Hard to Beat hiking day today - Kearsage North


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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
I got up and looked at the Obs forecast this AM . Winds 25 to 30 increasing over the day. I looked out and the moon was shining. What the heck might as well do a run down to Kearsage North. As I headed south it was bluebird day with almost no clouds and even the clouds near Washington were almost stationary. I got the trailhead and there were two slots open around 7:30 am. My guess I would encounter campers and sunrise hikers. Kearsarge North trails lower section is in area of valley drainage. On a clear night cold air sinks down the valleys making it quite cold. The sun was shining up high so it was gear up knowing I would slowly be shedding gear all day. I bare booted through the Hemlocks and the Red Pines before breaking out of the valley onto the small ridge. The sun was out and it was warming up, off came the layers including my hat, somehow it got left behind but I figured I would pick it up on the way down. Soon I was heading up the ledges that used to be far more open 30 years ago then they are today. I quicky had to put in my Hillsound microspikes as there is lot of flow ice in the trail. The ground is not frozen so unfrozen water is seeping out of the ground and freezing in layers when it hits the cold night air. There are ways to skip a lot of it but once I had headed back into the softwoods to the NW side of the mountain, the trail is nearly pure flow ice. It would take someone a lot of work to avoid it. I am glad I had the Hillsound's rather then Kahtoola's as I had to adopt the sumo wrestler stride to stomp in my points as there is slush layer on top of the hard ice. I also lost the carbide on one of my poles (cheap chinese lookalikes to the Leki replacement tips at about 10% the cost). I met two groups coming down, one was group of college age folks who had stayed the night and were really happy they did. Most were weel equipped but one was in a pair of old style red canvas basketball sneakers with no traction. The other wee just out for an early hike.

As I rounded the upper corner over the new fairly recent rock steps, I broke out into bluebird skies with only a few clouds including one downwind of Mt Washington. It was a 100 mile visibility day although the biomass plant down in Tamworth seemed to be contributing to a local inversion. I had the summit to myself. The firetower cab was frosted up in the inside from what I expect was last nights campers but it was so warm I left the door open and opened a window and it warm enough to clear most of the windows. There was zero wind and a hard to beat winter day definitely in the high nines out of ten. I was tempted to take the back way down via the old bike path from the pond on Weeks Brook but I was solo, so elected to head down the way I came. After 20 solo minutes at the summit, I decided to head down, picking my way down the ice was tedious especially with a dull pole. It was cold in the softwoods but once I hit the south ledges I took a break and stripped more gear off, I didnt have a good t shirt for it but if I had one it would have gone on.

I had mentioned my missing hat to the folks I passed. I knew roughly where it was and as I rounded the corner it was up on a log, thanks to the anonymous hiker who picked it up. It a new XXL hat to fit my large head so I was glad to get it back. I kept the traction on lower than when I was heading up as my broken ankle a few years ago reminds me that I broke it going down the mountain. I keep them on past the Hemlock grove and then barebooted the rest of the way out. After a stop at Market Basket I headed north. A hint with Market Basket is its perpetually busy and the prepared food counter workers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand. I heard folks being given an estimate that it would take an hour to get their order. I usually go right at 7 AM so I miss the crowds. Still its nice to be able to find things on the shelves that I have never been able to buy locally.

When I pulled into my driveway and got out of the car I finally felt a breeze, probably the first one I had felt all day. I just wish I had weather like this on Moosilauke New Years Eve but being retired and living nearby has its perks;)
The old trail from Shingle Pond is still quite navigable. It comes out on the extension to Timberline Drive.

I think PB meant that MB simply provides for some items not sold at other grocery stores. Same is true for Hannaford and Shaw’s. They all have slightly different selections although I’ve been somewhat disappointed by what MB has to offer in terms of brand selection. I suspect I am an outlier though, as folks seem enamored with the place.

Don’t forget that there is also an old trail that connects from the KN trail to the Bartlett Mt trail very close the Bartlett summit. It is a bit hard to find on the KN side. Easier to locate on the Bartlett side. You can take a trail/logging road east from the base of the Bartlett Mt trail if you want to do a loop, with a short 1/4 mile or so whack to rejoin the KN trail very close to the bottom. Or you can just go out and back to Bartlett, which is a very short ridge hike. Bartlett has a beautiful summit with 180 degree ledge views to the west. Unless you come from KN, Bartlett has no public access.
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There is a new Market Basket in North Conway that literally took years to get built due to lawsuits by an abutting developer and then when it was built sat for about 6 months due to a missing piece of electrical switchgear. The nearest one prior to this was in Plymouth and as you probably know driving anywhere east to west in NH is not easy. The new store is drawing a lot of traffic from Western Maine north of the Lakes Region as well as north of the RT 25 corridor in NH. Compared to what Walmart offer up in Gorham and even in North Conway it is a major improvement. Hannaford try's hard in North Conway but its a physically small store so inventory is limited. Shaw's has a much bigger store but seems to have long ago become very pricey. I expect one of the two will go away.

That Shingle Pond route is a great one, I try to do it every few years. I realize its conserved land and the organization conserving it does not want public trails on it but it really deserves one. Weeks Brook trail is bit hard to follow coming down from the summit and can get real icy so I save it for summer.

I just never have done the Bartlett hike.
You would enjoy the Bartlett Mt hike. It would be extremely popular if there was public access (by that I mean parking - there is no parking for the trailhead, which comes out on Mt. Surprise Road and the condos on Eagle Ridge Road). It might even make 52WAV because the trail is maybe 2.5 miles each way, not terribly steep for the most part, and offers great views in various spots along the way as well as excellent summit views. Sort of a baby Kearsarge North. If you can find the connector trail from KN, it can be accessed from there. The trail from the summit to the bottom passes through little Merriman SF and below that the land is all conservation land managed (and one parcel also owned) by Upper Saco Valley Land Trust.

I have whacked across the lower ridges of KN to Shingle Pond and also have taken the old trail a number of times. Much better to take the trail! Although there are no major open areas on the little pond, it is truly a little gem.
My last time up Kearsarge North was on a pretty cold day (like -5F on Hurricane Rd) in Feb 2018. Spikes went on first thing and stayed on. I’d worn my mountaineering boots and brought my crampons, as well as my Hillsound Ultras for my friend, but we didn’t need them. Until well after the ledge we were under a bluebird sky, it was my hiking partner’s first time doing any kind of activity after a bad MTB accident 3 or 4 months earlier so we were going slow (it had usually been me slowing us down, the role reversal was nice.) I’m sure it’s obvious where this is going, before we got to the summit the bluebird flew off and we had a grey jay sky instead. We spent maybe 1/2 hour warming up in the tower, took some pics, and headed back down. I think it was about a 5 hour hike.

We too saw a couple kids wearing jeans & sneakers, no poles or traction, and it was ICY. Was I ever like that? Maybe not quite to that degree, but I‘ve always been a gear nerd so I liked using my stuff LOL


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Shingle Pond is one of those White Mountain gems that should get more traffic but doesnt. I like the view of the tower from the shore. Long ago there was a mature softwood stand on the shore near the trail with almost no understory but it got overmature and one year the canopy opened up and in year or two wall to wall softwoods fight for every bit of light they could get. Mascot Pond in Gorham is the same, an easy walk from civilization but few go there.

I have only done the entire Weeks Brook trail a couple of times, it used to be poorly marked and it did a lot meandering to avoid private land in the last 1/2 mile.
Sounds like a great hike. Glad you were able to find a legal parking spot on the right side of the fog line.😉
Want something different? Park at the water tank/cistern right before you get to the cabin before the gate on Hurricane Mt Rd. (mountain bikers mostly park here for Red Tail et al on Cranmore). Hike up Timberline Dr. and then over to Shingle Pond. If you want to go further, hike up Weeks to top of KN and then either retrace or go down KN and walk back up Hurricane Mt Rd to the car (1/2 mile tops).