always smile when I pass the marker at the roadside, spiked into a small tree by some DOC students a decade or more ago, and slowly becoming one with the tree.

DOC trailsign at the A.T. trailhead to Holts Ledge.

At the top of the ridge – for this is really a ledgy ridge, not a hill with a summit – there were fine views north to Smarts Mountain and southwest to Goose Pond, as the sun nudged close to the horizon around 4pm.

View from Holts Ledge toward Smarts Mountain, with the main ledges in shadow at left..

Some older snow clung to the trail along the ridge, maybe an inch or two surviving the recent warm temperatures. Below you can see some snow in the brush to the right and the rocks below.

View from Holts Ledge toward Mt Cardigan and Goose Pond, with ledges close at right.

I descended via the Dartmouth Skiway “papoose” trail, with barely any snow cover, but as I walked past the base lodge I could see and hear the snow-making apparatus busily coating the trails on the Winslow side of the valley, hoping to be ready for skiers around Christmastime.

Snowmaking at the Skiway

ONE OTHER THING. I’ve been for three walks lately on trails in Hanover or Lyme, and every one of them – every one – has presented me with a disgusting and surprising trailside treat: a modern ‘doggie bag’. Today, it was hanging on a trailside twig; other times it is propped carefully on a tree stump. What is it with dog owners, who think it’s better to leave a plastic-wrapped pile of dogshit in the woods instead of just letting their dog shit in the woods? I mean, what do they think the animals do in the woods? We’re not in a city park here, and there’s not a park staff who might come along and remove this trash. sheesh.

Really folks? It’s far better to just leave the dogshit in the woods, where it will decay with everything else, than to wrap it in plastic that will last for decades.