It was a beautiful day for a hike, so I was pleased to have a chance to join friends for a climb of Mount Hale – one of the 4000-foot peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Much of the trail follows Hale Brook, including several pretty cascades.
Although I’d already been up Moosilauke twice this winter, in late November and early January, I could not wait to get up there again before the season ends. I always enjoy visiting in late winter when the snowpack is incredibly deep, yet the valleys are starting to experience spring. So I’ve been watching the weather for the past two weeks and, finally, today offered me fantastic weather and an open calendar. I jumped at the chance. Read on, and check out the gallery.
One never hears of anyone climbing Mount Welch, or Dickey, or Dickey & Welch. It’s always Welch & Dickey. These twin mountains are a popular pair of small peaks in central New Hampshire, on the south edge of the White Mountains. Part of their popularity is the loop trail that goes over both peaks, making a far more interesting hike than the usual out-and-back route one might use to approach a single peak. Today, a brilliant late-winter day, Andy and I followed the classic route and enjoyed perfect trail conditions, blue skies, and crystal-clear views. Read on and check out the photo gallery!
Andy and I climbed little Mt. Pemigewasset this morning, striding up a well-beaten path to the granite outcrops that provide grand views to the south and some between-trees peeks at the high peaks of the Franconia Range. There was a fluffy inch of fresh powder on top of last week’s crust, and another foot or two of older powder below the crust. As long as we stayed on the beaten path, our footing was fine (with microspikes)… but whenever we stepped off the path, we broke through the crust and sank to our knees. And step off we did! because we passed hikers by the dozens (my guess is 80-100 people) on this popular two-mile trail. A Sunday with bright sunshine and warm temps (20ºF), on a short easy trail to a spot with grand views, is bound to draw the crowds. Indeed, we were lucky to even find a parking space at the base.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Hampshire has been an extremely popular destination for hikers during the pandemic, attracting in-staters as well as many from Massachussetts and other parts of southern New England. As a result, my aim is to hike lesser-known trails, to hike on weekdays, and to hike early in the morning. Today I headed up to Franconia Notch (often an extremely crowded destination) and was almost the first car to arrive at the trailhead. I was soon on the trail to Mt. Pemigewasset, a tiny bump between the deep valley of Franconia Notch and the 4000-foot peaks to its west. I’d never been here before, dismissing this little destination as unworthy. But it has a wonderful view, and it makes for a pleasant 3.6-mile round-trip morning walk.
In the photo above you can see Mount Moosilauke – my hike from two weeks ago – in the distance to the left above my head. I had passed a father-daughter pair coming down just before I arrived at the summit – darn, I’d intended to be here an hour earlier – but otherwise saw no other hikers on the way up.
In the south-looking photo above you can again see Moosilauke in the distance. On the way down, however, there were several large parties coming up, mostly family groups, several with children or dogs.
In the photo above you see the Kinsman ridge, which John and I traversed a few years ago. I was back at the car by 9:30am and home by 11am, ready to get back to work. Nice way to start the day!
Sunset views of the Presidential Range from Mount Martha, in New Hampshire.
On the night before the spring equinox I hiked with a dear friend to the top of Mount Martha in the northern White Mountains of New Hampshire. We aimed for sunset, knowing that Martha has a spectacular view of the Presidential Range to the east.
The snow conditions were excellent, after a week of warm weather had consolidated the snow and a day’s cold weather had firmed the packed trail into a solid base that was perfect for micro spikes. I pushed up the trail hard and fast, carrying a heavy pack with photography equipment, spare clothing, and a warm dinner, with a wary eye to the sun setting behind me as I neared the ridgeline. I arrived at the summit 15 minutes before sunset and was pleased to see the Presies still fully illuminated, with the nearly-full moon rising above them. The wind was dead calm, and the temperature a moderate 15 degrees. As the sun’s orange globe glowed orange through the trees behind me, I quickly set up my tripod and started snapping photos of the Presies.
We reveled in the beauty of the moment, as the sun set in the west while the white-capped Presidential peaks turned pink and the sky above blended into a gradient from purple to blue. After about forty minutes we reluctantly turned and headed back down the trail, with the rising full moon so brightly illuminating the forest floor that we never needed headlamps. A magical evening in an amazing place! I’ve posted my favorite photos in this gallery.
I had the honor of accompanying my dear friend Lelia on a two-day backpacking trip across the Wildcat and Carter range, in the eastern part of the White Mountain National Forest, to complete her list of 48 four-thousand-foot peaks. We managed a late start on Friday afternoon, heading steeply out of Pinkham Notch from Glen Ellis Falls to scramble up the Wildcat Ridge. This route fortunately provides some nice views of the Notch, and eventually of the Presidential Range, though it spends most of its length deep in the scrubby trees of a New Hampshire ridgeline. The ridge is rough, with many ups and downs and scrambles around boulders. We enjoyed the late-afternoon sunshine, and reached the rocky outcrop known as Wildcat D as the light began to fade. I paused here for a moment to reflect on my own journey to the 48 peaks, which I had completed here – on this very spot – 20 years earlier.
We could just barely see our destination down into Carter Notch, in the dim light, and began to scramble down the steep and jumbled blocks of the trail into the notch. I finally gave in to the need for headlamps, and we pushed past the creaky door of Carter Notch hut, well after dark, to the warm and relieved smiles of Lelia’s husband and son.
The next morning broke a bit cloudy. Concerned about spending a day hiking through drizzle, we clambered up the steep slope of Carter Dome. Right on schedule, we met another friend – a veteran 4000-footer himself – and continued along the ridge. On Middle Carter we cheered Lelia’s 48th peak with cheese and crackers and celebratory beverages. Her thirty years of determination and perseverance paid off! The weather had held out nicely, and we had fine views of the Presidentials to the west and the Maine peaks to the east. We scampered down the Imp trail into the Notch, enjoying the bright colors of fall, and capped off a fine weekend with a hearty dinner at Pinkham Notch camp.
We spent four days and three nights backpacking in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the central region of the White Mountains National Forest.
Every year at this time we try to get out for an extended camping and hiking trip. The weather this year turned out to be fantastic. We delayed our trip for a day to skip the showers on Wednesday, but other than a brief shower during the hike in on Thursday, we had four days of spectacular sunny, warm weather. Read on!
Our first-ever family backpacking trip, through Zealand notch in White Mountain National Forest.
On Labor Day weekend, we took the kids on their first backpacking trip. We hiked in from Zealand road past Zealand hut to Thoreau Falls, within the NH White Mountains. The weather was fantastic, and we found a nice campsite off in the woods away from the falls. We spent two nights there, with a dayhike up to Ethan Pond in between. We had campfires and went swimming under the falls.
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