October 27, 2015.
Heading further north today into some new territory, Percy Peaks. A long drive but no longer than heading to York Pond area north of Berlin or my forays into Maine this year. It's a three hour drive and beyond the Route 115 turnoff I am so accustomed to taking it's a refreshing change. Heading up Route 3 through some Great North Woods towns is like taking a trip back in time.
I head through Whitefield first, then Lancaster and make it to Groveton where I turn off onto Route 110 to get to Nash Stream Road. Lancaster is the most "grown-up" of the three and unfortunately Groveton has suffered the paper mill closures that so many northern towns have been experiencing the last few decades. Right after the turn onto 110 I get my first look at the Percy's from the Groveton covered bridge.
They are an ominous looking pair from here as I continue heading north. A couple miles up Nash Stream Road and I reach the trailhead. Boots are on the ground at 9:20 which is a very late start for me. These north woods are going to be a challenge to complete. I still have trails to do between here and the Canadian border to complete my redlining. After a steep climb up from the road the trail gently climbs through the woods along on an old logging road.
It takes thirty minutes to reach a large erratic sitting next to the trail where it turns left. Climbing steeper grades the trail soon reaches an exposed slab that stretches for quite some distance. At first I get nervous that that is the trail as it looks like poor footing. Scanning the area and the trail thankfully skirts to the right of it.
It is steep climbing up beside the slab and the occasional glance to the left reminds me how glad I am next to it and not on it. There has been at least one human death on it and one moose. Once sliding down there is no stopping anyone until you hit the trees at the bottom.
Reaching close to the top and it is time to cross to the other side. Not to worry as it is safe to cross here. The trail returns to the woods for a short stretch.
Then breaks out onto a crumbly slab section before entering the woods again. A short bit up is this large slab split in two. Wonder how many freeze/thaw cycles it took to separate these?
Soon the trail levels out in the col between the two Percy's and I am at the junction with the Old Summer Club Trail which comes up from Christine Lake. A right turn onto it and just down a ways is the spur trail to South Percy. The woods up here have a more primitive feel as it is thick and everything is covered in moss.
It's a steep climb up to South Percy as the trail is winding and just a slice through the thick forest.
An opening in the trees affords a look over to North Percy and some trepidation begins to seep in as I wonder how I am going to get up that cone safely. After what seemed like a long time (only fifteen minutes from the start of the spur) I arrive at the summit of South Percy complete with a sign in jar.
The jar is jammed with a notebook inside a plastic bag and not worth the effort to try and get it out to check the register. From South Percy and a better look at where I am going next, North Percy. I'm not sure where the trail goes up over that dome but boy does it have me worried looking at the flakes of granite.
Beyond the summit and there are open views to the west and south. Off in the distance to the northwest is Jay Peak in Vermont less than sixty miles away. Less than thirty miles to the southeast are Carter Notch, Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Washington.
The east has some limited views over to the Mahoosuc Range with North Goose Eye, East Goose Eye, Goose Eye, Carlo and Success. Directly south and a glimpse of Garfield, Lafayette, Cannon, Kinsmans, Moosilauke and Clough.
Satisfied with all the views it is time to head down and tackle North Percy. Reaching the col and a refuel break first. Arriving at the junction with Percy Loop Trail and I make the left to stay on Percy Peaks Trail to start the trip up to North Percy. The trail stays in the woods for the first half of the trip. In this section I meet the only people I would see up here as they are coming down.
Ten minutes into the trail and I reach the slabs and suppressing my apprehension I move ahead. Doesn't look that far from this vantage point.
Then around the corner I reach the real beginning of steep exposed slabs. But hey I've done Huntington Ravine so how bad can it be. Except I think this is more exposed than Huntington was. Oh well only way to go is up so off I go.
Surprisingly the first steps aren't bad as the granite face has lots of grip. It is steep but never slippery as I take step after step. The hardest part was trying to find the blazes to follow the trail.
Halfway up I pause to take in the scenery behind me. Down below are Bald Mt, Victor Head and Christine Lake. There are trails down there that I need to do also. One, Old Summer Camp Trail, leads up to the col below South Percy. Speaking of South Percy...
Back to the task at hand as the trail continues up the slab then a short respite in some scrub.
Up past the blueberry bushes and the trail begins to level out as I reach the summit cone.
Just ten minutes on the slabs and I reach the summit of North Percy. Not any where near as bad as it looked from South Percy.
The views are spectacular from up here as you can walk around and get 360° with little effort. To the north is a cluster of mountains, in the middle of the cluster is Sugarloaf Mt where I have a trail to redline. Sugarloaf is about another five miles up Nash Stream Road. To the northeast is Muise Mt and in the saddle to the left of the summit is Mont Megantic located in Canada. It is the left hand of the two peaks in the saddle.
Heading over to the southwest side of the summit and a look down to the Nash Stream Valley where I came up from. Interesting sidebar I came across while researching this write-up is there use to be a trail, West Side Trail, that came up somewhere in the vicinity of this picture. Off to the west and the Mahoosuc Range is visible where the AT traverses over.
Going up wasn't so bad as I thought it would be but how will it be going down? Slowly I make my way until I am sure that my shoes will hold and I have the trust in them. The trip down goes by without incident and before I know it I am in the woods then back at the junction. Down Percy Loop Trail for the return to Nash Stream Road. Skirting around the eastern flank of North Percy and it is all woods from here on.
Part way down and I reach the tentsite just to the right of the trail. It is in place for the Cohos Trail which the Percy Loop Trail is a part of. The Cohos Trail starts at the Webster Cliff Trail down in Crawford Notch and goes all the way to the Canadian border. Back on the trail and it is a breeze between here and the road as the trail follows an old logging road out.
Not much on the exit as the woods are leafless and the trip went by quickly.
The walk back along Nash Stream Road is only a mile and unfortunately nothing to see in the wildlife department. Two great peaks, with North definitely the better of the two, in a new secluded area for me to explore more.
Final numbers: 6.8 miles, 4 hours and 50 minutes.
Redline Miles: 4.8, Total to Date: 977.1