Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mts. Morgan and Percival, October 25, 2014

Mt. Morgan (2,220') and Mt. Percival (2,212') via Mt. Morgan, Crawford-Ridgepole, Mt. Percival and Morse trails, October 25, 2014.

Mileage:  5.3 (loop)

Elevation gain:  1,648'
Trailhead: I-93N Exit 24 onto US Rte 3 S about 4.6 miles to Holderness. Turn left on to NH Route 113 and continue 5.6 miles to Morgan trailhead on left.  (The Mt. Percival trailhead about 1/8 mile farther, also on left.)
Hiked with Rich today. These mountains are on the "Terrifying 25" list (a list I am not working on but you may be!). 
Mid- to late- fall is not my favorite time to hike.  Leaves are slippery and a generous layer resting on the forest floor makes it tough to follow the trail.  We experienced both today but the warm sun and calm winds made this the perfect fall hike!
The Squam Lake Association (SLA) maintains these and the other trails in the area and it shows.  You'll find them well groomed and blazed.
Plenty of parking.
Well blazed.

Although well blazed and signed, where to go can be confusing at times and we had to pay attention, particularly given the trail and the woods are covered with a thick layer of fallen leaves. And, this area has a lot of old roads intersecting the trail, inviting you to go astray. Logs are placed across to signal that this is not the trail but several times we found ourselves not noticing them and stepping over them, certain that was the way to go.

Mt. Morgan trail is mellow (a bit too low key at first).

This sign marks the beginning (or end, depending on direction) of the Morse trail.

We quickly reached and passed the junction of the Morse trail (we would take the Morse trail from the Mt. Percival trail to get back to our car once we make the loop).

Trails goes through a stone wall.

The path was dry and quite comfy on this cool, bright day.  Temps warmed to well above 50°.  I love hiking in short sleeves!

About one mile in we hit a muddy stretch, marked with rocks for hopping. 

Cute little stepping stones!
Things got, well, boring.  I'd done this hike before in 2006, remembered some ladders along the way and was anxious to get to it!
Continuing on to Mt. Morgan.

And there they were!  

The ladders of Mt. Morgan. 

There's a bypass here if you don't want to do the ladders.

Rich and I took turns getting photos of each other high up the ladders.  As you can see, there are three, the second requiring a side transition from the first.  If you are squeamish about these ladders, know that we aren't big risk takers and we rate these ladders as A-Okay!  My big transition was from the ladder to the rock. 

Great footing for the transition.

This ladder has blocks instead of rungs at the top.

At the top of these ladders is a little pass-through; a squeeze.  Rich took his pack off to get through. That was fun!

The pass-through.
But wait...
There's more....
With the memory faded from my 2006 hike, I thought we would be at the summit after the pass-through. Instead we were treated to a small but exposed scrambly section.  It took me and my short legs a few seconds to figure out how to get a hold but it's there (feel around for a good grip on the first scramble). 

It's well blazed so there's no mistaking where to go. 
We popped out at a wonderful viewpoint where we stopped and had lunch. The day had warmed nicely and the views were rusty but still beautiful.
Yellow jackets buzzed around us, shortening our stay.
We continued on to a "T" intersection where went we left to the Mt. Morgan summit, which by comparison is just ordinary.

View-ish from the summit.
After a photo we turned around and headed back, going straight at that intersection until we got to the sign to Mt. Percival.  We went left on the Crawford-Ridgepole trail .
Left to Mt. Percival (straight goes to the ladder bypass, down Mt. Morgan trail.
At the junction (the sign), we met a couple coming off the trail saying they'd lost the trail further in and didn't know which way to go to get to the summit of Mt. Percival. 
These trails have unexpected twists and turns -  and blazes help greatly to identify them.  In this case there was a wide path (road, maybe) that went straight when the trail went left and up a blazed rock outcropping.  Several trees lie across the wide path in an attempt to block it so hikers won't go straight.  If you're moseying along you could miss that twist, which they did. 
We hopped up the rock and headed toward the summit.  The path to the summit is pretty mellow.
Nice views at the summit!

Hopped onto the highest point.
It was getting late and we got confused as to which way to go down the Mt. Percival trail from the summit as a set yellow blazes heads left and down, and another set heads right and down.  We chose left, which takes you down the cliffs. (Both ways are the trail.  Right and down takes you through the caves.)
Good footing down the cliffs.
At the bottom a sign points both ways, offering a hike up the cliffs, or through the caves. 
Take your pick!
Going got slippery here.  Still steep, the many leaves hide rocks and holes and ...well, there are many leaves!  We skidded, slid and slipped a good part of the way down, where there is a nice mellow trail waiting.
Many leaves.

This is the connector trail to the Mt. Morgan parking lot.

Mt. Morse trail is flat.
This hike was so much fun, with flats, steeps, slabs, scrambles, ladders and caves. Next time we will head up in the opposite direction and check out those caves!