In the spirit of the Mountain Wanderer himself, Steve Smith, I figured I'd give his ASAP (April Snow Avoidance) program a try! I also had some redlining to work on, so I'll break this up into sections for each of the five separate hikes. I had only planned on doing three, but ended up doing a couple very worthwhile extras.
Hike #1: Boulder Loop
Trail: Boulder Loop Trail, unnamed spur trail
Mileage/time: 3.2 miles, ~1150 feet of gain, book time of 2:10, actual time of 1:45
I've read about this popular trail, and have seen the sign for it at the end of Passaconaway Road a thousand times. Now it was time to make it happen. I chatted with Mike after I woke up, since his hike to the Moats got cancelled, and he decided to stick around his area and get stuff done. That and he doesn't find any appeal in redlining... can't say I blame him. I parked in the lot for the Albany Covered Bridge, as Passaconaway Road is still closed for the season, put on my new trail runners (Sportiva Raptors), and made a short road walk to the trailhead.
Shortly after starting up the trail, it splits, and I decided to take the loop clockwise, which would be a running theme for the rest of the day. The blazing on this trail is somewhat faded, and it made for interesting trail finding it spots, especially with the leaves from last fall obscuring the footbed.
The western portion of the loop brings you up along the base of the ledges, that you'll soon be on top of, and some care is required to stay on the trail, as it hooks left at one point. I ended up not hooking left, and found some nice lichens and mosses at the base of the ledge.
After backtracking, the trail really starts to climb, sometimes slabbing, sometimes straight up the slope. I followed a slightly beaten path out to some lower ledges, for some great views down to the Swift River.
|A nice little trailside cairn|
From the first ledge, the trail descends slightly, and enters some areas of fir. I found some remnants of winter, covered in soft duff, such that it just looked like the forest floor, until it cracked under my weight.
After a short, steep climb, I reached a junction, where the sign said there were views... imagine that?!? I wandered out onto the ledges, and was greatly rewarded.
Hike #2: Forest Discovery Loop
Trails: Forest Discovery Trail, Forest Discovery Loop
Mileage/time: 1.4 miles, ~150 feet of gain, book time of 0:45, actual time of 0:20
This was another trail that I'd seen the sign for many a time on my way across the Kanc. After reading the trailhead sign, I started up, and at the split, I went clockwise. I started to jog, then picked up the pace, and ran, even on the uphill sections. My jogging/running didn't last incredibly long, but it felt good. Now to work on endurance. The trail leads through many different forest ecosystems, from old growth hardwoods, young softwoods, and a riparian zone. The whole trail is crushed gravel, and wide, with benches placed along the way, making for easy going. There were a couple nice viewpoints along the way, along with some vestiges of winter. A nice little loop to get off my list!
I thought about stopping on my way through Lincoln, at the Mountain Wanderer, to visit Steve Smith, and possibly see if he was free to come with me for an excursion. The sign in the window said that he was on vacation through Friday, another time Steve!
Hike #3: Georgiana Falls
Trail: Georgiana Falls Path
Mileage/time: 2.4 miles, 742 feet of gain, book time 1:34, actual time of 1:15
While sitting in my car in Lincoln, I got out the map, and made a plan for my afternoon. Georgiana Falls Path was on my way to the other destinations I had in mind, so it was a no-brainer. I located the trailhead after a fashion (it's off of Hanson Farm Road off Route 3), and started up. The trail crosses under I-93, and then begins its climb along the north side of Harvard Brook, the sounds of the highway fading into memory as the sound of rushing water overtakes the soundscape. Words cannot even describe my experience here. I'm not even sure where the falls started, but around every corner, the falling water was even more spectacular than before. The trail was steep and rough, not to mention difficult to follow in spots. I'm pretty sure I made it to the end of the trail, but I think I'll be coming back here again. I hope my pictures do it justice.
Hike #4: Mt. Pemigewasset "Traverse/Loop"
Trails: Indian Head Trail, Mt. Pemigewasset Trail, roadwalk
Mileage/time: ~4.6 miles, 1600 feet of gain, book time of 3:05, actual time of 2:03
I was planning on just doing an up and back to this peak on Indian Head Trail, but after looking at the map, I saw that it would be pretty easy to go up one side, down the other, and have a fairly short (~1 mile) all downhill roadwalk. I refilled my water, picked up a whoopie pie for the summit, and set off up the Indian Head Trail. After running into several groups on their way down, I had most of the climb to myself. There was quite a bit of mud, but a lot of it was avoidable through rock hops. I was amped up and charging, not really feeling the effects of the mileage I'd done earlier in the day. It only took me 50 minutes to reach the summit, the last 0.4 miles were on a stable snow and ice "monorail".
|Liberty and Flume|
|Osceolas and Scar Ridge|
Hike #5: Bald Mountain/Artist's Bluff Loop
Trails: Loop Trail, Veterans Trail, Bald Mountain Spur, Artist's Bluff Spur
Mileage/time: 1.6 miles, 679 feet of gain, book time of 1:09, actual time of 1:07
This was another loop I'd read about, that was quite popular, and it allowed me to get a another view of the Franconia Ridge, where I'd be spending my Saturday. I parked and started up the Loop Trail, which of course split... and I took it clockwise. The trail parallels the road for some time as it climbs, then pulls away from it at the upper trailhead, and climbs steeply to a small col where the spur takes off for Bald Mountain. There were several, steep, fun, scrambles near the top, and the views... fantastic.
|Garfield and North Twin|
|Lafayette and Eagle Cliff|
|Well played crow, well played|
Elevation Gain: 4221'
Time: Don't care, killed it!
Now, I've done "hit and runs" before, but never quite on this scale. Sure, I hit a couple of minor peaks, but the views and scenes from the non-peak areas were just as good, if not better. There was an interpretive display along the Forest Discovery Trail that I ran past, I'm pretty sure the heading of the display read "change is the only constant", at least that's what I saw. The day was a big change of pace, and I think I'll be repeating this kind of adventure again in the future.