March 29, 2014.
Enough of the Whites and snow! After the last few weeks of tromping through a foot of snow it is time to stay close to home and tackle something completely new. Pawtuckaway State Park. It is home to one of the few volcanic ring dikes in NH left over from about 300 million years ago.
Parking off Reservation Road right next to a good size old foundation, one of the remains of when this used to be a farming community.
The beginning of North Mt Trail is doubled as a snowmobile trail and being early spring in southern NH it is packed ice. Rather than risking injury the microspikes come on and thankfully the snowshoes stay behind.
A half mile in and the trail diverges right and then a quick left and the trail is foot traffic only. The initial climb is a good workout until the ridgeline is reached. It doesn't take long as North Mt is only 1011 feet in elevation.
On the ridge there are open ledges and the first view across the way to Middle and South Mt.
Across the ridge hitting a bump and I soon realize this is not the high point as I round a corner and can see the summit a little further ahead. Descending into a small col and then back up and the summit of North Mt is easily spotted by an outcropping of granite with a geo marker.
Down off the summit and a few minutes later a most curious item in the woods that I have never come across before.
Is it the "Green Monster" of Pawtuckaway? A little research and it turns out to be a communications reflector for PSNH. A left turn into the woods and the trail descends down through a beautiful hemlock forest.
Beyond the hemlocks and the cliffs of North Mt appear. A closer look and it looks like an opening in the cliff face. A little bonus for the day as it turns out it is the Devil's Den, more of a party cave than anything else these days. It is quite the opening and trash and graffiti abound.
Further down and where the trail bottoms out off to the left is Dead Pond, still frozen over. About ten minutes later and the granddaddy of boulder fields appears. They are huge and numerous. Plucked off the south face of North Mt during the last Ice Age and deposited here. Look closely and you can see my hiking poles to the left of the small pine tree in the center.
Video walking by the boulders.
Reaching the junction with the Boulder Trail and I turn right to head up the trail to the junction with North Mt Bypass. Returning and I continue on the Boulder Trail making my way to Round Pond Trail/Road. Passing the ledges which are popular with the rock climbers and then an open marsh with a view back towards North Mt and the "Guardian of the Green Monster"!
Towards the end of Boulder Trail I hear the voices of the first people for the day. At the split in the trail I take the right branch and it brings me to the gravel road. Backtracking and right at the split I meet up with a group of four each carrying a very large rectangular pack on their backs. They also do not have any traction and are slip sliding their way along the trail. Considering the icy conditions of the trails this is not a very wise choice. Taking the left branch this time and a hundred feet up is a trail sign on the left for ledges I passed earlier. Not sure where the trail leads as this is not on the state trail map I hesitate to take it. But there is blazing so I figure what the heck and head up.
It does indeed make its way over to the ledges I passed earlier and the group of four are just below me falling and cursing along the way. The blazing peters out and I wander around trying to figure out where it goes but with no luck. Making my way back down the trail and another sign pointing up for the cliffs but I see no blazing for it so I put this little side trip on the back burner for another day. Back down to the road and part scouting for future and part red-lining I continue up Round Pond Trail/Road to the end where the parking is. On the way up I run into another group carrying the same huge rectangular packs and curiosity gets the better of me and I had to ask what the packs are. Turns out they are crash pads set up at the bottom of a boulder climb. To the parking lot and back and a view of Round Pond.
Up the road a bit and I look for the left turn onto the next trail, South Ridge Trail. I come across a snowmobile trail and follow it but it just does not feel right. The trail is supposed to skirt the pond and it is also climbing in elevation. When it pops back onto the road I know I am not in the right spot and head back down to the pond and look for the right trail. Heading over to the pond's edge and even though there is no trail sign I find the trail and make me way next to the pond. Turning away from the pond and the trail ascends a small ravine passing the junction with Shaw Trail and then the South Ridge Connector. The trail meanders through various areas of woods to boulders making its way to the South Mt summit.
Finally a peak of the fire tower through the trees as I arrive at the summit.
Waiting for a couple of people to leave with their dogs, not allowed in the park by the way, so I can have the viewing platform to myself. I clamber up the narrow staircase and the views are not bad for an overcast day. To the north is Belknap Mt and to the left is Mt Kearsarge.
To the west my hometown favorites, The Packs, and to the right of them Mt Monadnock.
Looking towards the north again and there is a peak poking just barely visible to the right of Belknap. Best guess is Mt Washington as nothing else north of here has that shape.
Time to get moving and head down the other side. Passing the group with the dogs and I reach the junction with Mountain Trail fairly quickly. Turning right and the next junction I get confused and take another right. It seems rather longer than what I was expecting but eventually ends up on Tower Road. A few yards up the trail and I soon realize where I am and the mistake I made. I am at the old homestead of George Goodrich and the junction with Middle Mt Trail. The second right I should have stayed left. Down Tower Road I go and end up with the intersection with Reservation Road and cross it for the connecting trail to bring me back to my car. A great little park with some gems along the way. I have some more exploring here to do especially in the fall when the leaves are down and before the snow falls.
Final numbers: 12.5 miles, 6 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 0, Total to Date: 489.2