Skookumchuck Trail

January 19, 2013.

The plan is for an epic hike up and over Lafayette in the winter. Always an iffy place to go to where the conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly similar to Mt Washington. The goal is to go up Skookumchuck Trail over on Garfield Ridge Trail to Lafayette and then down Greenleaf Trail and a road walk back to the car.

The drive up 93 was OK until just below the notch as a snow squall was passing through slowing down traffic to a crawl. Eventually making it to the parking lot which is located just north of the notch right after the split for I-93 and Route 3. I am the only car in the lot and as soon as I get out the wind is already blowing pretty good. Dressed, layered and snowshoes on it is time to head up at 8:40. The trail down low is in pretty crappy shape due to the warm weather we had the week before. Not much snow cover but I leave the shoes on as there is a couple inches of new snow on the ground.


A short ways up the trail and I reach Jordan Brook and it is not quite frozen over. Not feeling like making a risky foot breaking through the ice crossing I look down stream and then up. Up about 75 feet I spy what looks like a bridge, what a curious spot to have a bridge when the trail is down here. Walking along the brook and it is a bridge and I'm guessing left over from some logging done up here a few years ago. Crossing it I stay on the old logging road and where it crests there is another odd object out here in the middle of the woods, a table!


Bet there is an interesting story there. Following the logging road in hopes of the trail coming across it and I see no evidence of that happening. Back down the logging trail and a return to the bridge this time following the brook on this side until I get back to the trail. Heading on the right trail now and I can see the logging road up in the woods running parallel and away from the hiking trail. No chance of these two trails ever meeting up. About a mile into the hike and Skookumchuck Trail and Brook meet up with each and the trail follows the brook for about another mile. So far the hike has been easy up gentle grades through open woods and peaceful and quiet except for the sounds of my snowshoes.


Everything changes at this point, the trail makes a left turning away from the brook and up a very steep grade climbing out of the ravine. The trail changes from gentle grades to steep pitches which makes for an exhausting hike. Slowly I pick my way up the mountain and the wind is picking up as I go. 7/10ths of a mile from the summit and I pass through a blowdown area of some younger trees and then a few feet up I get a glimpse of what I first thought was Garfield. After checking Google Earth I am surprised that it is actually Lafayette's North Peak. Strange how the trail can curve and twist and through your bearings off so easily.


Another easy walk through a gentle grade and then the last push up to the ridge with the wind barrelling down at me.


While getting the camera out to take that shot the wind kicked into overdrive and started pushing me towards Garfield. Mt Washington was seeing gusts of 75 mph and average speeds of 60 mph during this time. That's when I made the decision that it was not worth taking the risk of going on to Lafayette. It is exposed all the way from this point to Lafayette and then down for a good half mile via Greenleaf Trail before getting into the cover of the trees. I needed Lafayette for my winter 48 list, even though I am not "officially" working on it, but I know it will be there and the real goal was to finish the rest of Greenleaf Trail for my red-lining list. Another day and another time when it is not so risky. I do take time to grab some photos as the cloud ceiling is not low enough to cover the surrounding peaks. Garfield, Galehead and the Twins are visible across the valley. Also beyond the Bonds Carrigain stands proud and off in the distance is Passaconaway and way in the back to the right the ominous slide of North Tripyramid is strikingly visible.


The Bonds in all there glory and I-93 snaking towards the north.


Heading back down, before entering into the protection of the trees, there are more views off to the west. Cannon Mt and its ski slopes and just a tease of North Kinsman.


The trip down, as always, is much quicker and just above Skookumchuck Brook there is one of nature's oddities. A good size slab sitting on top of a huge boulder as if someone picked it up and placed it there.

Back at the car at 2:30 and unfortunately mission not accomplished. But I take satisfaction in knowing I won't be one of those idiots who makes a bad decision and gets into trouble then having to call SAR. The mountains and trails will be there and another day is just around the corner.

Final numbers: 8.6 miles, 5 hours and 50 minutes.

Redline Miles: 4.3, Total to Date: 296.9