Saddleback is heavily wooded, although from the air it appears very ledgy.
Given its isolated location , seems like it should have terrific views.
Yet, there are very few references or trail reports around. Mysterious.
This one report covers 4 separate trips spanning the last month or so.
Saddleback has been on my back burner for a while, being a local mountain that should have great views.
In April I intended to hike in the Belknaps but there was too much ice ( considering I had forgotten my spikes ) so I decided to divert to Saddleback.
There is a pleasant trail accessible from Northwood Meadows State Park or from Old Mountain Road in Northwood off Rt 43.
I parked in a little wide area at the end of the tar, and walked down the road to the gate. Just beyond the gate, to the left, is the beginning of the Parsonage Loop Trail.
The trail winds thru some very pleasant woods, with a stream and a couple of beaver bogs, some hardwood and conifers, and ascends an interesting ledge shoulder.
It shortly reaches a vista providing a partially overgrown and narrow view of the Belknaps, with Mt Passaconaway peeking over them.
Mt Shaw can be seen and Chocorua and Washington peer over its shoulder.
From the vista , there is a trail back down to Northwood Meadows, which can be used to make a loop. It's not as interesting as just returning via the Parsonage Trail. But there is another trail that heads up and South from the vista...
Legend has it that this trail goes back to Deerfield and the WENH Tower on the South peak of the mountain. But, with no map or reference for this trail, and reluctant to find myself in a maze of overgrown logging roads or what not out in the back of the state park, I never got around to following this trail.
This past month I started following the trail, only to find that it faded away. Thinking it was possibly abandoned and overgrown, I followed it as far as I could, then proceeded to brushwhack toward the South peak and the tower.
The woods in the area are relatively open, so it wasn't terribly hard to find the mountain's true summit and a few ledgy openings. Though there are no reports of snakes, I couldnt help but think what fine habitat it would be for rattlers. Also for bears. Given reports of at least one "very large" bear , and several livestock raids in the area, bears were on my mind. You have to think about these things when solo hiking where the trail runs out .... at least, I do :)
Eventually on the first trip I did pop out of the woods near the WENH tower. After a short time looking around I headed back the way I came. It wasnt terribly hard finding my way back to the Parsonage trail vista and back out.
The next trip out was more directed at finding some of the ledges on the Northeast side of the summit I had identified as potential view sites. I also located an old reference to the "missing" trail on the local online newspaper. This provided just enough of a hint and just enough incentive to make me explore for the trail a little more carefully. I found a candidate but did not have time to explore it on this trip, instead just wandering around looking for ledge.
After finding several openings too surrounded by trees to allow for views, I returned form this trip.
Finally, on the last trip, I located the missing trail. It is more difficult to follow than trails most hikers are familiar with, lots of trail litter, and barely discernible in a few spots. But, thankfully, no beaver bogs to cross :)
The trail does eventually come out on Tower Rd, and it made a nice loop to hike up to the tower and then back into the woods to look for more view outcroppings. I'll leave out any more details and leave it as a puzzle for the interested :)
This being the hottest day of the year so far, I underestimated my water supply and after locating a couple of my remaining ledge targets decided I should not seek the last 3 and headed back out.
As I mentioned, the woods are fairly open and pretty amenable to brushwhacking. One interesting element though is the geology. I noticed many rocky ourcrops. These are sometimes an obstacle, sometimes a brief sidewalk. The relatively flat summit combined with these ledgy ourcrops results in a number of wet spots, and a few ledge walls that have to be navigated. Generally it is not too hard to find breaks in the walls and ways around the shallow bogs. Several of the ledges have shallow caves similar to ( but smaller than) the Devils Den below Mt Pawtuckaway.
This essay has been pretty meandering, which is fitting I suppose for the several meandering trips it covers.
So ... several trips, a few views, a found trail, bit of brushwhacking ... not a bad way to spend a few Spring afternoons.
Even after 4 trips, there are still a couple of possibilities I want to look at. Maybe in addition to a couple more ledges to check out I'll go look for the plane crash site...
But not until after black fly season!