As usual, I'm busy poking my nose into the woods. Here's a recap of what I found or revisited in Vermont this spring. Happy hiking! --Paul William
Bushwhacking the Talus: White Rocks Mountain & the Ice Beds
PEAK BRIEFS (in no particular order):
A mountain gone to the dogs. So called “Dog Mountain” and the associated Dog Chapel and Angel Dog Monument (a golden, winged beagle somewhat reminiscent to the cartoon superhero Underdog) with in-house dog art gallery in St. Johnsbury, Vermont are a wonky slice of Vermontarcana. The chapel and trails are dedicated to canine lovers and the views from the hilly fields along the trail system make for a nice jaunt. 2.0RT or longer.
A hill with a little bit of the Devil in it. Devil’s Hill (2,050') is the latest addition to the extensive network of trails on state land in the Northeast Kingdom’s Groton State Forest. The peak likely got its name for hatefully having cliffs on two sides. There’s a sweet view northerly and westerly of the wilderness of the state forest from an open ledge near the summit, and a narrower view southerly down toward Martin Pond. The road to the trailhead out of Peacham, VT is about as narrow as they make them; expect to back up a long way if you bump into an oncoming car. Longer jaunts down to huge Peacham Bog can also be made from this point. 1.7RT
It's a traditional Scottish name, it doesn't mean you've got tin stuck in your mouth. Tinmouth Mountain, located in the interestingly-named town of the same name, is part of the Taconic Range, the oldest part of the Appalachians. There's a halfway decent view of the Green Mountains and White Rocks from a ledgey area part way up where the trail ends but there are plans to extend the trail system further up the mountain (2,835 summit), perhaps to the other side where the town maintains a community cabin. It's a sweet short and steep hike in its current manifestation, but not something you'd drive hours to visit by itself. If you're in the vicinity of nearby Killington for a Long Trail or NE4K hike and have some spare time to fill, it's worth a jaunt. 2.3RT
As usual, I'm busy poking my nose into the woods. Here's a recap of what I found or revisited in Maine this spring. Happy hiking! --Paul William
Featured Story: The Camden Hills, #4 in my article Tired of the Snow? This Spring, Hike Where It Ain't.
PEAK BRIEFS (in no particular order):
Slabbiest of the slabbies, Bald Mountain (1,261') in Deadham, Maine is located just inland from Acadia National Park. Even the parking lot is located on a bare granite slab, and over 9/10ths of the 0.8mi mile hike to the summit is entirely on a continuous, unbroken sheer slab, making it the most continuously slabby trail in New England. There are some pretty astonishing views along the trail to the south below the summit, and scattered ledges with views reached by the maze of trails at the top. You share the top with a few towers, but won’t feel too distracted by them. 1.6RT
Hiking the River Link on Boothbay Penninsula: Dodge Point and Mt. Hunger. This trail (5.0 one way) spans the peninsula from the Sheepscott River to the Damariscotta River, passing over the high point of wooded Mt. Hunger (275’) and through beautiful Dodge Point Public Reserved Land. It’s the product of three different land trusts, town conservation commissions, private property owners, and the state of Maine. There are old foundation ruins, old mica mines with pits and tailings piles glinting with minerals, but the highlight is Dodge Point, with an extensive network of trails along alternately rocky and gravelling shore at the tidal Damariscotta River. Bring a picnic lunch and swimsuit, and keep an eye out for whales and seals.
It’s turtles all the way through at Sawyer Mountain. The extensive trail system on Sawyer (1,200') maintained by Frances Small Heritage Trust in Limington and Limerick, is uniquely marked with pieces of wood engraved with the shape of a turtle. There are two trailheads, one to the S off Nason Road (3.0RT), one to the N off Christian Hill Rd (4.8RT). The south trailhead offers boulder fields, the north trailhead offers more loop possibilities and an old cemetery. The good views from a cleared ledge at the summit will stay that way if someone remembers to give the trees a new haircut.
Stepping over the line at Province Mountain (1,176'). Trailhead is in Wakefield, NH, summit is in Newfield, ME. The marked but private trail, located at a private campground, ends at a open summit with fine views toward the White Mountains and Province Lake. If you go, park on Route 153 where parking is allowed, and respect the campground residents. 2mi RT.
One sweet old ledge. Randall Mountain (1,100') in Parsonfield presents a dignified open ledge looking southward. The ledges were formerly sheep pasture as evidence by the remnant red cedar and juniper. An unmaintained and partly overgrown jeep track ascends from the west. The land isn't posted--work to keep it open by treating it with respect. 2.4RT.
Cedarless Cedar Mountain (1,220'). Ironically, Cedar Mountain has no cedar trees, apparently having given them to nearby Randall Mountain also in Parsonfield. Cedar at one point hosted a fire tower; nothing of it remains but the views from a ledge just below the summit are still fine (the true summit is off trail about 0.1 and wooded). I had no intel on this peak but easily found the old fire wardens road, still being used by ATVs, from the northwest at Merry Hill Rd (where there are some fun old cemeteries and ruins). The road is a bit beat up but the view is worth the hike. The land isn't posted--please keep it that way by respecting it. 2.8RT.
Hackers and Quakers, all the same. Hacker’s Hill (753’), formerly known as Quaker Hill, previously owned by Quakers, now owned by Loon Echo Land Trust, is a fine bald granite dome located in Casco. There’s a paved road to the top where there are interpretive signs and religious icons. The views are sweeping. Real hikers will want to park along the road and walk up the short 0.2 to the top.
We regret to inform you that the cat was replaced with beer. Black Cat Mountain (879') in Poland and Raymond is accessed by both a cell tower service road (from the SE) and a separate snowmobile trail (from the NE). The summit has been taken over by communications towers but there's a good open ledge just below it that is trying to retain its dignity. Someone with a poor sense of geography placed a sign there christening it "Beer Hill." I found no beer or cats. I recommend the trail, not the road, but neither are inspiring routes. 2.0RT
Two for one: Robinson Rock (a.ka. Bumper Rock) and Merritt Mountain. These two seaside crags are located in the resort of Sebasco in Phippsburg, ME, on a private trail system. The trails are not posted against public access and can be got to from Sebasco Road 0.7mi from Route 216 where there are small signs and parking pullouts. The trails, well marked and color coded, are visible in OSM and the hikes are listed in AllTrails.com. Both crags offer good views out over Casco Bay. Merritt can be got to via a nice 2.2mi loop. Robinson is a 1.1mi loop. Be a respectful guest if you go; don't go exploring on the trails that lead into the developed part of the resort.
Get your prehistoric fix at Dinosaur Rocks. The rocks are part of a linear series of cleft crags stretching several miles and contained within land owned by the Town of Phippsburg, Phippsburg Land Trust, and Bates College. There are trailheads on ME Route 209 and at the Bates College research station off Route 209 (0.35 miles from ME 216). The trails wind over and beneath the ledges in Tokienesque fashion. Last time I was here I approached from the northwest trailhead; this time I did it from the Bates College trailhead and found it superior because it included the attractive Meetinghouse Pond with barren ledges above. There isn’t much in the way of views from the upper crags but the maze-like rock formations are really fun to explore. If you park at Bates, be respectful of the parking needs of the college. RT to the rocks from Bates is about 3.5mi but longer hikes are possible.
Cox Head (I’ll leave humor to the imagination) is a rocky knoll in Phippsburg, ME overlooking Fort Popham and Popham Beach (IMO, the best sand beach in Maine) from northerly along Atkins Bay at the mouth of the Kennebec River. The loop hike ascends to a fine and surprisingly impressive 100 foot seaside ledge. The land is conserved by Phippsburg Land Trust and located on Green Point Road. 1.0mi RT
Fox Island at Popham Beach: Walk or swim back to your car, your choice. This one was a bucket list hike for me but I never seemed to time it right. Fox Island, a very cool wave-beaten rocky crag at the mouth of the Kennebec River, can only be got to from Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg at low tide. Popham Beach is one of the finest in Maine, with a decidedly end-of-the-earth feel to it. Also nearby are historic ruins of Fort Popham and Fort Baldwin, to the west, Morse Mountain in the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area (with the other, even more remote half of Popham Beach--separated from the State Park by the Morse River) and Cox Head to the north (described previously in this post). 1.2RT.
Freaky Skull Falls, Pretty Sprague Pond, and Piney Burnt Ridge. Burnt Ridge, covered with moss, lichen, and pine barrens but lacking views, makes for some fun wooded ledge hiking but the real gems here are the lovely, secluded tarn and swimming hole of Sprague Pond, and weirdly named Skull Falls. There are also some old mica mines in the same trail system to the west on Fuller Mountain which also sports a cleared view to the east. The land is within TNC's huge Basin Preserve and Phippsburg Land Trust's Sprague Pond Preserve. An extensive trail system offers lengthy hikes. For this approach I used the trailhead off Route 209, closest to Sprague Pond but you can reach the system from Meadow Road and Basin Road as well. 4.6RT, with longer options.
Off on a tangent: Bald Head and Squirrel Point Lighthouse. These two worthy destinations in Arrowsic, ME on the tidal Kennebec River can be got to from a trail system at the end of long dirt Bald Head Road. Bald Head (4.0RT), an open, rocky crag overlooking Back River Bay, and the pretty but tiny Squirrel Point Lighthouse (1.25RT; there aren’t many lighthouses in Maine that are got to exclusively by trail) make are a fine combination hike from the same trailhead. Along the way there are many sweet views of salt marshes and rocky shores. The land is conserved by the State of Maine, the Coast Guard, and The Nature Conservancy.
McGaffey Mountain is not quite a gaff, but almost. I’d hiked the rest of the peaks in the awesome Kennebec Highlands conservation area and was saving McGaffey (1,288) for last because I knew that the trails to the summit were designed for mountain biking and had a lot of switchbacks. I trimmed down some of the switchbacks with bushwhacks but the hike was still too long for the good but narrow view below the true summit of the mountain (the true summit is a wooded ledge with a cairn). 9.6RT; less if you creatively chop off a few switchbacks.
Who says you can’t be both pleasant and rugged. It’s strange to me that many dedicated NH hikers are so often unaware of peaks located just spitting distance over the ME border: that’s the case with regard to Pleasant Mountain (2,006') in Denmark, Maine. That said, there’s no shortage of locals and Maine hikers on Pleasant Mountain, which offers extensive open ledges and excellent low-elevation ridge walking. For this trip in early May, we hiked up the Southwest Ridge Trail OAB to summit then to the crags above Shawnee Peak ski area (8.4 RT). The shorter ascents from the Ledges Trail and Bald Peak Trail are also good but the old Fire Tower Trail is a bland woods road. The firetower at the summit is a bit redundant given the wide open ledges, but only if you don't love those old things like I do. Get to the trailheads early to avoid the rush.
As usual, I'm busy poking my nose into the woods. Here's a recap of what I found or revisited this spring. Happy hiking! --Paul William
PEAK BRIEFS (in no particular order):
Those punny AMC People: Liebskind's Loop, George's Gorge, Brad's Bluff, Lila's Ledge. If you're looking for a short & sweet leg stretcher in the vicinity of Pinkham Notch the day before or the day after you beat the crap out of yourself hiking the Presidentials or Carter-Moriah-Wildcat peaks, and you happen to also like puns, this is your hike. There are fine views of the Notch from this crag along with a narrow gorge with a cascade. The punny trails are named for old AMC luminaries. 2.5RT from the AMC center; WMG
Burns Hill is in fact burnt. This fine small peak (751') located in Hitchiner Town Forest in Milford, NH was new to the 2021 5th edition of the Southern New Hampshire Hiking Guide. There’s a great view ledge at the top looking toward the Wapack Range; the area around the ledge shows the scars of a recent fire. Other features include stone walls, scrambly ledges, and meadows. 1.5RT; longer hikes are possible. SNHHG
The badgers have been at it at Badger Hill. Badger Hill within Mile Slip Town Forest (Milford, NH), once had a nice view from its summit (781') before it grew in. The trails fell into disrepair and it hasn’t helped that there is an ATV accessible trail to the summit with associated partying and debris left behind. However, the hill does offer some really interesting boulders and rock formations, and an attractive trail along lovely Mitchell Brook at the foot of the mountain. There was some evidence of new trail building when I visited in May of 2021, but as of yet none of it is marked and it’s unclear if all the construction is official or bootleg. 2.2RT including brook.
Good golly Mount Molly. The trail system on Mt. Molly (1,250) in New Durham, NH is under development by Southeast Land Trust but in the mean time you can pick up the older, unrefined trails to the summit from either Merrymeeting Road or unmaintained Chelsey/ Devil's Den Road (see my description of this road under Devil’s Den, above). There are no signs but the route is easy to follow, if a bit eroded from latter approach. GPS tracks of trails on the mountain are in OSM and are readily accessible via most GPS apps. There is a truly fine open ledge on the summit with 180 degree views east and north. 2.6RT with road walk.
Knight’s Pond and that big unmentioned cliff. Knight’s Pond (Lakes Region Conservation Trust) in Alton, NH appears in successive editions of the Southern New Hampshire Hiking Guide but there is no mention of Long Stack Mountain Precipice (1,200) which looms above the pond and is also within conserved land. An enjoyable, rugged marked loop trail circles the scenic pond and is probably best enjoyed when mosquitos are not in season. Getting up to the precipice requires some good bushwhacking skills: an old cart path, severely eroded, ascends the mountain from a gravel pit a bit further east along Rines Road from the Knight’s Pond trailhead. The cart path climbs past the wooded summit (off trail, private, and hosting a McMansion) to the north side of the mountain where bare ledges offer narrow but interesting views north toward Winnipesaukee. A vague herd path leaves westerly right at the start of these ledges and finds the edge of the cliff where there are airy views down at Knight’s Pond, Winnipesaukee, and beyond. 2.4RT precipice. 2.5RT pond circuit, SNHHG.
Not that Whiteface Mountain. . .no, not that one either. . . There are several mountains in the northeast by this name (one NH4K peak, one ADK 46er, one in the Belknap Range. . .) and the name itself is a good indication that there’s a big ledge involved. This one, in Wolfeboro NH (1,339), was just included in the newest edition of the Southern New Hampshire Hiking Guide. A new trail leads to the top of a fine northeast facing ledge. 2.9RT, SNHHG
Fogg Hill is a good place to look at trees or maybe fog. Another inclusion in the most recent edition of the SNHHG, Fogg Hill (980', Lakes Region Conservation Trust) in Center Harbor, NH in doesn’t really have much in the way of views but the rocky and mossy ledges are pleasant, and there is an interesting split boulder at the summit that looks like the fossilized head of a kaiju. Bear Pond, on a spur trail, is worth a look.
Maybe revisiting Thompson Falls. I wasn’t sure if I’d been to this waterfall before, which is located at the end of a short trail starting at the Wildcat Ski Area parking lot, so I took the hike. The falls (my photo sucked, so no image for you) were about 15’ high with ample water flow and a nice swimming hole below. Some knucklehead had scattered a box of powdered laundry detergent over the rocks below the falls. What is wrong with people. 1.2RT, WMG
Spring Snow in the Belknaps. The Belknaps are always a great place to nice, with their multiple open and craggy summits and lenghty trail network with many trailheads and loops. This time it was the first day of spring and I wanted to be done with the snow for the season, but we got blanketed the night before. I didn't mind: temperatures were mild and the light, fluffy spring snow was pleasant (if slippery) walking. We hiked a good loop over the Quarry and Straightback summits from the northwest (Reed Road trailhead) , and OAB to Mt. Major where the weather discouraged the usual summit crowds. The beagle approved. 9.0RT for this particular hike; SNHHG
Isinglass Falls: What a dump. Isinglass Falls is located within the Gonic Trails in Rochester, NH on the Isinglass River. The falls and the woods around the trail system were conserved by the Turnkey Landfill/ WMNH to smooth over local sentiment when they applied to expand their monster landfill a short distance to the north. The conservation area is well sheltered from the offensive dump itself--the only sign you'll notice of it is the distant cry of trash-raiding seagulls. Approach the trailhead from the south, not the north, if you don't want to see the landfill. The falls are lovely; as you view them maybe contemplate giving up paper plates and plastic cups for lent. 1.5RT
Green Mountain. . .but aren't they all? The trails and firetower on Effingham's Green Mountain (1,883) have been around for quite a while and are part of the Forest Society's High Watch Preserve. Although trees have grown high enough to shrink the former 360-degree view from the tower, the gawking is still quite good. There are three trails to the summit; take either the Dearborn Trail or HIgh Watch Trail; the Libby Trail is an old access road and is less pleasant. The summit can be reached in 1.5 miles. The little spur trail to the sub-peak of Hanson Top, with fine views E, can be added in with just a little more effort. SNHHG.
Be gentle with Moody Mountain. This small mountain (1,419) with a decent view from summit ledges (an easy 0.9 to the top) is within the Forest Society's Moody Mountain Forest in Wolfeboro, NH. The dilapidated cabin (on adjacent private land) sees its fair share of abusive behavior, so maybe appreciate its rustic Taj Mahal glory without entering. 1.5RT
Visitez les corniches de French maintenant! Pardon my French, but yes, you should visit this surprising little crag (1,360ft) with 360-degree views in the Upper Valley town of Plainfield, NH as soon as possible. The Upper Valley Land Trust and a generous private landowner are responsible for this gem. 3.5RT; longer loops are possible.
Off the not-so-unbeaten path on Prospect Mountain in Holderness, NH (2,064). You won’t find it in any guidebooks, but it’s there: a well beaten trail system to this fine clifftop view looking east over the Lakes Region. Look for it on Alltrails.com. There are two nice main loops, one which passes through an attractive evergreen forest, one through a partially logged deciduous forest. Choose your adventure. 3.8RT; longer loops are possible.
There once was a man named Whitten, whose hill on which you are now sittin’. Seriously, this new addition to the Southern New Hampshire HIking Guide, Whitten Woods, is a sweetheart of a hike, with sweeping views from the twin peaks of Church Hill (1,136, 1,173), a southerly extension of the Squam Range in Ashland, NH. The forest preserve is managed cooperatively by three land trusts. It was heavily harvested of timber before it was acquired but the young trees are springing back, the views of Squam Lake are awesome, and the trails are well conceived. Look for additional new trails here in the future. 3.1RT, SNHHG
You can ski it, hike it, and pray it. The Holderness School’s “Ski Hill”, located right in the NH town with the same name, has a great network of trails used locally for skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. There’s a few decent slot views from vantage points on the hill, including one from the outdoor chapel. All kneel. 3.3RT; shorter and longer hikes possible.
It’s a Pumpkinseed! No wait, it’s a bridge. . . Livermore Falls, now part of Livermore Falls State Park in Campton, NH, was once a booming mill site. The falls and an impressive gorge on the Pemigiwassett River, along with the flood-scoured ruins of the mill and the unusual “pumpkinseed” bridge remains, make this a fun and interesting short walk. It’s also a fantastic swimming hole in the summer if you can find a place to park. The state charges a fee in season. 0.4RT with some poking around.
It ain’t just about the boulders at the Boulder Loop Trail. Located off the Kancamagus Highway in NH, the Boulder Loop promises boulders but neglects to mention the massive clifftop vista above—one of the finest of many in the area, comparable or better than the nearby ledges of Hedgehog and Potash Mountain. A nice loop winds its way through the boulder fields and over the ledges. 2.7RT, WMG
Best seat in the house. If you’re looking for good seaside (or in this case bracken bay) hiking in New Hampshire, Adams Point, a craggy escarpment on Great Bay in Durham is one of the prettiest spots around. Parking is tight, so aim for weekdays and off hours. A trail winds around the crag and interior meadows, with many rocky outlooks and spurs down to the water. The point is a state wildlife management area. Keep an eye out for horseshoe crabs. 1.5RT
Second best seat in the house. If you’re going to visit Adams Point (previous entry), you might as well pick up the tail end of the Sweet Trail in Newmarket NH. You can hike up tiny but steep Jefts Hill and continue north for several miles, but the sweet spot is the saltmarsh overlook at the end of the trail. Mosquitos in the summer will carry your ass away, but the view’s worth a pint or two. 1.0RT hill & marsh; the entire Sweet Trail is about 4.0 one way. SNHHG.
I’d tell you where this is, but I’d have to kill you. Sorry, there are some secrets you just have to find on your own
The Boulder is bolder but the Cascades are cooler. If you’re in the mind to visit the largest rock in the state of New Hampshire, Madison Boulder (plunked down by the glacier in the town of the same name, how thoughtful of it) you ought to also check out Madison Cascades, which can be got to from behind the Madison Historical Society Building via a marked trail. Nice spot to cool off on a hot day. 1.5RT
All tapped out at Patch Hill and Mayflower Hill. These two rocky hills located in Amherst and Milford, NH, are pleasantly ledgey and scattered with fun historic mementos of an old, tapped out granite quarry. There are rock piles, pieces of machinery, quarry pits, cut blocks, old foundations, and a spare view here and there. The two hills are connected by a trail system. 4.4OAB to both.
Its west face gouged into a precipice by the continental ice sheet lumbering through the Valley of Vermont, White Rocks Mountain, just south of the City of Rutland and the Killington Ski Area, is one of the finest cliff faces along the Long Trail. I'd visited the view ledge (elevation 2,100ft; 0.2mi down a spur trail) during a multi-day Long Trail hike in the 1990s, but only this year got around to visiting the storied Ice Beds which lie at the foot of the massive talus slope (one of the largest barren talus slopes in New England) at the mountain's foot.
The talus and cliffs are made of white quartzite, formerly beach sand millions of years ago, lithified by continental collisions. The rock is very smooth and resistant to weathering, making it difficult for plants to take root. The white color of the rocks reflect light, keeping the cavities below the enormous boulders cool year round and slowing the melting of ice and snow that accumulates in the winter. The result is natural air conditioning, making the ice Beds a great destination on a hot summer day.
Gallery: Ladybug on lichen on quartzite; view from the top; Elizabeth emerging from boulders; cat's claw found in owl pellet; taking a rest partway up; scrambling over boulders.
There is no trail connection between the Ice Beds Trail and the cliff top vista; it's out-and-back on two separate trails (same trailhead, off VT 140/ Sugar Hill Road, at the White Rocks National Recreation Area parking lot) on account of the cliffs. Both routes are great hikes on their own: The Keewaydin Trail, Long Trail, and Overlook Spur must be taken to get to the cliffs (3.2mi OAB), passing a waterfall along the way, and the Ice Beds Trail climbs a barren knob with fantastic views of the ledges and talus slopes before dropping to the bottom of the boulder field (1.5mi OAB).
We weren't intending to, but once we started exploring the boulders one thing lead to another and soon we were half way up the talus and decided to continue bushwhacking the rest of the way. Most of the talus boulders were quite huge and impossible to move even two-thirds of the way up the slope but there were occasional loose rocks that would shift under our feet, so care was required. The upper part of the climb involved scrambling up a knife-edge arete and steeply climbing up the treed side of it to avoid the cliffs. One could easily end up in a not-so-good place without solid navigation instincts and a good understanding of rock slides and topography. Once at the top, we picked up the Overlook Spur and followed the trails back to the parking lot, stopping at the waterfall to dip our feet along the way.
Don't try this at home, kids.