I finished up my grad classes for this term this past week, and it feels good! To celebrate, I decided to get up early and take a morning stroll up Pawtuckaway Mountain’s Middle peak (map). It’s a short drive from my house and the hike is only 3.6 miles round trip from the from the Tower Rd./Reservation Rd. intersection. I figured I could get out there before the sun came up, hike the trail, do a little bushwhacking, and still make it home by 9am.
It was 22° when I left the house at 5:30am, but it felt like 12° with the wind. The sun hadn’t made its way over the trees yet when I made it to the trailhead, but I knew it would be along soon. To my surprise, I found a reasonable amount of snow on the trail. It was all pretty icy and crunchy, but certainly didn’t require snowshoes or microspikes. The hike up Tower Road, which is an old trail road, was pretty flat and even. Most of the way down Tower Road, you follow the banks of a pond (which is still froze over) to the right. Unfortunately, with the maps I could find online, I couldn’t identify a name for the pond. It did have quite a few beaver dams built up in it, and plenty of evidence of beavers chopping down trees along the road.
0.8 miles up the Tower Road, I found the Middle Mountain Trail entering from the left. This trail ascended slightly and I noticed some really nice stonewalls following the right shoulder of the trail. On this section, I noticed a small water runoff in the distance that had created a miniature waterfall. I decided to bushwhack out to it, to see if it was worthy of any pictures. It was small indeed, but did have some pretty icicles which I thought were cool.
Once back on the trail, the hike continued to climb gently. On this stretch, I noticed the tree tops turn orange from the sun which was peaking over the landscape before my eyes. It’s nice to be out in the woods all by yourself to see things like this take place. It’s certainly something I take for granted every day.
The trail curved to the left and then began climbing steeply for a short way through a couple switchbacks. As I climbed in elevation, the snow became less sporadic and more consistent. I finally got through the short, steep section and the trail flattened out again. I noticed wind was also hitting me a bit harder near the top.
As I hiked on the top of the Middle peak, the trail seemed to go on forever. That’s the thing with these Pawtuckaway Mountain peaks. They are all very long mountains (sort of a smaller version of Owl’s Head), so to get to the true summit sometimes takes a while of walking on the top. At one point, I thought for sure I was at the summit as I didn’t see any land around that was lower than where I was, however, there was no cairn or marker of any sort. I continued on the trail and finally came to ledges on the southeastern slope. I realized at that point, that I had passed the summit and it must have been where I thought it was.
I sat down and relaxed for a bit on the ledges. There were good views to the east, over to the South peak where you could easily make out the fire tower standing on top. There were also pretty nice views to the south, although, there is not much of a landscape in that direction. I also noticed that there were quite a few cedar trees on the ledge area, which I thought was pretty neat. Cedars are pretty uncommon in this area of New Hampshire, and I always enjoy seeing them.
Making my way back, I again found what I believed was the tallest point of the Middle peak and proclaimed myself as “summitted”! As I descended the mountain, the morning grew a bit later and the wildlife started making an appearance. I followed a squirrel and a chipmunk up the side of the trail for a while. I also startled some blue jays (by accident) from the banking of the trail into some trees. I tried to get a picture, but they were too far away, unfortunately. While walking out, I also noticed a hawk circling, looking for breakfast I assume.
There is nothing better to clear your head than an early morning walk in the woods. I can say that I would much rather be hiking the Whites than hiking Pawtuckaway Mountain. But when you’re short on time, you can’t beat it. I was up early, enjoyed nature and was home by 9am to conquer the rest of the day!