Monday, August 5, 2013

Vistas and Views

Early August - Jackson, NH.

We spent the weekend at a friend's place on the lower slope of South Doublehead Mountain. This was our first trip to the mountains with both dogs, Kodi and Henna.

We adopted Henna on April 13th of this year, when she was barely one year old. Her high spirit and most recently a bout with Giardia and coccidia kept us from any long hikes. Henna is still in training - she likes to chase after wild things, including grasshoppers, chipmunks, snakes, birds, and larger mammals. So she remains tethered to us when we are outside. Thus, we opted for short hikes this past weekend, which were just as enjoyable as a long trek to the top of a high peak (and apparently we had far better weather at lower elevations as friends that hiked Moosilauke reported winter-like conditions!).

One such hike we chose was to the Hall's Ledge Overlook on the Town of Jackson's 500-acre Prospect Farm. To reach there we drove to the very end of Carter Notch Road and parked near a Forest Service gate. From there we walked up a logging road to a network of cross-country ski trails that are part of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation trail network.
We followed the Wildcat Valley Trail -- which resembled an old, grassy logging road -- for about 2 miles, then another 1/2 mile to the overlook. Along the way we flushed a female hermit thrush from her nest with two blue eggs nestled beneath a canopy of lacy ferns on the edge of the trail. Not far from the thrush nest we flushed a female turkey with her brood of pint-sized turkey poults. Despite their small size, the young turkeys flew to the tops of spruce saplings. At the edge of a clearing we sampled red raspberries while admiring a view to the south of Mt. Chocorua and the Sandwich Range.
The woods were just beginning to take on a slight hint of the coming autumn. Yet this summer's rain has kept the vegetation lush into August, a time when plants usually begin to wither from hot, summer days and droughty conditions. Instead, we waded through knee high ferns and grasses moist with dew and recent rain and noted lots of delicious-looking plump fruits on woodland wildflowers -- most of which (except for the red raspberries) are actually toxic to humans or bitter tasting.

A sampling of the beautiful, but best not to eat wild fruits:
red baneberry (highly toxic to humans),
Clintonia or blue-bead lily and bunchberry (both have unpleasant tasting berries),
although other animals seem to eat them all with no ill effects.
Our destination for this 5.0-mile round trip hike was Hall's overlook that offered a narrow, but superb, view of Mt. Washington, which was best observed by standing on the large picnic table to see above the spruce and fir saplings.
Sometimes we seek the exaltation of hiking to the top of a 4,000-footer and sometimes we relish the shorter hikes with vistas of those higher peaks and sightings of things close at hand. Our friend's place in Jackson offered the latter with stellar views of Mt. Kearsarge, trails through fields of goldenrods and black-eyed Susans, garden fare, and spiderwebs.

1 comment:

  1. That hike is terrific! It's been a few years since I've done it. Your report has inspired me to make a return visit soon!

    Like you, I enjoy an occasional trek to a 4K peak. But most often my preference is to hike to places like the Hall's Ledge Overlook where there are vistas of the high peaks, and sightings of things close at hand along the way.