On a warm, sunny day my brother Drew and I climbed the long-abandoned but well-used Firewarden's Trail to the summit of Mount Hale (4054 ft.). This is a scenic "back-door" approach to the nearly viewless summit, passing through seemingly endless glades of white birch that grew up after a massive 1903 forest fire. On the way down I veered off-trail to a ledge with a long view up the Little River valley.
We started off with a 0.8 mile stroll up the North Twin Trail on the bed of the Little River logging railroad, which operated in this valley for a few years in the 1890s.
At the first river crossing we continued on the heavily-used unofficial path that bypasses the first two crossings, enjoying some nice views of the Little River. After crossing a side stream we reached the point where you hop up onto the Firewarden's Trail..
I've been on the Firewarden's Trail several times over the years. It was once a tractor road that served the fire tower atop Mount Hale, at which time it was known as the Mount Hale Trail and was described in the AMC White Mountain Guide. The lower part leads through fine hardwood forest.
A beautiful, mellow woods climb.
Before long we began ascending through the birch glades for which the trail is locally famous. Years ago the abandoned trail was "rediscovered" by backcountry skiers, and has become fairly well-known among hikers as well.
This is one of the largest birch stands in the Whites.
After hiking the rough Hi-Cannon Trail to Cannon Mountain the day before, Drew was enjoying the mellow grade, good footing and gorgeous forest.
The birches extend to nearly 3600 ft. in elevation!
Then there is a quick transition to a high-elevation softwood forest of mainly balsam fir.
A corridor through the conifers.
One of the old poles that held up the warden's telephone line.
Old barrels rusting in the woods near the mountain's northern subsidiary summit.
Drew on his 30th NH 4000-foot summit!
The big summit cairn is known for its magnetic rocks, always fun to test with your compass. The views are now almost completely gone on Hale's summit. If you stand atop the cairn you can barely see the tippy-tops of Mount Willey and the Twins. Under a broiling sun we searched in vain for a geocache located here.
The fire tower was built in 1928, abandoned in 1948, and dismantled in 1972.
A weather-beaten USGS reference mark.
On the way down I investigated this clearing off the trail, which looked like a possible old logging camp site.
A moose had bedded down here.
Drew waits beside a tall stand of hobblebush.
Drew then continued down while I birch-whacked up to a familiar ledge on the west ridge.
A fine perch!
The ledge offers an unusual view far up the remote Little River valley. A few years ago my bushwhacking friend John "1HappyHiker" Compton bushwhacked all the way up to the head of the valley and up to the ridge between Mount Guyot and South Twin. I've used this valley three times for winter ascents of Zealand Mountain. It's a marvelous area for whacking.
Mount Guyot at the head of the valley. Zealand Mountain on the left and spurs of the Twin Range on the right.
South and North Twin across the valley.
A nice spot to hang out in the sun for a few minutes.
Evening light on the lower Firewarden's Trail.
An upstream view of the Little River. It was a great day on the birch-wooded slopes of Mount Hale.