It was finally time. A four day weekend made excuses rough, so the 5 month hiatus from hiking was about to end. But where. The weather looked far sunnier (and less windier) to the south, and I kept going further south until I remembered Fort Mountain in Epsom. I see this peak all the time from I-93, and have heard it is farly viewy. A little research showed it to be a 2 mile hike. Oh wait, nearbe Nottingham Mountain is the Deerfield highpoint, something I pursue on the side if conditions warrant. The conditions warrant. The dude abides.
Slept until I felt like getting up, moseyed around, finally left arriving at 9:30. I like this lazy hiking attitude. Of course, a 50 minute drive doesn't hurt. I found the access road (thanks for Fred Shirley for the confirmation photo), and tried parking directly across, but that was sketchy. Finally I parked just up the road at a spot that seemed right, hopefully not irking the folks who lived nearby. Come to find out some ATV'ers parked about 100 feet up the access road at a firm shoulder, so I think that's more than ok.
OK, I'm hiking again! There was a small dilapidated building next to the road to start with, this could be an interesting day. A bit further up, the road was gated, but with a hikers welcome sign. I started off pretty fast, but as the road climbed, I slowed a bit, but not as much as I would've thought for how out of shape I was. In fact, I was up in 30 minutes. Crazy. OK, it was only about 650 feet of elevation gain, but I'm still surprised.
Just before the summit, I spied a herd path going left to some ledges with some ok views. Back up to tag the summit, the comm. tower building blew out a nice stream of warm air through the exhausts. Problem was it was around 40 by this point, heading for near 50, so warmth was not a priority for me. For once. I took a nice break on the summit, snapping a few pics, and couldn't help but post a picture to Facebook to annouce my return. Views were a bit hazy, however, and even Monadnock was barely visible. Even Kearsarge was not particularly clear.
No Whites sightings either, either due to trees or bad visibility, but no matter. It was a gorgeous day, warm and a light breeze, and I was finally out again. After an easy trip, it was an easy decision to go off to Nottingham Mountain, with 3 bumps qualifying as the Deerfield town highpoint, and as I later found out, the Rockingham County highpoint. Shameless peakbagging continues. I came across some other nice ledges, shot a bearing to a bump on the ridge that would avoid needless elevation loss and heading off.
I was also happy to be bushwhacking again, it felt good. And then crap. 6 foot ledge after 6 foot ledge. Slippery fall (err, winter?) leaves, and hidden rocks. Fun! Right?! I trudged along and noticed a ridgeline rising up in between the bump and me. Huh? Oh double crap, I was heading way off line to Nats Peak. Correct, carry on. Occassionally I'd hit thick sapling woods, started seeing beaver activity, which was explained by a series of dams.
Following that, one of the best preserved rock walls I've ever come across.
Ahead I could see the much desired ridge line, and plodded up, skirting left staying below it in easier grades to try to gain it. Oh wait, a potential viewpoint! Direct line to the ridge and whaaaaa? A very nice road. On the ridge, heading right towards the summit. Well then. The viewpoint was not one, but this road made for good time. Except the occassional mud puddle.
Happily along and up, I came to one of the three highest contours, and was thrilled (well, no, not really) to find all manner of bumps around. All must be explored to count in my mind (at least for this list). And then I saw this:
Couldn't find the story behind it, but would love to know.
Off to the next bump, all on the road, until I felt I needed to walk the exact ridgeline. And then the final bump, which was a great open area. Not much for views, but good for plane watching, including an Airbus 330 KLM heading to Washington (I love the internet...).
A nice long break, then spied yet one more bump, and feeling satisfied, I followed the road down to see where it went, at least as long as it was heading in the right direction. This happened for a good long while, until I could see the road was heading on the wrong side of a bump (Nats Peak. Again.) I found an older road going in the right direction, and just had to follow a ravine regardless, but the road indeed went pretty much all the way to the car, albeit in brooky and muddy conditions. And then I came out in a field. A big, BIG field. Crap. I hate trudging in people's property in full view, especially not knowing if it's posted on the far side. Plus I heard voices to the left. Plus I heard shooting in this exact direction all afternoon. I don't mind people shooting, I do get nervous popping out in weird locations where they might not know I am. Sigh. I headed to skirt the field at the far left and found an electric fence in my way. Yoiks. A tree stump took care of that and I headed to a back road, again complete with electric fence. Rocks did the deal that time. It was used as an ATV trail and friendly waves were exchanged before coming to my car.
Good to be out in the woods again. Spoiled by the incredible lack of snow except in scattered patches, but I'll take it while I can. Another 4 day weekend coming. Perhaps something a little longer. Perhaps.