This past weekend, I decided to head to the Bartlett area and hike Mount Stanton and Mount Pickering. I didn’t necessarily want to bag these peaks for peaks themselves, but more for other reasons. I’ve been on an Iron Mountain history kick lately, and I’ve heard the views over to Iron Mountain are phenomenal and really second to none for this mountain. I also knew that the Mount Stanton Trail was rather secluded and not heavily traveled other than the occasional backpacker making their way to the Langdon Shelter. So, aside from the peaks, I figured it would be nice walk in the woods, great views of mountains that can’t be seen easily from other points and some un-crowded trails.
Mount Stanton Trail was tough to follow with the leaves on the ground.
Slimy mushroom on the trail
The trailhead for the Mount Stanton Trail was easy to find, although it only had a small sign indicating its presence and the parking was roadside. I arrived at the trailhead at the same time as a hunter. I think he was just as surprised to see that I was walking in the woods for fun, as I was to see him hunting on a “hiking” trail. I stopped and chatted with him for a while and explained my intentions of heading up to higher elevations. He said his plan was to stay down low. It made me feel better that I ran into him before setting off so that he knew there were hikers in the woods, but that little bit of comfort didn’t stop me from putting on my hunter orange beanie cap (just incase)!
The trail was very difficult to follow at the beginning. It is blazed well, but I constantly had to look up to the trees for the blazes because the foot trail was not recognizable. This was in large part due to hardwood forest dropping its oak, birch and beach tree leaves. Once the trail began to climb, it did so pretty steeply and I can recall thinking the descent would be tough with the leaves on the ground and not knowing what was under them.
Ascending onto White's Ledge!
Mount Kearsarge, North from White's Ledge. Nice, first view of the day!
I finally made my way up to White’s Ledge, which was a pretty lengthy strip of ledge with some great views east toward Mount Keasarge, North, and some restricted views to the south and west toward Attitash Mountain. After making my way over White’s Ledge, there was a very steep and slippery ascent up to the summit. The summit was actually pretty large and on the eastern portion, had some good lookouts to Kearsarge again, with the Doubleheads in the background. Views of Attitash were also much better, although the sun’s position was hindering any good shots I was able to take of it.
On this southern (sunny) side of the summit, there were a ton of snakes. I'm pretty sure they were sunning themselves and unfortunately, I kept almost stepping on them. As one would hiss at me and move away aggressively, I’d take a step back and almost step on another one! I was able to get a few shots of them and hopefully I didn’t really step on any of them. They were all harmless garter snakes…I think!
Mount Attitash from the summit of Mount Stanton
The Doubleheads, Black Mountain and I think, one of the Wildcat peaks
As I made my way across the summit, I came to the ledges on the northern side of the mountain. Here, I found the first of the leftover snow from a snow storm a week earlier. I also got my views of Iron Mountain that I had been anticipating. I was floored at how large it looked, not just from a height perspective, but also from a mere bulkiness perspective. You could easily make out the summit, Green Hill and Duck’s Head. The views over toward Jackson also unveiled a better view of the Doubleheads, Black Mountain and a snow topped, Wildcat peak. To the left of Iron Mountain, was the Presidentials, and of course, as it usually is when I’m up north, Mount Washington was in the clouds.
One of many snakes on the summit of Mount Stanton
Tree trunk growing over a rock on the summit of Mount Stanton
The whole time I was admiring the views the north, a northerly wind was pounding on me hard. Of course, I started to get a chill in my sweaty clothes so I figured it was time to get moving. I had a difficult time picking the Mount Stanton Trail back up after these northern ledges. I walked around a bit and finally found the trail descended the northwestern slope of the mountain, not the western slope as I had assumed. Once I found some blazes on some ledge, I headed down into cover from the wind.
What I believe is Carter Notch over Green Hill
Mount Washington...yes that's right...you have to look through the clouds!!!
On my descent of Mount Stanton, the landscape changed dramatically. The hardwoods turned into a red pine forest quickly. It was very nice out there and peaceful. I no longer had the sound of the rustling leaves at my feet. The trail descended steeply and it wasn’t long before I was in the col of the two mountains. Here, I found the White Mountain National Forest boundary cairn. It was painted red and had a pipe driven into the ground at this location. There were also two “Bearing Trees” marked with aluminum signs dated 1981. This spot was obviously a corner point of the WMNF boundary lines. From that point on, the trail also had red blazes and National Forest Boundary signs kept popping up every now and then. Another interesting feature in the col was a water hole, It was probably 20 feet in diameter and it looked like it collected runoff water from the mountains.
Cairn at the WMNF boundary
Bearing Tree sign, one of two that I found
Boundary signs on the trail up to Mount Pickering
The hike up to Mount Pickering was steep in some places, but not as steep as the ascent to Mount Stanton. The red pines gave up to a hardwood forest again and I was making more noise in the leaves than a crashing moose. The trail subsided quickly and before I knew it, I was on the large, flat summit of Mount Pickering. I made my way past the high point and over to the north ledges, which again, gave me very nice views of Iron Mountain. I was also able to see Mount Langdon and The Crippies (what a sketchy name) from this point. I hung out for a bit and then continued west on the Mount Stanton Trail. I had heard that the ledges just over the summit had great views, and I couldn’t determine if the ledges I was just on were the ones in question. After descending for about 0.3 miles, I made the call that I must have already been on the “great views” ledge.
Water hole in the col between Mount Pickering and Mount Stanton
Another snake, this time on the summit of Mount Pickering
So I started my journey back to my truck, retracing my footsteps back up to Mount Pickering. This is where I started getting tired and one of the reasons I hate in-and-out hikes. Something about re-climbing a peak you just did, does not appeal to me. I was hoping, however, that maybe some of the clouds would retreat around Mount Washington’s peak and I would be able to get a nice, snowcapped shot…didn’t happen though. Something worth mentioning was a water hole on the summit of Mount Pickering. I didn’t notice it when I traveled westbound on the summit, but on my return, it is very noticeable to the left of the trail (northeastern portion of the summit). It was approximately 30 feet in diameter and was obviously filled with the remains of some melted snow. It seemed a bit out of place up there, but neat nonetheless. Oh, and on my way back, I almost stepped on yet another snake sunning itself in the middle of the trail.
Favorite view of the day, Iron Mountain with its magnificent South Cliffs in view!
Retracing the col was tough. I was tired at this point and you’re either hiking down a steep section or up a steep section. There is no flat section between these two mountains to take a "rest" on! I recall thinking the ascent back up to Mount Stanton’s summit, through the red pine forest, would be the last, tough push I would need to make. I did finally make it up there and took a couple last shots of the great views over to Iron Mountain, as I could not help myself.
The Crippies and Mount Langdon
Stairs Mountain poking up in the background
The descent from Stanton was a real pain in the neck. On the steep sections, I had to hold onto trees as I stepped down. The oak leaves were piled on the trail and it was wet between them and the rocks. I feel as though I skied down the trail more than I hiked down it. I finally came to White’s Ledge again and decided to eat my lunch in front Mount Kearsarge. The peanut butter sandwich I made was excellent and gave me some energy to finish up the remaining mile or so that I had. Again, I struggled through some steep sections and then got lost near the beginning of the trail since I couldn’t tell where it was.
Old arrow sign I found on the trail...I like these old weathered signs!
When I finally made it out to my truck, I could see the hunter was still out and about. A couple women, with intentions to hike the trail, were getting ready as I was pulling away. I warned them to put on any orange they had as there were hunters around and it would be a safe thing to do. They informed me that they didn’t have any orange, so I decided to part with my orange beanie cap and handed it over to them. I figured the loss of $0.99 (for the hat) was worth contributing to some other fellow hiker’s safety.
Mount Chocorua over Chocorua Lake on the drive home
On the way home, I really felt like stopping at the Dairy Queen at the junction of Rt. 16 and Rt. 302, however, it was closed for the season. I figured it was the Big Guy’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t eat unhealthy crap on the ride home. So, instead, I headed north on Route 16 and made my way over the Jackson Covered Bridge into my favorite village. I stopped at the White Mountain Café and Bookstore and picked up a large, decaf coffee for the two hour ride home. It was excellent as expected. Truly, another great day in the Whites!