Sunday, March 27, 2016

Mt. West Field (3691 Ft) and Mt Tom (4051 Ft)

West Field (small bump left center) from Mt. Tom
STATE: New Hampshire
TOWN: Bethlehem
DESTINATION: West Field, Mt. Tom
ELEVATION: 3691 Ft, 4051 Ft
SUMMIT COORDINATES: N44 11.364, W71 26.826
TRAIL: Avalon Trail, A-Z trail, Bushwhack
DISTANCE: 9.2 Miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 3390 Ft
HIKING TIME: 5 Hours 15 Min
SEASON: Early Spring
DATE: March 26, 2016
WEATHER: 40-45 degrees with clear skies, some under-cast clouds.

PARKING: Parking can be found at The AMC Highland Center and Crawford Depot on route 302. Drive time from Manchester is approximately 2 hours.

USGS QUAD: USGS Crawford Notch Quad

MAP: (West Field)




DESCRIPTION:

The Avalon trail enters the woods behind the Crawford Depot train station soon reaching a empty trail kiosk.  The trails were well used this winter and due to the early spring, a sheet of ice.  Micro-spikes or instep crampons are mandatory for anyone attempting this ascent before the spring melt. The Avalon trail ascends gradually paralleling and crossing an unnamed brook. A spur trail makes a exciting loop to Berlin and Fletcher Cascades returning a short distance further along the trail. the Avalon trail makes a second crossing of the unnamed stream and at 1.3 miles meets the junction with the A-Z trail.  The A-Z trail ascends to a stream crossing then climbs steeply to a 4th and final stream crossing at approximately 3450 feet elevation marks a short reprise from the brutally steep elevation gain before the trail reaches the col and the Mt. Tom spur trail.  In 200 Ft the Willey Range trail departs to the left (South) and A-Z trail descends westerly towards Zealand Notch.

To hike West Field Descend the A-Z trail 0.4 miles to approximately 3050 feet elevation where the A-Z trail crosses an unmarked old cross country ski trial (GPS coordinates N44 12.072, W71 27.134).  Cross a small stream to a small open field.  Here the cross country ski trail bears left and follows the stream a short distance before petering out after 0.15 miles.  Penetrate the spruce to a relatively open woods bushwhack to the West Field summit.  The bushwhack never got too steep and encountered a moderate band of trees 0.2 from the summit but it was short lived with minimal resistance. The woods opened up to the 3691 foot West Field summit.

Follow your foot steps the way you came. After returning to the A-Z trail and col I would recommend the 0.6 mile side trip to Mount Tom. The Summit is marked with a small cairn and a nearby outlook offers phenomenal views into Zealand notch including West Field which can be seen to the South.

Zealand Notch from Mt. Tom



TRAIL DISTANCES:

HIKING DISTANCES
DESTINATION
DISTANCE TOTAL DIST.
Avalon Trail - A-Z trail 1.7 mi 1.7 mi
A-Z trail - Mt. Tom Spur 1.0 mi 2.7 mi
A-Z trail - XC ski trail 0.4 mi 3.1 mi
Bushwhack to W. Field 0.9 mi 4.0 mi
Bushwhack to A-Z Trail 0.9 mi 4.9 mi
A-Z trail - Mt. Tom Spur 0.4 mi 5.3 mi
Mt. Tom Spur - Mt. Tom 0.6 mi 5.9 mi
Mt. Tom Summit - A-Z trail jct 0.6 mi 6.5 mi
A-Z trail - Crawford Depot 2.7 mi 9.2 mi

HIKING TIMES:

HIKING TIMES
DESTINATION
TIME TOTAL TIME
Avalon Trail - A-Z trail 45 min 45 min
A-Z trail - Mt. Tom Spur 30 min 1 hr 15 min
A-Z trail - XC ski trail 15 min 1 hr 30 min
Bushwhack to W. Field 50 min 2 hr 20 min
Bushwhack to A-Z Trail 50 min 3 hr 10 min
A-Z trail - Mt. Tom Spur 30 min 3 hr 40 min
Mt. Tom Spur - Mt. Tom 20 min 4 hr
Mt. Tom Summit - A-Z trail jct 20 min 4 hr 20 min
A-Z trail - Crawford Depot 50 min 5 hr 10 min

NOTES / COMMENTS:

West Field was the goal of this trip.  It is #70 on the list of New Hampshire 100 highest and Mt. Tom was a short 0.6 mile side trip. I was glad to have the company of Wemedge along for this hike as the Avalon and A-Z trails were much steeper than I remembered and I needed the company as my lungs burned and heart pounded in my chest. Traction was essential for this ascent, Wemedge and I put on micro-spikes and in-step cramp-on's respectively shortly after we commenced the hike.  We used snowshoes once we began the bushwhack. There is a PVC canister on the West Field summit there are no other markings or views.

A nice alternative route would be to include 4000 footer Mt. Field which is a 0.9 mile side trip along the Willey Ridge trail.  Descend via the steep Avalon trail to the junction with the A-Z trail.
The XC Ski trail crossing the A-Z
3691 Foot - West Field Summit


Kiss the Canister (tm) Summit pose
HockeyPuck feeding a Gray Jay



Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rattlesnake Hill (Raymond) - 485 Feet

STATE: New Hampshire
Rattlesnake Hill - Raymond
TOWN: Raymond
DESTINATION: Rattlesnake Hill
ELEVATION: 485 Feet
SUMMIT COORDINATES: N43 01.556, W71 12.904
TRAIL: Access road
DISTANCE: 1.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 190 feet
HIKING TIME: 30 minutes
SEASON: Winter
DATE: March 18, 2016
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, 55 degrees

PARKING: Don't ask, won't tell - drive time is approximately 15 minutes from Manchester. Take route 101 east to exit 4.

USGS QUAD:  Mount Pawtuckaway Quad

MAP: (Rattlesnake Hill) 




DESCRIPTION: 

Dirt access road
I intended to park at the end of Gile Road and quickly learned that access to this peak wouldn't be as straight-forward as I anticipated.  The access road is gated and posted No Trespassing.  I explored nearby Scribner Road and Gordon Roads for a trail or public access and didn't encounter anything promising.  I determined the best approach was to park on highway 101 and bushwhack 100 feet to the access road.  I pulled off on the westbound lanes just past a guardrail where I could pull well off the highway.

the bushwhack was short however required a chicken wire fence hop at a point where a fallen tree had bent a suitable location to hop over.  The access road was paved asphalt which transitioned to gravel then dirt still wide enough for a vehicle to reach the summit. The summit cone has been excavated and looks more like a crater than a summit.  The left (eastern) bump appeared to be the higher location.  The summit is a obvious prominent point with no views or markings.


TRAIL DISTANCES:

HIKING DISTANCES
DESTINATION
DISTANCE TOTAL DIST.
Parking - summit 0.5 miles 0.5 miles

HIKING TIMES:

HIKING TIMES
DESTINATION
TIME TOTAL TIME
parking - summit 15 minutes 15 minutes

NOTES / COMMENTS:

Rattlesnake Hill summit
This is one of many mountains, hills, bumps, ponds or islands with the Rattlesnake moniker.  Legend has it Timber Rattlesnakes populated many of these locations before hunters, collectors or people intimidated by snakes nearly wiped the timber rattlesnake population to extinction.  According to Google there is still one active den containing 15 - 20 Timber Rattlesnakes in NH.  The location of this den is kept under lock and key by the state Fish and Game department for the safety of the Rattlesnake.  As I researched the Timber Rattlesnake population in NH I learned of their sad history and demise and I don't blame the state for attempting to keep the location of the few remaining active snakes hidden. Most Timber Rattlers like south facing rock outcroppings and Rattlesnake Hill contains several potential locations.  According to this WMUR news story in 2012 a Timber Rattlesnake was found in the garage of a Raymond home about 1/2 a mile from this location.  I didn't expect to see any basking in the sun during mid-march but Rattlesnake Hill has potential to be the habitat of the last known population of Timber Rattlers in NH.  I'll start the conspiracy theory by stating maybe a snake population is the reason for the locked gate on the access road.   The location would be worth a return visit in warmer weather (if you dare!).