Saturday, May 11, 2013

Views Double-Hit-and-Run - Mounts Willard and Pemigewasset - April 28, 2013

Waking up the day after HossInNH's 4000-Footer finish in the Northern Presidentials, I was pretty spent. I was due to lead a Meetup hike to the Kinsmans this day, but the day before saw the couple of attendees bail, so I was off the hook. It was still a really nice day, too nice to waste, and I hate driving all the way to the White Mountains for a single hike, so I changed tacks. How about a double-hit-and-run (2 separate hikes requiring a drive between trailheads)? Yes, I just said I was beat, and more specifically my legs were shot. But the 2 I had in mind (prompted by a comment made to me by a volunteer at the Highland Center at breakfast) had a combined elevation gain of less than 2500 feet and only 8-9 miles in total. I figured I'd take my time as needed and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Part I: Mount Willard

Mount Willard has been on my to-do list for over a year now. People always rave about the great views to be had from it, and how it is a fairly easy hike (that sounded good about now!). It is right in Crawford Notch where I am near very frequently, but I've never made the time for it as it is a mere 3.4-mile round trip. I kept saying "one day..." to myself. Well, one day was today.

The Mount Willard Trail begins 1/10 mile down the Avalon Trail from its start at the Crawford Depot Station. Down low here, the woods were dry and sunny, and the snowshoes were in the car, not on my back (woo hoo!). The trail very quickly crosses a stream, where there were herd paths diverging all over the place to alternate crossing spots, and no blazes marking things. I figured it out easily enough though, and that was the only real drama (aside from the views) to this hike. A couple tenths of a mile in the monorail appeared and on went the microspikes. Shortly thereafter there is a signed pool alongside the trail, which looks like it would be a great little water hole to soak in during the summer.

Centennial Pool, trailside on the Mount Willard Trail

Still looks a bit chilly for a dip!

Minor monorail most of the length of the Mount Willard Trail
The monorail was solid in the cool morning and continued all the way to the ledges near the summit. I poked around in the woods a little and tagged what may have been the high point (I didn't look too hard) and also followed the trail past the main ledges until it petered out a couple tenths of a mile later. It passed a couple of smaller but nice overlooks along the way, but none were really better than the main ledges, so don't bother unless you are red-lining or its really crowded up there. Returning to the main ledges, I took a short nap, snacked, enjoyed the views, and overall just enjoyed myself for the better part of a half hour, with no other people around. The microspikes were perfect for the descent, and I made great time back to the car, with no slipping or sliding. There were a couple dozen people in small groups throughout working their way up, not a one with traction, but I was much happier with the microspikes!

Awesome trip, well worth MANY revisits as well. Being morning, and the ledges facing Eastward, most of the pictures were shot into the sun and aren't all that great as a result, sorry. 52 With-a-View, Check!

Looking down from Mount Willard

Willey from Willard

Jackson and Webster

Down Crawford Notch towards Tremont, Chocorua off in the background

Bemis and Nancy peeking out behind Willey

Rt. 302 and the Scenic Railroad heading down Crawford Notch

Wonder where they stopped the paving project last year???

Mount Washington just barely peeking out behind Eisenhower

Hey George!

Right-hand loop near the trailhead is the actual trail; The view ledges are just to the right of where the little spur towards the summit is marked

Part II: Mount Pemigewasset

With it being still mid-morning, there was definitely time to drag myself up another short hike. Mount Pemigewasset was another of those short ones that I drive by a lot and never bothered to explore, so today was the day. It was even on the way home! In the interest of red-lining, I parked at the Flume Gorge Parking lot on Route 3 and walked the 1.25 miles downhill on Route 3 to the trailhead for the Indian Head Trail.

The Indian Head Trail passes through mostly hardwood forests, and so now I was getting BAKED by the late-morning sun since there are no leaves out yet. No snow to deal with though! The trail here is not well-marked (very few blazes), but I was able to follow it with care. Grade-wise it was steady but not awful, but my legs were definitely not happy with me at this point. It was hot, and I was tired, but slowly and surely I made my way up past the base of the cliffs that adorn the summit (where I could hear people taking a couple hundred feet straight above, pretty cool!). After passing the base of the cliff, the Indian Head Trail steeply climbs for a short distance to a minor col just West of the summit, where it meets the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail. The upper stretches of this section was in the conifers and thus had a little, but avoidable, snow and ice. The spur to the summit ledges was also snowy, but I was stubborn and managed without the traction.

What another wonderful view! I tell you, while I keep drifting back to the 4K's, these smaller 52-With-a-View peaks are pretty awesome, it is definitely a list that needs completion! The views from the main ledge encompasses the Western end of the Kancamagus Highway, and the Southern end of the Kinsman Ridge from South Kinsman through Mount Wolf and the bogs on the Eastern side of the ridge. From the actual summit, a few dozen yards further up-trail (the trail's end is marked as you will see in a picture in a moment), there is a limited but nice view of Franconia Ridge.

Open hardwoods on the Indian Head Trail

Persistent tree that insisted on thriving

Mount Wolf from Mount Pemigewasset, Moosilaukee is visible to the left in the distance

Loon Mountain

End of the trail

Liberty (L) and Flume (R) from the end of the Mount Pemigewasset Trail

Small peek at the main Franconia Ridge

Liberty (C) and Flume (R)

A spur of South Kinsman

Pano from Mount Pemigewasset
After a break at the summit ledges (where the people that were there when I arrived soon left leaving me alone with the views for a little while) I headed down the Mount Pemigewasset Trail. Snow cover persisted for the upper couple tenths of a mile of the trail, but soon it disappeared, so the traction never came out. More and more people were heading up (it was still early afternoon after all!) and it was clear this is the more popular route to this peak (which the White Mountain Guide says anyway). The trail was well-blazed (one could say over blazed in a few spots) and easy to follow, passing through more hardwoods. Before long, the trail passed underneath I-93 and Route 3, and swung onto the Franconia Notch Bike Path for a short distance before ending at the parking lot and my car.

It was shortly after 2PM and I was on my way home after a shorter, but great day of hiking in the White Mountains. 2 More 52 With-a-View peaks (bringing my total to 12 though I've yet to get good views off of Starr King), and 3 more trails red-lined!

Trails: Avalon Trail, Mount Willard Trail (Hike 1); Roadwalk, Indian Head Trail, Mount Pemigewasset Trail (Hike 2)
Peaks: Mount Willard (2865', 52WAV), Mount Pemigewasset (2557', 52WAV)
Mileage: 3.2 miles (Willard), 5 miles (Pemigewasset) -> Total 8.2 miles
Elevation gain: 950' (Willard), 1600' (Pemigewasset) -> total 2550'
Book Time: 2hrs 5min (Willard), 3hrs 20min (Pemigewasset) -> real time was 6hrs with driving

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