View Full Version : Mahoosac Range loop New Hampshire

04-11-2005, 00:07
Submitted by Steve Keri

Taking a hike in the wilds of New Hampshire

I decided to get into the woods for the July 4 weekend and hike solo, so prior to the trip I mapped out a two-day loop-route on the rugged Mahoosac Range in northern New Hampshire.

After a two mile road walk from the parking lot on Route 2 and the A.T. crossing in Shelburne, I start a 3.1 mile, 2,700-foot ascent on the Peabody Trail through a grove of hemlock, hobble bush, maple, beech, oak and white birch trees. The quiet of the early morning hours and pockets of fog between the mountain ranges feel peaceful and relaxing, yet eerie, with only the occasional rustle of a chipmunk and the chirp of a sparrow.

With the hazy sun waking up and an increase in temperature and humidity, the mosquitos become more active and start to feed, so I put on my headnet and continue to ascend to my first view and absorb the picturesque slopes of the Carter-Moriah Range and the Androscoggin River in the distance.

A nice breeze helps keep the mosquitos at bay while I listen to the chirps of sparrows and thrushers entwined within the rushing of water from the Great Falls below. Now this is really living. I continue to ascend just as the sun bursts open from behind the low, grey clouds and enter a muddy area where the south branch of the Peabody Brook flows. I spot a mink scurrying off and wedging itself behind rotten logs and hobblebush. I stop and try to persue it for a snapshot, but the sweat pouring into my eyes blinds me.

I take a brief break among the hemlocks and beeches, splashing water on my face to cool down, and, wouldn't you know, within minutes the mosquitos are ready to feed again. I think two dozen bites is more than my share.

Leaving the gurgling of the brook behind, I finish ascending the Peabody trail and enter a vast and thick spruce grove that surrounds Dream Lake, immediately engulfed in a feeling of remoteness.

My first thought is that this is definitely an attraction for moose and, sure enough, for the next half mile there are very large moose prints in the mud. The thought of seeing moose again pumps me up.

As I continue to hike around the lake, I am surrounded by an abundance of moths and butterflies that zig-zag in all directions, and as quickl;y as they flutter in, they are gone.

Lost in thought with the distant sound of bullfrogs croaking, I startle a pair of grouse who are a few feet into the thickets from the trail. The male grouse comes at me fluttering, squaking and expanding its chest in a defensive stance while the female takes off deeper into the thickets, dragging a wing in a gesture of injury. Grouse have a tendency to display this kind of behavior when protecting the nest.

This commotion jerks me out of my "lost in thought" mode, and I am so taken aback fumbling around with the camera, that I lose the opportunity as the male grouse retreats quickly into the thickets.

With a feeling of loss, I go on my way, climbing the feeder trail until it connects with the A.T. and proceed southwest, hiking around Dream Lake and dodging piles of fresh dung. As I start to descend into a creek saddle, I come across fresh bear prints in the mud and immediately become excited by the idea of seeing a black bear, then think it highly unlikely, since bears have a keen sense of smell and hearing, they are probably long gone. Continueing to hike along the muddy and remote trail, I am jolted out of the "lost in thought" mode again by a high-pitched screech and start mimicking it. As I came closer to where the screech came from, for a split second I see the break of a Bald Eagle from the top of a spruce tree. A feeling of awe comes over me. It is the first time I have seen an eagle in the wild. I just stand there feeling numb for a while.

I continue along the A.T. with the image of the eagle taking flight still in my head and climb to the top of Wocket Ledge, the spur of Bald Cap Mountain at 2,800 feet, take in the view and cool down with the breeze. Descending the trail 1000 feet, I pass a few thru hikers on their way to Mount Katahdin in Maine and inquire about water sources; as luck would have it, there is a cold spring about a mile up the trail. As I chug some water, I check my temperature gauge; it reads 86 degrees. I can hardly wait to get to that cold spring. It is 1 p.m. as I continue to descend, looking forward to the cool spring water.

About half way down my descent, the trail edges along Paige Pond, crossing over a 30-yard, sturdily built beaver dam, and I stop to admire their work while moving toward Trident Col tent site to spend the night. Coming along the edge of the trail, I spot three garter snakes and attempt to photograph them, but they slither off under leaves and debris. After a short climb, I came to an open-face exposure of the first of three pinnacles that make up the Trident Col Peak with a spectacular view south encompassing Mount Crag, Middle Mountain and First Mountain, which makes up the slope that borders the Peabody Trail. I take a break and absorb the surrounding area. What calmness. Moving on after an hour of lingering, I ascend the A.T. to its junction with the blue trail, which takes me about a mile off the main trail to Trident Col tent site, where I set up camp and freshen up at the spring. After having a snack and watching red tail squirrels play, I head back out to the open face exposure to take in more view and let my thoughts wander. Two hours pass and I go back to camp, make dinner and mingle with the other campers. After relaxing a while, I turn in for the night and doze off to the sounds of nature.

I wake the next morning to the sounds of sparrows and the buzzing of black flies, and take my time with breakfast and packing as usual, then set off ascending the AT. 700 feet out of Trident Col to a pinnacle of Cascade Mountain. At the top, I take in another view of the surrounding mountain ranges while another pair of grouse scoots off into the thickets squawking. I feel grateful for yet another rewarding view and being up close to wildlife. Coming down from the pinnacle, the A.T. mends through a field of wood fern, hobblebush and the occasional weathered white birch, which makes for a nice contrast of texture and balance.

As I come out of the field of fern, I ascend into the cool shade of a spruce and hemlock grove, welcome a relief from the heat and humidity, then a quick descent into a swampy col and an ascent through a mix of hemlock, spruce and beech trees to the top of Cascade Mountain. Descending down from the top, I follow the trail through a boggy col containing a mix of hemlock, spruce, briarwood, hobblebush, wood fern, white birch and beech. The col being very buggy, I don my headnet-instant comfort.

Leaving the col, I begin the ascent of Mount Hayes, following the winding trail through a mix of maple, beech and spruce that takes me up steeply from 1900 feet to 2600 feet, I pass a couple out for a few days and ask them how much farther is it to the top. They tell me I am almost there, gicing me motivation to continue in spite of the high humidity and heat. Climbing toward the top of Mount Hayes, I come across another garter snake and more signs of moose. Finally I reach the summit dripping in sweat, and welcoming a breeze, I strip off my drenched shirt, chug some water and rest. Soon, I doze off to the sound of silence.

Awaking shortly later, I have a quick lunch, pack up and follow the A.T. descending off of Mount Hayes through a buggy spruce and hemlock grove in rugged terrain toward Route 2. Coming off one of the stone staircases on the southwest side of Mount Hayes, I almost step on another garter snake stretched out across the trail. I come to an open ledge with a view of the Androscoggin River below and spend some time looking out at the hazy landscape. The sun is now high amongst the cottonball clouds and the temperature is up to 90 degrees. Running low on water, I drink conservatively. According to the map there are no water sources available on this stretch of the trail. I think to myself, "Only 1600 feet remaining in my descent." As chipmunks cross my path, I pass from the spruce and hemlock grove into a mixed hardwood forest of white and yellow birch, oak, maple and wood fern lining the trail, making for interesting quilt-like pattern of greens.

The trail flattens out a little at the 500 foot elevation, so I take a break for about an hour, listening and watching for wildlife, and even though having seen only the usual suspects, I don't want to leave the woods. Finally I reach the bottom of the trail, where it turns onto an old logging road that takes me back to Route 2, and ends my two-day journey in the lower Mahoosac Range.

Steve Keri July 2003