Owl's Head and Mt Martha

August 22, 2015.

Been waiting for a decent day to do this hike and it looks like today is the day. There was ground fog/undercast in the valleys on the way up so hopefully it will last long enough for me to get to the summit before it burns off. Although not that many miles trail wise there will be an almost four mile roadwalk back to the northern trailhead to complete the loop.

I purposely chose to start at the northern trailhead since most of the roadwalk would be downhill. A good an early start as I get to the parking lot at 6:30. Off I go immediately into the woods as the trail begins underneath an old apple tree.

 

There seems to be a growing trend lately of people using the beginning of trails as their toilet facilities as there is paper all over the ground between the trail sign and a small brook just beyond. Some people just don't respect the woods nor do they understand the concept of Leave No Trace. Maybe they need to bring back the ad from the 70's of the Native American with the tear rolling down his cheek from all the trash we left along the waterways and highways.

Anyways across the brook and the trail turns right onto a woods road and just a short ways up diverts to the left off the road onto a trail. In the woods to the left is a very nice shelter completely enclosed. Must be the new economical green version the Forest Service is trying out.

 

Through some muddy areas as the trail skirts around the base of Owls Head and then gradually starts climbing up.

 

It is an easy stroll through the woods but I know this will not last due to the profile of the mountain. At some point it is going to get steep. For now I'll enjoy the terrain as I make my way up in the quietness of the early morning.

 

The trail meets back up with I assume is the old woods road that the trail turned off at the beginning. There is also a sign that says "CT North" and I didn't know what was referencing at first. Then it dawns on me that this is part of the Cohos Trail which travels from Crawford Notch to Canada. A little further up and it crosses an old skidder road and then back into the woods.

 

Just above the skidder road crossing there is a exposed steel pipe going across the trail. Not sure what it was once used for but must be an interesting story. The climb begins to steepen and according to the GPS the summit is just a few tenths away. But instead of continuing straight up the trail turns right and continues climbing steeply along the contours.

 

Eventually it swings back around and I can see daylight ahead which usually means the trail is topping out. This time it does and I am standing on top of Owl's Head on a slab of granite.

 

I do get a reward of an undercast as I look out towards Vermont. Burke Mt and Umpire Mt can be seen poking up out like islands in the cloud ocean. I had always read that there were great views to be had from Owl's Head and wonder what I am missing.

 

Moving along the trail and just past the summit is an open view ledge and this is what I have read about. Directly to the east are all the Presis. First the Northern's and then the Southern's. Not as impressive as my first undercast when in March of 2012 on Mt Washington but none the less it is a cool sight to see again.

 

Down further is the grand opening of Crawford Notch. Looking through the notch and I can see Bear Mt and Chocorua with it's distinct pointy peak.

 

Across the way is my next target, Mt Martha. To the west everything is buried in a sea of clouds. This is what I was hoping for four weeks ago when I changed my plans and hiked Madison. Kind of a small victory today. Funny though because both mornings started out the same.

 

I take a small break on the ledge to soak in the sun and the views. Time to get going as I have a lot planned for the day. Behind me is the trail over to Mt Martha, Martha's Mile, and it leads down and I do mean down. A couple of steep pitches coming down off this side of Owl's Head.

 

Reaching the col and the flat section does not last long as the climb up to Mt Martha begins. Thankfully it is not steep like Owl's Head. Along the way there is a section where the trees have been snapped off, not sure if this is due to an ice storm or a fir wave.

 

It doesn't take long to reach the summit of Mt Martha as Martha's Mile is only eight tenths of a mile. Guess it wouldn't make sense to call it Martha's Eight Tenths! On the summit I have my redemption from this past winter where there were no views up here as it was socked in that day. This time the Presis are in full view. Well except for Washington who is now enveloped in a cloud.

 

Past the old tower site where only two corners are visible. Quite grown in compared to this winter with the snow pack.

 

Beyond is a viewpoint as I head over through the tall wet grass. If I hadn't been up here this winter I might not have come over to this spot as it is really grown in. But it is the best spot on Martha in my opinion. Across the way is Franconia Ridge with Mt Garfield in front. To the right of Franconia Ridge is Moosilauke, Cannon Mt and North Kinsman.

 

Continuing to the left are the Twins, South and North. Even Carrigain is easily spotted from this vantage point.

 

One more look at Crawford Notch from this vantage point. Then back to the other viewpoint for another and last look at Mt Washington in a cloud.

 

Enough lingering and time to make my way down to Route 115 via the other piece of Cherry Mt Trail. The trail down to the junction takes a few minutes as I remember this area when the snowmobilers where heading up while I was coming down. At the junction I turn right and head down the steady descending trail. I chuckle as I pass the No Snowmobile sign as I don't think I'll see any today.

 

Along the way I come across the forest boundary and I am amazed and impressed with the people that survey these boundaries. They actually cut a path along the boundary and this section here is steep on both sides of the trail. That is one strenuous job.

 

About halfway down and I run into the first hikers of the day as they are heading up. We chat for a bit and a short ways down the trees are opening up to my right. Having the time I go up to check it out and it is a massive section of the woods that has been recently logged. Regrowth has already started and the birch trees are aggressive in reclaiming the woods that was once here. Down in the valley and the undercast is starting to burn off.

 

The descent begins to ease up as I get nearer to the road and soon reach the western trailhead for Cherry Mt Trail. Three more trails complete and now the long roadwalk back to the other trailhead. The good and the bad as the sun is out now so the views heading down should be good but it is getting warm fast out on the exposed pavement. Reaching the pullout and I can see quite a ways to the north. The first peaks visible are Starr King and Waumbek, the home of my 48 finish. There are a lot more peaks to the north that I never thought of as they are not on my redlining list but may end up on my to do list for the future. Hutchins Mt and the Pilot Range look interesting.

 

There are other peaks out there that get my curiosity going. Cape Horn which from here looks like two peaks but on a topo map is a crescent shaped mountain. To the left and in back are Spruce Mt, Teapot Mt and Savage Mt. As many times as I have driven this road and seen these peaks before I never stopped to take the time to actually see them like today. Sometimes these roadwalks have a plus side to them as I have no choice but to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

 

Making it back to the car in good time and time to drink, crank the AC and then head over to the next destination of the day, the Pondicherry Rail Trail just across the way.


Final numbers: 9.0 miles, 5 hours and 40 minutes.

Redline Miles: 0, Total to Date: 894.9