Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 49th 4000-footer

Peaks: Sandwich Dome (NEHH, 52WAV), Jennings Peak (52WAV), Noon Peak
Trails: Drake's Brook Trail, Sandwich Mountain Trail, Jennings Peak Spur
Mileage: 8.7
Elevation: 2800ft

It's the peak that I've heard so many stories of that people climbed when they didn't want to climb a 4K. But when said peak is maybe 20 feet shy (and if one were to stand at the top of one of the trees, who knows?) of that threshold and involves more elevation gain than a good chunk of the 4Ks, I never understood that, let's just add Sandwich Dome to the 4000-footer list, shall we?

My plan was to do a loop (because I get bored by out-and-backs). I opted to head up Drake's Brook and down the Sandwich Mountain Trail, hitting Jennings Peak on the descent. Drake's looked/sounded to be more gentle in grade which sounded good for an ascent as I was a bit tired.

But first I had to get to the trailhead. I decided for some reason while heading South on I-93 that taking Tripoli Road, now open, would be a fine way to get there. Maybe a bit slower, but a nice drive. Well, let's just leave some advice right here: DONT. The road is in horrible shape. Yes, it is passable by any normal car, but the paved sections of it are in very poor shape with massive multi-foot wide, 1-2 foot deep potholes. Of course, lots of frost heaves too. The road goes through a nice stretch of woods, but I couldn't enjoy them as there was a car-swallowing pothole every couple hundred feet (and of course I just had my front suspension partially rebuilt...). The gravel stretch in the middle portion of the road was actually fine, just one brief spot of potholes, but otherwise smooth.

I was the second car in the lot, and hit the trail at about 8:45. Drake's Brook is a logging road at the start, with a gate and all. At 0.4 miles it leaves the road and crosses the brook, which required a short excursion about 30' upstream to find a suitable rock-hopping place. After that the trail appears to be an old logging road for a while, and is an easy grade, but doesn't seem to gain much elevation.

Nice, open trail corridor low on the Drake's Brook Trail

After a while it climbs steadily, but still not badly. There is a washed-out section of trail that must be Irene-caused damage. But just before the switchback section there is a very steep pair of pitches with a short flat stretch in between. The good news: they are short-lived. Other than that I really rather enjoyed the trail, which was good because I felt sluggish this day. Nevertheless, I plowed on and hit the trail junction.

The next 1.2 miles seemed to stretch on for a long time. It probably didn't help that the Sandwich Mountain Trail basically does nothing as far as gaining the last 800 feet for the first half of it. Thus, a typical grunt to the summit was in order, but I made it and was treated to wind (of course) and fantastic clear views.

Mount Tecumseh from Sandwich Dome

I headed down shortly as the wind was pretty stiff, and made solid time back to the Jennings Peak Spur junction. A snack here, and then the climb to Jennings Peak, which also has fantastic views. In my opinion, Jennings Peak has better views, at least of the Sandwich Range. As a bonus, the rocks were in the sun, but on the East side just below the summit, so the wind was light. A nice spot for a rest.

After a little, I headed down, passing a lot of people on their way up. Seems my "late" start was early on this day, I saw only one person on my way up, near the summit of Sandwich Dome, but about 15 on my way down.

The Sandwich Dome Trail slowly drops elevation until past Noon Peak (which I thought was the set of open ledges, but they came too fast after Jennings Peak so I'm not entirely sure where the peak was). After Noon Peak it is pretty steep for a while. I was glad I didn't come up this stretch, and I think if I climb from this side again, I will do an out-and-back via Drake's Brook or do something else entirely.

The stream crossing right before the road was wading territory at the trail crossing, I went about 100 yards upstream and rock-hopped carefully.

Another great day out in the mountains, and I did the whole loop in 5:15 with a lengthy stay on Jennings Peak! I guess I wasn't as sluggish as I felt after all.

2 more very worthy 52-With-a-View peaks (Sandwich Dome and Jennings Peak).

The trails were in pretty good shape, some blowdowns here and there (many looked pretty old so probably are staying there), but only one muddy spot (on Drake's Brook and it was filled with branches making it a non-issue). Drake's Brook Trail was in far better shape than Sandwich Mountain Trail too interestingly.

All pics:

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