The three peaks of Weeks Mountain, 3,901', 3,885', and 3,684', named in honor of John Wingate Weeks (progenitor of the Migratory Bird Act and the Weeks Act, which enabled the creation of our National Forests), are located in The Kilkenny--the remote, northernmost part of the White Mountain National Forest. The three peaks aren't particularly interesting or unique: they are crowned by common spruce-fir forests and are viewless, generic, settings among so many similar 3,000+ foot summits in the northeast United States. But North Weeks and South Weeks are also members of the New England 100 Highest peaks list, for which there is a winter-season only patch--thus our reason for visiting South Weeks this winter.
The easiest way to visit South Weeks is OAB via the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, first passing over higher Mt. Starr King, 3,907', and Mt. Waumbek, 4,006' (52 With A View list and New Hampshire 4,000-Footer list, respectively), 12.2 miles round trip. The only real views on the hike are from Starr King, where there is a small clearing at the former site of a cabin, and from a relatively recent blowdown patch a few hundred feet north of Waumbek summit. Although the route up Starr King and Waumbek is relatively easy and usually well trodden out and maintained, beyond Waumbek things get wooly pretty fast. Because Kilkenny Ridge is infrequently hiked, it is low priority on the trail maintenance schedule. Blazes are fading and infrequent, "fir wave" blowdowns are common, and the fast-growing branches of evergreen saplings and hobblebush threaten to squeeze the trail out of existence. We had about a foot of unbroken powder on the ground, which made it harder to find our way. Thankfully the route sticks mostly to the ridgeline, so getting truly lost is only for the cartographically challenged. Where we did get brief views, we were blessed with an unusual day-long cloud undercast over which the Presidential Range to the south floated like a volcanic island chain.
Beyond the simple pleasure of checking a peak off a list, the hike has its charm: on the whole, The Kilkenny has a wonderfully remote aura. It's the kind of place where the forest feels more dominant than the trail and the wildlife are more plentiful than human beings. We crossed at least sixty fresh moose tracks (some of which had re-crossed our snowshoes prints prior to our return) along with countless prints of smaller critters. The moose themselves were typically elusive--large as they are, they do blend and were likely able to see us well enough. The last time I had visited South Weeks was during a Kilkenny Ridge solo backpack in the early 1990s--as far as I can tell, not much has changed out there. Trees fall and grow back, moose make their rounds. The trail is as wooly was it was back then: it was like seeing an old friend who hadn't changed one bit in twenty-five years. --Paul-William
Thanks to: White Mountain National Forest (land conservation, trails), Randolph Mountain Club (trails).