Monday, June 27, 2011

Mts. Straightback, Anna and Major 6/26/11

" A day on the Southern Belknaps" (pictures)

Difficulty: Brook Trail, Major-Belknap Trail, Boulder Trail - Moderate (loose footing and moderate ledges in spots)

Directions: From Alton, NH take Rt. 11 West and follow it for about 6 miles. Trail head parking lot is on the left (blue sign)

Report: Yet again, another weekend with reports of unsettled weather. We were hoping to bag a 4000 footer to get back going on the list but with the chance of rain and thundershowers increasing the further North you go, we cancelled those plans! We watched the weather again in the morning and moped around trying to get somewhat motivated and figure out what to do. Finally we just packed our lunches and headed out to somewhere, anywhere! As we approached Alton it was decision time as to which way to go. The sun was poking out a bit so I decided to head for Mt. Major to take advantage of this sliver of sun before it was too late! I thought we could try and find Mt. Anna and maybe make it over to Mt. Belknap. The lot was already filling up at 8:30am and already plenty of unleashed dogs barking and running around in the parking lot. Grrr!

The humidity was going up quick so we took the long sleeves off and headed up Mt. Major Trail (blue blazes). At the junction we kept straight along Brook Trail (yellow blazes). Blazes had been freshly painted. We made our way along the gradual woods road and up the washed out hillside along the brook bank. A boring trail this time of year but was void of all but a couple hikers descending. Trails today were wet and teaming with Northern Red-Spotted Nutes! Mushrooms were also making an appearance, YAY! I LOVE mushrooms, for those who don't know!

Once we hit the junction on the ridge (Major-Belknap trail I think) we took a right and followed the trail along ledgy pine forest. A pair of Mourning Doves were hanging out along a trail section and I was excited to be able to snap a couple good pictures of one! After some time we arrived at the Mt. Straightback summit. Our third time on this peak. After pics Scott kept the lead headed in the direction for Mt. Anna. We passed the open ledges below Straighback and began to descend down other ledges. Then the trail dropped steeply next to broken ledge.

Below the ledge the forest changed dramatically to a beach tree forest and lovely mosquito's! They weren't too bad so bug spray was not needed all day. A long journey took us to an interesting ledgy climb up to a pine forested ridge and across to a junction sign. Here we were startled by a man who came out of the woods with a chain saw! Apparently he was just as startled! He noticed my Forest Society hat and asked if we were members. I told him we were new stewards for the Moose Mountains Reservation. Turns out he was a trail maintainer for the Belknap trails and used to work for the Forest Society as a Forester. A great person to meet on the trails! We asked where Mt. Anna was to find out we were standing on the summit! He pointed us to a view that was just down the trail a little more ways. He said he just topped some view obstructing trees and said we had to go check it out!

So off we went! And sure enough there was a wonderful ledge view to the South and West. Particularly of the nearby pond and on a clear day he said you could see Monadnock from this point. It was a nice and quite spot. The sky's remained overcast but otherwise rain free and it was turning out to be a pretty good day. We decided not to push our luck and head back.

So after a quick break we headed back past Anna and back up to Straightback. A young couple was taking a break at the summit and the guy was asking all sorts of questions about the trails and peaks. He was rather intrigued when I told him the mountain in the distance with the building on it was Gunstock. He was excited to learn there was a trail all the way through to it and said he would head that way.

We continued onto Mt. Major. The summit was very busy, not surprisingly. People, kids and dogs! 40 or so people, yuck! We took a quick look over Lake Winnipesaukee and the barely visible Ossipee and Sandwich Range hazed in with clouds. We weaved around the people and around the backside of the summit foundation. From here we decided to head down Boulder Trail (orange blazes).

We continued to pass people coming up and heading down. Many were making there way up the steep ledge section. I have to say, some looked like they were ready to drop dead. Some had young kids who were having a hard time and some adults were even annoyed by the onslaught of climbing. Some people just don't know what they are getting into! Then again, this very busy summer mountain has no kiosk or trail map at the parking lot. A shame considering all the tourists that visit this mountain. Many out of shape and many with children who would benefit from a sign showing the trails, distance and difficulties. We arrived back at the parking lot at 2pm, the parking lot full and cars parked down along the road.

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