Monday, February 17, 2014

Mount Major

I've hiked the 1,786-foot high Mount Major in Alton, New Hampshire, a few times, but only in summer and it had been awhile since I was last on top of this mountain in the Belknap Range. My nephew Reid and I wanted to do another hike before he headed home to Chicago (although he is delayed due to the latest snowstorm), so we, and Kodi too, summited Mount Major. It was a bright, breezy, blustery, brisk, beautiful day, under a blue sky.

We parked in the well-plowed parking lot on Route 11 about four miles north of Alton Bay (where a dozen ice fishing bob houses were still set up on the ice). A few other hikers had arrived at the same time, but we did not see them the rest of the day.

Mr. Weldon Bosworth has created an excellent map of the Belknap Range Trails. As part of a fundraising campaign to preserve several key parcels around Mt. Major, the Forest Society gave this map as a gift to people who donated to the campaign. Here is a portion of that map showing the trails that we hiked today.
We started out on the Main Trail (blue) then took the Brook Trail (yellow) to the summit and returned via the Boulder Trail (orange). The trail was well-packed; we used snowshoes although you could have hiked in bare boots. The round trip was about 4 miles, which we finished in about two hours. The Brook Trail followed a gentle gradient through a lovely hardwood forest with a few small stream crossings, winding around the north and west side of the mountain. The last bit was steeper, although not overly strenuous.
The yellow trails reaches the ridge and joins with the blue Belknap Range Trail, which leads to the summit of Mt. Major. when we reached the ridge we felt the blustery winds. Kodi loves wind and crusty snow as you can see, where he is rolling on his back, legs in the air.
We broke out of the trees into the full force of the wind as we reached the summit. We lingered for just a few moments to take in the wide view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountains that rim the lake.
We took the orange trail down, which descends quickly onto the leeward side of the mountain. Here, out of the wind, we took in one more view of the lake from on high.
I was reminded again of one of the reasons I love winter hiking. With the hardwood trees bare of leaves, you can see things close and far through the forest.
The orange Boulder Trail is was a steeper and boulder-strewn route compared to the gentler Brook Trail. I'd recommend the exact route that we hiked today.
It was a beautiful day in the woods (at the lower elevations) and enjoyed by all in our party of three. So much that we'll come back again to the Belknap Range.

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