SOUTH & NORTH PACK MONADNOCK, 7/17/14
On a classic summer day I enjoyed one of the best hikes in southern New Hampshire: the traverse of the Pack Monadnocks. This hike features several great viewpoints and miles of quiet, beautiful spruce forest. I took the attractive Raymond Trail up the west side of South Pack, across the Wapack Trail and then up the Cliff Trail and part of Ted's Trail to North Pack, then back across the Wapack to South Pack and back down Raymond. With this hike I completed the very humble goal of redlining all the trails on the Packs.
I parked at the new trailhead for the Cranberry Meadow Pond Trail on East Mountain Road and followed a connecting link across to Raymond Trail. The lower part of Raymond ascended through an airy hardwood forest.
A short side path dropped to a cascade view.
About a mile up the trail meanders across a pleasant plateau.
Then you clamber up a rough, rocky pitch that reminded me of the Devil's Path in the Catskills.
At 1.3 miles there's a partial view west to Mt. Monadnock.
The upper part of Raymond winds up through fine spruce forest.
At the top it crosses the Summit Loop Trail (aka Red Circle Trail).
Just beyond is the wonderful north and west viewing area, with picnic tables. It's a raptor migration viewing area in fall. Saw a handful of people here during a half-hour stay, and then only two more hikers the rest of the day (!). In this photo, Crotched Mountain is on the R with Mt. Kearsarge beyond. It was clear enough to see a dozen or so White Mountain 4000-footers, including the Sandwich Range, Carrigain, Osceolas, Franconia Range and South Kinsman.
Looking across to North Pack, with the South Cliff on the right.
Descending north on the Wapack Trail through fine spruce forest.
Just beyond the lowest col you pass briefly through this Nature Conservancy Preserve.
Then you enter the 1,672-acre Wapack National Wildlife refuge. This land was donated by landowners Laurence and Lorna Marshall, with the stipulation that it be kept "forever wild." Nice!
Easy strolling on a gentle knoll beyond the boundary.
Typical scene in the beautiful spruce forest that covers this broad ridge.
Lots o' ferns in places.
I've rarely taken so many photos of the forest, just a gorgeous walk over the knob known as "Middle Peak" (1968 ft.).
Beyond Middle Peak, the trail descended gently to the junction with the Cliff Trail on the right. I had done the upper, northern part of this trail before, but not the lower, southern section. This is one of the neatest trails in southern NH.
The Cliff Trail descends through this ferny maple glade.
After crossing a couple of brooks in a remote hollow, it climbs up into interesting ledgy terrain.
Some fun easy scrambling.
This was an interesting little clamber.
This cairn, set on a ledge just off the trail, must have taken a few hours to construct.
The Cliff Trail shoots up beside the talus slope at the base of North Pack's South Cliff. I got this view a few feet to the left of the trail. It doesn't go up through this!
Another short scramble, alongside the South Cliff.
A neat ledge in the woods.
The view of South Pack where the Cliff Trail emerges atop the South Cliff.
The best and widest view at the South Cliff is found along a side path leading a short distance to the right (west). From this perch - perhaps my favorite spot in all of southern NH - Mt. Monadnock dominates the western view.
A closer look at Grand Monadnock.
Looking down at the talus.
Vast lowland views to the east, including the Boston skyline.
Looking at the route I traversed - South Pack on the L, Middle Peak on the R.
I basked in the sun here for nearly two hours, and not one other hiker came by - on a gorgeous day in July. This is the view from the "napping nook" where I took a snooze.
An intriguing distant vista to peaks in southern Vermont.
I finally bestirred myself and continued on, following an unmarked connector from the Cliff Trail to Ted's Trail, which led across an open area with northeastern views.
The junction with Ted's Trail, a scenic route up North Pack from the north.
Along the upper part of Ted's Trail, built by avid southern NH hiker Ted Bonner.
Near the junctions of Ted's Trail with Carolyn's Trail and the Cliff Trail is a great open ledge area with wide northern views.
Another fine place to hang out for a while. Dozens of dragonflies were patrolling overhead.
Back on the Cliff Trail, a nice spruce grove approaching the summit of North Pack.
The summit of North Pack (2276 ft.). There are decent views from several ledges around the summit area, but the best views are at the South Cliff (0.5 mi. from the summit) and the ledges near the Cliff/Ted's junction (0.2 mi. from the summit).
Descending off North Pack on the southbound Wapack Trail.
The road goes ever on...
This multi-trunk red maple grows beside the trail just north of the low point on the ridge between the Packs.
I paused briefly at the Joanne Bass Bross Memorial Outlook below the summit of South Pack.
Interesting clouds from the north outlook on South Pack.
Before heading down to the car, I went up to the 2290-ft. summit of South Pack, which was very quiet in the evening.
Looking back at North Pack from the fire tower.
Zooming in on the South Cliff.
Little Monadnock, Gap Mountain and Mt. Monadnock.
The Friends of the Wapack, who do a great job maintaining the Wapack Trail and its side trails, are currently restoring the historic CCC shelter on the summit of South Pack.
I took the Raymond Trail all the way down to the road, the last bit of trail I hadn't done on the Packs. What a fine little mountain range!