TERRACE MOUNTAIN LOOP: 10/5/10
I'm probably one of the few hikers who would list Terrace Mountain, a 3655-ft. summit in the Pilot Range, just south of Mt. Cabot, as a favorite peak. It's an interesting mountain with a distinctive profile, it offers an unusual view from its south summit, and its slopes are cloaked with beautiful birch and conifer forests. There are also some rewarding bushwhack destinations on Terrace.
Click here for a full description of Terrace Mountain.
I hadn't done the full loop over the mountain in quite a while, so on a fine autumn day I planned to go up the Bunnell Notch Trail to Bunnell Notch, over the three summits of Terrace on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, and back down from Willard Notch on the York Pond Trail.
Before heading to York Pond Road and the Berlin Fish Hatchery, I made a side excursion off Rt. 110 to Jericho Lake, a manmade water body at the recently established Jericho Mountain State Park. Although this park caters mainly to ATV riders, with maybe a hundred miles of trails and more on the way, Jericho Lake is a beautiful spot to visit with an amazing view of the Kilkenny peaks across the water. In the photo below, L to R, are Terrace Mountain, Mt. Cabot, The Bulge, The Horn, Unknown Pond Peak, and Deer Mountain.
Farther to the L the three peaks of Mt. Weeks can be seen.
A closer look at the Cabot/Bulge/Horn group.
Unknown Pond Peak on the R, with its two southern spurs on the L.
The ledgy flank of Deer Mountain.
Terrace, the day's objective, with its (L to R) South, Middle and North Peaks.
From the road beside the York Pond Trail parking spot, South Terrace rears up impressively.
After 0.2 mi. on York Pond Trail, I veered R onto Bunnell Notch Trail, a familiar route to Cabot-climbers.
The first mile is a rather uninspiring walk up a grassy logging road, though you do get this peek at Mt. Cabot.
Farther along, there's a crossing of the brook that flows E from Bunnell Notch.
Where the trail turns L off the logging road, the Forest Service crew built a fine rock staircase, part of a major improvement to the Bunnell Notch Trail made a few years ago.
For a while the trail closely follows the attractive Bunnell Notch brook.
This cascade can be glimpsed from the trail with the leaves gone, but I had to bushwhack down through a shrub thicket to get this closer look.
Early morning clouds gave way to blue autumn skies, highlighting the palette of colors in the hardwood forest.
A meadow-like area on the climb up towards Bunnell Notch.
The birch woods darkened with conifers as I approached the floor of the notch.
At the height-of-land, three miles from the trailhead, I turned L onto the always-pleasant Kilkenny Ridge Trail.
This section of trail is narrow, lightly-used, even mossy in places. It climbs gradually across the broad floor of the notch, then moderately up the slope of North Terrace.
Partway up there is a view of the vast talus slope on the S face of Mt. Cabot.
The summit of North Terrace was once cleared as a "helispot" landing area. When I first climbed the mountain in 1990, there was a flat clearing here perhaps an acre in extent, with small scrubby conifers starting to grow. Now the trees are 15 ft. high or more, and the trail is tightly closed in by the dense growth.
Terrace provides some fine ridgetop woods walking, such as this stretch between North and Middle Terrace.
From the summit of Middle Terrace, I bushwhacked down on the SW side through some wonderfully gnarled old conifers, seeking a small viewing seat I had found in a dense scrubby area twelve years ago. On that December trip I had bushwhacked up to Middle Terrace from the York Pond Trail in Willard Basin. (This was before the lower Mt. Cabot Trail and west section of York Pond Trail were closed by a landowner.)
Despite much thrashing through the thick scrub, I was unable to find that seat. But I did come upon a standing version of the unusual view across Willard Basin to (L to R) South Weeks, Mt. Waumbek and Mt. Starr King. Willard Basin is the name given to the large bowl between Terrace, Weeks and Waumbek/Starr King, which is drained by Garland Brook and Great Brook. In the 1890s the Kilkenny Lumber Company logging railroad ran through this valley, facilitating the clear-cutting of the surrounding slopes. In the 1960s a major ski area was planned and almost constructed on the N-facing slopes of Waumbek and Starr King. Now, with the easiest trail access closed, this great valley lies in quiet repose. Open hardwoods carpet the broad floor of the basin, providing fine bushwhacking for those willing to enter the valley via the longer route over Willard Notch.
Back on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, more good woods rambling en route from Middle Terrace to South Terrace.
Where the Kilkenny Ridge Trail bears L to drop off the ridge, a spur continues ahead up the narrow crest to the summit of South Terrace.
There are many twisted heart-leaved birches along the crest.
The summit of South Terrace - the highest point on the mountain - is a small clearing.
To the N there's a peek at Mt. Cabot.
Probably many visitors to South Terrace are disappointed by the restricted views from the high point. But a terrific open viewpoint is only a few yards below, reached by an obscure side path that leaves the summit spur on the R (S) side about 10 yards before the high point.
The view from the top edge of this steeply sloping, ferny clearing looks SE out to the Mahoosucs, Black Crescent Mtn., the Moriahs and several other peaks.
Across Willard Notch is the huge round bulk of North Weeks, with its prominent E spur jutting out on the L.
South Weeks is to the R of North Weeks, with some of the Presidentials seen between them. On the far R is the long. flat E ridge of Mt. Waumbek.
A closer look reveals Mts. Adams, Jefferson, Washington and Monroe.
The sharp peak of Goose Eye is prominent in the Mahoosuc profile.
The rock on the lower L provides a seat from which to take in the vistas. This was a great place to hang out in the late afternoon sun on a warm autumn day.
It was hard to leave, but there were still 3.7 miles to go back to the car, with a short side trip planned in Willard Notch. I returned back down the spur trail and turned R on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail for the descent. In the next section, on a March 2009 climb of Terrace, I found a small opening above the trail with a striking view N to Mt. Cabot, The Horn, and Unknown Pond Ridge (seen below). I think I spotted that place on today's hike, but the slope was very mossy and too fragile to climb up. A return to that view will wait until the snow cover is deep.
As the trail curls around the mountain, you break out into one of the most extensive stands of white birch in the mountains, a legacy of the great Kilkenny fire of 1903.
The footing through here is actually rather rough, with many nubby whitish rocks.
Can't get enough of those birches...
In winter, these woods are so open that following the trail can be near impossible. In the big snow year of 2001, Ken and Ann Stampfer and I broke trail up to South Terrace through several feet of powder. Trying to follow the blazes was so time-consuming that we ended up weaving our own route up through the birches. It took five hours to cover the 3.7 miles to the summit - a memorable snowshoe journey!
Farther down towards Willard Notch was this amazing open hardwood glade beside the trail.
At the low point in the notch there is a good tentsite on the R.
Just below the site is what looks to be a fairly reliable brook.
A short climb from the brook lifted me to the York Pond Trail. Before heading home, I turned R on this trail for a short diversion to a spot promising an unusual view. As the sign notes, the York Pond Trail is no longer being maintained W of the junction with the Kilkenny Ridge Trail.
A couple of times up on Terrace I had spotted a large meadow-like opening on the lower flank of North Weeks, above the York Pond Trail. It didn't take too long to find this spot.
And as I had hoped, the opening offered a unique view up to the steep face of South Terrace. With binoculars I could spot the rock I had been recently sitting on in the clearing just below the summit.
A very steep gravelly slide scars the slope of South Terrace. I once climbed up the slide, which has very precarious footing, and sat for a while near the top, enjoying a great view over Willard Basin. It was a somewhat uneasy rest, though, as I frequently looked back at the loose broken ledges hanging off the slope above me.
On my March 2009 trip to Terrace I had a close look at the slide from an open glade below.
On that same snowshoe trek I visited a dark talus slope situated below and a little E of the slide, with a view across to South Weeks and Waumbek.
Back to today's hike - from the other side of the opening I could spot Mt. Cabot peering over the ridge of South Terrace.
And there was even a glimpse of The Horn, the finest peak of The Kilkenny.
Heading back down the York Pond Trail, there was a fine display of hobblebush hues in the birch glades.
And lower down, the deciduous woods provided a fitting finale for the loop over Terrace Mountain. Stats for this hike are 8.7 mi. with 2300 ft. of elevation gain.