After looking over at the great SE ridge of Mount Chocorua from the Piper Trail on 11/16, I decided to revisit several great off-trail view ledges there while traversing the Hammond Trail, one of my favorite routes on the mountain. As a bonus I could also snag four seldom-logged geocaches.
Along its lower section the Hammond Trail follows the meandering little course of Stony Brook, which has its headwaters at "The Heart of the Mountain," as it was named by 19th century naturalist and author Frank Bolles.
It was another in a series of crisp, sunny November days.
A fluffy ankle-deep leaf carpet made for tricky footing in the hardwoods.
The Hammond Trail climbs steadily through a classic American beech forest.
There are many bear trees in here.
Higher up, the trail switchbacks through a mixed forest of oak and spruce.
Near the top of the spur known as Bald Mountain, this ledge just off the trail offers a nice resting spot and a view of the Ossipee Range.
I soon launched a bushwhack to the eastern ledges of Bald, a favorite spot that I've been to several times in the past. An additional inducement was two off-trail geocaches. This ledge has a nice view south over Chocorua Lake. Note: When wandering through this area, I tread carefully to avoid stepping on the puffy lichens and other fragile growth found in places on the ledges.
The expansive ledges that gave this spur its name.
The eastern ledges offer a unique angle on Mount Chocorua, the Three Sisters and Carter Ledge rising above the Chocorua River valley.
A closer look at Chocorua and the Sisters.
Back on the Hammond Trail.
Spruce blowdowns taken out a few years ago by the Chocorua Mountain Club.
The trail scrambles up this rocky cleft.
East-viewing ledges accessed via a short side path.
A framed vista of Carter Ledge.
A peek at the peak.
Deep spruce forest is the rule on the long SE ridge.
Chocorua's summit looms ahead.
At the 3 mile mark, the Hammond Trail meets the Liberty Trail, which here ascends easily along the west side of the ridge.
My next stop was an off-trail ledge to the west of the trail, a phenomenal open viewpoint.
The high summits of the Sandwich Range.
For an hour I felt like the king of the Sandwich Range.
My last short bushwhack took me to ledges on a nameless knob south of Jim Liberty Cabin. More great views here, including this one of Chocorua, Silver and Ossipee Lakes beyond the Hammond Trail ridge.
Far-reaching views to the NE.
A fine angle on Chocorua and the Sisters in late afternoon light.
One last look at the Sandwich Range from yet another ledge.
From the Hammond Trail on Bald Mountain, sunset over Mount Israel. The last mile of descent by headlamp through the deep leaves was slow going.