Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pine Mountain via Ledge Trail, November 12, 2011

Pine Mountain via Ledge Trail to Pine Mountain Trail to Pinkham B Road - November 12, 2011.

Distance:  3.6 miles

Elevation gain: 800 feet

Trailhead:  Route 16 to Dolly Copp Road to Pine Mountain trailhead (about one mile from Route 16)

Lessons learned: Lack of research on my part does not give me the right to complain that I think we may have taken a wrong turn. A graded road does not guarantee sure footing.

This weekend Rich, Sandy and I volunteered at another of AMC's front country destinations, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  During our break we decided to hike Pine Mountain as the road to the trailhead (known as Pinkham B Road) is not plowed in the winter and we figured this may be our only chance to hike Pine this year.  Guests at Joe Dodge Lodge raved about the views and we figured we could hike, shower and be back on duty within a few hours.

We drove to Dolly Copp Road, past the campground (closed) and parked at the Pine Link Trail parking lot.  The trailhead for Pine Mountain is across the street. Walking down a gated road, we could see Pine Mountain in the distance.

Pine Mountain's ledges allow hikers some great views!

On the right was a sign that took us up the Ledge Trail.

Trail sign. We turned right to start our ascent on the Ledge Trail.
From car to the summit we knew was less than two miles and after a short time in the woods, we found ourselves flirting and skirting the cliffs and ascending the ledges.  The woods were wet from the snowfall the night before but the cliffs and ledges were dry. Still, some areas were quite steep and required thought before choosing hand and foot holds.  One area in particular which required hand over hand climbing gave a breathtaking view as well as heart pounding exposure to a steep cliff area. 

The trailed turned left and opened up with steep slabs.

Slabs were dry thankfully. Although steep, we simply walked up!
Climbing the slabs put us on top of the cliffs. The views were amazing and a naturally formed rock "bench" is located in this area. Although the views were great, I encouraged Rich and Sandy to hustle to the summit where we could sit and really enjoy the views.  I had my binoculars with me and couldn't wait.

We never saw a blaze on our hike but up on the slabs there was a considerable amount of arrows painted on to the rock, pointing the way to the summit. Which to my disappointment was wooded.

I had not done any research on this peak and expected the top to also have amazing views. We considered backtracking on to the slabs for the views, but were running out of time and had to be back to the Visitor Center soon.  Fortunately there are several herd paths that lead you to more beautiful views as we descended down the Pine Mountain trail.

Amazing views of the Whites (and some of the town of Gorham).
Another trail junction had a sign indicating Gorham was a few miles away.  We took the right toward Gorham but only because Pulpit Rock (or Chapel Rock) was down that way.  This side trip brought us to a few bog bridges. We turned left and walked to the end of the bridges, and then right up stairs. Eventually we got onto the huge rock with lovely views.

On top of Pulpit Rock.
We backtracked back on to Pine Mountain trail and back to the sign.  We continued our descent and quickly wound up onto a road that led to a Christian camp called the Horton Center.  What happenel to the trail? I was sure we were lost.  We headed down the well maintained dirt road, all the time I was seriously doubting that we were headed toward the car, struggling to figure out if and how we could have taken a wrong turn.  Rich assured me we were going the right way but I had my doubts.  The road was long and I saw no sign that we in headed in the right direction!

This must have distracted me because I slipped on the gravel on the roadside and fell into the road, ripping my pants.  I was bleeding but more upset that I just ruined my favorite pair of biking (and now hiking) pants.  I limped another quarter mile to see that we were simply walking down that same road we started on in the beginning of our hike.  We had come full circle and were now heading to the car.

This hike has beautiful eye popping views and is a great option if you only have a few hours to hike.  If you don't care to hike on roads, however, this may not appeal to you as half of the mileage is down a wide, well maintained private road (watch out for that gravel!).