Thursday, March 31, 2016


It was a gorgeous spring day for a bushwhack up this ledgy southern peak of the Tecumseh Range from the Shattuck Brook valley on the south. It had been ten years since I'd been to the top of this 2609-ft. gem - a lesser-known neighbor of the popular Welch and Dickey Mountains -  so a visit was long overdue.

I approached via Forest Road 23A off Mill Brook Rd., where I parked by a Forest Service gate. There was a recent dusting of snow on the ground, but by day's end it was gone from all save the most shaded spots.

Heading up the Shattuck Brook valley, for a little while I followed a remnant of what I assume was the USFS Shattuck Brook Trail. It was shown as a rough woods road on official WMNF maps from 1917 through the 1930s, and as a trail in 1941 and 1942. It dead-ended high in the valley. It was never described in the AMC White Mountain Guide, but the 1945 Supplement noted that it had been abandoned by the USFS.

A boulder family.

The south slopes of Fisher are cloaked in an expansive hardwood forest.

Spring beauty!

Open woods continued all the way up to the crest of the ridge.

A park-like glade.

The rock on the left could pass for the head of a T-Rex.

A roof cave.

Shelves of rock indicate an approach to ledgy terrain.

This big smooth slab was the first ledge I found on the top of the mountain.

My first objective was an expanse of ledges on the NE side of the broad, flat summit of Fisher. From here I could see Sandwich Dome and its southern shoulder, Black Mountain, peering over the long ridge that joins Dickey Mountain with Foss Mountain.

Gazing north to the higher peaks of the Tecumseh Range.

Looking across to Dickey Mountain. I knew I'd get an even better angle on this vista from my next ledge destination.

This SE-facing ledge shelf is one of the best of the many vantage points on Fisher.

From here, Dickey Mountain appears as a wild, sprawling mass rising walling in the Shattuck Brook valley.

A closer look at Dickey and its western ledges. I had originally hoped to extend the trip across the valley to some of those ledges and come down the Dickey Mountain Trail, but I could see that many of the slabs were very icy, so I decided to devote the rest of the day to the Fisher neighborhood.

Distant views south extended to Mt. Kearsarge and other horizon landmarks.

Cone Mountain and Dickey Notch.

Early spring perfection.

A weather-beaten pine.

Next I bushwhacked north to the flat, scrubby summit, stepping carefully to minimize trampling of lichens. The unofficial trail up Fisher from the SW ends here. In the late 1800s this was called the "Elkins Fisher," after the Elkins Farm at its base, to distinguish it from "Middle Fisher" (now called Hogback Mountain) and "Fisher Mountain," which is now a nameless SW spur of Green Mountain. An early ascent of today's Fisher was made by guidebook Moses Sweetser around 1875: "The Fisher-Mt route is entered directly from the Elkins farm by crossing long upland pastures and traversing a belt of tangled forest. Then the tourist attacks the bare white ledges of Fisher Mt., whose summit is reached after an hour's breathless clambering. Pleasant views are opened in the S. and W., and in advance is the white crest of Tecumseh." In 1877, AMC member F.W. Clarke (who gave the three Fisher names noted above) and companions ascended all the Fisher peaks and other spurs of Tecumseh with aneroid and mercurial barometers. Fisher Mountain was measured at 2621 ft., only 12 ft. higher than the elevation shown on the current USGS map.

A preview of the great northern vista.

I made my way down to this large NW-facing ledge, the best perch on Fisher and one of my favorites in all the Whites.

The wide vista includes Moosilauke, Wolf, the Kinsmans, Cannon and the Franconia Range.

The Franconia Range.

Mount Moosilauke, showing the ice cliffs in Jobildunk Ravine.

The long Bald Mountain ridge closes in the Haselton Brook valley.

Mt. Tecumseh, the Hogback (formerly Hedgehog), pyramidal SW Green (the original Fisher Mountain), and Green Mountain.

Another great place to hang out. From here I could contemplate the route Mark Klim and I had followed up the Bald Mountain ridge a week earlier.

The fields of the Mill Brook valley, with Stinson, Carr and Kineo beyond.

Back down in the upper glades.

From here I made a loop diversion to three ledge outcrops on the SW ridge of Hogback Mountain. This was the first, with a window view to Cone Mountain.

The third and highest ledge area was the most open of the trio.

Another angle on Dickey. This spot felt very remote late on a balmy spring day.

This projecting slab was the neatest seat of the day.

Descending to Shattuck Brook through a wild and unkempt forest.

Open woods, once more.

Shattuck Brook, deep in the valley.

An amazingly flat section of the valley floor. It didn't last, and soon enough a steep sidehill pushed me to the south side of the valley.

Bullwinkle pellets.

A remnant icefall on the brook.

Pesky hobblebush and uneven footing prompted me to cross back to the north side. At the crossing, I enjoyed this downstream view.

Evening in the Fisher hardwoods.

Dusky birches.

A nameless tributary meanders through the forest.

More boulders.

An odd couple near the mouth of the valley.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


On a  murky-to-sunny Easter Sunday afternoon Carol and I headed down to Center Harbor for some Lakes Region hiking and geocaching. Our first stop was the Squam Lake Association's Belknap Woods property, off Rt. 25B a mile down from Rt. 3. This 90-acre woodland has a nice trail system that features a 1.5 mile loop around a beaver pond. There's actually a geocache hidden somewhere (out of sight) in this photo.

The trails meander through attractive woodlands with many hemlocks.

The beaver pond was tranquil on this nearly windless day. We logged three geocaches around the loop.

Around 2:15 pm we started up the Red Hill Trail, hoping that the persistent undercast would clear in time for some summit views. The 2,650-acre Red Hill Conservation Area is owned and stewarded by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, which has authored several major conservation success stories in recent years. There are now six maintained trails on the slopes of Red Hill. This kiosk is located a half-mile up the Red Hill Trail, which mostly follows the old fire warden's jeep road to the summit. At this point the Cabin Trail, completed a couple of years ago, forks off to the right and provides an alternate route to the summit. That would be our descent route.

At this junction is a foundation marking the site of a 19th century homestead.

A well-preserved foundation.

Halfway up the trail, the skies suddenly cleared, granting us a sunny late afternoon.

Although we found six geocaches on this hike, the one at this location eluded us despite a determined search by Carol. We were one in a long string of "DNFs" (did not finds) and it seems this one has disappeared.

Near the top we took a short side trip down the unofficially maintained Red Hill Loop Trail to grab a cache at a beautiful meadow with a partial view of Lake Winnipesaukee.

This grassy area is very attractive but would be crawling with ticks later in the spring. Somewhere on this hike I picked up the first two wood ticks of the season.

According to A Field Guide to New Hampshire Firetowers, by Iris W. Baird and Chris Haartz, the fire tower atop Red Hill was built by the state in 1927, using land and money donated by Center Harbor summer resident Ernest B. Dane. Its height was increased in the 1930s and again in 1972.

The view from Red Hill has been celebrated for centuries. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and other 19th century luminaries climbed to its broad summit.
“A more charming and delightsome view with the naked eye is not perhaps to be seen in America,” wrote visitor Isaac Hill in 1840.
 “Whoever misses the view from Red Hill, loses the most fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable view, from a moderate mountain height, that can be gained from any eminence that lies near the tourist’s path,” enthused the Rev. Thomas Starr King in his classic 1859 book, The White Hills.
  Pretty high praise for a summit that barely pokes above 2000 feet. The secret to Red Hill’s preeminent prospect lies in its strategic location between New Hampshire’s two largest lakes - Winnipesaukee and Squam – with the lofty Sandwich Range (seen below) to the north and the humpy Ossipee Range to the east.“

The high peaks of the Sandwich Range: Tripyramids, Sleepers, Whiteface and Passaconaway.

Passaconaway and Whiteface.

Sandwich Dome, anchoring the west end of the range.

The iconic Chocorua, on the eastern end.

Humpy, ledge-scarred Mount Paugus, often overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbors.

Lake Winnipesaukee beyond the eastern spur of Red Hill.

East to the Ossipee Range.

Mount Shaw, highest of the Ossipees.

Shimmering Squam Lake to the west.

There's a good view of Winnipesaukee from the ground, next to the old warden cabin. Trees have obscured ground views in other directions.

A happy geocacher.

Start of the Cabin Trail.

The upper half of this trail is a delightful narrow footpath winding down through a fine oak forest.

Nice evening light.

A massive old maple.

The old hunter's cabin which gives the trail its name.

The lower part of the Cabin Trail is a woods road that passes through an interesting area of maple trees and old stone walls. This was a rewarding 3.6 mile loop with 1350 feet of elevation gain, not counting a couple of short geocaching side trips.