Friday, October 12, 2018

NH Ad Hoc Connector - Map, GPS, Description

In case there are any other weirdo hikers who want to try this, here's how to follow the 29-mile route that I used to get from the northwest end of the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge (SRK) Greenway in  Grantham, NH, to the Appalachian Trail in Hanover, thereby continuing north from where I started in Guilford, Connecticut, on the New England Trail. I've broken it down into sections that correspond with the walks I did. Note that I did have cell phone coverage throughout this walk. Only about 5 1/2 miles were roadwalks. The rest is a mix of snowmobile roads, hiking trails and walking paths, and other old woods roads.

***GPS FILE***: I recommend loading the gps route onto your favorite gizmo. Download a gpx file from Dropbox HERE.

Section 1: Stoney Brook Road and Reney Memorial Forest, Grantham (3.7 miles)

0.0 mi. Junction of Stoney Brook Road and Hogg Hill Road in Grantham (northwest point of the SRK Greenway). Head north on Stoney Brook Road for two miles. Road is paved but with very little traffic, and mostly wooded. Wide shoulders in many places.
2.1 mi. Turn west (left) onto a snowmobile trail/old road near the junction with Route 114. There is a large house on the left at that road junction across from a large triangular road island. The house has a U-shaped driveway and a white, 2-rail fence out front. The snowmobile trail may be overgrown with weeds and hard to spot, but enters the woods immediately to the left of this home, about 20 feet from the white fence. There is a gate with snowmobile trail signs about 100 feet or so up the trail.
Follow the old road up the hill, passing an abandoned building next to the trail at 2.8 mi. The old road becomes a rougher, weedier snowmobile trail for a bit.
3.0 mi. Turn right onto the yellow-blazed hiking trail of Reney Memorial Forest.  It is well-blazed and cleared. See map.
3.5 mi. Take a sharp right onto spur trail at the sign that points towards the library.
3.7 mi. Dunbar Free Library on Route 10 in Grantham.
Section 2: Dunbar Library, Grantham to Methodist Hill Road, Plainfield (10.3 miles)
0.0 mi. Head north on Route 10, crossing a bridge.
500 ft. Turn left (west) onto Dunbar Hill Road. Asphalt road with little traffic. 
0.8 mi. Turn right to stay on Dunbar Hill Road at old cemetery.
1.4 mi Turn left (west) onto "Hart Horn Road", a Class VI road and snowmobile trail.  The road goes into the woods just before a very large field. (If Dunbar Road bends to the left, you missed the turn).
2.7 mi Turn right (north) onto Croydon Turnpike, an old road/snowmobile trail. Follow this for five miles. You will follow signs for Snowmobile Corridor 5N. 
~5.0 mi Grantham Town Forest
6.0 mi Chase Pond
7.9 mi Turn Right onto Goodwin Road (gravel) passing the house on the left at the corner, and go left at the 'Y' immediate after the house as the old road goes back into the woods (see the snowmobile signs). There was caution tape across the entrance when I was there - but that's for vehicles, not pedestrians. 
8.3 mi Turn left with signs for 5N, following a Great Brook. 
8.8 mi Trail closely parallels Woodward Road (gravel, open to traffic).  This section of trail was a bit overgrown but walkable. You can either follow the trail or walk along the road.
9.3 mi Cross Great Brook
10.3 mi Methodist Hill Road (paved). The last part of this trail had been logged and had tracks from heavy equipment on it when I walked it.
Section 3: Methodist Hill Road, Plainfield, to Main Street, Enfield (8.7 miles) 
0.0 mi Methodist Hill Road. Snowmobile Corridor 5N was blocked with recent "POSTED" signs and recently logged and tubed for maple sap when I was there, so you cannot continue straight.  I bushwhacked around the closed area for about 0.6 mile and the description below is based on that. It was relatively easy bushwhacking. The easiest alternative is to walk east on Methodist Hill Road for 2.5 miles to the junction with Whaleback Mountain Road near I-89 Exit 16, rejoining the identified route there. Or contact the local snowmobile club to see if they have a reroute of 5N (preferable).
0.6 mi. End bushwhacking and rejoin snowmobile corridor 5N on old road. 
2.1 mi "Junction 5" sign. Turn right (east) on club snowmobile trail towards Exit 16. This trail is in good shape, although a bit weedy at the very bottom near road. 
3.0 mi. Turn left onto Methodist Hill Road, which curves right and becomes Whaleback Mountain Road. 
3.2 mi Cross I-89. There is a gas station and a truck stop with a Subway restaurant. Continue on Eastman Hill Road for a few miles. It's paved, but not much traffic. You'll go up and up a hill, then down steeply at an 18% grade, per the sign. 
5.2 mi. At hair pin curve,  turn right onto an old road in the woods. Follow this old woods road, which eventually transitions into improved Monica Road, a quiet street line with homes. 
6.2 mi Cross Route 4 and walk down Payne Road, crossing the Mascoma River near the Lake Mascoma Dam. Explore the dam. 
6.3 mi. Turn right onto the Northern Rail Trail. There will be a foot path on the right that leads down to the trail just before the bridge that crosses over the trail. "Keep to the right, pass on the left." Scenic area following the Lake Mascoma shoreline for several miles. 
8.0 mi. Rock cuts on both sides of the trail.
8.7 mi. Main Street parking area to the left. I didn't access this parking area from the rail trail and so cannot describe how to locate it from the path. If you get to the large rail trail bridge over the river, you went too far.
Section 4: Main Street Rail Trail Parking, Enfield to the Appalachian Trail, Hanover via the Moose Mountain (Orange Diamond) Ridge Trail (6.1 miles to the A.T., 10.6 miles to Goose Pond Road)
0.0 mi Main Street parking area near the intersection with Oak Grove Street, across from the Lutheran Church. Cross Main Street and head north on Oak Grove Street. 
200 ft. Left into Oak Grove Cemetery to the end of the lane, then turn right and follow that lane north  passing through a white gate (becoming Cemetery Road), all the way out to Route 4.
0.4 mi Turn left on Route 4. 
0.6 mi. Turn right at prominent granite post topped with address #159. The Ridge Trail (aka Orange Diamond Ridge Trail) begins here. There are no trail markings of any kind at the beginning, and no parking. This is private property.  Head northeast up the hill through the meadow, following a drive to the right of the solar panels.  The drive gradually curves back around to the left, heading northwest. Keep to the left at a "Y" junction that has some markings on the right. You want to continue heading N-NW all the way to the  treeline just beyond the powerlines. If you pass a pond, you went the wrong way. 
0.9 mi Treeline. You should see red survey tape around a tree there, and a faint trail. The trail follows a vague old road at first, just to the west of the ridgeline, then heads up to the ridgeline and becomes more like a game trail. Occasionally there is some red survey flagging (like every quarter mile). Just follow the narrow ridgeline closely and you'll be on or near the trail. Most of the time the trail is pretty obvious. The trail climbs gradually over three miles, gaining 900 feet in elevation. Eventually there are is also some blue survey tape marking the trail. 
1.9 mi. Overlook on left with American flag. 
4.4 mi. Turn right and then immediately left (at orange arrow) at junctions with Baum Conservation Area trails. From this point you want to be on the "Orange Diamond Ridge Trail" and the marking systems will change as you continue towards the Appalachian Trail.
4.8 mi. Turn right onto trail marked with light blue painted blazes. EASY TO MISS. There is little or no tread. Follow the blue blazes carefully for 0.9 mile.
5.7 mi Cross Moose Mtn Road (gravel) and come to signage for Shumway Forest. There will be no more trail markings. Follow the big wide dirt road north past the signs. Don't take any of the trails to the left. Keeping right, the trail will eventually leave the old road (you should pass a sign that says "To the A.T."), heading northeast up the hill. 
6.1 mi Appalachian Trail.  Congrats!
If you want to continue north to the next parking spot, go right on the A.T. and continue about 4.5 miles to Goose Hill Road. You'll cross over the Moose Mountain South and then North Peaks.

Many thanks to Sheri from the Blue Mountain Snowdusters club and Vicki from the Town of Hanover for very promptly responding to my questions about the local trail systems. It was a huge help!

Monday, October 8, 2018

NH Ad Hoc AT Connector Section 4: Moose Mountain

The Plan: Go north from Main Street via the unmarked Ridge Trail
to the Appalachian Trail and on to Goose Pond Rd
Last day of walking through New Hampshire for 2018 and the goal is to reach the Appalachian Trail. I was looking forward getting back on hiking trails.

More cute/creepy stuffed people in front of this church
I got dropped off at a rail trail parking area on Main Street in Enfield, across the street from the Community Lutheran Church, and headed north on Oak Grove Street.

Oak Grove Cemetery
Another wet day. The forecast was for cloudy. From what I can tell, if the New Hampshire forecast is for cloudy, it will be foggy and  misting. If the radar shows no rain, just clouds, it's foggy and misting. I packed an extra pair of dry boots and socks in my pack for when the morning mist finally dried off. That had worked well the day before.

Cemetery Road
I was on Oak Grove Street for only a few steps before turning into Oak Grove Cemetery, following the cemetery road as it headed west and then north. The gravel road came out onto Route 4. I turned west onto the busy highway for a few hundred yards and found the southern trailhead of a mostly unmarked trail variously called the Ridge Trail, Orange Diamond Trail, or Tom Linell Ridge Trail. This was private property and there were no markings of any kind indicating there was a trail here. Nor was there anywhere to park.

Ridge Trail starts here on Route 4
I only found out about this trail after purchasing a map booklet of the Appalachian Trail in this area. I had planned on walking up the road for five miles, but the booklet showed a trail going down the Moose Mountain ridge. After some research, I learned the trail is unmarked and can be challenging to follow. The town of Hanover had some maps online and a brief description of the trail, saying it went all the way to Route 4 in Enfield. However, I could find nothing showing where exactly the trail started on Route 4.  I tried contacting the Town of Enfield and got no response (and they have no trail maps online). Hanover, however, has a Trails Committee and a staff person listed, so I tried that as well. I got an immediate response from Vicki Smith, who was able to hunt down some gps coordinates for the trailhead and path through the meadow. Thank you, Hanover!
Ridge Trail is in red, Appalachian Trail in blue
As you can see from my gps track above, the Ridge Trail closely follows the ridgeline. I had a glitch finding the correct entry into the woods from the meadow. The waypoints I had received got me part way up the meadow, but then there was a "Y" in the traveled paths. I had planned on take the left option, which lead more directly to the ridgeline, but the option to the right had some red survey tape, and I remembered being told that the Ridge Trail had been marked with some red flagged a couple years ago.  Seemed like I was supposed to go right. So I turned right and continued for a third of a mile, walking past a pond, but I could see from my gps that the ridge was rising above me to the west. Didn't feel right.

Looking for the trail entrance from the meadow. 
Went back and tried that left option. Bingo! Boy was I happy to see some red survey flagging around the trees where the traveled path entered the woods.

That's the Ridge Trail!
This was fun. The Ridge Trail has obviously been traveled for many years, but not very frequently. There is a trampled tread in many areas, and a way that's mostly clear of brush and blowdowns. But there are no real trail markings other than very infrequently strips of survey tape.

Ridge Trail. Just keep going forward. 
Most of the time it was pretty obvious which way the trail went, especially at the beginning where it seemed to follow an old woods road, but sometimes I had to stop and guess which way to go. I almost always guessed correctly, and when I didn't, I found the trail again pretty quickly. All you really need to do is stay along the narrow ridge top and you'll be on or near the trail.

Reishi, or Lacquered Bracket

I want to see a moose. 
The Ridge Trail is about 5 1/2 miles long. There should have been a number of great views, but it was way too foggy. A cold (50°) mist was blowing across the ridgetop, getting stronger and colder as the trail progressed up the ridge.

American flag at what I assume is an overlook

Ridge Trail

Red Eft of the day

Nice view. 
The trail rises about 900 feet over three miles, a slow and steady rise that is never steep.  The ridge opened up repeatedly to an abyss of fog. The misty wind really kicked up out of the east and it got downright cold. All the layers from the pack went on. What a difference from down below.

Lost the trail north of this point for awhile
I started seeing blue flagging along with the red tape, still infrequent but helpful in spots. I'd read the northern part of the trail was marked with blue. About 3.5 miles north of Route 4, the trail joined up with Moose Mountain Baum Conservation Area trail system. I had a map for the park in my pocket and should have stopped and looked carefully at it, but I didn't.

Junction with the Baum trails
I was looking forward to some marked trails and an easier go of it, but getting through Baum turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. I did have a gps route that I'd created by overlaying the park map onto Google Earth. But then I had a glitch with my gps receiver and didn't catch my bad turn for nearly half a mile.  I knew the trail I wanted was formerly called the "Orange Diamond Ridge Trail" but was now marked blue. So I turned followed the sign for the Orange Diamond Ridge Trail and went straight, following occasional blue metal markers. Finally discovered I was going back the way I came, but down below the ridge. Argh. Went back the trail juction, and this time took a second turn onto a trail with an orange diamond. Which makes sense.

Orange Diamond Trail is actually and Orange Diamond for a very short ways
After that I kept close track on the gps and suddenly I had overshot my intended route. Double back to where I was supposed to be, and there was a sign that said "Orange Diamond Ridge Trail" and a pair of painted blue blazes. When I past the sign earlier, I assumed it applied to the trail I was on. I stood there studying the terrain for a bit before I finally spied another blue blaze in the woods. No trail tread, really, and there were logs across the path near the beginning, but there was another blaze in the woods. Ah. So THAT's the "Orange Diamond Ridge Trail." Blazed light blue. 

TURN HERE. There's a hidden trail behind this sign marked with blue. 
This trail corresponded with my gps route. Good. There was no tread for most of it, so it was kind of like bushwhacking with blazes. Stop, look for the next blaze, go to that, stop look for the next blaze, and so on. After a bit it got easier to follow. I was worried about not being able to find the next blaze, but it was all good. There was always a blaze ahead.

Nice job blazing
Then I cross a gravel road and the blazes stopped. Across the road was a well-signed trailhead for Shumway Forest. 

I guess I keep going straight?

O.D. Ridge Trail

It appeared I was supposed to follow the big wide woods road, and a sign bolted to a tree said "O.D. Ridge Tr."  OK, then, but the path deviated a bit from my gps track, and I started to wonder if I had missed some blue blazes going off to the right. Went back to the trail junction and studies the signs and maps. This must be correct. I hope. 

And then I passed a sign that said, "TO THE A.T." YES!!!  Going the right way. There were no trail markings on this section, but it was well-cleared, and before long I had arrived at the Appalachian Trail. 

Appalachian Trail
I began to understand why guided hikes became a tradition. In Connecticut, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on blazing and color-coded trails that correspond to a color-coded trail maps, making guided hikes unnecessary for experienced hikers. But up here, the trail markings are very sporadic and inconsistent, and in some cases there are no markings at all.  Even the Appalachian Trail blazes were very faded and infrequent. The Ridge Trail, particularly at the junctions, was a challenge to follow for someone not from the area. I'll be posting a gps track and description for my entire Ad Hoc route, which may be helpful.

Appalachian Trail - Moose Mountain South Peak
The Appalachian Trail is a highway compared to most hiking trails, so even where there were no blazed, you just follow the eroded tread.

The fog on Moose Mountain
But the blazes and hikers signs were a welcome site after about thirty miles of winging it along roads and snowmobile trails and such. It was pretty wet and cold, but I still passed a few hikers, including some happy backpackers.

North on the AT

The fog never lifted, and the wind howled up on the peaks and ridges. I made a note to bring lots of extra cold/wet-weather gear in the future on this trail as it heads north into the White Mountains. Weather on the peaks can be brutal and people die from hypothermia. All it takes is a twisted ankle or getting lost without proper clothing.

It was about 4.5 miles from the junction of the AT and Goose Pond Road, my pick-up point. The total walk was supposed to be about ten miles, but came to eleven miles with my wrong turns. After the first few miles on the Ridge Trail, the rest of the hike was a bit rushed, which I try not to do, but with the cold wind on the ridgetop, I kept moving briskly.  The walk down the north peak was the most difficult. With all the slick, wet rock, it would be so easy to slip and break and ankle.

Almost there
Nearing the road, I was joined by my husband on his way up the trail, and we picked our way down together.

Goose Mountain Road. That's it for 2018. 
We jumped in the car and drove through the relentless fog down I-91 and it was dark by the time we hit Hartford. When I woke up the next day and drove to work, it seemed strange to be surrounded by green leaves.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

NH Ad Hoc AT Connector Section 3: Snowmobile Trail to Enfield Rail Trail

North on blue (snowmobile trail and roads)
and east on purple (rail trail)

Day two, and I had a couple possible way to deal with the "POSTED" section of the snowmobile trail north of Methodist Hill Road at the beginning of the day's walk. The easiest option was to simply walk down Methodist Hill Road for 2.5 miles. Another possibility was to try to find "Atherton Road", as shown on Google Maps, and which leads to Durkee Road and the snowmobile trail further north.  I went for a third option, which was to try and bushwhack around the part that was closed off due to logging.  It only looked a few hundred yards wide from the road.
So that's what I did. Bushwhacking can be a lot of fun if the woods aren't too wet or thick and you're not in a hurry. I started at a spot a bit west on Methodist Hill Road that looked like it may have been a road or something there at one point.

Started bushwhacking here on Methodist Hill Road
As bushwhacking goes, it was pretty easy. But much longer than expected. I was so close to the gps route for the snowmobile trail, yet the freshly logged area was forever to my right. Eventually I got to the old road that the snowmobile trail uses. Looking back, it was crossed with tubing for collecting maple sap. The tubing went right across the road. So that's it, a new sugar bush. Later, I checked the GIS tax maps and found that the roads I was trying to follow were not town property, so the property owner can shut them down.

Snowmobile corridor #5 seems to have been replaced by a sugar bush
I continued a bit further along the old road and came to the end of the logged area about 3/4 mile from Methodist Hill Road.  That was a lot farther than I expected. I hope the snowmobile clubs are able to find a new route.

Logged area along "Durkee Road" (snowmobile trail 5)

Durkee Road (Snowmobile trail #5)
But the trail was beautiful once all the tree work had ended. Very quiet and peaceful.

After a relaxing stroll along Corridor 5, I came to the junction where I was planning on leaving #5 and heading east on a club trail towards I-89 exit #16.  The snowmobile gps route I had obtain was a little sketchy heading north, crossing farmland. But at the last minute, I decided to try it anyway, since trail #5 lead straight to the Northern Rail Trail, eliminating all road walking. I turned left per the sign and continued on. After about a third of a mile, I checked my gps and realized I was heading west to Rt 120. Not what I wanted, so I turned around head back up the hill to go back to the original plan. It seems the gps route I purchased wasn't up to date, because the route they gave me showed 5 going north, not west. Possibly the trail turned north a bit further down the trail, but I didn't want to go any further on foot not knowing where the trail was headed.

Major junction
The club trail heading down the hill to Exit #16 was a pleasure. Another old woods road, it seems.

Snowmobile club trail to Exit #16
The snowmobile trail was a bit overgrown near the road, but it was just a matter of wading through some goldenrod and such. A gate marks the trail entrance at the bottom of Methodist Hill Road.

Gate at Methodist Hill Road
I headed left onto the road and followed it around the curve, with the street name changing to Whaleback Mtn Road, and was crossing over I-89 within a few minutes. There's a gas station and a truck stop there at Exit #16, but I kept walking.

Crossing I-89
Then there was a good long road walk on Eastman Hill Road. It's paved, but there wasn't much traffic. And according to the sign, it's a Scenic Road.

Eastman Hill Road
The road goes gradually up the hill, gaining 350' in elevation over the first mile. There are a few homes, but mostly it's woods on either side.

White Birch and White Wood Aster
At a clearing near the top, the moisture hanging in the air nearly obscured the distant hills.

Nothing is certain but change
Eastman Hill then plunged downhill at an 18% grade (according to the sign), so steeply I had to focus on not slipping on the wet pavement. I don't know how they manage in the winter.

Eastman Hill Road
At a hairpin turn, I was on the lookout for an old road going into the woods on the right. This road showed up as a trail on Garmin Basecamp, and had the look of an old town road. I just didn't know if it was posted. It wasn't. Yay!

Old road
Going down the old road eliminated the rest of the roadwalk on Eastman Hill Road as well as a nasty roadwalk down Route 4. This was so much better! The entire roadwalk for the day was less than two miles.
Coming out onto Monica Road
After walking through the woods for about half a mile, the old road begins to transition to Monica Road, line with homes, then crosses Route 4 at Payne Road just downstream from the dam that forms Mascoma Lake.  I rambled over to the dam to check it out.

Mascoma Lake Dam from Payne Road

Mascoma Lake from the dam

Mascoma Lake Dam
The Northern Rail Trail was just a few hundred feet up the road, below a bridge. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to access the trail from up above, but there was a path leading right down to the trail. Great!

Payne Road bridge over the Northern Rail Trail
All that was left for the day was 2.5 miles on this super easy path. Piece of cake!

Northern Rail Trail
The rail trail followed the north shore of Mascoma Lake and was scenic the entire way. I was happy that the rail trail was not paved. The crushed stone made for much nicer walking.

Sumac along the rail trail
There were enough trail users on this Sunday afternoon that it was important to keep to the right and allow others to pass on the left, especially people on bikes.

These people are everywhere up here
There were stuffed cute/creepy people everywhere during our trip. I mean everywhere. This seems to be a local fall tradition. There were about half a dozen along the rail trail section I walked. They were out by the streets, in front of churches, everywhere.  This is not something we see in our corner of the universe (Connecticut). The stuffed people would emerge from the fog as we were driving around New Hampshire as if out of a Stephen King novel.

Great views
After a couple of mile along the shore front, the rail trail went through a very cool rock cut guarded by a hippy cute/creepy person.

Guarding the rock cut
The rock rose up on both sides of the trail had lots of old carvings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Graffiti was a lot harder back in the day.

Going through the rock cut 
At this point my husband had joined me, coming in from Main Street in Enfield. He had parked a bit further to the east than I planned, so we crossed a big bridge over a river and passed behind a laundromat on Main Street to arrive at the car. Across the street was a restaurant, which would have work except it was about 3:00 pm.
Very old graffiti

After a nice hot shower at the Hilton Garden Inn in Hanover, we had dinner at Jesse's Steakhouse. It was crammed with tourists. License plates were from all over the country - California, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, etc.  Not many local, though. That's usually a bad sign, but we went with it and had a great meal.