Monday, April 9, 2018

The Peaks of Pawtuckaway

Last week I went from gung-ho about peakbagging to barely wanting to head out at all come Friday night.  Joining Hannah at Pawtuckaway on Saturday, April 7 was the perfect solution.

We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do: Reservation Road to North Mountain (1011'), maybe add in the tower on South (908'), and loop back to the car.  Speaking of rough, apologies for the unedited photos, lack of summary stats, and first draft-level language; I'm still working on finding blog writing time while my brain is still awake!

To get to our starting point, we followed Reservation Road down the hill past where it turns to dirt and parked near the first orange gate (also where the road hooks to the right).

Easiest of easy starts
There were several cars parked along the road and we prepared for a busier day than anticipated.  The trails starts on  what I assume was once a carriage road but quickly we reached the junction with North Mountain Trail and started with a brief, rocky climb.  

There is no snow up to North Mountain!  The trail is well marked with white blazes yet we still found ourselves accidentally wandering off between the sparse trees.  Grades are moderate and the terrain is more akin to that of the Ossipee Range trails than the Whites – more hard packed dirt and rock slabs than boulder-strewn.  It often reminded me of Mt Roberts but a little easier.

Between Ty and Titus, we seem to be in a calamity vortex that included our first porcupine encounter in quite some time.  Ty led as Titus followed her off trail, noses suspiciously angled upwards.  In a strange turn of events, she returned promptly when called and Titus had to be tracked down by his confused barks.  Yep, T’s first quilling L

The bizarreness continued but in a more productive way as we rounded everyone up and away from the languishing porky.  A couple was coming down the hill with their three dogs.  Lo and behold, they were veterinarians! And damn good ones; the guy, whose name I regret forgetting, calmly pulled T’s quills out (with his fingers no less!) and gave a quick recap of recommended aftercare before we continued on.  How Ty didn’t put herself in the middle of the interaction and what made T nip at the animal’s prickly backside more than once has stumped us both!

As we continued on, there were a couple of opportunities for hill views and the wind started to pick up.  We made it down to the old concrete blocks for a short break and Hannah made out better than I did getting the dogs to pose.  Tango has his “front paws up” mastered but won’t stay without constant rewarding just yet.

Between the base of the old tower and the pond, the trail went through patches of dense conifers and has some steep sections with lots of ice-glazed roots.  I was in Bogs and did alright but the party that let us go first was wearing micros and warned me to "be careful."  We enjoyed the alternating tree cover and spring vs. desperate last hold on winter conditions.

"Teach Titus bad things day"
Final drop down to the marsh
Down by the ponds, we wove around the marshes and boulders, somewhat following the trail but appeasing Ty’s exploratory nature. 

There's a reason Carolina Dogs are called "swamp dogs!"
Wallowing season
"Please pretend you love me for two seconds...." 
More neat rocks

Back on another carriage road temporarily, we opted to take South Mountain Trail up to the fire tower.  It seemed steeper than it should have felt and one of the pitches was straight dirt.  Makes me wonder how long before erosion has its way with the trail.

More of TybTangs leading young Titus astray.  They remind me of the archetypal neighborhood teens when someone's younger brother joins the gang.

The trail took some nice breaks, crossed a stream, and continued upwards, more gently towards the top.  Below the tower was nice and open but hosted a handful of people  so we walked over to the open slabs adjacent but devoid of other hikers.  Hannah put in a valiant effort to snap a photo of me with the dogs but I have uncooperative canines and a disappointing lack of understanding of how a real camera works.

Because one tower picture isn't enough

From the clearing just past the tower

From there we made our descent.  The woods were fairly open, I suppose allowing for lots of scent to travel because again Ty and Titus had their noses to the sky.  On that side was also the only place we encountered thick ice as it cascaded over roots.  Winter is barely hanging on!

We bottomed out and took Tower Road to Reservation Road to reach the cars.

I see a conversation of directions ;)
As much as I originally wanted to summit a 4K, Pawtuckaway was exactly what we needed.  I felt accomplished after the 8-point-something miles involving two smaller peaks, Ty got to run around like the crazy dingo she is, and it was another moderate but enjoyable challenge for Tango.  We love this park because there is so much to explore, especially during the off season when it's quieter and dogs are permitted on more of the trails. We plan to return for more time around the marshes and boulders because Ty absolutely loves them, although we may wait til the porcupines are not just coming out of hibernation!  It was a wonderful, strange trip with Hannah and her pups and I’m thrilled beyond words everyone had a fun time!

Trail Map from NH Parks:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Snowshoeing Zealand Road

Blog Gods please forgive me; it's been six months since my last post.  I couldn't have made this one any easier for myself, hopefully as a reintroduction to regular reports!

On Sunday we met up with Hannah, Amy, and their furkids to hike up the seasonally closed Zealand Road off of Rt 302.  Parking is about a quarter mile down the road on the opposite side of the highway at the Ammonoosuc Lower Falls Trailhead.  I'm not sure if it is marked as such but, coming from the south, there is a sign warning hiking trails are coming up.  This time of year, there's always a mix of pick up's trailering snomo's, the snow-covered vehicles of the hardy folk who camp at the hut, an us day-adventure types.

Generally speaking, hikers and skiers walk along the edge of the snomo trail to get to Zealand Road.  After the picnic area and bridge, the snomo trail veers to the left and the road goes up a hill.  About a mile up, just before the bridge that precedes the Sugarloaf Trail, the road shares paths with snowmobiles once more.

We've always done our best to stick to the side during these junctions and the snomo drivers have always kindly given us a wide berth.  Truly a mixed-usage trail success!

Of course, with the blizzard that's currently dumping snow on us, trail status is irrelevant so I share mostly to highlight the enjoyability of walking Zealand Road this time of year.  Thanks to the hut and its suitability for crosscountry skiers, we've yet to break trail on the road.  Snowshoes have always been our foot gear of choice here. 

The road is gentle and elevation gain is minimal.  For us, those qualities afforded the perfect opportunity for Ty to explore and feel accomplished while carefully building up Tango's mileage, in hopes he will want to join us for bigger adventures in the future.  I'm thrilled that these 7.5 miles passed well and he was jovial and loose the next morning!


Most of the road had one well-trodden route and a less packed but still broken out path running parallel.  Hiking as a group, this was a nice feature that offered us the ability to break from the usual single file formation and/or pass easily.  The road follows the river for much of the way and there are a couple of scenic breaks in the trees.  Otherwise, the surrounding woods are pretty dense.

Sleds make great tracks to follow!
Snowshoeing Zealand Road checks a lot of boxes: to gain confidence in the winter, to get outside on the days serious exertion isn't of interest, in a secluded area but you're not alone, and not too long nor too short.   This is a pretty, non-dramatic hike where it's easy to become absorbed in good conversation and the airy peacefulness of the area.

Looking for the easy way down?