Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lakes Region Conservation Trust Patch Hikes 2012-2013, Moultonborough

Lakes Region Conservation Trust Hiker Achievement Patch Program - 2012-2013.
Total mileage - 5 summits, 16 trails, 28 miles of trail.

Elevation gain - varies (there are 5 peaks to be bagged).

Trailhead - There are three trailhead parking areas, two of them are located off of Route 171 in Moultonborough.
  1. Lower parking and entrance to Shannon Brook trailhead is at the corner of Route 171 and Severance Road.  
  2. The upper parking lot is by Shannon Pond on the road that leads to Castle in the Clouds (CitC), just west of the Route 171/Severance Rd. parking lot. CitC road is closed until mid May, then open weekends only until June.  
  3. A third parking lot a few hundred yards above the Shannon Pond area (offering year-round access) is located on Ossipee Park Road, just a mile past the CitC entrance  -near the Castle Springs bottling plant .
For me, spring hiking is warm up for summer peak bagging.  Several Mays ago I tried to hike Wildcat A early in the month; we turned back.    It had been a winter of ice storms, blow downs and ice rails and I got confused as to where the trail continued (we retraced our steps in better weather to find a tree had fallen across the path - which is why we lost our way).  Turning back that day is why I pursue hikes in lower elevations and latitudes during the off seasons. The last few years I've hiked the Belknaps in spring and fall and enjoyed them very much. In fact, the frustrated girl scout in me hiked all twelve Belknap peaks earning (and receiving) the Belknap hiking patch (see related trip reports).

Knowing my love of lists, my friend Eileen sent me a link to the Lakes Region Conservation Trust for the Castle in the Clouds conservation area for yet another peak-bagging patch.  Earning this one is a little different though; not only do you have to bag the peaks (ranging from 1801' to 2990') but you must hike every inch of every trail - 28 miles (sort of "red-lining for beginners").

Two of the peaks on this list, Mts. Roberts and Shaw, are on the 52 with a View list (a list I am not following but you may be).  I encourage you to support the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and purchase the guidebook and map ($6.00).  You can find similar maps of the region online at sites like, however. The official map indicates what trails need to be completed for the patch.

I took this as a fun opportunity to get ready for my summer.  I 've mapped out seven hikes that would cover all trails and peaks, trying not to make the hikes too long, and trying to avoid backtracking when possible. In this posting I will report on each hike as they are done (which is not exactly in the order listed here). 

Hiker Achievement Patch
The seven hikes are:

Hike 1 Shannon Brook– Brook walk – Oak Ridge – Turtleback – Shannon Brook
Trails completed: Shannon Brook, Brook Walk and Oak Ridge

Hike 2 Pond trail - Lower bridle – Upper bridle – Oak Ridge Cutoff – High Ridge- MT SHAW—High Ridge – Rest of Oak Ridge Cutoff – Faraway – Lower Bridle - Pond
Trails completed:  Lower Bridle, Upper Bridle, Oak Ridge Cutoff,  MT SHAW SUMMIT

Hike 3 All the way around Pond Trail to Cold Spring Road - Cold Spring Trail – Faraway Trail – High Ridge – FARAWAY SUMMIT – High Ridge – MT ROBERTS – Mt Roberts trail.
Trails completed: Pond trail, Cold Spring, Mt Roberts trail,  MTS ROBERTS AND FARAWAY SUMMITS

Hike 4  Pond – Lower Bridle – Faraway- High Ridge Trail - Oak Ridge Cutoff – Upper Bridle – Faraway - Lower Bridle – Pond.
Trails completed –Faraway, High Ridge

Hike 5 Shannon (by the pond)- Bald Knob Cutoff –BALD KNOB – Bald knob – Turtleback – Connector – Shannon
Trails Completed – Bald Knob Cutoff, Bald Knob, BALD KNOB SUMMIT

Hike 6  Pond-Lower Bridle – Turtleback – Turtleback Mountain – Turtleback–Lower Bridle - Pond
Trails completed:  Turtleback Summit trail, TURTLEBACK SUMMIT

Hike 7 Pond – Lower Bridle – Turtleback- Black Snout Trail -Black Snout summit – Black Snout trail toward Mt. Shaw, High Ridge Trail – Turtleback – Lower Bridle – pond.
Trails completed:  Turtleback, BLACK SNOUT SUMMIT, Black Snout Trail ALL DONE!

NOTE: "Trails completed" assumes the hikes are done in order.  Some trails take several hikes to be complete.  If you skip around like I did, keep track of how much of each trail has been done.  I copied the Lakes Conservation Trust map and inked in each section of trail when completed.
MARCH 31, 2012 HIKES 1 and 5Once the smaller southerly trails on this list are completed I can focus on longer hikes, such as Black Snout and Mt. Shaw.   

I had planned to do Hike 1 on this day as a way of getting the southerly trails done and exploring the area but I was bored with the thought of doing just 5 miles of relatively flat trails, even if it is only an hour's drive from our house. So we decided to hike Bald Knob too, which is Hike 5.
We headed out from the well marked parking lot at 10:15 (lower parking lot), crossed the street and immediately started a moderate ascent, following the red blazes.  Shannon Brook trail is not flat!  

Entrance to Shannon Brook trail.

.7 of a mile in we took a right up Bald Knob Cutoff, a pleasant trail with moderate grade. The day was overcast and temps were in the 30s - a bit raw. Several snowflakes drifted around.
Trails are well marked and blazed frequently.
At the trail's one mile mark we reach the Bald Knob trail, a road cut into the hill which quickly led to Bald Knob with wonderful views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Belknaps. Behind the overlook were higher outcroppings and we scrambled up them as high as we could go. On the way we saw a few trails not on our map. As I understand it, these are trails that cross private land (not part of the official "patch" trail system).

Bald Knob (hmm, wonder why they call it that?)
We headed down Bald Knob trail to the Turtleback trail all the way to the pond. Both trails were nothing more than dirt roads - boring, though we did see a cool old stone foundation.  At the pond we met a group of walkers looking for a dog.  Apparently one in their group was walking a dog for someone else and it wandered off.  

After lunch we looked back at the trails to complete on  Hike 1, having just completed Hike 5.  We headed up Oak Ridge trail toward the overlook.  This trail looked dry and flat (just another dirt road) but was booby trapped with mud pits, hidden by a blanket of leaves.  After dodging about 1/3 of a mile of traps, we ascended onto firmer land and eventually got to the overlook.  

Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey NH is that peak in the distance.
Not only is there a beautiful panoramic view of the western and northern portions of our state, there is a detailed sign indicating which mountains we were looking at, spanning from Mt. Major to our left, all the way to Mt. Cardigan to our right.

All peaks identified on this sign.
We headed down Oak Ridge, took the connector to Shannon Brook down to the Brook Walk so we could complete that trail.

Rich gave me that look of "I'm tired and I don't want to hike this trail, can we go now?"  I countered with a "we are here to do this so we are getting this one done!" look.  Neither of us were into it.  Until we got on the trail.  

The Brook Walk descends to the brook. I could hear Rich yelling, "you know we are going to have to hike back up again"  - like that was news.  The brook area has a series of walkways and a meandering trail that lead you to and through bubbling water and spectacular waterfalls.  After hiking miles of dirt road, we were thrilled to have a real trail with nice scenery  - and the sun had finally come out!
Just one of the beautiful waterfalls on this walk.
The Brook Walk was the highlight of the hike.  We headed back to the car, intent on finding draft beer. Two hikes down, five to go!

Hikes 1 and 5 combined:
Mileage:  8.95 RT
Elevation gain: 1,921'
Peaks bagged:  Bald Knob
Trails completed: Shannon Brook, Bald Knob Cutoff, Bald Knob, Oak Ridge, Brook Walk.


APRIL 15, 2012 HIKE 6 - Turtleback Mountain. I picked another hike on the easterly side of the conservation area and parked at the lower parking lot again.  Hiking up Shannon Brook trail rather than parking at Shannon Pond (the upper lot) adds about a mile each way.  
Looking at other trip reports like helped me to figure distance, time and elevation gain (the booklet that comes with the Castle in the Clouds Conservation Trust map does not easily give you total distances or elevation gain).  I also saw where other hikers took Bald Knob Cutoff as a shortcut to Turtleback Mountain trail.  That's what we did.  The day was warm and sunny and we knew the views would be amazing.

Turtleback Mountain trail is a carriage road (or maintenance road) with lots of switchbacks.  We were quite bored by the time we got to the Turtleback Summit trail.

Trail is a wide dirt road with switchbacks.
We were disappointed to find the summit trail simply another carriage road; it did get narrower and more interesting toward the summit, however.  Woods gave way to rock and a few feet later we were standing on Turtleback Mountain, and unimpressive chunk of rock with good views of Black Snout and Mt. Shaw.

Rich making his final ascent up Turtleback Mountain.
 We were starving and immediately sat down to eat lunch. We were quickly greeted by black flies -  and ticks.  

I pulled my boots off to empty trail litter, regretting having left my ankle gaiters at home.  Mts. Shaw and Black Snout were still brown and gray, too soon in the year to have any visible buds.

Northerly view from Turtleback Mountain summit.
We headed down toward Shannon Pond; this hike includes Lower Bridle Path so we could not back track down Bald Knob Cutoff.  To fight off boredom, we bushwhacked many of the switchbacks on Turtleback Mountain trail, racing to see who would get back on trail first (I'm so ashamed!).  It wasn't long before we got to the Faraway Mountain Trail junction, which brings several other trails together as well.

Lower Bridle Path is more like 100 yards from this sign.
Lower Bridle was a refreshing change from the endless road walking we were doing.  The overlook shown on the map is actually a small knob side path with nice views. We went up just to be able to claim we hiked the whole trail.  Views are nice.

View from overlook .2 miles from Lower Bridle Path.
Got to the pond and headed down Shannon Brook Trail (a wider road, looks like they are doing significant excavation on it).  All in all a good day exploring in central NH!

Hike 6:
Mileage:  8.41 RT
Elevation gain: 1,595'
Peaks bagged:  Turtleback Mountain
Trails completed: Turtleback Summit Trail, Lower Bridle Path.


MAY 12, 2012 HIKE 3 - Mts. Faraway and Roberts  Our friends Marie and David hiked with us today, which greatly alleviated our boredom on the Faraway trail (we were so tired of hoofing up and down carriage roads and switchbacks!).  

Today was the day that Castle in the Clouds was to open, which would finally open the road to the parking lot.  When we got there, the road was still gated but taking a right on Ossipee Park Road, (less than a mile past the lower parking area) brought us up to the Castle Springs Bottling plant and the third parking lot.

We headed toward Cold Spring Road around 9:30 and our chatting caused us to overshoot the well marked Cold Spring trail; we had to backtrack.  Cold Spring trail was like most of the trails in this area - quite simply a carriage road.  

The trail was short and soon we were at the Faraway Mountain trail which seemed to go on forever without deviation of scenery or terrain.  When Faraway Mountain trail intersected the High Ridge trail it narrowed and we caught glimpses of Mt. Shaw to our right.  

David taking in picture of me taking a picture of him.
We got to the overlook where the views of the Belknaps and the lake were spectacular.  I knew that the summit of Faraway Mountain was coming up soon.
A beautiful blue day in the Ossipees!
Mt. Faraway is not on the list of peaks to bag for the hiking patch.  In fact, it is shown on the map as an "area" to the left of the trail, with the marker of 2782' far to the right of the trail.  This area has a lot of privately owned peripheral property, which may be the reason why Faraway didn't make the cut.  Still, I had heard there was an antenna up there and I wanted to find it.  Someone had mentioned to Marie that it was a path with a chain on it.

We found it shortly after the overlook.

A very rusty chain hangs over the path to the Faraway summit. Note the rusty equipment to the left.  
We headed up the path, not quite sure if we were headed to the Faraway summit.  The path, which had several colors of survey tape on the trees, first headed right, away from where Rich's GPS indicated the top was (judging from the topo contour lines), then the path cut left headed into the woods and toward a clearing where we saw two towers and two solar panels.  The summit is located about .5 miles from the High Ridge trail. We stopped and had lunch.

The summit of Mt. Faraway
Once we got back to the High Ridge trail we zipped right along to the summit of Mt. Roberts, which gave us great views of Mt. Washington, still gleaming from a bit of snow.

We headed back to the car via the Mt. Roberts trail. This is a true trail, with rock slabs, great views,and  some steep areas. We slab-hopped back toward the bottom surrounded by spectacular views of the lake.  It was a great day to be out. Since the trail spit us out by the horse barn, I didn't feel much like heading to the Pond to do the Pond trail.  I will get that the next time.

Mt. Roberts trail
Hike: 3
Mileage:  10.1 RT
Elevation gain: 1,631'
Peaks bagged: Faraway Mountain and Mount Roberts
Trails completed:  Cold Spring trail (did not do the .5 mile Pond trail this time)


NOVEMBER 23, 2012 HIKE 2 - Mt. Shaw  It's been over six months since we hiked this area, opting for more impressive peaks in New Hampshire and Maine.  As conditions north got icy, we turned our thoughts back to the patch and the remaining three hikes.  Today we decided to hike Mt. Shaw via the Bridles, Oak Ridge Cut-Off and High Ridge trails.  

We parked on the upper lot  (the third lot) a few hundred yards from Shannon Pond. Castle in the Clouds was closed for the season as was the main road (there was a Christmas function happening there on this day).  

Shannon Pond is just past this kiosk.
 The trail was dry and like the spring, covered in leaves. Like Lower Bridle, Upper Bridle was a narrow trail which would have been tough to follow if not for the many blazes and markers on the trees and rocks. 

Trail is narrow and not well trodden.
Oak Ridge Cut-Off, like Faraway and High Ridge trails, is basically a service road for the area whose surface resembled freshly plowed earth.  With the leaf cover we were constantly tripping over hidden rocks and mud puddles.  In the distance we could hear shots, it was hunting season.  We met a hunter coming down from Mt. Shaw which made me glad we remembered to wear bright orange.

After a long walk on the relatively flat High Ridge trail, we hit the summit of Mt. Shaw.  It was colder than anticipated as we sat down to lunch and admired the views of Mts. Chocorua, Washington, Wildcat and the Moats.

On our way back to the car we noticed fencing and signs - a reminder that this area is heavily traveled by snowmobiles in the winter. Because of this we are shooting to have the remaining two hikes done before snowfall.

What you are seeing is the underbelly of what was a wide dirt road.
As we passed the Shannon Pond kiosk on our way to the car we noticed the top of the Shannon Brook trail (essentially a road to the pond) we noticed serious damage to this road. 

Hike: 2
Mileage:  8.5 RT
Elevation gain: 1,770'
Peaks bagged: Mt. Shaw
Trails completed:  Upper Bridle, Oak Ridge Cut-Off, Pond (we finally got that one done)


DECEMBER 9, 2012 HIKE 7 - Black Snout

This is the longest of the 7 hikes and we picked a cool fall day to get out and walk - once again - the miles and miles of carriage/service roads/trails that make up the Castle in the Clouds conservation area.

Again we parked on the upper lot  (third lot) a few hundred yards from Shannon Pond. Castle in the Clouds was closed for the season, to reopen in June 2013.

On our hike a few weeks before, I came upon a huge blowdown on the Lower Bridle trail. I must've missed the blazes indicating that way is no longer the path (it's been relocated).   As you can see from the picture below, these blazes are hard to miss!

Upper Bridle trail has been relocated.
The Castle in the Clouds area is quite beautiful but the larger trails (Faraway, Turtleback, High Ridge) quickly become miles of "much of the same."  We'd never been to Black Snout and looked forward to the adventure but dreaded having to trudge along these long, monotonous service roads.

The map showed many switchbacks on the Turtleback Mountain trail and today we would have to hike to the end (about 5 miles). Parts of that trail we'd done in previous hikes would not be redone today as we found a pretty defined bushwhack that cut through the 10 switchbacks.  These shortcuts relieved our boredom and really LRCT, they should be the official trail; it's better than souring enthusiastic hikers with the continuous, unnecessary turns of this long country roads (this area is not steep enough to need switchbacks).

It isn't a bushwhack at all but a well defined path, don't you think?
 There is one interesting bridge on the trail deep into the woods, with a wood "insert" to keep service vehicles and snowmobiles from going in the drink when they take the sharp turn.

This sturdy bridge has a small addition to keep people out of the drink!
Finally we made it to the High Ridge trail and turned up the High Ridge trail toward Mt. Shaw, turning right just before the summit - on to Black Snout trail.

And what a sweet trail Black Snout is!
 Immediately we were on a sweet path (still a service road, my guess) hugged with trees.  On the right we could see glimpses of lake and valley; quite pleasant. We took a left off the path to get to the summit.  The trees fell away and we could see the mountains and lake below.

It was a fairly clear day!

The summit is flat and grassy.
To complete the Black Snout trail we had to get back to the trail and continue on it (take a right, toward Turtleback Mountain trail).  It took longer than we thought it would but once on Turtleback, we headed for the shortcuts and zoomed down the road, back to Lower Bridle and to our cars.  We won't miss hiking the Turtleback Mountain trail anytime soon, that's for sure!  We headed to our celebratory beer, hoping to finish up the last of the trails in the next few weeks.

Hike: 7
Mileage:  11.7 RT
Elevation gain: 1,590'
Peaks bagged: Black Snout
Trails completed:  Turtleback, and Black Snout trails


April  14, 2013 HIKE 4 - Ridge Walk (LAST HIKE!)

This hike completes the remaining stretches of Faraway and High Ridge trails. In order to complete these two sections of trail, Rich and I have to hike a few we've already done.  There are no shortcuts to the uncompleted pieces (hence the 9 mile trek).   We got to the third parking lot around 11:15 and headed past the pond to the Lower Bridle trail.

Still a little ice on the pond but no snow!

We'd been procrastinating on this one as we knew most of the hike (about 9 miles) would be on carriage roads, not very exciting.  Spring was here and although still quite snowy in the Whites, we knew the lower elevation and latitude would have melted most of the snow in the Ossipees. 

We were SO wrong!

Lower Bridle and Upper Bridle, two of the three trails we took to get to the unfinished section of the High Ridge trail, had interesting, varied terrain (more like a hiking trail as opposed to a carriage road).  It didn't take long for areas of snow to appear but the ground was still pretty firm.

Small patches of snow
As soon as we got to the Upper Bridle trail the scene was quite different. Snow had not melted as much as we'd anticipated and if not for the many blazes on this trail we would have become quite disoriented.  Snow blanketed the ground without so much as an animal track.

This trail had not been used in quite some time.
It was beautiful though, to be out on a bright and mild day in the quiet of a woods that hadn't been used.  As we gently ascended we could see glimpses of the lakes and Black Snout.

We came upon the Oakridge Cut-off trail and took a right toward the High Ridge trail.  We stopped for lunch by a stream, laying on the pad in the snow, sunning ourselves.

Our lunch spot.

About a half mile from our lunch spot we took a left on the High Ridge trail and into about 3 feet of snow.  I put my microspikes on and Rich bare-booted.  We should've brought our snowshoes and were guilty of post holing a time or two (okay, more than just a time or two).  The High Ridge trail is another carriage road - most likely used by snowmobilers in the winter.  The walk became mundane and we were quite excited to finally get to the Faraway trail intersection.

The snow softened on the descent (more post holing - what were we thinking by leaving the snowshoe in the car?!).  This trail is yet another carriage road with many switchbacks and boredom was replaced by bushwhacking to the next turn in the trail. 

Looking through the woods we could see the trail past the switchback.  So we bushwhacked!
I've expressed this before: the carriage road trails would be less mundane if the trail cut through the many switchbacks. By cutting through the woods we turned our 9 mile hike into a less  boring 7.3 mile hike. 

The trail wound around a gorge (quite pretty) and soon we were back at the Lower Bridle trail junction.  We got to the car having seen only one other couple on the 7 miles of trail. 

Rich confessed later that reports he'd seen during the week indicated this area still had a lot of snow but he didn't believe it.  Lesson learned: bring snowshoes in April! 

When we got home I sent in the application for the hiking patches and set my sights on planning our late spring/summer hikes.

Hike: 4

Mileage:  7.3 miles (lollipop route)
Elevation gain: 1,200' ish

Trails completed: Faraway and High Ridge trails.  

LRCT Challenge DONE!