Champing at the bit all week with the clear weather; walks in Bear Brook were great but just not enough to satisfy the hunger for some views.
Not to mention the bugs are starting to get aggressive around here.
So with Saturday looking stellar I planned to head north. Reports of snow, mud and monorails made the higher summits less interesting. The interior Belknaps have been on my mind a while, particularly after a bruised tendon last fall shortened a hike out to West Quarry mountain. A new trail map available for the Belknap range added a bit more enticement.
So, the first obstacle: get out early with the intent of getting home in time for some yard work. Ok, made the late night packing and early rise two step. Next obstacle - an absolutely gorgeous morning , with mist rising in the sunlight from every pond, stream and field I passed. The temptation was strong to stop and take pictures ... but I knew I'd never make trailhead at a reasonable time that way!
( I finally gave in at Crystal Lake )
Continuing on the back roads of Gilmanton I met two fellows out for a quick early morning turkey hunt. Stopped to check directions to the Boy Scout Camp - yep, I'd overshot. Turns out there is more than one camp out there, they directed me to the wrong one. I did get to see a turkey in the road they had directed me to , though. Turning around, saw the two fellows again, they had just come out of the woods - no turkey. Didnt have the heart to tell them tehy should have come with me :)
Finally reached trailhead, and thanks to the new map and some online research made my way thru the snarl of snowmobile and logging trails ... and walked past the Mack Ridge trail junction. It's incredibly obvious once you've seen it, and I usually don't miss trail junctions ... fortunately I didnt go too far before realizing the miss.
Walking down the road trail, I saw another turkey. Those guys should have come hiking :)
The Mack Ridge Trail ( "Orange trail") is wonderful. Some nice rock work, rises steeply, narrow, just technical enough to require some attention , but I saw no "scrambles" as one description mentioned. The markers are faded and its a lightly used trail so a few times it required a little looking around to find my way, but nothing troublesome. The leaves and the occasional tippy rock required some care in footing. Otherwise, thoroughly enjoyable trail, for ascent. I'd avoid it for descent if possible.
Although wooded, the MRT had plenty of outlooks to keep me interested (and digging out my camera). A few bonus views were available courtesy of several logging cuts, which had been well cleared of debris. The MRT passes thru a variety of woods, hardwood, mature and juvenile conifers. Very nice, highly recommended.
At the junction of the red trail, the ascent of Mt Mack began, on a very different trail, more an open logging or snowmobile road. Steady but not steep or difficult, and leading to some outstanding views. One of the best was a small ledge around which a few trees had been harvested and the view enhanced. Thanks, whoever did that ! It certainly didnt damage the forest, and sure enhanced the walk.
Original plan included an out-and-back from Mack to Mt Anna, but as I started to descend toward Anna, decided to turn back. I decided that Anna probably didnt have what I was looking for in the way of views, so back to Mack and over to Klem. Which certainly did have what I was looking for -
From Klem, I walked over to Mt Rand - a much sharper drop into a col than I expected. The Klem-Rand trail section is clearly less used than the Klem-Mack loop, and much rougher. There were a couple of outlooks along the trail, but the summit is wooded. The east slope Might have some outlooks, but I opted to turn back after going just past the summit.
Back on Klem, the trail loops northward for a wonderful view of the Lake and the Ossippees. After enjoying the view for a while, descended Klem to Round Pond, and began heading down the Red Trail back toward the car. This section of trail exceeded my expectations hugely. I expected a flat boring trail - instead it follows the outlet of Round Pond thru a gorge with a number of nice views of its own. I can only imagine how wild and exciting a trip this must be for kids up from Mass or New York! It must be a wonderful adventure for them.
So, finally made it back to the car, to the sound of marine JROTC troops doing cadence - or something that involved a lot of yelling in unison - and a nice chat with a man shepherding a youth group - or perhaps it was extended family? - on a weekend outing.
I spent a while finding my way along the backrooads until I reached 107. The ride from Gilmanton to rt 28 on 107 is worthwhile in its own right - there were a couple spots where the view from the road is equal to anything I saw. Though without the walk, the impact is just not the same :)
Black flies - numerous, but not biting . Glad of safety glasses to keep 'em out of my eyes.
Ticks - did not find any on me afterward. But the Mack Ridge Trail and connectors between Klem, Mack & Rand are all impossible to walk without brushing the .. erm, brush. Sure seemed like tick country; maybe the permethrin worked.
Long report ... If you've made it this far, you deserve the rest of the pictures :)
Thanks for reading !