We are slow moving hikers who have rediscovered the joy of spending time in the woods.
Mt Major, Alton, NH
Because the weather forecast indicated the day would be gloomy, gray, and rainy, and I would be hiking solo, I opted to hike a lower elevation mountain. I may have tackled a taller mountain, but snow has been falling in the White Mountains and I am not mentally prepared to tackle that on my own (yet).
Mt. Major in Alton, NH is a favorite hiking destination of a woman I work with. Amy loves to hike this 1,785’ mountain with her 8-year old son. She recommended hiking up the 1.5 mile blue blazed (Mt. Major Trail) and down the 1.8 mile yellow blazed (Brook Trail) which reconnects with the blue trail for the final .7 miles back to the parking lot. She said the blue trail is fairly steep and challenging while the yellow blazed trail is a gentler grade. I agree with her approach to ascend the more challenging trails, so that’s what I planned to do, too.
Earl laughed when I told him I was going to hike Mt. Major. He can sometimes be an elevation snob. He hiked Mt. Madison (elevation 5,367’) while I was cruising to Bermuda two weeks ago, and thinks these “hills” are too easy now. Perhaps it’s just because he is 6-foot-ahundred tall and I’m 5-foot-and-a-smidgeon tall; but I think a 1,785’ mountain still deserves respect. HA HA
Anyway… before I could hike the mountain (or hill, as Earl called it), I had to get there. I saw turkeys, 20 – 30 of them, in a field on the drive to New Hampshire. We frequently see turkeys when driving to a mountain, so I took this as a good sign for the day. I also saw a sign for a scenic viewpoint a few miles before the trailhead parking lot. I pulled over and caught a glimpse of the views the day would bring.
The mountain was all that Amy told me it was. The views were stunning. This misty, clouds hovering over Lake Winnipesaukee and the fading yellow and oranges of fall foliage were mesmerizing. More than once I stopped on the trail to watch the clouds moving over the trees.
The trails were fairly well marked, although there were a few times as I was ascending the blue blazed trail that I questioned whether I was going the right way. At one point, just below the summit, a copse of trees divided two wide, steep sections of wet granite. I couldn’t see any blue blazes painted on either section of granite, but I heard voices coming from the section to the right. I started climbing that way. In my mind, I wondered if those hikers had climbed up this section or if they had climbed the other section and hiked over to where they now were. As they came into view I saw a section of rock that would be difficult to scramble up. I was fairly certain that I would have to turn around and go the other way when I saw a faint patch of blue paint on the granite ahead of me.
“Dang!” I thought. “Now how the heck am I supposed to get up that?”
Being mindful that the rock was wet, but so far not slippery, I took a few steps to the right to see if there looked like a good place to climb on that side. There was not. I stepped to the left and saw a better, but still not appealing, option. I scrambled up the rock face and soon joined the four people who had stopped to enjoy the view.
Unfortunately, I was so caught up in looking at that view, I didn’t pay attention to which direction they went when they moved on. So there I was again, not sure which direction to go. HA HA
The obvious answer was “up!” so that’s what I did.
Except for the few times that I doubted I was following the trail, I made it to the summit without incident.
Descending down the shared blue/yellow blazed trail, I questioned why the blue blazes were still being shown. Soon I found the answer. The blue trail veers off to Mt. Straightback, while the yellow blazed trail continues to the trailhead and parking lot.It was still early in the day and the rain had let up. I decided to hike the .7 miles to Mt. Straightback. The views from Mt. Straightback were nice, but were more obstructed than those on Mt. Major. I could have kept hiking on the blue trail to Mt. Klem, but I decided to turn back.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet so many people on the trail when I was descending. Only a few of them wore rain jackets or carried small daypacks. Several wore blue jeans and I couldn’t help hoping the rain held off until they were safely back to their cars. Eventually the sprinkles that had started falling as I returned to the yellow trail grew into rain drops. I debated whether I wanted to stop and put on my rain coat again or just keep going. I never did stop to put it on, but the thought was always on my mind.
A brook provided background music to the short conversations I had with several small groups of hikers. I’m sure the trail was named after it, and it was a lovely brook deserving of such an honor. The water was clear and was I am sure very cold. The perfect water source for thirsty hikers!
Soon my three-hour excursion was over. I was back at the parking lot and discovered that my observation about the number of people hiking was not inaccurate. The large parking lot was almost half filled. I’m sure during the height of summer and fall, this trail is overcrowded. I am glad that I chose a gloomy, gray, and rainy day to experience it!
Trailhead: On Rte 11 in Alton, NH. Large parking lot. Portapotties at trailhead.
Total distance: 5.4 miles Total time: 3 hours Weather: Cloudy, light rain, 39 degrees Fahrenheit