Tuesday, September 25, 2018

NH SRKG Section 3 and Ad Hoc AT Connector Section 1

Mt. Sunapee from North Road
Time to finish up the northbound section of the SRK Greenway in Sunapee and then continue northbound on my own ad hoc route. A cold rain was forecast for the entire day, but it started out dry and I headed north from the cemetery on North Road. This road just goes straight up and down hills, at times pretty steeply. No curves. I got a last look back at Mt Sunapee. Bye!

Ledge Pond, Ledge Pond Road (gravel)
The asphalt soon ended at the junction with Trow Hill Road and the road name changes to Ledge Pond Road at some point. This was a much nicer stroll than the asphalt ups and down of North Road.

Ledge Pond Road, not a bad walk
Eventually there is a gate across the gravel road, and a turn-around where you can park. The greenway markers went past the gate and then veered right to stay on a smaller woods road that was a delight to walk.

Ledge Pond Road continues past a gate and turns into more of a trail
It had started drizzling, but wasn't bad under the trees. Then woods road began to parallel a powerline corridor, then the landscape opened up at a farm. Here, the trail enters the town of Grantham and the road surface became hardened as the road name changed to West Road.

Ledge Pond Rd becomes West Road at the Grantham line
The last bit of the SRK Greenway for me was a moody stroll down Hogg Hill Road. No traffic, just a steady drizzle.

A very quiet Hogg Hill Road
And there it was. The junction with Stoney Brook Road. It doesn't look like much of anything, but from this point you can follow trail markings continuously south all the way to the shore of Long Island Sound in Guilford, Connecticut. A pair of SRK Greenway markers pointed emphatically to the right to take trail users east-bound around the big loop. I went left.

Departing from the official trail: Jct Hogg Hill Road and Stoney Brook Rd
And for no particular reason, I just kept on going north. There's a gap in the long distance trails but, as the crow flies, the Appalachian Trail is only thirteen miles away. And once you get on the AT, there are lots of options. The White Mountains. Maine. Canada. Vermont.  Hey, why not?

The gap between the trail systems.
SRK Greenway to the south, Appalachian Trail to the north
I'm still working on my routing, but the goal is to use existing trails (including snowmobile trails) and woods roads whenever possible.

Long, peaceful walk along Stoney Brook Road
So I continued along Stoney Brook Road for a good ways. I don't remember any cars passing me and this road walk turned out to be much better than expected, especially listening to a good podcast.

On the right were glimpses of ponds and bogs, although some "no trespassing" signs kept me on the road and I never got a clear view of the water. It seemed like a good place for moose.

Didn't see any moose, but a couple of deer were foraging along the road in the mist up ahead.

Deer along Stoney Brook Road

The rain was picking up when I got to the location of the first snowmobile road I intended to use, leading into Donas J. & Margaret Reney Memorial Forest.  Back home, I had contacted the local snowmobile club to ask whether it was OK to walk these trails. I got an immediate response, and was told it was fine to walk the trails as long as the property owner did not post the property 'no trespassing', and that in their area, property owners rarely did that. Great.

I think this is the snowmobile trail
The next step was trying to figure out exactly where these snowmobile trails were located. There was a map online but it was very conceptual, like a subway map. Not useful for a hiker. Then I stumbled upon a website that sold gps routes and mapping of the entire snowmobile trail system in New Hampshire for $30. I'll pay $30 to not get lost. So I had that loaded in my gps.

When I got to the spot on Stoney Brook Road where the snowmobile supposedly turned in per the gps, I didn't see anything at first.  Then I realized I was looking right at it. Following the gps route through the weeds, I came upon a gate within a few hundred feet of the road. Perfect.

Yup, it's the snowmobile trail
This was a pleasant walk through the rain. No problems following the snowmobile trail. The park map showed this portion of the trail as Barton Road.

An old building appeared ahead. I checked my park map and found the building on the map in the middle of the snowmobile trail (which is also shown on the park map). A sign on the building tells snowmobilers to 'stay on the trail or stay home'.

Snowmobile trail along old building
The trail here got rather lumpy and overgrown. It didn't seem to be following an old road any longer. Easy to twist an ankle. Something to keep in mind about these snowmobile trails. They aren't designed for walking.

Junction with the hiking trail loop
Eventually I came to the junction with the Reney Forest hiking trail system. Thankfully, the trails were well cleared and well marked. You just never know. Sometimes there are trail maps online and you get there and there's no trail. Because several years ago maybe an Eagle Scout cleared a trail, but then no one maintained it.

A well-cleared trail through very thick brush
This trail was obviously being maintained, and it must be a lot of work. The forest is very open, probably logged not too long ago, and it's therefore thick with brush and saplings.

Go right, to the library
Down near the bottom of the hill there was a junction. I felt like I should continue straight to the parking lot, but my gps route had me going right towards the library.

First moose track since Sunapee Ridge
It was a pretty walk, though the cold rain was coming down harder. Moose like this part of the trail, apparently.

Very open forest, great for wildlife
They've done a beautiful job with this conservation area and I really enjoyed being able to get off the road and walk through the woods for about a mile and a half, even if it was raining pretty steady at this point.

Dunbar Library parking lot on Rt 10
I would have continued but for the cold rain, and got picked up at the Dunbar library. Went back to the Sunapee Lake Lodge, took a nice hot shower, went out for a hot bowl of chowder, and then we drove around for the rest of the afternoon. There really wasn't any place we could find to shop other than the Morgan Hill bookstore in New London.  We enjoyed a visit to the Shaker Museum in Enfield, located roughly where I'm headed on the trail. And that was it for our mini-vacation.  

Monday, September 24, 2018

NH SRKG Section 2: Old Province Road to Sunapee Village

SRK Greenway marker pointing down Old Provindence Road
Onward north along the next trail: The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway (SRK Greenway). To review, this all started in Guilford, Connecticut on the New England Trail, which turned into the M-M Trail in New Hampshire, which continued on at the M-S Greenway between Mt Monadnock and Mt Sunapee. And now the way north is marked with green and white trail markers.

View along Goshen Road
The SRK Greenway is a great big loop of a trail. I'm just doing the part that heads north from Sunapee.  A lot of it is road walking, including the first couple miles after reaching the bottom of Mt. Sunapee. That part was nearly all downhill and went super fast.

Harding Hill Road
Some of it was gravel and some was asphalt, but none of it was too bad. There were cattle and wild turkey to watch on Harding Hill Road as the turnoff approached.

Trail network at Webb Woods
The trail then takes a turn into Webb Woods and meanders about a nice forest crossed with various trails, including snowmobile trails. I was a bit concerned about missing a turn, but there was always a marker where I most needed to see one.

After the backpacking on Mt Lovewell and Mt Sunapee, this was super easy walking. It was a Monday morning and I never passed a single person.

Variable terrain
The terrain was highly variable, though, as the trail passed back and forth between mixed forests of white pine, dark hemlock hollows, and open meadow areas. None of it was difficult.

Snowmobile trail
This continued on for roughly five miles. I began seeing signs with a numbering system, for what, I don't know.

What are these numbers?
The trail crossed Hells Corner Road (yes, that's a real name) and came to Frank Simpson Reserve.

This was a beautiful section of trail, although there were an excessive number of large, tacky signs with the mystery numbering system.

Beaver Pond
The highlight of the hike was a beaver pond. No moose or beaver in sight, but there was an inland shorebird working the mud that may be a Solitary Sandpiper. This kind of bird looks like it belongs on an ocean beach or marsh, but lives inland.

Solitary Sandpiper (?)

Vermilion Waxcap (?)
The trail continued on for a bit further through scenic, peaceful woods. There was going to be a lot of road walking up ahead, so I slowed down and savored it.

Last real woodland hiking trail for awhile
My car had been spotted at a the Albert Tilton recreation area on Route 103b, so that's where I stopped for the time being.

Albert Tilton park

Walking down Rt. 103B towards Sunapee Village
After a few hours back at the hotel while my husband was playing 18 rounds of golf, the weather turned warm and sunny. I wanted to get outside and walk some more, so we spotted my car further along the way, then set out together to walk from Albert Tilton down to the nearby village of Sunapee.
I spy a trail marker behind the power station
After a walk down Rt 103b, we found a trail marker behind a powerstation and followed it a very short ways to a pedestrian bridge. Nice. Wasn't expecting that.

That lead to the back side of a small welcome center. Had no idea where to go after that. We meandered about for a bit and my husband finally spotted a marker on the other side of busy Route 11 on Lower Main Street.

Nice, but which way do we go now? 
We parted ways so that my husband go walk down towards the big lake and explore the village, while I continued on towards my parked car.

Trail marker on Lower Main Street
The markers went along the road for a bit and then just stopped. I finally pulled up Google Map and decided I needed to turn on North Street. After a bit, the blazes suddenly started up again.*

North Street
This was a lot of uphill on a paved road. Eventually a look back revealed Mt Sunapee in the distance.

Hilltop Drive
The trail turned onto gravel Hilltop Drive for a bit, providing relief from the pavement, but it didn't last long before turning back onto North Street. Although not ideal, the road walk went pretty fast, and I listened to more of my podcast story.

Cemetery on North Street
My car was parked along the road next to a cemetery on North Street. There's more of a parking area further north, but I wasn't sure I could get there before dark.

* On the drive back (southbound), I followed some street markings for the greenway going down Sargent Road to Dowd Lane, where a narrow trail between driveways left the road between houses at the end of the cul-de-sac. That agreed with the map I had found online, although I didn't know how old the map was and it was poor resolution. (I wasn't able to purchase a current map & description in time for this hike). My husband later said he also saw greenway markers down in Sunapee Harbor when he went to check that out (also noting no shops or restaurants were open).  The next afternoon we were at a bookstore, and I took a peek at the description for that section. After reading it, I was still unclear about the markers down by the lake, but the description had the trail turning north off of Lower Main Street at School Street and coming out onto Dowd Lane where I saw the markers during my drive. However, the markers on Lower Main Street definitely lead me well past School Street and I was looking very closely for a potential turn there. I always go by the trail markers rather than the description and map because trail routes change all the time and it can take years for published information to map the new trail route. Bottom line is I still have no idea what the correct route is for the trail in Sunapee.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

NH MSG Section 6b and SRKG Section 1: Mt Sunapee

A brisk wake-up at Camp Galvin in 40° weather
Good morning from the Steve Galvin Shelter site on Sunapee Ridge! The previous night it was so warm I had a window fan blowing on me all night long and now it was 40° and I was sleeping in a winter coat. Welcome to the first day of Autumn.

Why is there no door???
What's up with shelter toilets that have no privacy? The 3-sided one at the Galpin Shelter did at least have the three sides, but why not just add a door? I assume there's some reason. While backpacking the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut early in the year, I found toilets than had zero walls. Just a big toilet standing there like a throne at the end of a very short access trail. Why? Seems like this would encourage people to not use the facility and go elsewhere, which would not be good for water quality.

Views along Sunapee Ridge
At any rate, this part of the trail continued to be outstanding as it followed the Sunapee ridgeline north. The ups and downs did get rockier and the footing a bit more tricky, but not bad. The trail was clear and easy to follow, but not over-used and eroded. Before long, I arrived at  Lucia's Lookout, a nice spot to sit and catch the morning's rays.

Private view
The amount of smooth, bare granite underfoot increases as you go north along the ridgeline, reminding me a bit of hiking at Acadia.

Lots of granite on this section
Spruce, fir, granite, and reindeer moss under a vivid blue sky. Sigh.

Granite and lichens

The trail is almost a sidewalk here
My favorite spot of the entire trail was the vista about a half mile south of Lake Solitude. Just breathtaking.

Favorite spot since Mt. Monadnock
There was Mt. Monadnock in the distance, where the M-M Trail ended and this one began.

Mt Monadnock, where this trail started

Confused Dogwood
The ironically named Lake Solitude was picturesque, but loud hikers ruined it. From the opposite shore I heard conversations about whether or not to take the trail around the pond and other things. They're standing right next to each other, but I could hear their conversation a quarter of a mile away.  A guy was out in the middle of the pond fishing in an inflatable gizmo. I felt sorry for his lack of peace. But what can you do. I put in some headphones and spent the rest of the hike listening to a podcast about aliens contacting a deep space station that is orbiting a star called Wolf 359.

Lake Solitude, ha ha ha ha
Several trails converge at the north end of the pond, including the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway, which is a very long name and hereafter will be referenced as the SRK Greenway. The M-S Greenway and the SRK Greenway are co-aligned from the pond up to the summit of Mt. Sunapee where the M-S Greenway ends.

Blazes for the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway
The SRK Greenway is marked with prefab markers tacked to trees such that the orientation of the marker indicates the direction of the trail.  There are almost no confidence blazes. Only turns and junctions are marked.

Pretty, but noisy
The trail continue on and upward for about another mile, and there was a steady trickle of hikers on this Sunday morning. This part of the trail is also called "Solitude Trail" ha ha ha. The trail then came out onto a gravel access road for the ski facilities and followed that steeply up the hill. A beautiful overlook of Lake Sunapee and mountains off to the northeast opened up below.

Trail joins a ski service road
From this point I wasn't sure where to go and asked a few people if they knew which way the M-S Greenway went, but no one knew. I continued up the gravel road and finally saw a white blaze on a rock underfoot.

Lake Sunapee
And there was the summit, with the ski lift running overhead and people meandering about the grassy top.  I continued along the road, casting about for trail info.

Alien spaceship at the very top
And there it was: The official end of the M-S Greenway. Whoohoo!

End of the M-S Greenway! 
So that's that. On to the next trail! Time to follow those SRK Greenway markers down the hill.

Now following the SRK Greenway
I missed a marker right up at the top and followed a treadway steeply down for a bit until it became dangerous.  Since there no confidence blazes on this trail, if you take a wrong turn, you may not realize it for a long time. As I stood there pondering this crazy trail route, I heard voices down below, and tracked their movement. Maybe I wasn't on the correct trail. So I scrambled back upwards and intersected the group as they came up. And there was the blaze I missed. Yikes. I was very careful the rest of the way down not to miss a single marker.

Don't miss a blaze!
The SRK Greenway was fairly steep going down, and deeply eroded in many spots. It was tedious going on wet, mossy rock. But eventually I got down to Old Province Road. Freakishly, my husband drove up about 30 seconds later. Incredible timing seeing as he was coming from Connecticut.

Back down at the bottom
We checked into the Sunapee Lake Lodge and a hot shower never felt so good.