Mt Hale (4,054 feet). Bethlehem, NH. 2021-09-23 (Thursday.)
Via Fire Warden’s Trail. 9 miles round-trip.
75 dF at the trailhead, 70 dF back at the car. RH ranged around 60%. Winds were negligible in the trees, about 15 knots above. British: a fair amount of drizzle, but the sun made occasional appearances throughout the day.
About 2 hours up, 90 or so minutes down.
Delightful Day Hiking Hale
Driving through Franconia Notch, I felt a stirring, deep inside. I’ve felt this before, and long acknowledged a simple truth. The mountains are a maiden, enticing me, singing to me. Beckoning me. It happens often and when it does, I have no question what’s going on. I’m home.
Right now, we’re at the cusp of autumn. As I write this, it’s autumn’s first day, so things are still nascent yet. But soon, it will be delightfully cool. There will be days on the trail with warm sun, and bright leaves everywhere. Before long, the air itself will be crisp, and pregnant with anticipation of the coming winter. Today was just a taster. An amuse bouche, if you will, to stimulate the hiker appetite for the coming change.
Is there a truly great way to go?
As on other hikes up Hale, I took the Fire Warden’s Trail. Today, I bumped into a few other hikers, and when mentioned (or when actually on the trail itself) it was clear that this remains one of the secret handshakes of the Whites. If you’re one of the cool kids, you know how to find it. And so, none more about its whereabouts will be said here. But it’s worth looking for.
Hale sports easy grades almost any which way. Today was no exception. I passed over pleasant terrain, and while the hike was most decidedly “up” for its duration, at the same time, it wasn’t hard. The trail was dirt and duff most of the time, and in excellent shape. Indeed, for an unofficial route to the summit, its condition easily rivaled the best the AMC has on offer. (Heck, the boardwalk over by Zealand might almost be in rougher shape!) This is what happens when those in the know spread their love for the trail.
How was the forest?
I passed through mostly open forest, and for much of it, birches galore. The leaves were in a transitional state, mostly green, but a few yellow gems here and there to add excitement. Ferns abounded, and the mosses in places softened the landscape like a plush duvet. That sodden weather? Who cares?
Crossing over a short col, I ascended through familiar terrain. Now conifers, and the forest tightened up a lot. It’s a short stretch, the last before you hit the summit. And then, of course, I emerged from the trees into the familiar clearing, with that larger-than-life cairn. Hale remains a wonderful day out, for so many more reasons than can be put into words.
As always, stay safe out there.
Nuts and Bolts: As this is an officially unmaintained trail, and as it doesn’t appear on any current (or recently current) AMC map, I won’t be sharing its location, both out of a sense of keeping the secret handshake alive, but also because being off-map, the danger of a new hiker getting in over his or her head is there. The trail is indeed gentle, especially when compared with almost anything else on the 4,000 footer list, but if it means that much to you, “do your own research.” It’s not hard to find, and when you do, it’ll be a rewarding hike, and all the more because you found it on your own.
For those new to the 4,000 footer list, know that the Hale Brook Trail remains an excellent route to the summit, one that I sincerely enjoy, and no harder than Fire Warden’s. Hale isn’t a hard hike, no matter which common way you approach it.
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6 thoughts on “Trip Report: When it rains on Hale”
One of my favorite paths in the Whites. No mention of your ongoing bout with Foot pain, I hope that it’s nearing rear view status. As always enjoyable reading.
Thanks for your warm wishes. The absence of mention was something I was thinking of when I hit “publish”. Not much grief, thankfully, though I did have to stop and stretch a couple times. But of course, one doesn’t want to tempt fate, right? So for now, I won’t say “rear view”, but merely thank the stars that PF pain was held in abeyance for the day.
Mt. Hale is the perfect “rainy day” hike. No real view to speak of. Just a pleasant gentle climb up. Also a great junction at the summit to head off to other awesome trails! I basically relived my Hale excursion while reading this! Thank you! Always look forward to reading your blog. I get excited when the alerts come in and I am sitting in my windowless office in Boston!
You say “Hale excursion” in the singular… time to get out of that windowless office!” *grin*
Glad you enjoyed the post!
I enjoyed your lovely description of the hike up Hale via the Fire Warden’s trail. I must try it! Just want to add that Hale was one of the first 4k peaks I climbed early in my hiking career. Would you believe I have pictures of the views available from the summit at that time? Wishing you happy trails!
Thanks for your kind words. Hale is one of those peaks that you wish you could get more of. I actually don’t mind the lack of views, because for so many more reasons than a “mere” view, it’s such a great hike.
Stay safe out there!