Sandwich Mountain, Jennings Peak, Noon Peak. Waterville Valley, NH. 2019-06-05. (Wednesday)
Via Sandwich Mountain Trail. Sandwich Mountain: 3,980 feet. Jennings Peak: 3440. Noon Peak: 2976 feet.
65 dF +/- with thick clouds. Negligible winds on trail.
Trailhead 1220; Noon Peak 1450; Sandwich Mountain Summit 1540; Jennings Peak: 1648. back at car: 1750.
Approximately 8 miles.
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All day long, I was wondering why I didn’t nail down the whole thing in the first place. Then I got back home and looked at my old blog post from Jennings Peak, and realized it was November, and I was probably running low on daylight after a monstrously late start. OK, whatever. I also noticed in the post that I had a great day out. Today was no different.
First thing, though: it’s very much mud season. There’s a lot of standing water on the trail, and numerous stretches of outright unavoidable mud puddles that will consume your feet. Going in, know that it’s going to be messy. For the sake of trail erosion, consider waiting a bit for this one. The Whites are huge, and you’ve got lots of fine options.
Conspicuous in their absence are the flowers. We spotted a few painted trilliums, and some common strawberries down low, but really, that was about it for herbaceous plants. Bummer. Also not appearing today was the view. The ceiling was thick and low. At the lower outlooks, some kind of view could be had, but it truly wasn’t much. As always, though, being outside is its own reward. With everything as wet as it is, forest bathing was a thing. There was a lot of moss smoothing all the sharp corners. A lovely, fuzzy duvet draped across the landscape. And that was becalming.
As happy as I was about the hike last time, I neglected to remember the steep bits, and there were many. And they were long. And arduous. Occasionally treacherous with the wet, slimy conditions. In hiking as in running, I’ve come to peace with uphill sections. But wow, for a sub-4,000 footer, there sure were a lot of them. Mercifully, I can’t remember much that was a brook running down the trail, except the aforementioned muddy bits.
The forest never felt crowded, but it wasn’t a glade either. A good, happy medium where we could spot the different trees: birches, various conifers… there was a nice, airy feeling. Given a month or so, when the understory fills out, it’s going to be another situation entirely. But today was nice.
Extending the last hike out to Sandwich, it was a treat to walk the last bit of green tunnel to the outlook. A small cairn and a metal anchor adorn the summit. There wasn’t a whole lot of view, but at the same time, there was a sublime sensibility of being socked in clouds. Their passage was visible here and there, which fed that sublime feeling.
On the way up, we left Jennings Peak for last, on the assumption that it’s better to bag that one after hitting the main objective. It was about ten minutes to emerge on its summit from the trail junction. Three peaks for the day. There was a lot of very concentrated “up”, including the opening salvo ascending to Noon Peak where it felt like at least a 45-55 degree slope. It wasn’t quite as bad as the goat path on Owl’s Head, but it felt like things were approaching that level.
Heading back, we had just the crossing of Drake’s Brook left. It’s pretty swollen, so it took some looking around to find the smart way across. Happily, no footwear drowned this time around, all socks stayed dry. But thank heavens for Gore Tex. Better living through technology.
Looking back, for all the fine views, this hike is quite a bit harder than I first remembered. That being said, it never felt even remotely insurmountable. It’s not terribly long, and its saving grace is that one could bag Noon Peak before deciding to turn around, and still have won a fine view. I don’t know if I want to say the views get progressively better, but I never felt disappointed — excepting the fact that clouds interfered with the best of it. We could see Tripyramid, and spot the vague outlines of various other mountains throughout the day, so I know those views are out there. Certainly for something that’s less likely to be mobbed on a sunny summer day, it’s a fine choice.
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