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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