It's funny how one can go from hiking once a weekend to hiking once ever six months. What can cause such a dramatic change in activity you ask? Well, for me it has been a baby and a new house (justified reasons in my opinion). The last time I hiked was back in May, up Black Cap Mountain. Since I had a few PTO days coming up at work, and the weather looked halfway decent in the Whites, I figured it was time to get out on the trail again...and I made Jill come with me!
We dropped the baby off at school early and headed up to Conway to tackle Peaked Mountain. I feel the smaller mountains in the Green Hills Preserve (like Black Cap and Peaked) are highly underrated. Ever since our hike up Black Cap, Jill and I have wanted to explore other mountains in the range like Peaked and Middle. For little effort, you get great views at the summit. Also, since we don't hike as often, the smaller peaks seem to be enough of a workout for us these days.
We parked at the Pudding Pond Conservation Area parking lot, just off from Thompson Road. From the parking area, there's a quick 0.2 mile jaunt up a dirt road to a kiosk with maps and a trail log. We hung a left and headed up the Pudding Pond Trail toward Peaked Mountain.
Gate at the Trailhead
We quickly headed across some power lines and through an old snow barrier fence onto the main trail. Right away, I noticed a lot of leaves...a LOT of leaves. It was easy to tell that this was a beach tree forest since most of the fallen leaves were, yes, you guessed it, beach tree leaves!
Power Lines we Crossed on the Trail
It was cold heading down the trail early, so there was still frost on the ground. The tricky part was, it was covered by the leaves, so it created pretty slippery conditions. With the frost, leaves and not being able to see rocks and roots because of the leaves, the hiking was slow...which is always fine with me!
Leaf Covered Forest at the Peaked/Middle Mountain Trail Junction
After a half mile on the Pudding Pond Trail, we hit a fork where the Middle Mountain Trail went to the right and the Peaked Mountain Trail veered left. Due to time constraints we were on, we opted for the shortest distance to get to Peaked Mountain, which was via the Middle Mountain Trail (sounds counter intuitive, right???), so we headed right. Just past this junction on the left, there was an old, metal structure that had some bullet holes in it. It also had a cutout with a hinge on it which would make one believe there may have been a door on it at one time. My guess is that it was an old stove or something like that...who knows! Trail garbage, but cool nonetheless!
Metal Structure on Side of Trail
Jill stopped to take a break on a boulder on the side of the trail. I noticed holes in the side of it as shown below. The holes didn't look man made to me. I assume their creation had something to do with "glacial" activity from many, many...many years ago. If anyone knows, please comment and let me know!
Boulder with Holes
After 0.6 miles on the Middle Mountain Trail, we came to another junction where the Peaked Mountain Connector entered on the left. We opted to take this trail and it climbed moderately 0.3 miles until it intersected the Peaked Mountain Trail, just 0.2 miles below the summit. Before heading up the Connector, I noticed a fairly fresh woodpecker hole in a rotten tree trunk (see below).
On the Peaked Mountain Connector, there were nice, small arrow signs. They were green and yellow and helped mark the trail. Typically, each one was accompanied by an orange blaze as well. I thought they were a nice touch and made following the trail easy. I did notice they were made out of plastic instead of metal, obviously so they won't rust and are most likely more affordable. I'm still a firm believer that all trail signs should either be wood or metal with porcelain covering. This is because I love the historical signs!
An interesting feature to note was on the left of the trail, just before you reach the Peaked Mountain Trail, there is a rather large vernal pool. It didn't seem like runoff drainage, but instead like a mini-pond. I thought it was neat and figured I'd mention it.
Vernal Pool on the Peaked Mountain Connector Trail
Once we hit the Peaked Mountain Trail, we went from a hardwood forest (kind of ugly, gray trees, no leaves, etc.) to a pine forest (red pine a believe). It was very nice. The trail became somewhat ledgy at this point as well. It was obvious that we were nearing the summit.
It was at this point that we saw the only wildlife of the the trip. We saw a very fat red squirrel. I'm not a big fan of reds, as they are pretty much bullies. If you have ever noticed, if there red squirrels around, typically, there are no gray squirrels. That's because the reds are more aggressive and chase them off from their territory. Also, we saw some hawks circling above which is pretty common in New Hampshire.
We finally hit the summit, which was pretty small, but very nice and opened. It had restricted views to the north, but great, open views to the south and east! There was also a summit sign, which I'm a big fan of. I think all summits should have summit signs (wooden ones of course). The few summits I've seen with signs definitely standout (like Moosilauke). Also, and I shouldn't admit this, there have been some mountains, early in my hiking career, where I thought I was on the summit, but was actually on a false one! A sign would have helped me realize this!
Looking over the valley, to Chocorua
View over to Black Cap Mountain
View over to Middle Mountain
Restricted views over to Cranmore and Kearsarge-North
The hike down was slower than I would have liked. The leaves were ankle deep and the hidden frost, rocks and roots were brutal. I think the trail maintainers need to get their leaf blowers out ASAP! (Just kidding)
After our hike, we had a little time so we decided to head up to Jackson, our favorite home away from home! We stopped at the Backcountry Bakery and Cafe for coffee and hot chocolate. It was a great hike and a great day in the Whites!