Trip Report: Finding Snow on Mt Sunapee

Mt Sunapee, North Peak (2,726 feet). Newbury, NH. 2020-05-12 (Tuesday)

Via Newbury Trail, Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, Solitude Trail. 7.25 miles round-trip. About 1,700 vertical feet of total elevation gain.

The flowers that bloom in the spring! 

50 dF at the trailhead, 50 dF at the summit. Winds were about 2-3 MPH in the trees, about 10-15 knots at the summit. Sun and clouds throughout the day. 

Trailhead: 1320. Summit: 1500. Car: 1720. 

I knew when I finished my hike last week that I’d be back. I never thought it would be quite this soon, but an email that hit my inbox a couple days ago sealed it. The good folks of the Cardigan Highlanders noticed my trip report, and as they are the maintainers of the Andrew Brook and Newbury trails, it seemed apropos that I knuckle down and head back up there. If one is good, two is better, right? Right! 

And so there I was, getting out of my car in scenic Newbury. A neighbor to the trailhead was doing a bit of yardwork, so we shared a few thoughts about his daffodils, which looked lovely, and about the weather, which has been nothing short of mind-bending. Can we please leave winter behind and get on with springtime? 

Heading up the trail, almost immediately, I was faced with a water crossing. Apart from a fair bit of mud and a small section of ice and snow, that would be the one and only time I crossed over water. I made decent headway for about a mile or so before beginning to notice there were what looked like trilliums off to the side, sans blossom. Making a note to check into this when I got home, I continued on, only to look down again and… yes, Virginia, they were red trilliums, and quite a few are blooming! And nearby, I saw what I’m pretty sure is a cinquefoil. (EDIT: It’s actually a Downy Yellow Violet.) So in answer to the Mikado reference, those are the flowers that are currently blooming — at least that I saw. There were a few other stems that looked like they might be bellwort or perhaps trout lilies, but without the flower, I couldn’t be sure. 

The trail wasn’t meaningfully different to Andrew Brook, in terms of being mostly leaf litter and duff, but it did seem to pitch upward more severely, and for a longer time. They’re within feet and inches of being identical length, but the trailhead of one is 300 feet higher than the other. You guess which is which. But either way, it wasn’t a terribly hard ascent. What was notable was the mud. The two trails might be one-for-one in terms of quantity but today, the mud puddles seemed wider. Then again, it rained the other day, so that might just be it. 

I turned back early last week, on account of my ankle starting to “perk up” a little, and I won’t pretend that didn’t happen again this outing. But I’m glad I pushed ahead today, even if the hike back down wasn’t as nice as it could have been. Crossing from south to north was very straight forward, with a modest but still perceptible dip between the two. (I hesitate to call it a bona fide col.) For all the neat stuff going on here, with its tarn, ledges with amazing views, and its two peaks, it’s not a tough mountain.

I came out of the woods onto the ski area, literally onto a still snow-covered trail. Crossing under the lift, and then up a little more, and there were the summit lodges. I met a couple women who were trying to suss out which distant peaks were which, and that’s something I know a few things about. They weren’t the only people enjoying the weather, and indeed, a couple others were sharing the day with their pups.

The views from the summit weren’t perfect on account of some clouds and some haze, but wow, they were certainly good enough. I was able to spot Ascutney and Killington in Vermont very easily. Looking to the north, I spied the snowy peaks of Moosilauke, Lafayette (more like Franconia Ridge), and Washington. Probably somewhere in the middle were the Bonds and the Twins, but that was getting a bit muddied due to a little bit of haze. It’s bittersweet, in that I got to see them, but I still wish I was up there hiking on them. I looked toward Maine, and I’m sure I did indeed have the three state view, but nothing notable caught my attention. Yet another reason to come back, because there are certainly views to be had on a clear day.

The summit was crazy windy, to the point where the cell tower was moaning like a banshee. All the summit buildings are closed and locked-up. And as a curious piece of evidence about how long this has been going on, all the Coronavirus signs refer to 6 feet being “about the length of a ski.” I hope there’s an anthropologist taking note of all this.

On the way down, I couldn’t help but keep looking to the sides of the trail. My wandering gaze was rewarded when I finally saw a painted trillium. By all rights, I should have missed it, because its blossom could have neatly fit on a dime. But there it was, in all its nascent glory. If there’s one thing that completely made my day, it was the appearance of the flowers. Spring has sprung. When I decided to head back to Sunapee, I never would have guessed it would happen, but once again, the trail provides.

As always, stay safe out there.

Waterfall, not far from the road.
Most of the trail is about like this, although beware, it’s still mud season!
Stone steps. There were a few other spots beyond where the going was a little rough.
Red Trillium!
Fairly sure this is a cinquefoil viola pubescens.
Summit buildings for the ski area.
Looking out over Vermont. Alas, Killington is too hazy to be seen in this photo.
The Whites were on display today!
More of the Whites, with Lake Sunapee in the foreground.
This little fella was nattering on about something or another.
A tiny painted trillium. Wow!
Some shining clubmoss (Huperzia lucidula) nearer the base of the mountain. They reproduce by spores, similar to ferns.

Nuts and Bolts: The trailhead for Newbury trail is on Lake View Ave, which is on the west side of 103, just at the south end of the lake. There’s very limited parking on the side of the road, and a whole lot of no-parking signs past the trailhead. Know that this is a tight neighborhood, and I can very easily imagine the residents are quite watchful. So as always, but here in particular, be good ambassadors for the sport. If the parking is tight, there’s a parking area at the lake, and the walk is perhaps a quarter mile — far less of a road-walk than what you’d suffer if you showed up to Appalachia after about 10 in the morning. 

Trailhead will be on the north side of the road, and it’s easy to spot with fairly obvious signs. Blazes are orange. Note that the first bit of the trail crosses private land. Don’t give landowners an excuse to lock things down. 

Note that at the summit area, there are many more signs for skiers than hikers. Not saying there aren’t any blazes for the M-S Greenway, but you have to look for them. As you emerge from the forest, periodically look behind you and note what things will look like on your return. Right now, there’s still a bit of snow up there that you’ll have to cross, but it’s not anything to worry about. I didn’t even think of unpacking my Micro Spikes. 

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