Yesterday was Wednesday, but there were no waterfalls. Despite the unseasonably chilly weather, I decided to go hiking, with that day’s target being Mt. Kearsarge North down in Bartlett, NH.
It was cloudy with threatening sun when I left Pondside around 9AM. And it was snowing. Just some flurries, but snow in May nonetheless. The forecast called for sun and a high over 50° down in the mountain’s vicinity, so onwards I went.
The snow flurries disappeared not long after I crossed the Connecticut River and started down US Route 3. After clearing Lancaster, but before making it to Whitefield I came upon this gaggle waddling down the middle of the road.
I and an oncoming driver had to stop for a few minutes until they decided it might be a good idea to get out of the road.
I don’t recall seeing goslings quite this early. I don’t think we have any on the pond yet, despite having many Canada geese.
Arriving at the Mt. Kearsarge North trailhead a bit after 11AM, the weather was as hoped- bright, clear and snow free. But it was pretty windy. I saddled up and headed up the trail.
The first part of the Kearsarge Trail was wide and smooth, with a covering of pine duff and some leaves. Very little in the way of rocks and roots- that came later. This lasted for perhaps a quarter mile or so. With the exception of right at the very beginning, the trail was bone dry.
This trail is a continuous uphill push. You’re always gaining elevation, gently at the start, but becoming more steep as you progress up the hill. The trail got a bit tighter and rockier at that quarter mile mark, and not long after that the roots made their appearance.
At roughly the one and a quarter mile mark the incline eases, and the trail passes by some standing water on the right side. It doesn’t seem to be large enough to call a bog. This is the only standing water I saw on the climb. Not far beyond that was the only blowdown on the trail, easily passed.
Rockface soon appeared, and there was an extended walk across the open ridge, sometimes fairly steep, but easily navigated. While in the woods the trail markings were okay, but on the rock they could use some refreshing. Many of the blazes are faded, and some almost invisible. When in doubt, head up!
From the ridge I got a small taste of what the views would be at the top.
The last mile of Kearsarge Trail is the steepest. Boulder scrambles appeared, and there were some interesting up and down passages. The open ridge petered out and I found myself back in the woods for the last half mile, going up, up and up some more.
When I broke out of the wood cover, I could see a bit of the fire tower. I traversed a final section of ridge and arrived at the fire tower.
As you can see, the weather topside was very bright, with blue skies all around. What you can’t see is the 25-30MPH wind. It was cold! I hustled up the ladder and got inside where it was very comfortable.
The views from Kearsarge North are fantastic, and I am so happy I got a bright clear day to take them all in. The views were endless, from the towns down below to Mt. Chocorua in the distance and on into Maine. 360° and gorgeous! I took some photos while walking around the outside of the tower- here are a few:
I also took a video from outside the tower on the walkway. Froze my fingers off! Sorry for the choppiness and “frame finger”. The wind was fierce.
Could you pick up the snow storm in the Presidentials in the video? More on that later.
I spent a fair amount of time in the tower, enjoying a sandwich and changing out some clothes for the walk down. This was an out and back hike, so down was the same trail as up.
Editorial Comment: It was very obvious that a lot of work goes into maintaining that fire tower. It looks like recently a new floor was installed, along with new ladder stairs. There’s a nice mat inside the door, along with a sign asking hikers to please not walk on the floor with spikes.
I guess people either can’t read or don’t care, but that new floor was riddled with spike marks. This is disappointing, but given the times we live in, not surprising. Seeing another sign asking people to not carve into the wood was also disheartening.
The walk down the trail was much, much easier than the trip up. Once off the ridge the wind was no longer a factor, and the downhill pace was good.
I didn’t encounter very many people that day. A total of five, with the last couple heading up while I was heading down. They planned to spend the night in the tower, which sounds like fun. I didn’t realize it was allowed. I saw no doggies.
When I arrived back at the parking lot I’d logged 6 ½ miles with an elevation gain of almost 2600 feet. The hike took just under 5 hours, not counting the lunch break. This was a great hike, and perhaps my favorite of the year so far. The terrain was great and the views spectacular- I may try to return. Perhaps spend a night on top?
The ride home took me through Pinkham Notch. The snowstorm I had seen from the top of Kearsarge North was still going, and accumulating on the windshield. First time I’ve seen that in May.
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