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An early morning hike up Mount Whiteface

4-19-14-parsons-mount-whitefaceA spectacular view north from the Blueberry Ledge Trail near the top of Mount Whiteface. (ED PARSONS PHOTO) An interesting spring is being had by all. I saw a photo of a spotted salamander climbing through a couple inches of new snow to get to a vernal pool in order to procreate. That about says it all.

This Thursday, I took an early morning hike up Mount Whiteface (4,020 feet) in the Sandwich Range. Whiteface has a rugged aspect and is one of my favorite Sandwich Range peaks. For me is a short drive to the trailhead — from Tamworth village out to Wonolancet-- and this time of year I take Great Hill Road to avoid the frost heaves on Route 113A.

I enjoyed the winding gravel Great Hill Road at 5 a.m. Soon I was driving on another dirt road into Ferncroft from Wonalancet. The road was riddled with deep channels from the overflowing Wonalancet Brook a couple days previously, and just passable in a car.

I had come early to experience a little moonlight walking, yet there was no reflective snow in the Ferncroft fields, and the moon itself, though just full, was not intensely bright. I put on my headlamp. The mating call of a male woodcock in the field emphasized that it was spring.

I walked the half mile down the road to the Blueberry Ledge Trail, where it was immediately evident that I would need foot traction on the solid packed snow on the trail. That was welcome. The uphill hiking would be relatively easy. There was a slight monorail in the packed snow on the trail, but not high enough to be a bother. I headed up.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 05:14

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A quick hike up Mount Jackson

4-12-14-parsons-mount-jacksonThe view from Mount Jackson. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)By Ed Parsons

With the substantial snow in the mountains and popular trails packed down, trail conditions have been excellent, though much warmer temperatures will soon arrive and change will come quickly.

Last Monday morning, I took a quick hike up Mount Jackson (4,052 feet) in the southern Presidentials. The 5.2 mile round trip on the Webster/Jackson Trail was a great way to start the day.

Crawford Notch was in shadow as I drove up through it. Just after the height-of-land I turned left into the parking lot used by ice climbers and by those hiking up the Webster/Jackson Trail. I crossed the road and sat on the snow bank to attach my Hillsound traction devices (similar to MICROspikes yet with slightly longer teeth and a Velcro strap across each upper). Then I climbed over the bank and headed up the trail.

The trail was packed, solidified, and in great shape. In a mere tenth of a mile, I decided to take a right on the spur out to Elephant Head, a prominent granite bulge above the notch's height of land. Crawford Notch and environs were still in the early morning shadows. Back on the main trail, I turned off again in 0.6 miles and walked the short distance out to the lookout on top of Bugle Cliff. By then the sun shone on the upper half of Mount Wiley across the notch. Mount Avalon was in the sun, and just before I left, the Mount Washington Hotel was lit up with direct sun.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 April 2014 04:51

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Two fun snowmobile trail hikes

4-5-14-parsons-black-mountain-from-kiah-pond-Black Mountain from Kiah Pond. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)By Ed Parsons

I need to get outside and take a hike whenever possible. Once is a while, that may include hiking on a snowmobile trail. This week, I want to describe two really fun hikes on snowmobile trails. The first was on a windy and cold March 26, when a powerful northeaster skirted us and went out to sea. The second was early this week on a bluebird spring day, when a good friend and I hiked over an historic old road to a frozen pond.

On the first hike, I only passed two pairs of snowmobiles on what is usually a very busy corridor, and on the second hike, none.

It was overcast and calm when I drove into the Ossipee Mountains on Pine Hill Road from NH 16. I thought I would climb the range's highest mountain, Mount Shaw (2,990 feet) from the interior of the range on snowmobile Corridor 15-- about 2.5 miles up a wide winding trail to an open summit with an expansive view to the north and east.

I turned right on Connor Pond Road then bore right on Marble Road, planning to park off the road where the snowmobile trail crossed it. But high drifts left no room. I turned back and parked in a slim pullout at the end of Connor Pond Road next to a bridge over the ice locked Lovell River. I put on foot traction and walked a half mile back up the icy road to the snowmobile crossing and headed up the trail towards Mount Shaw.

The brown deciduous forests of the Ossipee Range are quiet in the winter without man made sound. The wide corridor had recently been groomed and I enjoyed walking up the side of the trail where few snowmobiles had disturbed the smooth hard crust.
Often the popular corridor is busy even midweek, but it looked like the increasing wind and dropping temps forecast for the day would keep it quiet.

After about a mile the woods opened up with a limited view east. Then after a few switchbacks, the trail traversed up the north side of the mountain before turning south on the upper west slopes. At that point the air became alive with a cold buffeting wind, though the trees protected me considerably, and my cardiovascular effort kept me warm. Two snowmobiles passed me on their way down.

I passed the point where Corridor 15 turned off and descended towards the Castle in the Clouds, and continued upward on the wide trail which was originally Thomas Plant's carriage road to the summit from the castle. As I climbed evergreens increased in number, then surpassed deciduous trees.

I passed the last two switchbacks and soon stood a couple hundred feet below the summit opening. The stunted trees surrounding the opening swayed like demons in the erratic wind. The northeaster was swirling off the coast, and nothing stood in the way of its arms reaching New Hampshire's summits.

I added more winter garb, as if I was climbing up into a gale above tree line. Light felt mitts from Ragged Mountain were replaced with heavy double mitts from the same store. My favorite Gortex parka went above a couple layers, and I pulled the hood up and zipped it tight, then enjoyed the walk out to the eastern edge. To get a photo would have invited dangerously frigid hands. The visibly was about 30 miles-- the landscape was shades of brown and the atmosphere shades of gray.

In a couple long minutes I headed down. Just below the corridor turnoff, two snowmobiles passed me on their way up, and headed quickly down towards the castle bypassing the summit. Lower down the mountain, the wind blew from the east in my face and I kept my heavy gear on all the way to my car, only pulling my hood off a mile from the road.

It had been an invigorating last glimpse of winter.

One beautiful morning this week, my friend Allan DiBiase and I met at the junction of the Sandwich Notch Road and Diamond Ledge Road in Sandwich. We planned to walk over the height of land on Sandwich Notch Road and down the other side to a right hand turnoff, and walk out that to Kiah Pond-- an attractive small pond
with a great view of Black Mountain (a subsidiary peak of Sandwich Dome) in the distance.

The Sandwich Notch Road is state snowmobile trail number 204 in the winter. On a spring day this week, it was firm and walkable yet quickly changing in consistency. Streams and rivers were also poking out of the drifts and asserting themselves. The sun was warm. Like most north country residents on one of these warm days, we felt like creatures coming out of hibernation into the brilliant sun.

We briefly turned off the notch road and walked into Beede Falls. This was Allan's home territory, and he had witnessed the falls locked in snow and ice many times this winter. But sure enough, a 6-foot wide swath in the center of it had opened up, and foamy water poured down the overhanging rock.

We continued up the notch road. Tributary streams went under the road and each stream we passed presented variations of melting ice and water, inviting us to photograph. On our way back they would all be different as the day warmed.

We descended from the height of land, crossed over the Beebe River and turned right for the half mile road walk into Kiah Pond. The ice was still safe to walk out on, away from inlets and outlets. After the woods walk over the notch and to the pond, the view across the pond to Black Mountain was inspiring.

The return walk over the notch was equally pleasant and we got back to our cars at 11:30 a.m. We agreed that our respective afternoons would go well after a morning doing something we loved doing.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 02:00

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A morning hike and exploring 'Beyond Granite'

3-29-14-parsons-mount-welch-summit-from-mount-dickeyMount Welch summit from Mount Dickey. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)By Ed Parsons

On Tuesday of this week, I went west and did an early morning loop over the twin summits of Welch/Dickey near Waterville. I was down from the hike by 9:30 a.m. and then drove into Plymouth to see the new exhibit at the Museum of the White Mountains that happened to open that day. It was called "Beyond Granite: The Geology of Adventure."

The combination of a moderate hike and visit to the new museum has worked well for the third time, and I recommend it, especially those who live a distance away from the museum.

Doing this combination in the past, I first climbed Rattlesnake Mountain in Rumney, a perfect moderate 2.5 mile loop, with great views out over the Baker River valley.

But there are not too many hikes like an early morning foray around the snow covered Welch/Dickey loop on a sunny day. It is easy to be engrossed in the varied landscape bathed in early morning light, and be surprised that the hike is actually 4.4 miles long. It doesn't feel it.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 06:14

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Enter the new world of the ridge walk

3-22-14-mount-pierce-the-crawford-pathFrom Mount Pierce the Crawford Path follows a long ridge towards the round dome of Mount Eisenhower. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)By Ed Parsons

It's "spring" now, but when I climbed Mount Eisenhower via the Crawford Path last Saturday it was winter, and ridge walks in the winter are good fun.

It was a typical day in the Presidentials with mostly overcast skies, a brisk wind and an approaching cold front. There can be almost a disbelief that you are up on an exposed ridge and enjoying yourself on such a day, and when you encounter other hikers, some relaxed humor can easily surface from this elation.

The busy Crawford Path was in the process of being completely packed down from the previous storm, and that morning I didn't know if I would make it the 4.7 miles from the parking lot off the Mount Clinton Road all the way to Mount Eisenhower. I attached my snowshoes to my pack in case I wanted to continue along the Crawford Path after reaching the trail junction near the top of the popular Mount Pierce in 3.1 miles. Then I put on MICROspikes and headed out.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 04:34

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