September 11, 2016.
The ride from Errol to Dixville Notch did not take long but trying to figure out the best way to attack the trails up here took a little bit. Stopping at the Cascades picnic site I had some snacks while trying to make some sense of where all the trails are. Reading and rereading the guide book started to make a bit more sense. There is no map included for the northern trails and info online is quite scarce. Just up the road is the parking lot for the Flume Brook area. Beyond that at the top of Dixville Notch is the Balsams and then the western end of Table Rock Trail. What I didn't see was the eastern end of Table Rock Trail and seeing how this is the steepest part of the climb (almost straight up for three tenths of a mile) I wanted to start there. Another reread of the guide and turning around it is located at a pulloff just beyond the entrance to the Balsams.
This is my first time seeing Dixville Notch and what a sight it is, short but impressive as all heck. Table Rock Trail is all up right to the spot just below Table Rock. It is steep and unrelenting but never scary nor really bad footing. Through the trees the wind is whipping fiercely as it is funnelled through the notch. Clambering over boulders as I pick my way up stopping to catch my breath as I go higher and higher. The trail climbs 600 feet in the short three tenths but it only takes twenty five minutes to get to the top.
A short little pitch up to the jetty like feature that is known as Table Rock. On a normal day it wouldn't be so hairy but today the wind is gusty enough that it is pushing me to my right as I slowly walk out. About midway a good gust takes my hat off my head and disappears into the woods behind me. I turn to see where it went and it is nowhere to be seen as there is nothing but dropoffs on both sides. There is no way I am going to even try to find it so "Leave no Trace" was not practiced today.
I venture out as far as I dare and snap some pictures quickly before the wind decides to make me join my hat. Down to my left is Glorietta Lake and the closed Balsams Resort. It is a shame this grand place is not open but supposedly the new owners have grandiose plans for reopening it. Some I agree with some I do not. A close up reveals some of the work they have done, a demoed building, and a back wing either in need of repair or in the process of being torn down.
Back to the trail and a left as I head down Three Brothers Trail which leads east down off Table Rock. There are checkered signs and flagging all along the trail. Have no idea what they signify but there must have been some type of event up here recently. About ten minutes down the trail and there is a spur trail on my left that leads out to an outlook. It is not part of my redlining but figured I am here might as well check it out. The trail winds through the woods and then follows the edge of the cliff face that is grown in with trees so no exposure. At the outlook there is a side view back to Table Rock and a better understanding of how it juts out into the open air.
The Three Brothers Trail is an enjoyable trail as it moderately makes its way down to where it crosses Cascade Brook and then becomes Huntington Cascade Trail. The trail steepens as it descends next to the brook with some obscured views of parts of the cascades.
Continuing down and there are a few more cascades getting a bit more impressive with each one. If this wasn't such a dry summer they would be even more impressive.
Eventually the trail leads out to the parking lot where I was a while ago when I first arrived. Across the road and past the cemetery where the first settlers of Dixville are buried.
Back into the woods for a section of the Cohos Trail then across and up Route 26. The Cohos Trail climbs up through the woods to the parking lot for Flume Brook. Here the Sanguinary Trail begins but first a side trip down the banking to see this small but impressive Flume. Heading up Sanguinary Trail I missed a sharp left as the border markings on the trees in this section are also blazed yellow. Where they are leading do not make sense and I retrace my steps as I do not have time for this trail finding. It is after 5:30 and I still have a long climb up to this side of Dixville Notch and do not want to be out in this unfamiliar territory when the sun sets. I find my mistake and the trail begins the climb up as I am never too far from the edge of the notch. The wind is still howling through as I steadily make the climb and the days mileage are beginning to take its toll on my legs. There are peeks along the way into the notch thanks to some openings just off the trail.
Looking behind me at one of the outlooks and the moon is already out as the sun sinks slowly ahead of me. I make it to the junction at the top of the ridge where the Cohos Trail turns right and continues north to the Canadian border. I only have a half hour left before the sun is gone over the horizon so I keep pushing on as the trail now begins to descend. The low sun is directly in front of me and sending long shadows through the trees putting that yellow glow on everything.
The trail reaches a spot where I can once again see the Balsams down below and makes a sharp turn here. A look up the mountain to the golden trees. After the turn I can see down below where I am parked. I begin to get nervous as to where the trail is taking me as the sharp upthrusted crags come into view.
Ahead of me is Index Rock jutting up and the trail looks like it is heading for it. On a normal day I might not mind this little adventure but with the dying sun and howling winds I begin to feel the beads of nervous sweat forming. Down through a scrubby section and then a switchback turn and I am out in the open of this scrabbly rock area where it looks like the trail drops over the edge.
I take my time across the open talus field and thankfully the trail re-enters the woods. Another switchback turn and I can see the road down below me and know I am almost finished and survived. One more turn and the trail leads out to one of the entrances to the Balsams and just below where I parked. Right on cue the sun sets as I make it back and unfortunately this is all I can do today. I have 0.7 miles of Table Rock Trail left to do but there is no way I am going to try an out and back at this time of night. A drive into Lancaster to find a room and some food before calling it a night.
September 12, 2016.
Twelve and a half hours later I am back at Dixville Notch to get the rest of Table Rock Trail. This end of it starts at the western end of the notch and heads up to just below Table Rock. The trail is pretty quick as I make my up the pretty easy grade. Made easier with a fresh set of legs of course. No way I would have been able to move this quickly last night.
About halfway up I come across a big maple tree blocking the trail. The leaves are all on it and still green. As I pass by the stump where it snapped it is fresh. This must have come down yesterday from the strong winds that were blowing through here. Glad I wasn't here when that came down!
The trail begins to level out and just below Table Rock I pass by where the Cohos Trail turns to head south. A half hour from starting and I am right back where I was yesterday and the weather is much nicer. I pause for one more look at Table Rock and even contemplate about heading out all the way to the end. But I remind myself I still have a long drive to do my next hike so instead start heading back down.
Besides this just gives me a reason to come back some day to this beautiful area. An hour is all it took to complete this out and back as now it is time to head to Pittsburg. Yes, Pittsburg, NH not the steel town. For some odd and strange reason there are trails up there that are included in the White Mountain Guide but are not in the White Mountains. Leftovers from always being in the guide book I assume. Oh well, more new territory for me.
Final numbers: 4.2 miles, 3 hours and 5 minutes.
Redline Miles: 3.5, Total to Date: 1170.4