New favorite unexpected view from Randolph

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
I had a Unimog full of wood on Sunday, so Sunday morning was an empty out and split a cargo body full of wood morning, but the weather was too nice so I did quick trip to my woodlot in Randolph for a hike. My lot faces Kings Ravine and I always like to get in spring hikes before the hardwoods leaf out. I get the view in the winter but in the spring the sun angle is higher and any snowpack in the ravines is better defined. The Ledge trail cuts across the corner of the back corner or my lot so I usually head up through the lot via an old set of logging paths. I get great views through the trees at the north side of Madison and Adams and Kings Ravine. Once the leaves fill out, its a jungle in spots and views are hard to find.

After some light bushwhacking I crossed into Randolph Community Forest land. Sometimes in the last year someone with lots of paint and motivation remarked this boundary. Not satisfied with just a line of blue blazes, they painted near everything standing with blue blaze and ax blazed new and grown in ax blazes in a ten foot wide swath. This is pretty unusual these days as only surveyors are allowed to paint or cut new blazes on property lines. Us mere mortals are only allowed to "renew" existing blazing by repainting what is there. I would run into these blue blazes on occasion on the rest of my hike. After one last hill I came out on the Ledge trail not that far from the Pasture Path junction. From there it was quick damp but non icy walk to the first viewpoint. I always regard this viewpoint as the "selfie" viewpoint as its framed by softwoods. The views from the actual Ledge just a short trip west are more open especially to the east over in Maine up the Andro Valley through Shelburne and Gilead. Here is a zoomed in photo of Kings Ravine 20220501_131313[1].jpg from the "selfie" view. Between the "selfie view and the actual ledge, another encounter with RCF blue painted trees.

I quickly swung onto the west end of the Crescent Ridge trail. That trail quickly breaks out into hardwoods that were high enough to avoid the ice storm of 1998. Its a nice wide trail with very open understory. About the only spring flowers were a lot of trout lilies just peeking out of the dry leaves from last year. I then came to the Four Soldiers trail junction and headed east as I was planning to avoid the higher softwoods and the chance of monorail if I stuck to Crescent Ridge. I saw a few minor patches of snow but have learned in past spring hikes that from the top of Mt Randolph the snow and ice hang on for several weeks after the hardwoods are clear. Four Soldiers trail is one of the newer trails in Randolph connecting Pond of Safety with the long term community trail network that exists between Durand Road and Randolph Hill Road. There are also snowmobile trails and logging roads in this area so its best to have a RMC map if navigating through the area as it shows more than just the local hiking trails. The trail was laid out and built mostly by a pro crew and is very well graded, if at all possible it "flows" and tries to minimize PUDS (pointless ups and downs). The trade off is its not heavily used and on occasion its a bit hard to follow. The blazes are there but they can be quite a fair distance between them. Long ago I did help a volunteer crew build a short section of this trail but my memories of it are getting old. Along the way I cut out a blow down that was blocking the route. Had I gone west a short distance on the Pond of Safety trail, I could have visited the Eye of the Needle Viewpoint which was cleared and restored a few years ago. It gives an unusual and unexpected view of the summit of Mt Washington given the Northern Presidential's ridge in between. Had I gone on up Mt Randolph and along the Mt Crescent Ridge there are couple of other restored viewpoints (Mt Randolph View and Mt Lafayette view). No doubt someone with a need for views could make a short day of it by heading up over Mt Randolph down Carlton Notch trail. For someone visiting the Eye of the Needle, unless things have changed, the Eye of the Needle sign is just some spot in the woods with no view and a sign, the actual view is just slightly off the trail a short distance East.

Soon enough I crossed a gauntlet of blue RCF trees and popped out at the junction with the Notchway. I expect many folks have walked by the Notchway over the years as the most direct least elevation route to Lookout Ledge is from Randolph Hill Road via Pasture path so the Notchway is just a detour. The Notchway starts out as a woods road in fairly flat open hardwoods and eventually crosses another one of the logging roads before it diverges off the logging road and turns off the road into a stand of softwoods dominated by some big Hemlocks. At some point heading south it comes to the steep wall of what I presume is the "notch" and the trail quickly cuts right to slab down the slope. In my current hiking mode I tend to be looking at my feet to determine footing but just at the top of the Notch is "the new unexpected view". Nothing I could reasonably take a picture of but framed in by tall hemlocks and other softwoods that start quite far down the slope is a direct view into King Ravine and only Kings Ravine framed on four sides with softwoods. I think its a natural opening as keeping it trimmed would require ropes work to ascend large trees quite high in the air. On the rare times I have hiked this trail I always was heading North so I missed the view. After admiring the view I headed down into the notch to cross a couple of brooks, all tributaries of Carlton Brook and then back out of the notch for some flat and level walk through a mix of Hemlocks and hardwoods before coming out at the Ledges trail junction. A few feet past I crossed my back property line well defined by occasional faded red paint blotches and another swatch of fresh blue RCF boundaries. My first encounter of hikers of the afternoon was on the Ledge trail by a couple from Jefferson who were trying to ascertain an elusive bird. We talked for bit and I soon bid them farewell and headed down into the woods onto my logging road system catching occasional views down the road at Mt Adams before heading back to my car. Incidentally the RCF had another large block of land donated recently to protect much of the lower Ledge trail leaving the corner of my lot and two "spaghetti" lots Sandwiched in by RCF land so no doubt the folks with the blue paint and hand axes will be back at it to mark the new boundaries down lower on the Ledge trail.

I used my trail runners on this hike with an athletic ankle brace. The brace definitely is not the most comfortable but compared to the heavy Keen boots I bought it seems to be the right combo. The brace even fits under my low gaiters. I still watch my step but the confidence level is going up. Once the higher elevation trails melt out I will be heading up higher.
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