April 17, 2016.
Nice thing about staying up north for the night is no long drive to get to the trails and I get to the trails earlier. I decided to continue closing some holes and stay low again by doing Mt Hayes. I was up there back in August of 2014 when I went to meet Peaches and Cream but hiked via the Centennial Trail. This morning I am going up from the start of the Mahoosuc Trail located in Gorham. There are two ways to reach the trail, one is via North Road and the other is from an access trail located by the railroad bridge over the Ammonoosuc River off Route 16. I opted for the latter as I have heard North Road is a bone jarring ride. A brisk night as the temps dipped down in the 30's and starting out just after 6:30 the temps haven't had a chance to warm up.
Underneath the railroad tracks there is a pedestrian catwalk that gets you across the river. Just make sure you duck to get under the "X" frame! Once across there is a road that brings you around to the old railroad bed and across the canal for the hydro station where the first views are to The Imp and North Carter. There is a stretch of trails on that ridge I still need to do also.
Just after the bridge the trail ducks into the woods for a short distance before coming out onto the continuation of North Road where I take a right. At the trailhead another picturesque shot across the canal this time of Madison and Adams. Standing at the sign and I reflect how much of this one trail I have to do, over 20 some miles. The trail itself is almost 27 miles long and some of the toughest miles but loaded with views once up top.
Warmed enough I lose the outer layer and start up the trail. Up underneath some power lines and then beside a brook off to the left. At one time this use to be part of the AT before the Centennial Trail was built. There is evidence of the white blazes underneath the newer blue blazes on the trees.
I pass by the spur trail that leads over to Mascot Pond and will hit that on the way back. Up through a nice Birch section of the trail and then a moderate steep climb along a spline.
I reach an intersection with a logging road and miss the trail across the way as it doesn't quite line up. A quick adjustment and I continue up on the early morning sun filtering through the trees. The footing has been great and drastically changes about two thirds of the way up. Lots of rocks on the trail, erosion and wet sections from the spring melt.
At about 2300' I see the first ice of the day and hope this is not the norm for the rest of the trail. A few minutes up the trail and I see an opening up ahead and then step out onto a broad expanse of open ledge. The views extends from Shelburne Moriah on the left all the way to South Weeks on the right with Mt Washington straight ahead. The early morning lighting helps accentuate the ridges and valleys. Another reason I like to get up early and hit the trails before anyone else.
I spend a few minutes snapping away with the camera. Madison and three of the four Adams can be seen. Washington is out of the clouds and I bet it is going to be a glorious day up there today.
Looking down in the valley and I can even see where I started from this morning.
Back to the trail and over some scrubby ledges before hitting a great unexpected section of spruce trees. After the sprucey section it's an easy walk between the ledge and the high point of Mt Hayes although there two candidates for the right spot.
I continue on the Mahoosuc Trail to the junction with the Centennial Trail where the AT comes up because I know there are some views from the ledges there. Not disappointed I get a clear shot to the Percy's lying northeast. A little to the left are Cabot, The Bulge and The Horn where I still have a traverse to do.
A few more pics and a quick water break before heading back the way I came. Approaching the ledges from this morning I hear a tinkling noise off to my left like glass dropping. Quietly I make my way to the ledge and head to the northern portion of it and oddly I can't find what the source of the noise was. From this spot there is a clearing in line with Route 16 and it is a strange place for a clearing. Looking at Google Earth there is a rectangular patch that might have been a foundation for a house. It is above the logging road where the trail crosses so I might have to look into that some other day (that To DO list is growing with every hike).
Down below the ledge the woods look pretty open and the terrain very inviting. I stand there contemplating getting down off this ledge and bushwhacking through the woods back to the trail to avoid the mucky eroded section of trail. But in the end I take the safe route and before heading via the trail I take a mid morning break soaking in the panoramic view in front of me. Off with the boots and a quiet relaxing time to enjoy looking at the places I have been and the places I still need to hike.
Having my fill of the views and food it is time to move along and I head back down the Mahoosuc Trail. As I am heading down I hear a flute like noise and stop to carefully listen to see if the imagination is playing with me. I hear it again and then all goes silent. It is reminiscent of the time I was on Mt Carr back last May and heard the similar noise. I reach the very short spur for Popsy Spring, I missed this on the way up, and obviously take the 30 foot trip to check it out. Back at the logging road intersection I take the time to go check out the clearing there and get a view back up to Mt Hayes where I had just taken a break a little while ago.
Back down the spline and the trail turns off it and heading down I see why the trail changed direction here as the original trail is blocked with dead tree branches. Must have been too steep but I remember coming up it was odd that the trail diverted off the spline and now I can see why. At the junction with Mascot Pond I now head over to check that out and know there was some type of mining had been done there one time. Getting close to the shore I can see evidence of some old foundations on the left and then the tailings right next to the shore.
The pond is a great secluded spot with similar views I had earlier at the canal. Behind me is one steep mother of a pile of tailings and the evidence of foot travel can be seen from the different shades in the loose gravel. A good account of the history of the mine can be read here. Not heading up that I tell myself as the trail that led in here continues straight ahead and I go off to check out where it leads to.
Reaching a flooded section I turn around and stand at the base of the tailing mountain deciding what to do. I would like to see the caves that are up there but wonder if the risk is worth the reward. Not sure if this is one of my dumber decisions but up I go and just take it slow testing every step along the way being careful not to create a slide or slip. I decide to keep my head down and just make my way up not stopping afraid the feet will slip out under me. I wished now I had taken some pictures in between but the nerves weren't going to allow it. Off to the left is the first cave and that is where I am heading. There are some up further but I am too psyched out to climb that high. I reach the gated entrance and can feel the cool air coming out of it and pray the bats don't make a Batman like exit as I am standing there peering in.
Inside is a sign explaining the sensitivity of the caves and why they are locked. From this perch there is now an obstructed view to the Carter's and Presi's.
Now a bigger decision than the one I made to come up here, how do I get down? Looking at the path I just came up and all I can envision is slipping and rolling all the way down to the bottom. To my right is a way down and there are trees interspersed so at least I have something to grab if I slip so that is an easy choice for the exit. Past the gravelly area and it becomes more bouldery and the trees are more abundant. Soon I am at the floor of the old mining hill and time to explore the stone foundations I saw on the way in.
There a couple of mounds with stones surrounding them and then a really good size cellar hole further into the woods. Satisfied I have seen all there is it is time to head back and out. A stop to check out the brook just after the power line crossing as I can hear the water rushing down the slope. It turns out to be a worthwhile diversion as the the brook is a ledgey cascade through this section.
Back at the train trestle and the engineering is a piece of art as I admire it on the re-crossing.
A real good morning and unbelievably I had the whole trail to myself as I never saw another soul out there. Some more things to explore in the future and a small piece of the Mahoosuc Trail is done.
Final numbers: 8.4 miles, 5 hours and 35 minutes.
Redline Miles: 2.8, Total to Date: 1082.3