Smarts Mountain

Wildlife in action.

The spruce-grouse hen, startled from her nesting site, squabbled noisily across the trail as I approached. I was equally startled, as I hiked up the Appalachian Trail on a quiet weekend morning in early June. Surprisingly quiet, actually; mine was the only car in the lot at 7:30am, and I had thus far passed only one small group of hikers – southbound thru-hikers, by the looks of them. So I had been strolling easily up the trail, lost in my own thoughts, when this mother hen leapt into action and directly across the trail in front of me. Read on!

David at the viewpoint on Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain.
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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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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.

Mount Cube

The weather this week has been startlingly warm, almost as if summer has lasted into November. Yesterday’s high temperature here at home was 71ºF! It may have been the last ‘summer’ weather of the year – and also the last day before deer-hunting season fully opens – so I was eager to get out for a hike. I try to hike on weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds.

Despite a dense fog clinging to the Connecticut River in the early morning, I hopped into the Tesla for an all-electric drive to one of my favorite trailheads – the Rivendell Trail up Mount Cube, only 30 minutes away. I’ve been up this two-mile route many times, because it gives one all the features of a “real mountain climb” without the temporal overhead of a long drive or a long hike… a stroll through leafy hardwood forests, a scramble up rugged rock-strewn trails, the pungent scent of balsam firs, and distant views from its granite outcrops and 2900′ summit. In the view below, from the summit you can see the foggy Connecticut River valley in the upper right and Smarts Mountain at upper left.

Seen from Mount Cube.

Sadly, the summit has poor views to the northeast, but if you stand on tippy-toes and peer between the firs you can pick out Mount Moosilauke. No photos worth taking, so here’s the summit trail sign, where the Appalachian Trail passes by.

Seen from Mount Cube.

Saddleback-Sugarloaf backpack

Andy and I backpacked the Appalachian Trail in Maine, picking up eight 4000-foot peaks along the way.

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Andy heads north from Saddleback Mountain toward The Horn.

The guidebook describes this route as the “most difficult along the A.T. [Appalachian Trail] in Maine”, and after hiking this section, I can certainly see why.  It is incredibly rugged and steep – and we managed to avoid the tough conditions that might have come with rain: slipping down wet trails, and fording high-water streams.

Andy and I set out to backpack the A.T. from Route 4 (near Rangeley) to Route 27 (near Stratton), bagging eight four-thousand-footer peaks along the way.  It was an ambitious five-day, four-night plan, part of my goal to complete the NE111. We had a great time, good weather, nice views, and I succeeded in bagging all eight peaks – but with a twist at the end. Read on, and be sure to check out the photo gallery.

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Bigelow Range

A gloriously beautiful overnight hike in the Bigelow Range of western Maine.

After a summer of hiking and the completion of my Adirondack 46, I still have an itch to get out hiking.  This weekend’s blue-sky weather beckoned, despite the unseasonably hot and muggy conditions (highs in the 70s and 80s in late September?), so I turned my attention to the Appalachian high peaks of Maine and headed for the Bigelow Range.  My campsite, in the col between its two major peaks, allowed me to enjoy sunset on the western peak and sunrise on the eastern peak, followed by a beautiful ridge walk. Read on, and check out the photo gallery.

Sunrise from Avery Peak, Bigelow Mountain, Maine.
Sunrise from Avery Peak, Bigelow Mountain, Maine.

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Backpacking 2011

Two brief backpacking trips.

Somehow we never got around to our annual late-August family backpacking trip.  I was determined to get out, anyway, so we took two short trips.  On September 30, Andy and John and I headed directly from school to a trailhead on the west side of Moose Mountain. We hiked up to reach the A.T. where it crosses a col between north and south peak, then pulled into the shelter just as it got dark and began to rain.  We poked around in the dark looking for the water supply, and settled in just as a huge thunderstorm struck. Nothing like being in an open shelter, on a ridgeline, in a thunderstorm!  We had to leave the next morning, skipping our second night out, because John was feeling ill.

Andy and John backpacking on Moose Mountain.

Two weeks later, Andy and Mara and I headed for Holts Ledge, hiking up to Trapper John shelter late on Saturday afternoon, with just enough daylight to explore a bit and then settle in.  It rained overnight, but the next morning we were able to climb up to Holts Ledge for a view of the fall colors. 

Mara and Andy can’t wait for ski season, as we visit the top of Holt’s Ledge during the peak of foliage season.

I had only my iPhone, and limited light, but took some photos.


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