May 30, 2015.
Today's theme...hiking under pressure. Needing to be back in town early to get together with some friends I had to make this hike quicker than I would normally like. I really don't like rushing or feeling rushed when I am hiking but sometimes it is a necessary evil. So I needed someplace fairly close with short mileage and decided to hit some trails I have left on Chocorua. I have two trips left to do to finish the trails on Chocorua and the ones that fit the bill for today would be a lollipop loop with a couple of side trails to complete the eastern side.
I arrive to the White Ledge Campground for the second time this month and I am on the trail at 6:45. The trail is an easy stroll through the woods in the beginning. It is a quiet morning as the only noise are the birds and a few annoying mosquitos buzzing around.
It only takes a half hour to reach the first junction with Middle Sister Trail, my return path. Even this next section of trail is not that bad as it climbs up to a plateau where it meets up with the junction of Nickerson Ledge Trail. Carter Ledge Trail is dotted with a few Lady Slippers along the way. Another twenty-five minutes and I am at the junction and turn left on Nickerson Ledge Trail.
Surprisingly this trail is relatively flat and in no time I am at Nickerson Ledge passing two erratics sitting together acting as gate keepers to the ledge.
Stepping out onto the ledge and right across the way is Bald Mt and the ridge that the Hammond Trail (one of the trails I have left on Chocorua) runs along. To my right a slightly obscured tree framed view of Chocorua.
Everything was going smoothly up until this point until it was time to find my way off the ledge to get the section of trail down to Piper Trail. I went down the ledge looking for an opening and couldn't find any. Back up the ledge and over towards the right where the ledge extends and found no telltale of a trail there either. As always when this happens I returned to the trail where it popped out onto the ledge and just to the left is an opening and a blaze. Back on track and the trail leads rather steeply down to the intersection with Piper Trail.
It only took a little over five minutes to get down and then a turn around to get back up to Carter Ledge Trail. Again the trail is pretty mellow through here until reaching just below Carter Ledge. There is the occasional peekaboo at Chocorua as the trees open up.
Now the fun part begins as the trail starts scrambling up to the ledges. Popping out onto a gravelly open area where the trail turns hard right. One slip and it is a ways down here as the gravel extends down at a steep angle.
From here there is a good vantage point of the Hammond Trail ridge. The terrain varies after this section with rocky trail to nicely graded trail. The trail opens up onto the ledges and the views are awesome looking up to Chocorua and the First Sister.
I make it to the high point of Carter Ledge and sit down by the boulder to rest and have some water and snacks. Down across the way is White Ledge where I hiked a few weeks ago. It doesn't look impressive from here because all the viewing ledges on White Ledge are facing west and south.
Refueled it is time to make the push up to two of the three sisters.
The trail ducks back into the woods and dips down into a small col before climbing up the shoulder of Third Sister. It is just under a mile to go before the junction with Middle Sister Trail. The trail begins its climb up and just before the junction there is another set of ledges with views to Chocorua (again) and the surrounding area.
Some more scrambling and then the trail crosses a very exposed ledge with a steep drop off to the left. I have read reports about this section and don't feel it is as intimidating as some people make it out to be. Maybe it's the perfect weather and/or the fact I like this kind of stuff.
Back into the scrub and a few minutes later the junction with Middle Sister trail is right there. A left turn and the scrambling does not stop as I make my way up to the bump known as Third Sister. From here I can see the next destination which is Middle Sister.
A quick trip down and back up and I have reached Middle Sister where there is the foundation remnants of the Middle Sister Groundhouse fire tower. A picture of the complete fire tower can be seen here. There is also a repeater station for the Forest Service located next to it. Until recently the repeater was located inside the foundation.
The views from here are pretty good with the only downside is the haze. Directly west are Paugus with Whiteface and Passaconaway. To the north is Bear Mt which looks enticing except there is no active trails at least since 1960. There once was a network of trails throughout that region but nothing now except for Attitash Trail.
Heading down off Middle Sister to get the section of trail between here and the Champney Falls Cutoff. Just past the summit there is a curious iron post standing on a northerly ledge. Not sure what it is or used for at one time. The trip over takes five minutes and knowing I was pressed for time this would be as far as I could go for the day. As much as I would have liked to return to Chocorua, especially on a day like today, there would be no time for that.
So a retreat was in order and I made my way back up and over Middle and Third Sisters and at the junction head down Middle Sister Trail. Heading down there is a view of where the trail leads down towards Blue Mt with the Moats in the background. The trail first heads down through the woods before hitting the ledges seen in the picture.
From that ledge there is a view looking back up at Third Sister. Further down the trail erratics are a norm and this is the most impressive of them. It's completely cleaved in half by mother nature and has a fern bed growing on one half.
Reaching the point where the trail turns right I look for signs of where the trail used to go over Blue Mt and have no luck. At some point it was redirected and the summit is just a short ways away but it is not in the cards to head there today. Time is still the main driving force for getting the trails done. Anything else would be a bonus and will have to wait for another day. Other than the plethora of erratics the trip out is uneventful with one crossing of a low trickling Hobbs Brook. Close to the end of Middle Sister Trail there is a neat little spot where it opens up in a pine forest and the trail is comfortably carpeted with pine needles.
A little over two hours from leaving Third Sister and I am back at the trailhead to Carter Ledge Trail and a short walk through the campground for the ride home. Plenty of time to get home and make it to our friends without any issues. Another great day on the trails of Mt Chocorua and hopefully one more to go to put this mountain to bed.
Final numbers: 10.8 miles, 6 hours and 25 minutes.
Redline Miles: 8.2, Total to Date: 801.6