Jim (SilentCal) had planned a hike-nh.com group hike for quite some time now, and I had been looking forward to meeting some new faces. Alas, the bailouts were numerous, some I suspect weary of the recent snow up north. JustJoe and I had tossed about car spotting, but his route was shaky concerning his fiancé, so I just decided to do an out and back, with the irresistible bonus of buying me extra sleep. I got up at 7:30, a welcome relief from the pitch black of 5:00. The drive was also blessedly short (especially after hiking Kelsey last weekend) and I was on the trail at 9:30. The crossing of Drakes Brook is almost immediate, and I was dancing my way across as I found black ice on the rocks, knowing stopping now would bring a day of wet feet. Despite me being the clumsiest person I know, I made it across dry. Odd, yet peculiar.
The trail goes through stretches of moderate grades, and it wasn’t long before snow appeared. Well, that’s it for bare trails until spring, then. The trail then hits some steep stretches going up to Noon Peak, which wasn’t helping my already grumpy mood, but being solo today, I just went at whatever pace I felt like. The plan was to meet up top at 12:30, so I knew I had plenty of time. I was really looking forward to getting up to Noon Peak, because from there it was a nice fairly flat ridge walk to Jennings Peak.
And so Noon Peak came and went, and then I came to the first ledge outlook, giving great views of Sandwich down to Waterville. It was a gorgeously clear day in the low 30’s with light winds, a far cry from the mostly cloudy conditions promised by the weather service. OK, grumpiness gone – the mountains have once again provided their therapy. I stayed for a while, playing Guess That Peak by myself (I lost), and visually exploring paths up Flat Mtn., a NH3k peak. Finally I pushed on, enjoying the flat ridge walk, coming to the Jennings Peak spur. On the way up I ran into Joe and met Scott, aka Pacemaker. I instantly liked this guy. We talked for a bit and I set off in search of more views.
Jennings Peak is a gem, with fantastic views south and west. The steep cliffs of Sachem Peak are in your face, and in the far distance Kearsarge, Monadnock and Ascutney can be seen. I went through the brush a little more to the west and got an interesting view of Welch and Dickey through the trees.
I set off to the Dome, hitting moderate slopes to get that last 500 feet of gain, and in about 30-40 minutes heard voices up top and loudly announced my presence. Intros were made, somehow I had a rough time recognizing KellyK and TrailCred (her mom was up top, too). I at least guessed Jim correctly. We all chatted for about 1.5 hours, having a very pleasant time. Kelly and clan left a little early, and the rest of us were all going down Drakes Brook, but I wanted to boogie, Joe was providing rides and Jim’s knees weren’t going to let him go too fast, so I bid my adieus and flew down the mountain, making good time to the brook, but then time could’ve stood still. While the brook was especially pretty, and there was a 25 foot tall boulder that I explored, this trail just wouldn’t end.
And then, it did. Just not where I expected (ohhhh, the parking lot?). The trail dead-ended at the brook side. I looked across, saw no blaze, saw no trail, saw no junction. I looked back – this was obviously the trail. Not obvious at all what to do here. I double checked the guide, and this must be the crossing. Once across and up the bank, it was now obvious where the trail went and you quickly come out on the wide highway that runs up towards Fletchers Cascades. From here it’s a short jaunt to the car, arriving just before 4.
This is one of my favorite types of hikes, ridge walk with views on the way up, brookside on the way down. I was overanxious to get out which made the trail seem longer. After all that I saw, I’m looking forward to exploring more of this region soon.