Mt. Starr King: An OK Day On An OK Trail – April 23, 2023

Saturday was forecast to be the last nice day for the next four or five, so I decided to suspend my rule of not hiking the White Mountains on the weekend this one time, and headed over to Jefferson, NH to walk the Starr King Trail. 

As expected, the parking lot was almost full when I arrived near 11AM. Massachusetts was heavily represented, along with a sprinkling of Connecticut and New York license plates. The rest were from New Hampshire and Vermont. I got the last open spot; those arriving later would have to park in the margins. And they did.

When I started up the trail, the day was clear and sunny, albeit somewhat hazy. Temps were in the high 50s at the trailhead. Starr King Trail begins in a forest of hardwood, and yesterday the beginning of the trail was very dry, reminiscent of early fall. The trail starts wide and gently sloped. 

Early into the hike, I came upon an old cistern made of stone and concrete. It was five or six feet deep and empty, seemingly not used for quite awhile. Further uphill, the remnants of the pipes that fed the cistern are embedded in the trail.

Starr King continued up through the deciduous woods. It was still dry with small mud stretches now appearing where water had crossed the path. These were easily avoided by rock hopping or moving to the high ground to the side of the trail. There were a couple of trees down across the trail between one and one and half miles into the walk, and they were easily navigated around, or over. The very first ice appeared not far after the pine tree laying across the path.

Not long after the ice first appeared there was more of it, and at about the 1.7 mile mark I put on the spikes and began using the ice to continue upwards. The forest makes a dramatic transition right about there, as the hardwoods are replaced by evergreens. The trail narrows and becomes darker for the remainder of the ascent.

The incline never does get severe. With one very short stretch where the grade exceeds 30%, my guess is that the rest of it falls between 15 and 25%. Onwards and upwards I went. 

Nearing the summit of Starr King, the ice became heavier, covering more of the trail. Still, it wasn’t that thick, inches rather than feet, and I’d guess that the trail will be ice free soon, especially after several days of rain expected this coming week. 

When you come to this short scramble, you’ve reached the top.

As I mentioned, the day was hazy and the view of the Presidential Range from the summit was not as good as I’ve seen in the past. Here are some photos to illustrate my point.

I decided to pass on continuing over to Mt. Waumbek. It was crowded, there were dogs off-leash here and there, and frankly, the view that day wasn’t worth the additional effort. I sat down for a while and ate some lunch, watching a Canada Jay flit around the summit. At one point I almost coaxed it to hop onto my hiking staff.

Being windy and markedly colder topside, after about 30 minutes I saddled up, adjusted the spikes and began the trip down to the trailhead. I took my time, heeding the Old Guy Solo Hiker rule to avoid  becoming someone else’s problem on the trail. I traveled the ice until it was gone, and doffed the spikes right around where I first put them on.

I did take advantage of a well placed burl to sit for a moment and take a water break. It seemed the thing to do at the time- the seat was at perfect height.

All things considered, Starr King was a good hike, moving along my preparation by increasing distance and elevation gain. And as always, a day on the trail is far better than one not on the trail. I think I’ll add it to the list to do again, probably in the fall on a clear day. Distance traveled on Saturday was just under 6 miles with an elevation gain of 2300 feet. Not counting the lunch break, hiking time was about 4 hours.

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