Monday, October 15, 2012

Sandwich Dome and Jennings Peak, October 13, 2012.

Sandwich Dome (3,980') and Jennings Peak (3,460') via Sandwich Mountain, Jennings Spur and Drakes Brook trails, October 13, 2012

Mileage:  8.6 miles (lollipop loop)

Elevation gain: 3,030''

Trailhead: Route 49 toward Waterville Valley, take a right less than a mile before (south of) Tripoli Road. The parking lot is straight ahead. The Sandwich Mountain Trail trailhead is located just before the parking lot on the right.

Lesson learned:  "Dome" does not necessarily guarantee a 360° view!

Hiked with Rich today. There were many other options out there for us but I chose Jennings Peak and Sandwich Dome for the following reasons:

1.    Less driving time than hiking the Whites
2.    Rich has never done these peaks
3.    It has been six years since I hiked Sandwich Dome (see previous report)
4.    I don't recall ever hiking Jennings Peak
5.    Both trails on the loop are pretty mellow
6.    It was a bright clear day and the views will be spectacular (especially at the Dome)

Both Sandwich Dome and Jennings Peak are on the "52 with a View" list, a list I am not working on (but you may be).  Sandwich Dome (also called Sandwich Mountain) is also on the "New England Hundred Highest" list, a list I am working on. 

We were late heading out the door that morning and even more delayed when the coordinates we put in the Garmin were for a different trailhead.  The Sandwich Mountain parking lot is hard to miss - good signage, though there are several other trailhead parking areas in the vicinity.  It was a beautiful fall day and the parking lot was filling up fast.

We headed up Sandwich Mountain trail.
The sign led us to a cross country ski run and as we headed down a power transfer station was on our right.  There's a worn path to the section of woods and the start of the trail. There is no sign but as we walked by the power station we looked for a cut in the woods on our left.  A faded yellow blaze is evident on a tree a few steps onto the trail.

Trail heads into the woods on the left.
 Immediately we descended to the water crossing (Drakes Brook).  The recent rains made for few choices to cross.  We headed up the shore to find more rock options.  

The water was swift and most hopping rocks were submerged.
The water was high and swift.  Several groups of hikers came and went, not without a wet boot or two. Had we headed below the trail we might've found more options but eventually we removed our boots and crossed (a first for us).

The air was cold and crisp. Thankfully the water was warmer.

With that behind us we started up a mild grade.  This area was not well blazed and with the heavy leaf cover we wondered at times if we were on the trail.  Eventually we saw more blazing and the trail became easier to find (in fact, I went back to this spot to make sure we had the trail and not some well used bushwhack).

A thick blanket of leaves disguised roots, rocks and tricky footing.
 The trail had several steep spots, all in the same vicinity. At one point we just kept climbing the rocks to find that we'd overshot the trail.  There was a right turn part way up the steeps and we'd missed it.  A herd path got us back on the right track.

A few steep sections on this trail.

On our way up we stopped for a minute at Noon Peak for spectacular views of Mounts Washington and Bond, and Scar Ridge (another upcoming adventure).  

We got to the trail junction after what seemed like an exceptionally long last mile (we were out of shape!).  Here is where Drakes Brook trail came in. 

We continued on and took a right at the sign for Jennings Peak.  

".2 Jennings Peak"
The peak was at the top of a very short steeper area, with beautiful views. A group had also just arrived and as we sat down to lunch, two of them lit cigarettes and drank rum. They were up from Haverhill, MA, enjoying the day, wishing it was just a bit warmer.  We would leap frog this group for the rest of the day.  

A clear day on Jennings Peak.

One hiker suggested we enjoy the view at Jennings because Sandwich Dome did not have a good view.  What!!??   I recalled the summit as having fine views and was surprised to hear this.  We would soon find out.  After our lunch we started on the last mile (and 480' gain) to Sandwich Dome. 

The day was chilly, in the 40s and we dodged icy patches here and there.  We rounded the corner to find a light blanket of snow on the trail.  It was cold and shady and there would be no melting today!

We told everyone we hiked in the snow!
l think we expected some steep or slab or scramble just before the top but it never came.   Next thing we knew we were at the top of Sandwich Dome, a small outcrop with surrounding trees.  

Summit of Sandwich Dome (no USGS marker, just a bent metal rod in the rock).
There was a view to the north.  I hopped up on the rock to get a photo. 

Not exactly the 360° view I was expecting but nice nonetheless.

It was too cold to linger so we headed down quickly.  The snow cover wasn't slippery. In fact, the thick wet leaves at the lower elevations were more of a hazard. 

At the trail junction we took Drakes Brook trail, an easy wide trail that turns into a road. We met our happy hiking group (the rum was taking affect) and we heard giggles now and then as we continued down. 

Leaves on the mellow Drakes Brook trail.

Once again we crossed the Drakes Brook, only this time there were better rock hopping options. Across the brook the trail becomes a road that hugs the brook all the way to the parking lot.  
Road to the left, brook to the right.  
A popular hiking destination, Sandwich Dome can get crowded and as we drove away, we saw that the parking lot had filled to capacity, with cars spilling out onto the highway.  

In our opinion, Jennings Peak has the real views, which today were a bit rusty (foliage had gone by).  Noon Peak was nice too and both destinations in their own right.  

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