First snowfall

The first snow of the season is always special.

I missed the first snowfall of the season. I left town on Tuesday night for a business trip to Chicago, and missed the 2″ snowfall that arrived on Wednesday morning. So today, back at home and waking to a brilliant blue-sky day, I was eager to get outdoors. Most of the snow had melted close to home, but we chose a short hike along the Appalachian Trail to the top of Holts Ledge – home of the Dartmouth Skiway. (Things looked very different when I visited seven weeks ago!) We didn’t have to climb far before reaching an elevation with consistent snowcover. It was shallow, and crunchy from several melt-freeze cycles, but it was a wonderful taste of the winter hikes to come!

Descending the Appalachian Trail on Holts Ledge. Lyme NH.

We paused at the top to enjoy the southward views across the Upper Valley and toward Mounts Cardigan and Ascutney. We then strolled over to view the activity at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway, chatting with two fellows who were tinkering with the snowmaking equipment. Only three weeks to opening day!

Snowmaking coats the trees at the top of Dartmouth Skiway. Holts Ledge.

Halfway down the Appalachian Trail we encountered one of those wondrous effects to be seen this time of year: needle ice, where some mud froze, causing the expanding ice to crystallize and push the mud upward into the air.

Crusty ice spires in the mud along the Appalachian Trail on Holts Ledge.

Up Beaver Brook, down Benton

A gorgeous late-autumn hike to my favorite mountain.

Beaver Brook cascades, on Mount Moosilauke.

There are days when it becomes essential to set aside the to-do list and head outside, and today was one of them: an unusually warm and sunny day for the end of October, an opportunity to climb (again) my favorite mountain, Mount Moosilauke, via an atypical route.

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Moose Mountain

Spontaneous hiking at its best.

I set off for a quick afternoon hike, eager to get outdoors and stretch my legs, but with limited time available. I was driving the back roads through the forested lands on the east side of Hanover, NH, and was surprised to see a trailhead icon appearing on my car’s navigation map. I decided to change plans and investigate this trailhead – one that is relatively new, and certainly new to me. I learned, on arriving at the cheery trailhead kiosk, that it feeds two short trail loops on the western slopes of Moose Mountain – allowing one to enjoy the conservation lands of Mayor-Niles Forest and Britton Forest.

Steep slopes and boulders on the west slope of Moose Mountain
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Moosilauke trailwork

A day of clearing blowdowns and water bars.

I had the opportunity to spend this weekend at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of a subset of the Dartmouth Outing Club known as Cabin & Trail. Although the celebratory aspect of the weekend was muted – by virtue of being postponed two years due to the pandemic – the real purpose of the gathering was in full swing. A couple dozen hardy alums gathered on Saturday morning for a day of trailwork, sweeping the trails of Mount Moosilauke to remove the winter’s debris of blown-down trees and sediment-filled waterbars (stones and logs used for diverting water from the trails). Although Friday night’s weather involved heavy rain, Saturday morning woke clear with only light clouds.

Saturday morning view from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

My group was assigned to hike up the Ridge Trail to the junction with the Beaver Brook Trail, where an illegal campsite had emerged over recent years – we needed to erase that campsite by filling it with debris that would discourage anyone from camping. Here’s the happy crew, after cluttering the campsite behind us.

The crew who erased a campsite at intersection of Beaver Brook and Ridge Trail: Lelia, Kevin, Jeff, Bernie; photo by David Kotz.

We then returned via the same route, chopping trees that had fallen across the trail, sawing off branches that overhung the trail, and shoveling out sediment-filled waterbars.

Jeff Greilsheimer ’94 chops blowdowns on Ridge Trail – with Mount Blue at rear.

We finished the day, dirty and tired, but satisfied by a good day’s work.

The Ridge trail crew: Bernie, Jeff, Kevin, David, Lelia.

Sunday broke even clearer, and sunnier, but sadly I had to depart. I’ll be back soon!

See the photo gallery – including some photos from one of the weekend’s organizers.

Mount Cube

A beautiful day with grand views – and wildflowers.

After a couple of months with little or no hiking, it was time to get back out on the trails. Traditionally, it is appropriate to stay off the trails after the snow melts, until Memorial Day… when the trails have hopefully dried out and are sufficiently stable to accommodate the foot traffic. This morning broke cool and clear, with nary a cloud in the sky. Although I started up the Rivendell Trail toward Mount Cube more than two hours after sunrise, I was nonetheless the first person up the trail this morning. I was treated to grand views from the outlooks and summits, and to the occasional wildflowers along the trails.

David enjoys the view from summit of North Mount Cube; Moosilauke is at far left.

Check out the gallery for more, notably, the panorama from the North summit.

Hike stats:
Distance 7.2km
Time: 2h31m with stops
Gain 473m

Holts Ledge

What a difference a week makes.

A mere five days after I went snowshoeing through winter’s glorious powder in the Kinsman Range, I went hiking with two friends … in decidedly spring conditions. Granted, Holts Ledge is much lower (elevation ~1069′ rather than 4293′) but there was much more snow at the base of the Kinsmans than there was at the summit of Holts. This week’s rain and unseasonably warm weather (close to 60º during our hike) has turned the low-elevation trails into mud, and (no doubt) the higher elevation trails are packed ice.

Ken and Dave on Appalachian Trail, Holts Ledge. Photo by Tim Burdick.

This section (and other low-elevation sections) of the Appalachian Trail is now basically done for the season, and should be avoided until after mud season.

Holts Ledge cliff overlook (near the summit). Snow almost gone!

Ironically, the view above is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway… fewer than 100m from the top of the slopes. There, skiers were still happily skiing on spring-condition snow. At least there were some views, below.

David with Tim Burdick atop Holts Ledge on a late-winter day. Photo by Ken Kaliski.
A stream crossing on Holts Ledge, with plenty of meltwater.

Sigh, we haven’t even reached the spring equinox yet.

Moose Mountain

Revisiting old friends.

Lelia examines some stone steps on the north side of Moose Mountain, along the A.T. section we built freshman year.

It was another pleasant fall day, with moderate temperatures and intermittent sunshine. I took the opportunity to hike with an old friend, Lelia, and to visit another old friend – the Appalachian Trail on the north side of Moose Mountain.

I remember spending many chilly afternoons in the fall of 1982, scrambling through the Hanover forest with other eager first-year undergraduate students, clearing a new route for the Trail on the steep slopes of Moose Mountain. I learned to fell trees, build sidehill cribbing, and build rock steps from huge boulders using nothing but rock bars, strong arms, and the seemingly limitless enthusiasm of 18-year olds. We were pleased to those steps have held up after nearly 40 years and thousands of thru-hikers.

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Ledges of Lyme

Great views, close to home.

The Appalachian Trail passes right through the town of Lyme, where we live. It wanders through the forests, across the brooks, and over the hilly terrain of Moose Mountain, Holts Ledge, and Smarts Mountain. Last weekend I had a little time for two quick hikes along the A.T. On Saturday I scrambled up Lambert Ridge, a shoulder of Smarts Mountain, to a ledgy outcrop that has expansive views to the east. Along the way I listened to the acorns dropping from oak trees all around… and startled a chipmunk, holding one of those prized acorns in his little paws. After a brief standoff, he scampered away.

View from Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain.

On Sunday, I returned to the area and climbed up to Holts Ledge, which has wide views to the south. Here, a chain-link fence keeps hikers away from the edge, not just for safety but to protect the endangered peregrine falcons who nest on the cliffs. This cliff is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway, allowing a nice loop hike by strolling down the grassy ski slopes.

View from Holts Ledge.

The amazing thing is that both of these hikes are only 15-20 minute drive from my house, and can be completed in less than an hour of hike time, so they’re a great opportunity for a break from a busy weekend. See the small gallery.

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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