January 24, 2015.
Picking up where I left off last week and it's right back up to Orford to get the rest of the trails on Smarts Mt. This time I'll approach from the north heading up the Daniel Doan Trail to the summit, then get the little more than a half mile piece of Lambert Ridge Trail and back down the J (yes as in the letter, it gets its name from the shape of the ridge) Trail with a walk back to the car via Quinttown Road.
Arriving early as usual and I make the drive up Mousley Brook Road to the trail head and even though there is space plowed out to park I head back down to the junction with Quinttown road to park. I would rather split up the road walk with some at the beginning and besides it is uphill so getting it done first thing is easier. All set and off I go at 7:15 leaving the snowshoes in the car. I will come to regret this later in the day. Every trail between here and Hanover has been packed with minimal snow depth so I haven't needed them yet this year. The walk up Mousley Brook Road is a quick warm up as I pass one house that is closed for the winter and then approach some open fields on both sides of the road. I get my first look at Smarts Mt a little over three miles away and its fire tower is visible in the gray skies.
A short ways up are a barn and shed and from this vantage point I can see Mt Cube behind me. That is the next target on my list as there are two trails left on that mountain to do.
Taking the inclined unplowed drive up towards the shed to get the above shot of Cube and back in the field is a house also closed for the winter. What a sweet spot to live though.
Past the barn and shed and another look back at the last mountain, after Smarts and Cube in this region, is Sunday Mt. Not sure why this is included in the AMC Guide but it is. There is a trail that comes off the summit of Cube's west side called the Cross Rivendell Trail and continues on into Vermont. There is a section between Baker Road at the base of Mt Cube that connects to the base of Sunday Mt that is not in the book. Yet the section that traverses Sunday Mt is, not sure of the logic there.
Twenty minutes from the time I left the car and I reach the Daniel Doan Trail head. This trail used to be part of the Appalachian Trail as well as Mousley Brook Road until the J Trail was completed in 1989. The trail was renamed from Mousley Brook Trail back in 1993 for Daniel Doan who authored some hiking books on NH and lived in Orford NH for a period of time before he died. The beginning of the trail coincides with the road for a short ways before paralleling the road on the side of the woods along an old farm road.
Once passing the last house on the left the trail/farm road meanders up the northwest side of Smarts Mt with a couple of short reroutes to bypass the farm road where it has been flooded and rutted.
Up further and I find what I believe is an old white blaze from when this trail was part of the AT on a tree repainted blue. Twenty minutes beyond that and the first of many trail blockers that have been so prevalent higher up these past weeks.
The snow is also deeper up here and there is no evidence of anyone using this trail this winter. In most spots I sink in a good foot and some spots up to my knees from the drifting. The going is slower up through here but for the most part the trail is followable between the corridor and some blue ribbon here and there.
I reach a spot where the trail crosses what must be a brook underneath the snow and on the other side nothing stands out as the trail. I turn around and there is a blue ribbon on a tree branch where I just crossed the brook so I am on the right path to that point. Straight ahead is a good size opening but going up twenty feet and there is no opening in the trees for a trail. To the right it is too grown in, to the left looks like a possibility and I parallel the brook and actually find a faded blue blaze on a tree as I stop to scan in all directions looking for evidence of a trail or blazes. I continue on slowly and very wary that is the correct way as it starts heading downhill. It ends up petering out and I just have this feeling I am not on the right trail. So I just start working my way somewhat straight as the woods would allow figuring at the very least I'll intercept the J Trail.
You can see by my tracks that I was real close to the trail and yet did not see it and eventually did pop out onto the J trail. Luckily someone had just been up through here with snowshoes as that is the only traffic in quite sometime. It helped consolidate the snow some but I was still sinking in the snow making traveling slow and cumbersome. I reach the junction with Clark Pond Loop which at one time was the AT route and is now abandoned but still curiously signed. Something to look into for the future when I finish this project.
Turning right here and just beyond is the junction of Daniel Doan Trail, Lambert Ridge Trail and J Trail. Well at least I can backtrack my way to where I lost the trail from here. I turn right which leads down to the old Fire Warden Cabin now used for thru hikers as a shelter. The cabin even has a blue blaze on it so it should be a piece of cake following the trail from here.
I go inside the cabin just to see and standing on the porch there is a large pine tree to my right with a blue blaze on it. Behind it are some blow downs and it is a bit messy back there but navigable. In the picture the tree is to my right with the branches hanging in the frame.
I go pass the tree and head to the left as that looks like the path and it leads down to the privy. Looking around I don't see anything that looks like the trail and head back up the hill to the cabin. I head straight beyond the tree this time and that ends up being nothing. Back at the cabin again and I head off to the left behind the cabin and there is nothing that way either. Another loop down by the privy as you can see the big figure eight in the picture of my GPS track. At the cabin again for the umpteenth time and I go back in to collect myself and get some food and water. I rationalize that I have done everything I could to find the trail and I am going to have to come back when the snow is gone to find the small portion of trail I can't find. I hate leaving such a short section of trail but have no option under the circumstances. Accepting defeat I put my backpack on and head out the door. As I am standing there adjusting my back I spy something in the woods to my left. See if you can see it in the picture.
Find it? No...look harder it is better than "Where's Waldo" Doesn't even look like a trail over there but both sign and blaze are there. Here look again!
Still can't see it can you? OK try these pictures then.
I spent twenty frustrating minutes looking for this trail and there it was the whole time. I have no idea what the purpose of the blaze on the big pine tree in front of the cabin is about but it is no way connected with this sign and blaze. Following the trail down and it is a tough little sucker to follow with the broken limbs and blowdowns until I spy a sign amongst the debris for the spring.
Just behind that mess to the right and I pop out onto a familiar spot. There are footprints in the snow and I immediately recognize where I am. Back where I lost the trail after crossing the frozen brook. I look at where I just came from and SOB there is a blaze partially hidden by the snow laden tree branches.
Doesn't look like a trail in that direction even though I just came through that way. Heading back up and I am satisfied now that I have gotten the whole trail. The variances in the GPS track are just the readings it gets and rest assured that even though the dots are not connected I did complete Daniel Doan Trail. Passing the cabin for the last time and down the Lambert Ridge Trail to get the remaining piece that I could not get last week due to time restraints. But first a quick stop at the fire tower which is officially closed until some repairs have been made to it.
I am telling you right now I did not (wink wink) go up the tower. Besides if I had gone up this is all you would have seen (wink wink).
The left picture is where the J Trail leads down and the right is where I was last week on Lambert Ridge, the back ridgeline partially in the clouds. Back down to the trail and a right turn onto Lambert Ridge Trail to get the 6/10 mile section I was unable to do last week. For the most part it's an easy travel down as this part of the trail is packed down from recent traffic. There are a few steep sections and a couple of switchbacks but I make it down to the junction with Ranger Trail in twenty minutes.
On the way back up I take the side trail to the old shelter site that is now used as a tent site. It comes complete with views and a rock lined fire pit. Of course today is not the day for views.
Back up by the spur for the fire tower there is a privy buried in the woods from all the broken limbs and blown over trees. I spied it while up on the fire tower earlier. It's a struggle to get close to it with the deep snow and mess surrounding it.
Passing by the junction with Daniel Doan Trail and I am back on the J Trail and now wishing I had brought my snowshoes. There is only one set of tracks up here from earlier today I think and the only ones up here in a long time. I can only bet that this trail does not see this much action during the winter time. It is a long 4.3 miles down to Quinttown Road and a very mild descent making it seem longer. The trek down is complicated by trying to walk in someone else's footprints. They aren't consolidated enough to prevent me from sinking with every step. To make matters worse there are the constant blowdowns or debris across the trail to get around.
On more than a few occasions I sink in up to my knees and at one time up to my hip. Not far from the bottom and I get greeted with the sun trying to break through the clouds as they are beginning to break up. If only this event had happened two hours ago.
I reach the bridge that spans the South Branch of Jacobs Brook and a few minutes later pop out onto Quinttown Road and across the way is the unbroken and untouched Kodak Trail that leads up to Mt Cube. That will give me some food for thought for the next week as I decide how I'll be tackling that one.
Final numbers: 11.6 miles, 7 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 8.1, Total to Date: 700.8