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Thursday, September 1, 2011

North Uncanoonuc Mountain

I drive west on Route 101 every day, heading to Manchester to join in the rat race that we call work. On this morning ride, a couple small mountains that look like mirror images of each other (with the exception of multiple radio towers planted on the southern peak), always come into view and for a long time I wondered what they were. A while back I decided to do some research on them and found that they were the north peak and south peak of the same mountain. It is the Uncanoonuc Mountain and has a decent trail network over each peak as well as a little history associated with it.

Uncanoonuc Mountain Trail Kiosk


Trail Map, which can be found here

The southern peak, which has "probably the finest forest of communication towers in New Hampshire", as the AMC Southern New Hampshire Trail Guide puts it, used to actually have a trolley that ascended its northeastern slope. This railway has since been removed and is now a foot path. I’ve heard through some forums that you can still find old railroad spikes on this trail if you look hard enough. The trail map also shows that there is a viewpoint to the Boston skyline 51 miles away, although, I’m guessing this can only be observed on a very clear day. There is also an auto road that goes to the top, but I don’t know if there is a gate prohibiting the public from driving up or not. The summit sits at 1,321 feet.

 White Dot Trail blazes...I prefer the painted blazes on the trees instead
 
 Cool, Yellow Mushroom!

The northern peak doesn’t have quite as much history (or at least I couldn’t find any) and remains less touched by man made structures. The trail map shows that there is a viewpoint toward Pack Monadnock, just below the summit on its southwestern slopes. The summit sits at 1,324 feet. A colored trail map for both peaks and their viewpoints can be found here. However, you must note that the map was created upside down, so a northerly direction will be at the bottom of the map. I have no clue why anyone would create a map like this!


Very cool caves on the first portion of the trail.
On Wednesday evening, I set out for the summit of North Uncanoonuc Mountain. I left straight from work with the trail map in my hand and decided to ascend the White Dot Trail. I’m not sure which trails are more popular than others, but the trailhead for the White Dot Trail was fairly easy to find, so that’s why I chose it. This trail ascends 700 feet in just 0.6 miles, so I was expecting it to be pretty steep the whole way up. The trailhead parking was just off the side of Mountain Road in Goffstown, across from the trailhead. There is actually a Uncanoonuc Mountain Kiosk just before this parking area on the right that displays the same trail map that I had printed off.

Small toad on the side of the trail

The White Dot Trail is marked with a trail sign, however, it is hung quite a few feet from the road in the woods, so it is not viewable from the roadside. I noticed that the older blazes for this trail were blue in some areas and red in others. The newest or latest trail blazes were white painted tin can tops, nailed to the trees. These were certainly easy to follow and visible for a great distance in the woods, however, they didn’t look forest friendly to me. They looked more like litter than trail blazes. I suppose I’m old school. I like the good old paint on bark blazes!

View of one portion of the trail, steep the whole way!

As expected, I found the trail to be steep. It started with a mixture of rocky sections and root exposed sections. Very soon after emerging into the woods, some very nice rock caves were on the left. They were certainly large enough for someone to spend the night in and it seemed that someone even built up one side of the cave with rocks to make a more enclosed shelter. The mushrooms were plentiful on the hike and there were a wide array of colors. One in particular on the first half of the hike was a bright yellow color. I don’t believe I have ever seen a bright yellow mushroom before. As for wildlife, I didn’t see much other than a small toad that I unintentionally disturbed while trying to take a picture of a mushroom!

Mushroom colony...taking over this stump!

Some colorful berries!

The trail continued on pretty relentlessly with its steepness. It went straight the whole way and didn’t do much turning or meandering through the hemlock filled woods. Near the top, at about 1,200 feet, the trail did start to level off a bit. The view behind me opened up to the north at one particular point. If the sky wasn’t hazy, I’m sure I could’ve seen all the way to Kearsarge South or the lakes region mountains. However, it was hazy, so I didn’t see much other than the flat landscape.

Swarming dragon flies all around on the summit!

View over to South Uncanoonuc Mountain from North Uncanoonuc Mountain

The summit was pretty wide and flat. It was covered with blueberry bushes, which I’m sure a few weeks back, were covered in delicious wild fruit. There was a small fire pit area where it looked as though visitors abused the summit and left some broken glass bottles and a small amount of litter. Just past this pit, there was a view over to the South Uncanoonuc Mountain peak. It was as I expected it to look, a huge forest of radio towers and antennas. Not the nicest view...but a view nonetheless.

Signage showing hikers the direction of the Boston skyline

I was not alone on the summit. There were about fifty huge dragonflies swarming all around me, I’m assuming dining on the smaller bugs in the air. They circled around all over and it was really a cool site. I tried to snap some pictures, but it was tough. I also held my arms out to see if I could some of them to land on me, but I guess they were too hungry to turn their attention toward me. After exploring the summit for a bit, I decided to make my way down the southern slope of this peak, taking the Red Dot/Blue Trail. I was in search of the Pack Monadnock view!

View of Pack Monadnock, 16 miles to the southwest

Pack Monadnock, towers are visible

The slope down the southern side was not steep at all. It was fairly flat and still riddled with blueberry bushes. I came to a rock off to the side of the trail that had pebbles forming an arrow and the word “BOSTON” pointing to the south. I climbed up on some nearby rocks to see if I could see the Boston skyline as the arrow was pointing in the right direction, however, the haze was too thick. I continued down the path and the Red Dot Trail exited to the left and I kept going on the Blue Trail. Soon, Pack Monadnock came into view on the skyline. It wasn’t the most wide open view, but nice regardless. You could just barely make out the tower on the summit.

View toward the north, some mountains visible through the haze

After snapping a couple shots of Pack Monadnock, I reversed my direction and went back up to the summit. Again, I was greeted by the feasting dragonflies. I took another quick look around for a USGS Survey Benchmark, but couldn’t find one. I don’t know if there is one on that summit or not, but figured I would check just in case. I then headed back down the White Dot Trail the same we I came up. The trail being steep was tough on my legs. I didn’t use my poles, although, I probably should have.

Sun, starting to break through some clouds on the summit

I came out of the woods around 7pm and the sun was already setting down. I only saw two people the whole trip (one coming out as I was starting and one on his way up, as I was going down). All and all, it was nice to be in the woods and get a bit of exercise on a short, steep trail. The views certainly were nothing to write home about, but I wouldn’t say it was wasted effort. I was able to explore some forest that I had never been in before, got a little exercise, saw some great dragonflies swarming and the view to Pack Monadnock wasn’t that bad either. Most of all, a lot of my curiosity of the Uncanoonuc Mountain that I see each day driving to work is satisfied. I plan on returning soon enough to explore the southern peak as well.

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6 comments:

  1. Nice post! It is always nice to read about a trail that doesn't usually get all the headlines! It is also cool that you have hiking options like this on your way home from work!

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  2. I think I'll have to start doing some exploring like this soon, since I've just transplanted to southern NH myself (the other side of 101, though). Good to know there are less popular mountains not far away.

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  3. Nice write up. The radio tower strewn summit is something that caught on over here a little, but I don't think I've seen any as bad as this one in your pic! It's a pity some great hills end up this way...

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  4. the auto road you mentioned does go to the top, but the only views are skewed by the radio towers.

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  5. Hello! I am leading a MeetUp hike up the South Summit, possibly including the North Summit, on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 10:00. The start of the hike (and parking) is located at the end of Mountain Base Road, Goffstown. Join us! Tamara

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  6. I hiked North Mountain yesterday as my curiosity got the best of me as well. I really enjoyed the hike. The quick, steep climb reminded me a little of Table Rock in Dixville Notch. I plan on going back and doing both mountains as well.

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