My heart started pounding as soon as we began our ascent on Sandwich Mountain Trail off Rte 49 in Waterville Valley this morning. The air was still cool, below 40F, when we set out at 8:30 am. Fortunately the trail passes through a scenic region of the Sandwich Range, prompting us to stop often to catch a breath and look and listen. It always takes me awhile to hit my stride after weeks away from the mountains; we live in the relatively flat coastal plain of southeastern New Hampshire.
We paced ourselves as there was much to pause for. A winter wren sang its long, melodious song from the thickets near Drakes Brook. The painted trilliums were in full bloom along the trail. The flowers stunning with their splotches of pink centers.
The trail climbs through dense woods of young spruce, the forest floor covered in mosses and lichens. A place to lose yourself in the solitude, which we enjoyed all the way to the 3,980' summit of Sandwich Dome (now more commonly called Sandwich Mountain). One large erratic boulder caught our eye as we passed by.
Red admiral butterflies also kept us company on the trail today. And purple finches--the state bird of New Hampshire--were in full song. One sang beautifully from the top of a balsam fir on the higher slopes of Sandwich Mountain. And then another in the parking lot above our car when we finished the 8.7 mile hike at 2:15 pm.