December 19, 2015.
Back up to Stark NH to cleanup loose ends from my last trip up here a month an a half ago. A crazy ride up as it was clear until I hit the Lancaster area and it was a white out drive on Route 3 by Prospect Mt. A break in the snow and then again white out conditions as I got to Groveton and turned onto Route 110. The road was completely covered in snow and made driving a bit of a challenge. No matter what I was committed after traveling this far and the hike was a go. Sliding past the left hand turn onto Bell Hill Road as the anti-locking brakes kicked in. A quick back up on the deserted road and then another turn onto Percy Road where the trailhead for Bald Mt Notch Trail is located. This time no one is parked at the old landfill as I pull off the road to park.
The snow is coming down at a pretty good clip as I take twenty minutes to eat and get ready to hit the trail. It's just after nine when I walk down the road to the trailhead.
There is something peaceful about hiking while it is snowing. The world seems quieter and more peaceful as I make my way up the trail. Under the powerlines and then back into the woods as the trail follows an old road. In the winter parts of the trail double as a trail for snowmobilers. But not today as there is just a thin cover of snow over the terrain. About thirty minutes from starting and the trail turns off the old woods road heading up towards the notch between Bald and Long Mts.
A look up the trail reveals the intensity of the snow. Yet just ten minutes later it looks like the snow is going to clear out. Gotta love that New England weather!
Up the trail and a peek at Bald Mt and from this spot it doesn't look feasible to bushwhack up to it. The terrain drops sharply down through some thick woods plus it doesn't quite look bald from this vantage point. Heading up through the notch, do not imagine Crawford or Franconia, the trail begins to level out in the peaceful woods.
After the height of land the trail becomes wetter in spots with still some unfrozen areas. The woods don't have that steep dropoff on the left where Bald Mt lies so reaching from this side looks doable but I have to stick to my agenda and look at coming back some other time. A few minutes later and I am back at the junction with Rowells Link where I was just seven weeks ago. Heading back down Rowells Link for the second time and as I pass over the bridge above Rowell Brook I can't help but chuckle at the sign I missed the first time. Thank You Captain Obvious!
Down through the winding trail until it reaches an old logging road which I turn right onto. This area presents a lot of future exploration with all the old woods and logging roads plus a few paths that are not on any map. Revisiting the junction with the "Christmas Trees" where Rowells Link and Jimmy Cole Brook Road coincide and the sky has opened up enough for a view across the valley to the Pilot Range.
It only takes a bit over ten minutes to make my way down to Old Summer Club Trail and this time I make the right turn onto it to get the missing section of trail I need to. Right away I am greeted by two huge glacial erratics. One is right next to the trail and the other is a short distance down in the woods.
It is just another ten minutes to the side trail that leads to Victor Head, a ledgey pointed outcropping jutting up from the surrounding landscape. The trail heads up straight for Victor Head and then turns left in order to come up around the northern side. The woods through here are different with tall spruce and the next generation waiting to take their place below them. Turning up towards the summit the ledges make their appearance for a few scrambles before reaching the first view point.
The first viewpoint is pretty obscured as far as views go but there is a direct line of sight to both South and North Percy to the west. I'll be heading up to the col in between those peaks in just a bit.
Moving down below and towards the east is another ledge that has views to the south and west. Looking towards Groveton and I think I am in the wrong place as it looks like Chocorua from here. I know it is not as it is in the wrong direction and almost 50 miles away to the southeast. But Cape Horn sure has a striking resemblance from this angle to Chocorua.
The ledges on this side of Victor Head offer more views by moving from opening to opening. I can see all the way to the Mahoosuc Range and a clear view of Trident Pass where I was just south of there in the summer of 2014 waiting for Peaches and Cream, my AT buddies I met in Georgia that year. Beyond Christine Lake and I also can see where I parked earlier this morning. It is the little strip to the left of the bigger strip which are the railroad tracks.
A retreat back down the trail to Old Summer Club Trail to finish the section I need between here and the spur trail to South Percy. A mostly easy trek except for a section through a boulder field in the woods. Beyond that the trail turns off the old woods road and then back onto another. At this spot the old road continues off to the right as the spruces are encroaching on the treadway.
A few feet down and the trail turns off the old road to the right and it is just as distinct in this direction. After crossing Jimmy Cole Brook the trail becomes rougher and steeper as it climbs up into the col between the two Percy's.
Just as I thought I was getting close to end mother nature decided to really change things up as the trail becomes a bouldery climb. Finally after some small scrambles up and down a couple of ledge outcroppings I see the end through the trees with the South Percy trail sign visible. This looked like a good time to regroup and have some snacks and water before the trip back down.
The one nice thing about doing out and backs on trails is you get to see the things you missed on the way up either because your head was down while climbing or you had your back to them. There is one great open section of woods below the col and before Jimmy Cole Brook where I got to see the western ledge on Victor Head.
Back at the junction where the old road and trail coincided for a short bit I went first down to see where it would lead. Then afterwards headed up the other side just to get it on the GPS for future exploration. The lower part was more open whereas the upper portion became closed in by the spruces but still very easy to follow as the surrounding forest is dominated by birches except for the spruces growing in the old road.
After more than an hour of my turnaround spot I am back at the junction of Rowells Link and across the way is the rest of the Old Summer Club Trail for my return down to Christine Lake Road. Back on familiar territory again and reaching the end of the trail in good time. All that is left is the 1.8 mile roadwalk back to where I parked. Another great day in the woods of Stark, NH and made even better that I saw no other people the whole time hiking. There will definitely be some return trips to these special woods to do some off trail explorations as soon as I finish my redlining project.
Final numbers: 12.4 miles, 6 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.4, Total to Date: 1036.4