November 23, 2013.
Time to hit a new area of the White Mountains, the area around the town of Randolph. Located on the north side of Route 2 just across from the Northern Presis, Madison, Adams and Jefferson. Parking is located off Durand Rd right by the Randolph Spring. Arriving just after dawn and boots on trail just after 7.
The first trail is the Vyron D Lowe Trail (named after a local guide and original owner of the Lowe's Store at the corner of Durand Road and Route 2) and the climb up is moderate through open woods. The morning is overcast and most likely not much for views. Since most of the hike is in woods I'm not too bothered about the cloudiness.
After doing the Discovery Trail last week I now have something new to look out for, bear claw marks going up the beech trees.
There is just a dusting of snow down low and increasing as I get higher in elevation. Again I forgot my microspikes but it looks like there should be no issues today. I make it to the junction with Crescent Ridge Trail and don't see it at first as it is a hairpin turn on my left and blocked by a fallen tree.
The trail crosses a few old and grown in logging roads and then reaches a steep section I wasn't expecting. I start questioning myself if the last road might have been Four Soldiers Path and I missed the sign. The guidebook mentions care should be taken on this trail as it is not widely used so I am retracing my steps back down. I get there and see no evidence of it being a hiking trail and head back up the steep pitch and not long after the turn around point reach the junction with Four Soldiers Path.
The story behind this trail is four Continental soldiers were captured during the Revolutionary War by the British and then released on the condition they would not fight in the war anymore. Fearing they would be arrested for not fighting again the four soldiers fled up into the woods to a pond. They lived there for over three years until the war ended. In the end they were exonerated and moved back to Randolph. The pond today is known as the Pond of Safety, where the Four Soldiers Path terminates. Turning left onto Four Soldiers Path (opened in 2003) and it is an easy trail in regards to elevation skirting around the base of Mt Randolph. Not far from the junction there is a spur trail that leads out to a ledge. On a great day Madison, Adams and Jefferson would be in view. Today this is the view.
Back to the trail and it changes from woods to an open brushy area recently logged. Drainage is not very good through this section.
Back into the woods and it now descends eventually popping out onto a gravel logging road. Into the woods on the other side of the road and it goes through a wet section on some bog bridges here and there.
Reaching a marshy area created by beavers and a log crossing of the Upper Ammonoosuc River and the trail comes to the Pond of Safety Road. Turning left onto the gravel road and then a short ways up a right to the dead end and a short trail down to the Pond of Safety.
Located behind the pond is Pond Hill. This is surely a serene spot and if the nights weren't so cold I would definitely spend a night here. Back down to Pond of Safety Road and before turning right onto the trail I head up the hill where there looks to be a clearing. Reaching the height of land and there definitely is a clearing but the surrounding trees are too tall to see anything. Back out to the first gravel road and Underhill Path begins a few yards up from Four Soldiers Path.
Underhill Path winds its way back up to Crescent Ridge. At first it is a wet boggy area with a gradual ascent then starts to switchback up to the high point. After reaching the high point just below the north summit of Mt Randolph the trail descends coming out to the junction with Crescent Ridge Trail. Turning left onto Crescent Ridge Trail and the next objective is Mt Crescent. The way across the ridge is not too bad and within forty minutes I make it to the view spur to the north.
Across the way is Black Crescent Mt with its very noticeable scar. To the left is Pond of Safety where I just came from, it is behind the skinny pine tree.
I could tell that the trail was not the high point of Mt Crescent so I headed down Mount Crescent Trail. Looking to my left and it was easily higher by 10-15 feet and I noticed some broken branches. Dropping my pack and I headed in looking for the elusive high point and found it. Nothing special just a spot amongst the trees.
Heading back along the ridge over to the last summit of the day, Mt Randolph. On the way across after passing the junction with Underhill Path I reach another viewpoint called Lafayette View. At first I find it odd that there could be a view of Lafayette and after thinking about it there is no way it could be possible. Not sure where the name derived from but the view is of Madison on a clear day, that day is not today.
Reaching Mt Randolph, again not reading the guide book prior to, I notice the woods to my right is higher and I duck into the woods looking for the high point. I figured the trail was skirting the high point because of the location of the trail and direction it was heading. For those of you who have been there already it is right before going over some boulders and the section where the trail turns right (I didn't know it turned right at the time). Picking my way towards higher ground through the woods and I slowly make my way up. Ahead of me I see an opening and low and behold I pop out onto a trail! Confused I turn right on it as it goes up and there in an open area is a sign on a tree.
Guessing that this is Crescent Ridge Trail I make my way back down the trail and sure enough reach the point where I ducked into the woods. My tracks are in the picture below. I was coming down the main trail south and ducked into the woods on the southwest track which ran into the main trail and then the summit. The two tracks right next to each other is my out and back.
So a short little adventure for nothing other than trying a bushwhack with a full pack, successfully? Heading down off of Mt Randolph and the initial descent is a bit steep until making back to Four Soldiers Path. This time turning east on it to get the other section of this trail. It is very easy walking through these woods as it slowly descends down to a very busy intersection with Pasture Path and Notchway.
Down Notchway/Pasture Path for a very short distance and then a right onto Pasture Path heading back west. Another relatively easy trail with a few no incident stream crossings. Arriving at an open field and, again, on a better day the views would have been outstanding. Howker Ridge and Madison from the field and looking back is Mt Crescent.
I make it to the junction with Ledge Trail and notice the climb up. The gas tank is getting close to empty but I trudge up very slowly. I notice fresh tracks in the snow and cringe a little as I've made it this far without seeing anyone. Slowly I pick my way up and the first view opening has a bench to sit on and the views are a bit limited with the surrounding trees.
A bit further up the trail and I reach Lookout Ledge but do not stop yet as I need the small section between here and Vyron D Lowe Trail. Making it up and back to the ledge takes little time and the only thing that would be better is a great view day and a bit more daylight. Off in the distance to the east with the sun starting to go down a beautiful shot of Spruce Mt in Maine. Faintly on the north slope are wind turbines that helped in identifying which mountain it was.
Across the valley Adams and Jefferson are being a bit shy.
Down in the valley and I can make out Route 2 and the Appalachia parking lot.
It is now 3:45 in the afternoon and I have a steep 0.8 mile trail to get back down to Durand Road and then about a mile road walk to the car. Not too concerned about the road walk but I definitely want to be out of the woods before it gets dark. Off down Sargent Path, the last trail of the day, and I very slowly and meticulously make my way down. It finally starts to level out into some very nice woods walking.
Prior to making it to the road and there are pipelines to the left of the trail. One is rusted iron and the other black plastic. I'd assume it is either an old or current water supply for someone's house/cottage located down below.
Making it to the road at 4:40 pm and another twenty minutes of walking along a darkening road and the day is done. This little area that is maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club is quite the gem. Can't wait to return and do some more trails in this area. Oh yeah, almost forgot, other than those tracks on Ledge Trail I saw no one all day. Another NPD!
Final numbers: 15.5 miles, 9 hours and 35 minutes.
Redline Miles: 12, Total to Date: 454.3