Category Archives: Hiking

Catching Up: Pisgah for #20 & Another Death in the Mountains – December 2, 2022

It’s been awhile since the last post. The hiatus was completely unplanned- several events coalesced and conspired to interrupt the writing. This includes the arrival of winter. We’ve had some snow already.

November 19, 2022

On Veterans Day I did manage to hike the 20th mountain of the season, and had every intention of posting the usual recap before now. But, then I caught a bug and was quite off my feed for several days. I think it was the flu? It’s been a long time since I’ve been sick with anything, so my malady identification abilities are poor, at best. I spent a few days feeling lousy, got over it and moved on.

Mt. Pisgah rises sharply from the eastern shore of Lake Willoughby down in Westmore, about 10 miles from the house. I decided to head up the North Trail, which departs from the side of Rt. 5A. That Friday was rather overcast, but dry and not too cold. I arrived at the trailhead mid-morning and headed up the hill. 

Trailhead

Initially this trail is rather gentle, in my opinion. The inclines are easy as it runs along the ridge approaching the mountain, crossing a couple of streams. The trail is wide and well marked, and shows signs of getting a lot of use. This is one of the more heavily accessed mountains in the area and usually the parking area on the side of Rt, 5A is quite full. Not today- so far I had the hill to myself.

After about a mile and a half the North Trail meets up with Long Pond Trail coming in from the East. It was at this junction that I saw the only other people on the trails that day, and only briefly. I kept moving towards the summit and didn’t hear or see them again.

North & Long Pond Trails Junction

The trail up the mountain became a lot steeper from this junction. Rock stairways abound as you head up the slope towards the several lookouts and eventually, the summit. After a half mile of steepness, the first of several overlooks appear. The first one involves a bit of descent down to the cliffs, while others are right next to the trail. They’re all worth a look- here are a few photos from that day:

Here’s a short video panning across Lake Willoughby from one of the cliffs.

On Mt. Pisgah the cliffs are the thing. The summit has no view, and in fact isn’t even marked as such. There’s a sign at the junction of the South and North Trails, with an elevated spot behind it which seems to be the highest point on the trail. As such, I declared it the summit.

Summit?

It was fairly breezy topside, getting colder and more overcast.I didn’t hang around up there for too long, and headed back from whence I came. Retracing the 2.3 mile return route was quick, and I reached the Jeep shortly after noon.

This hike covered a bit more than 5 miles in total, with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. It took about 2.5 hours, out and back.

About a week later, there was yet another avoidable tragedy over in Franconia Notch. A young lady was dropped off on a Sunday morning at Lafayette Campground by a family member. Her intention was to hike Mt. Lafayette- a big mountain- along with some others on that ridge. 

Three days later search and rescue personnel recovered her body from the mountainside. My understanding is that she froze to death, not being clothed or otherwise prepared for the severe cold weather that descended upon the mountains that day.

While incredibly sad, incidents like this continue to make the point that one embarks upon mountain trails at their peril. The weather and trail conditions in these northern mountains can change extremely quickly, and if one isn’t prepared, there is no forgiveness. Do not venture into the mountains and forests without appropriate equipment, clothing, food and shelter. If you aren’t carrying enough to be able to survive a couple of nights in the wild, you need to re-evaluate your program. Not only are you setting yourself up to become an avoidable statistic, but you place others at risk- the folks that come looking for you. Be responsible.

Rant over. Until next time. 

I’m thinking the next post(s) will revisit some of the plans once retirement strikes in about five weeks. We’ve got the early makings of an epic winter road trip starting to take form. Thanks for stopping by!