Sunday, October 31, 2010


After completing our hike on the Conant Trail, John Compton and I drove a short distance N on Rt. 113 and then 1.1 mi. up Stone House Rd. to hiker's parking by a gate. For our late afternoon second hike, we opted to go up the steep and scenic White Cairn Trail on Blueberry Mountain, hoping to reach the first open ledge outlook.

We strolled up the Stone House Rd. for 0.3 mi. to a Chatham Trails Association sign pointing the way to the trail.

Near the start, a flat area that had been flooded by beavers in 2006 was now dry again. The trail climbed moderately, passing into the WMNF and leading us through a gorgeous copper-hued hardwood forest.

At the steepest pitch on the trail, we encountered an amazing rock staircase - one of the most impressive in the Whites. The lower part was built a couple of years ago by a Forest Service crew. The upper part was constructed just this year by an AMC trail crew working in conjunction with the Forest Service and Chatham Trails Association, with funding provided by the federal stimulus program. According to Cristin Bailey, Trails Manager for the Saco Ranger District, the staircase has 102 rock steps.

Above the steps the trail continues steeply up through oak woods, scrambling over ledge slabs and chunks of rock.

Before long you have your first views - out over Shell Pond with Harndon Hill behind. Great trail!

John makes his way up to the next outlook.

At about 1500 ft. or so we found a ledge seat just off the trail with a great view across the valley to the Baldface Range.

The view across the steep slope was fine, too, with gnarled red pines and crimson blueberry scrub enlivening the scene.

Middle and North Carter and Imp Mountain rose behind the Basin Rim, with Basin Pond visible on the floor of the small glacial cirque known as The Basin.

Just above this ledge was the boundary for the Caribou-Speckled Mtn. Wilderness.

A bit farther up was this massive open ledge right on the trail. There wasn't time to continue to the summit of Blueberry and complete the loop down the Stone House Trail, but this quick jaunt up the White Cairn Trail was reward enough.

CONANT TRAIL: 10/28/10

John Compton and I rendezvoused off Deer Hill Road in North Chatham, NH, just S of Evans Notch, on a glorious Indian Summer day. Our plan was to make a leisurely 5-mile circuit on the Chatham Trails Association's Conant Trail over Pine Hill and Lord Hill - two 1200-footers with fine views - and then perhaps do a second, shorter hike at the end of the day. The western and southern sections of this trail are on private land, while the northern and eastern parts are within the National Forest.

We parked on side road just off Deer Hill Road. Signage is minimal at this trailhead; the first section of the Conant Trail follows the road that leads E out across a beaver swamp on Colton Brook.

At 0.4 mi. we came to the loop junction, where two roads diverge. We took the R (S) fork, where beaver flooding has been reported this year.

Morning fog was still burning off here in the Cold River valley.

At 0.3 mi. from the fork we came to the beaver pond area, with a freshly built dam to the R.

The trail/road was indeed flooded. To get through would require perhaps 30-50 ft. of wading in calf-deep water. We opted for a circuitous bushwhack to the L through brushy logged areas.

We turned L off the road by an old foundation, one of several seen along the route of this interesting trail.

The trail began climbing through a bronzed beech forest towards the western ledge outlook on Pine Hill.

Pine Hill is a midget among White Mountain peaks, but it has some giant-sized views, especially looking across the valley to the Baldface Range.

A closer look at the Baldfaces, which rise 2300 ft. above the Pine Hill outlook.

Off to the R we could see Mt. Meader and Mt. Moriah beyond nearby Deer Hill, which sported some late-turning oak foliage.

Looking S towards Kearsarge North, we could see fog drifting into the valley from the E.

Picturesque red pines are typical of this low, ledgy terrain in the Evans Notch area.

After a long stay at the outlook, the walk across the broad crest of Pine Hill was very nice, leading across pine-fringed ledges and through intermittent patches of woods.

At the E end of the summit, open ledges provide a northward vista.

Butters Mountain (L) and Red Rock Mountain (R) are seen to the NE.

Speckled Mountain, at 2906 ft. the highest peak E of Rt. 113, is seen to the N.

The Conant Trail descends steeply off Pine Hill through nice hemlock forest.

In the saddle between Pine Hill and Lord Hill we turned L on an old logging road that provides a shortcut to the Lord Hill mine.

The old road soon joined the Mine Loop Trail, which we followed to the mine site. This part of Maine is noted for its mineral resources. The Forest Service allows hobby mineral collecting here, with hand tools only. Minerals include feldspar, quartz, topaz and garnet.

It's a short jaunt from the mine to the view ledges near the summit of Lord Hill.

From a lower ledge there's a striking vista of the aptly-named Horseshoe Pond.

This perch also has a fine view into the valley of Red Rock Brook, with the great cliff of Red Rock Mountain at its head.

Heading NW down off Lord Hill, the Conant Trail presents some soft pine-needle footing.

The northern link of the trail passes through abandoned pastureland along the flank of Harndon Hill, with old stone walls and foundations.

Just before returning to the loop junction, there's a pre-Civil War cemetery on the R.

Nice afternoon light on the Colton Brook swamp as we approached the trailhead.

From here we made a short drive to our second hike of the day, the White Cairn Trail on Blueberry Mountain...

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I had only done this lightly-used NW route up Smarts Mountain once before, and wanted to check its condition. Formerly named the Mousley Brook Trail and once part of the Appalachian Trail, it was renamed in 1993 in honor of Daniel Doan, author of 50 Hikes in the White Mountains, 50 More Hikes in New Hampshire, and several other books. Over the last several years, volunteers from Trailwrights and the Dartmouth Outing Club and members of the Doan family (including Dan's daughter, Ruth Doan MacDougall, who now edits his 50 Hikes books) have been working to address wetness and erosion issues on the trail, as well as brushing it out.

There is a small parking area for the trail at the end of Mousley Brook Rd., a spur off of Quinttown Rd. Hikers should be aware that the trail starts out on private land, soon passing a house whose owners have horses; hikers' dogs should be leashed here. Farther up, the trail climbs through private land under conservation easement. The upper section passes through land within the Appalachian Trail corridor, though this route is no longer part of the AT.

I set off about 10:00 on a warm, sunny late October morning.

A sign points the way at a road junction a short distance from the trailhead. The Smith Mountain Trail is a snowmobile route that runs along the western base of Smarts.

On my last visit to this trailhead, I followed the Smith Mountain Trail and bushwhacked to the 2,213-ft. summit of my namesake mountain, where there is a little grassy clearing but no view.

Volunteers have done some good ditching work on the lower part of the Daniel Doan Trail, which follows an old road with chronic wetness problems.

It had rained heavily the day before, on top of several previous deluges in recent weeks, so there was a lot of wet footing.

In one section there was a stream running down the trail.

Farther up the footing improved and the trail ran alongside pretty Mousley Brook.

There is a fine hardwood forest in this part of the valley.

At 1.9 mi. the trail crosses Mousley Brook. Despite all the rain, this was not a difficult crossing.

Several cascades can be glimpsed from the trail along the next section. I made short bushwhacks to get closer looks at these.

A beautiful walk up the valley through here.

A newer light blue blaze (indicating a side trail feeding into the AT) and an older DOC triple blaze.

The trail crosses the AT boundary at about 2600 ft. Volunteer corrdior monitors have been hard at work marking the boundary lines in rough terrain.

The upper part of the trail is steep and rough in places. Despite its relatively modest elevation of 3238 ft., Smarts is a big and rugged mountain.

Entering the boreal forest - about as far south as this is found in New Hampshire.

On the upper ridge, a stream runs down the trail for a short distance.

A flat and wet area up on the ridge.

This is one of several springs in this area. They were all flowing freely this day.

The old firewarden's cabin is now used by backpackers and is maintained by DOC.

The trail skirts around the side of the cabin.

The original Smarts firetower was originally built about 1915. The present steel structure was erected in 1939. It was last actively used for fire detection in 1973. The firetower was refurbished by the DOC and USFS in 1994, and is still maintained as a viewing perch for hikers.

The trapdoor that provides access to the cab is very heavy - hikers should use caution when closing it as it could cause a serious headache. The cab has windows on all sides, with an occasional missing pane.

Smarts is a phenomenal viewpoint, giving a unique perspective from western New Hampshire. On a clear day nearly the entire Green Mountain chain can be seen, from Jay Peak in the N to Stratton Mtn. in the S. I spent two hours studying the vistas, both from inside the cab and on the first landing below it. Below is a sampling of the view.

Mt. Cube is seen not far off to the N, with Piermont Mtn. behind it.

To the NW is the little round cone of Sunday Mtn., traversed by the Cross-Rivendell Trail. Vermont's Signal Mtn. range is seen in the distance.

Looking NE to sprawling Carr Mtn. and the Sandwich Range.

Mt. Clough and a cloud-capped Mt. Moosilauke.

Near the tower is a classic DOC privy.

The AT meanders through fine boreal forest along the broad crest of the mountain.

The Smarts Mtn. Tentsite is located on the S side of the trail, to the W of the tower.

A site with a view, looking out over Reservoir Pond with Sunapee Mtn. on the horizon.

Before heading back, I paid an off-trail visit to a prominent brushy scar on the steep S face of the peak. I'm not sure whether this was caused by a fire, a slide or some other occurrence.

This spot provides an excellent look at my favorite vista from Smarts - down into the broad basin of Grant Brook, enclosed by Lambert Ridge on the W. (The firetower also provides a good perspective on this valley and ridge.)

Looking out towards Reservoir Pond and a few beaver ponds I visited on an exploration this spring.

A zoom on Moose Mountain, a low but interesting ridge traversed by the AT in Hanover. Mt. Ascutney looms beyond.

Coming back down the Daniel Doan Trail, caution was needed on a number of wet slabs.

On the descent I made a foray to visit another cascade on Mousley Brook.

Beautiful birch forest on the middle part of the trail. If you're prepared for some wet and rough footing at times, you'll find the Daniel Doan Trail to be a rewarding route up this intriguing mountain. Round trip is 6.4 mi. with 1900 ft. of elevation gain.