Sunday, June 29, 2014


Carol and I enjoyed a great day on one of New Hampshire's iconic peaks. By using less-traveled trails, we saw no one on the way up except at the Halfway House site. We went up via Parker Trail, Cliff Walk, Point Surprise Trail, White Arrow Trail, Monte Rosa Trail, Smith Bypass, and Smith Summit Trail, and down by Pumpelly Trail, Red Spot Trail, Cascade Link and White Dot Trail. What a great mountain! (Thanks to former Monadnock State Park manager Patrick Hummel for inside info on the mountain's trails.)

We left Lincoln at 7 am for the long drive down to Monadnock State Park and started off on the Parker Trail about 10 am. The trail starts by a reservoir with a view of Monadnock across the water.

The park features some nice trail signage.

Most of the 1.2 mi. we did on Parker Trail was at mellow grades with good footing.

There is a small relocation with a new bridge over Ainsworth Brook.

Hunter's Rock, a glacial erratic that was supposedly once used as a deer stand.

On to the Cliff Walk - one of the coolest trails on Monadnock. This ladder is a welcome aid on one steep pitch.

A neat section along a wooded plateau.

Climbing through a luxuriant growth of vines.

A step pitch heading up towards Hello Rock.

Easterly view from Hello Rock, from which guests staying at the old Half Way House would call greetings to hikers ascending below on the Old Toll Road.

The Pack Monadnocks from Point Surprise, the next viewpoint along the Cliff Walk. 

Gap Mountain, which I would climb in the evening, seen from Point Surprise. The Cliff Walk ducks back into the woods and breaks out onto viewpoints several more times above here. We left the Cliff Walk here, as my trail-checking agenda required us to descend to the Old Half Way House site via the Point Surprise Trail, one of a number of delightful short paths built by hotel guests.

The Half Way House was a Monadnock landmark for many years. Many guests would return year after year. Here, where we were briefly on the popular White Arrow Trail, we encountered the only other hikers we would see on our ascent.

There had been a relocation of the lower part of Fairy Spring Trail to coincide with Monte Rosa Trail.

Beautiful woods on the Monte Rosa Trail.

"The Tooth," a prominent rock at the junction of the Smith Bypass and Smith Summit Trail, both named for Scott A. Smith, one of the most active trail builders among Half Way House guests in the 1890s.

Markings at the trail junction.

View towards the summit from the top of The Tooth - a fine perch in the warm sun.

Distinctive markings on the lightly-used Smith Summit Trail, a great alternative to the heavily-trampled White Dot and White Cross Trails.

The Smith Summit Trail gave us numerous views as it ascended a series of open ledges. This vista looks back down at the rocky knob of Monte Rosa.

We could see a number of hikers relaxing up on the summit.

Carol led the way up a series of ledge scrambles on the Smith Summit Trail.

C'mon, slowpoke!

Looking west towards the southern Green Mountains. I could see Mt. Snow, Stratton Mountain, Mt. Equinox, Bromley Mountain and others.

This little chimney is the last scramble on Smith Summit Trail.

Of course we had to hike this trail!

A rather festive scene at the summit. Must be quite the circus on a holiday weekend.

Looking south towards Gap Mountain and Massachusetts. To the SE I could pick out the Boston skyline beyond the Wapack Range.

Pumpelly Ridge, the long northern spur ascended by the Pumpelly Trail.

Looking NW towards Dublin Peak.

Looking back at the summit as we descend the upper Pumpelly Trail.

Leaving the crowds behind!

Big cairn at the Red Spot/Pumpelly Trail junction.

The distinctive markings on the Red Spot Trail.

After an initial easy stretch across broad open ledges, Red Spot was a real butt-kicker of a descent.

A rough bouldery section with awkward footing - slow going.

A final vista east to the Wapack Range before descending into the woods.

After a long mile on Red Spot, we headed back to the trailhead via Cascade Link and the lower part of the White Dot Trail, completing a marvelous loop over the mountain.

We then drove over to the Gilson Pond trailhead, and I made a quick one mile loop around the attractive pond. From the east end of the pond there's a great view of Monadnock, but the glare of the low evening sun precluded any photos.

I finished off the day with a brisk dusk ascent of little Gap Mountain. The SPNHF Gap Mountain Reservation offers ascent routes from the north and south; I came up via the relocated south route, which is 1.3 mi. long with 600-ft. elevation gain. The summit has a notable view of Monadnock.

Sunset over Vermont. Time to head down for the long drive home.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I was intrigued when reading about the quiet backcountry spot called Nebraska Notch, hidden away on the south side of Mt. Mansfield. After our glorious ridge walk to the summit of Mansfield, I wanted to sample one more Green Mountain flavor before heading home to New Hampshire. We drove out several miles from Route 100 on Moscow Road and Nebraska Valley Road to a parking area at the private Lake Mansfield Trout Club.

The route into Nebraska Notch from the east follows the Lake Mansfield Trail, which starts on the club grounds. For more than 100 years the club has graciously provided hikers access across their land. I set off from here late in the afternoon while Carol stayed in the car, reading a good mystery.

The trail parallels the lake shore in the woods above, but does come briefly down near the edge for a glimpse of the water. Hikers are requested to stay on the trail while crossing the club's land. Once past the lake, the trail enters the 40,000-acre Mt. Mansfield State Forest.

Please stay on the trail so that hiker access will continue!

Lake Mansfield seen down through the trees.

After a mile of mostly easy going, the trail begins a steady, rocky climb up to Nebraska Notch.

After passing a veiled view of a waterfall, the trail curves around the head of a ravine in fine hardwood forest.

Here there is a piped spring that provides a water source for the Green Mountain Club's Taylor Lodge, a quarter-mile above.

At the east end of the notch the trail passes by a large beaver pond and meadow with scenic views up to cliffs on a spur of Dewey Mountain. What a great backcountry spot!

Climbing up the slope, you get a bird's eye view of the pond.

I watched a beaver swim over to his lodge, then dive to make his entry underwater.

Junction at the top of the climb, where you also meet the Long Trail.

A few yards away is Taylor Lodge, named for James P. Taylor, the original founder of the Long Trail back in 1909. It was originally built in 1926 and called "Nebraska Notch Lodge." It was rebuilt after fires in 1951 (then receiving its current name) and 1978. Two Long Trail thru-hikers were staying there that night. The screening in front is to keep porcupines out.

There's a partial view from the front of the Lodge.

As revealed to us by a summit steward we chatted with on Mt. Mansfield earlier in the day, a short, steep spur path near the lodge led to a great viewpoint overlooking the "Nebraska Valley", the basin drained by Miller Brook, with Lake Mansfield seen on the left. In Sept. 2012 some careless campers had let a campfire get out of control up at what was a natural viewpoint. Many firefighters from the Stowe area climbed up here to fight the blaze, cutting trees and a fire break to help contain it. It was a difficult task, as some of the embers had fallen over the cliff and ignited below.

The fire break.

Clark Mountain looming over the headwall of the valley.

This valley is noted by geologists as having the characteristics of a glacial cirque, with a broad floor and steep sidewalls and headwall. In the background are spur ridges of Mt. Mayo and Bolton Mountain. A beautiful and quiet corner of Vermont.

Parting shot of the beaver pond on the way back.

Below the beaver pond, a few steps down from the trail I found this down-look over a waterfall and gorge. What a great little hike, with a waterfall, scenic beaver pond, a rustic shelter and a fine viewpoint. We're looking forward to returning soon to the beautiful Green Mountains.