Yesterday was another chapter of the old man, me, driving down to pick up my son in New Hampshire to go on another hike. We wanted to check out Firescrew Mountain, which is the other major summit in Mount Cardigan State Park. We went up Cardigan on a Saturday last May, and probably should have scooted over to Firescrew then, as it’s only a half mile from the Cardigan summit.
But we didn’t, and I’m glad of that. I’d have missed the incredible Mowgli Trail!
Before I get into the day’s adventure, let me share what I’ve learned about the names, as both the mountain and trail have unusual ones. According to what I’ve been able to discover, Firescrew Mountain was named back in 1855. There was quite the forest fire that year, wiping the timber off both Cardigan and Firescrew. Apparently the flames were so intense they screwed into the sky from the summit of the mountain, hence the name.
Tracing back the whys and wherefores of Mowglis Trail naming is a bit more involved. An old AMC White Mountain Guide states: “The Mowglis Trail was turned over by the State in 1921, to be maintained by the Mowglis camp for boys on Newfound Lake.” That camp is still there today, and with Rudyard Kipling’s permission was named for his character found in the Jungle Books, according to Camp Moglis website. I am not sure the camp is still involved in maintaining the trail, for the section we traversed did not show signs of much maintenance, or use, for that matter.
But that was part of the charm.The Mowglis Trail was one of the best hikes I’ve done this season.
The journey starts with a one and a half mile walk along an old woods road just to get to the trail. I said to Son: “the Jeep would have no issue with this road”. However, the trail guides all noted that the hike to the Firescrew summit includes this part of the walk, so walk it we did. The pond we passed looked to be in need of a moose or two.
When we reached the Mowglis Trail, it entered the woods from a large-ish field that looked like it may have been a parking lot at some point, or perhaps a log landing. And there was a little red Hyundai parked right at the trailhead. I guess they didn’t read the trail guides.
Initially the trail is a typical woodland trail of packed earth with occasional rocks and roots. As noted earlier, there’s not much wear and tear visible. I don’t think this path gets much use. After the first half mile or so there’s a short spur trail to an overlook showing the valley you’re halfway above. The ascent gets steeper, with more rocks, boulders and granite rock face. The forest was damp, and the smell of decayed leaves strong. We came across a recent blow-down, as well as many interesting looking woodland fungi.
And just before beginning the final ascent of the mountain’s dome, we encountered Crag Shelter, which was not mentioned in any of the guides I read.
Heading to the top, the Mowglis Trail takes on a surreal quality. The granite ledges and rocks tower over you on the right as you walk through some of the most verdant forest floor covering I’ve ever seen. The green was so, so bright.
The ups were in earnest from here on; we were scrambling and scaling the granite as we made for the summit. We discovered a considerable amount of wild blueberry bushes and Son kept snacking on them as long as they were available.
Just before reaching the summit we came upon an open outcropping with excellent views to the north and east. Here’s a brief panorama:
A little scrabbling over the granite and we made it topside. There’s no clear marker that we could find indicating a “summit”, so we settled on wandering about the wide open top, taking in the views all around. We could see the fairly crowded summit of Cardigan about a half mile to the west.
We decided to head down a bit before enjoying our lunch, and returned to the first outcropping. Awesome Trail Sandwiches were consumed, long with more wild blueberries by some.
Lunch finished, the trip down was fairly rapid, and more so once we were off the rock face. During the entire time on the trail, we saw only two people and a dog while we were heading up, and four others as we were heading down. Once out of the woods and back to the woods road, the Hyundai was gone. We trudged the mile and a half back to the Jeep and called it a day. Our hike went a total of seven miles, and we gained a bit over 1300 feet in elevation. The trail was interesting and visually stunning in places, and the views from the top excellent. It was a very good day.
Thanks for dropping by!