Early spring (late winter?) storms sometimes give one the opportunity to see the dramatic difference elevation makes. It rained yesterday afternoon, hard at times, for many hours. When I hiked up to the top of the Lyme Pinnacle this afternoon – it’s really just a grand hill, not really fair to call it a small mountain – I enjoyed the broad views into Vermont on the west and the hills of Lyme to the east. Most prominent, today, was the vast bulk of Smarts Mountain, with its level summit ridge and its fire tower rising above the trees – all coated in a fresh dusting of snow.
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.
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.
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.
I have climbed Smarts Mountain many times, by many routes – including some now-abandoned routes and by bushwhacking Grant Brook – but I don’t think I have ever hiked the Daniel Doan Trail.* Finally, today, we did.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After yesterday’s brief snowfall the weather turned warm and sunny once again, allowing us a beautiful fall afternoon. This morning we woke to dense river-valley fog, so I headed across Lyme to the Dartmouth Skiway and the high point of Holts Ledge. There, well above the fog, I encountered brilliant foliage at the base and an impressive 2″ snowcover on the exposed slopes near the top. Here is one photo from the top, showing Holts Ledge at left and the peaks of Moosilauke, Cube, and Smarts left to right – but don’t miss the gallery for six other full-res photos in brilliant color.
Hike stats: distance = 5.9km gain = 353m time = 1h 37m (including photo stops)
I’ve lived in Lyme, NH for almost 20 years, very close to its lowest point along the Connecticut River. I first climbed to the summit of Smarts Mountain, Lyme’s highest point, 35 years ago this fall. Now, when I row my shell up the river and past the mouth of Grant Brook, I can see Smarts in the distance, looking regal in its oversight of this wonderful town we call home. I knew that Grant Brook’s source lay high on the slopes of Smarts Mountain, so it occurred to me: could I travel from Lyme’s lowest point to its highest point, completely off-road? Yes! Read on, and check out the photos.