Trip Report: Walking Waumbek on the Weekend

Mt Waumbek (4,006 feet). Jefferson, NH. 2020-11-14 (Saturday.)

Via Starr-King Trail. 7.2 miles round-trip.

34 dF pretty much throughout.Winds were negligible. Cloudy throughout, with a thin sliver of a break for a stupendous blood-orange sunset. 

Trailhead: 1200. Waumbek summit: 1500. Car: 1700. 

Winter Wonderland on Waumbek! 

I meandered up this time. I’d been considering past hikes up this summit, where I made screaming fast times. And then thinking back to my hike up Carrigain the other day, where I made quick time to the summit. It’s not like I didn’t want to see if I could do something similar today. But instead, it’s entirely that what happened, happened. Y’know what? It’s all good. I went slow today. I blame other hikers, notably their pups. Oh my, I have a soft spot for dogs. Mea magna culpa. 

Looking at my spreadsheet of doom, I’ve got nine left on the autumn list, and they’re all either in the southern edge (Sandwich range area) or Tom, Field, and Willey, which bangs out three peaks for a single drive up 93. And they’re pairs — the Osceolas, the Tripyramids, and Whiteface/Passaconaway. On those last two, I’m thinking of breaking them up, because I want to take the two of them from vastly different trails than the tried-and-true loop that I’ve been doing. Stay tuned for that. It’s an idea that I’m pretty excited about. 

And so… that last of the Pilot range hikes. One of my faves, actually. It feels like an old flannel shirt or that pair of blue jeans that’s been washed to infinity, and is just so soft and comfy. Smith and Dickerman wrote that it’s not the shortest, but certainly on the list of easiest of the 48. I’m very inclined to agree, and that’s something I like about it. 

This summer, I made peace with the northern Presidential range in a big way. Looking down into the Great Gulf, walking the Gulfside trail, climbing Star Lake trail, making my way over the Howks… I made memories that will bring me back to those places again and again. But it took no small amount of time to get to that point, and let’s not forget that the mountain king extracted his fee of a pound of flesh along the way. Ouch. Still ouch. “Favorite” does not, in the slightest, demand “easy” as a prerequisite. Far from it. Owl’s Head isn’t exactly a short hike. Neither is Guyot and the Bonds. Love ’em all.

But Waumbek? That became my friend right off the bat. We’re still besties, and I don’t expect that to change. I can’t walk that trail without being brought back to the woods where I grew up. It’s a special kind of magic that brings me to a special place every time.

Today’s hike was odd, in that I was on the trail on a Saturday. Arriving late (noontime!) as I did, parking at the trailhead was “snug.” And there was no shortage of people on the trail. Lots of smiles over those miles. A lot of people hacking away at their 48 lists. Almost all of them on their first round, although there were a few who were on their 49+n hikes. One guy, when I asked, answered “this is my first!” And hey, that’s awesome. Everyone starts on numero uno, and that’s the same whether you’re a king or a pauper. At least in that one, singular way, the mountains are a great equalizer. 

And hey! For everyone nearing the magical 48th peak, I have two questions: Where are you going to finish? And what’s going to be #49? I’m happy to report that quite a few people have thought about those two things. On the second question, I’m only going to ask “you didn’t think you were going to just hang up your spurs, did you?”

Pups? Galore! I saw all makes and models, including a Berner, a couple huskies, several North American Mutts, and a couple Aussies — I never knew they came in a “mini” variant! One pup had the most magnificent brindle coat. Quite a few had the customary itchy bums. Not many could “hold their licker.” On that last one, I’m entirely sanguine. There are many worse things in life than slobbery doggy kisses. The single common factor was they were all living their best lives, on the trail, their natural habitat. Awesome. 

And so again… I’m going to leave it to the photos. Overall, this wasn’t a stand-out hike for anything, in the same way that those blue jeans aren’t stand-out for anything either. It was comfy, being out on that trail again, and to that, I’ll just say “it’s been too long.” 

My only other comment is to mention the sunset. The day was beset on all sides by clouds, and the light was significantly dimmed, even at noontime. Kinda dreary, actually, and my photos were nothing special as a result. But just at sunset, there was a sliver of an opening, through which some sunbeams snuck through, in all their blood-orange glory. They lit up the sky magnificently, even after I got to my car and drove down to the main road. I watched those last few seconds as the sun sank below the horizon, and wow, that felt good. 

OK… without further ado, here’s the photos you’re waiting for, ordered from bottom to top (as will become obvious.) 

As always, stay safe out there.

Heading up, the old stone well. Note the old jeep road for a trail.
As I drove up, I noted the mountaintops were frosted. Lo and behold, so too were the downed tree limbs.
Ascending, the frosting gets more apparent. Winter is on its way. *Le sigh.*
Not terribly further up the trail, but substantially more frosting.
It’s pretty unavoidable at this point.
I’m not far below the summit at this point. Numerous people said I’d be needing spikes by now. And yet, bare boots all the way.
(Firefly reference) Shiny!
The old shelter’s fireplace. As I headed back down, it was being readied for its customary use.
Waumbek’s summit cairn. It’s a bummer that there aren’t better rocks in the area.
An approximation of that magnificent blood-orange sunset.

Nuts and Bolts: Take 93 north, and then follow route 3 through Twin Mountain. At the 4 way intersection (near Foster’s Crossroads and Yaya’s) stay on 3. A bit later, turn right onto NH 115, and follow that until you can take a left onto 115A. When you hit route 2, take a right, and a minute later, turn left onto Starr-King road. Follow your nose to the trailhead. 

Trailhead will be at the end of the parking area. Blazes are yellow. Pretty much the entire trail is obvious — just follow your nose. At the summit of Starr-King, pass to the right of the fireplace. If you look into the trees, you’ll see a small white diamond-shaped sign that says “PATH.” And a bit of hiking after that, you’ll see a summit cairn that will remind you of the one on Owl’s Head. If you want a selfie with a medallion, that’s on Starr-King, before the fireplace by about 25 yards. 

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