Friday, October 9, 2020

Middle Sister: 10/8/20

On a crisp and very windy fall day I took the long and quiet route - via the lower Carter Ledge Trail and then the Middle Sister Trail - to the bare summits of Third Sister and Middle Sister, two of the Three Sisters peaks on the north ridge of Mt. Chocorua. The wind was nippy but the views were excellent, with good foliage displays in the surrounding valleys. The trails were in excellent shape, thanks to adopters and the Saco Ranger District trail crew.

This hike starts in the WMNF White Ledge Campground with a mile of generally easy climbing on the Carter Ledge Trail.

The Middle Sister Trail branches off to the right.

The lower 1.8 miles section of the trail was relocated in the 1980s and provides a pleasant walk at mostly easy grades, with good footing, through mixed woods...

...and hardwoods.

The trail crosses Hobbs Brook at a ledgy spot. In this dry season, the flow has been pretty sparse.

Interesting boulders guard the trail as it climbs to the col between Blue Mountain and Third Sister.


The upper part of this climb is rough and rocky.

Roof rock.

Nice open woods in the broad col.


Beautiful bright fall scene.




The lower part of the 900-foot climb to Third Sister continues in hardwoods.


Spruces rule the rest of the way up.


On a gentle shoulder, a huge outlook ledge appears on the right.

Nice panorama to the north.

Third Sister looms above.


Sandwich Range to the west.


Zoom on Tripyramid with foliage on its flank.

After a steep and rough section, a little scramble lifts you to the upper junction with Carter Ledge Trail.


A couple more scrambles lead up to ledges on Third Sister with views back to to northeastern spurs of Chocorua with the Moat Range beyond. The spruce-wooded shoulder crossed by the trail is seen below.


Some nice colors popping in the Steam Mill Brook valley.


Another scramble ledge.


The unmistakable horn of Chocorua.


At the 3340-ft. summit of Middle Sister, with the foundation of the old fire lookout on the left. Built in 1927, it was originally slated to be located on the summit of Chocorua. But that potential intrusion on the skyline didn't sit too well with hikers, summer folks and others, and opposition led by the Chocorua Mountain Club, AMC, and Society for the Protection of NH Forests led the Forest Service to select this alternate location. The station was designed by Boston architect C. Howard Walker, who had designed several summer homes around nearby Chocorua Lake.There is a USFS radio repeater next to the foundation.


I bundled up and enjoyed the sparkling views.

The classic Chocorua/Sisters vista west along the Sandwich Range.

Still some color down in the Champney Brook valley.

Vast horizons beyond the south ridge of Chocorua. Looking SE, it was clear enough to make out the buildings of Portland along the Maine coast.


Carter Ledge overlooking the Chocorua River valley.


Looking down on Blue Mountain, the nearer summit seen here, plotting a short bushwhack on the way back for a possible view.


From the Sisters-Blue col, I headed up off-trail through open hardwoods.

After pushing through some scratchy spruce, I found one ledge with a peek at the wooded backside of Carter Ledge.

And another with a unique vista up to Third Sister and Chocorua.

After tagging the wooded 2540-ft. summit of Blue, I passed this colorful glade on the bushwhack back down to Middle Sister Trail.

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