Monday round-up: Black Mountain solitude and the rare beauty of a perfect hike

What's it all about? This. This is what it's all about. Unbridled joy on Black Mountain!

Isn’t it wonderful when nothing goes wrong? When there’s no drama? When you’re on-time, the weather cooperates and a hike gives you everything you hope for?

That was the case Sunday, as Janelle and I ticked another mountain off our respective 52 WAV lists and drove out to Benton to hike Black Mountain. I asked Janelle to do the research and give me a short list of potential hikes for the day, and Black ended up being the one closest to our Whitefield cabin and a short enough trail to beat the rain which was expected for later in the afternoon.

Plus, it had the added benefit of being new to Dan as well, so a great morning of exploration was in store!

Given the relative ease of the trail and the fact that every single thing we planned fell into place, there’s not much drama to the narrative, but we both agreed afterward that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a perfect hike!

We were up and out the door by 6 a.m. and the chilly trailhead temp of 25 degrees had us bundled up pretty good at the start, but once the sun fully came up, the layers came off.

The Chippewa Trail is a wonderful, well-worn, wide and well-marked trail that skirts the border of Benton State Forest. The lower half mile is a fascinating maze of marshland, beaver dams and gnarly root structures towering over our heads in some place. Bright orange and yellow fungus and spores glittered like gold dripping off bark in the morning sun, and we explored an old cellar hole about .6 miles into the trail.

After the cellar hole, the trail takes a sharp left and begins to climb at easy to moderate grades throughout. In fact, at one point we felt like we were hiking our beloved local mountains, the Uncanoonucs in Goffstown – steep, but on mostly pine needle-covered solid earth.

After about a 1.5, we came upon the first of many, many view points on this fine trail and took a break to soak in the remaining sun and hydrate up for the remaining push to the summit.

At that point, a series of ledges and false summits take you up, up, up and the views appear seemingly around every corner, including a very fine look up to the summit rocks about a 100 yards from our goal.

Soon, we broke out onto the glorious summit ledge which extend a good 100 feet in every direction, and face the unique western side of Mt. Moosilauke. We explored a little, trying to find all the remaining metal pegs of the old fire tower that used to grace the summit, then settled back for a well-earned picnic of raspberry tea, apples, cheese sticks and PB&Js.

We were thrilled when The Feathered Hat (from New England Trail Conditions and VFFT) and his two awesome pups came up to join us. They were the only mammals we saw on the trail until nearly the end of our day later.

Polly the dog immediately joined our picnic and gave Janelle’s well-crafted and delicious sandwiches her stamp of approval by pulling one right out of the baggy and gobbling it up in about two bites. Janelle thought this was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. Later, when anybody asked how the hike went, the sandwich stealing pup took center stage, views be darned!

Anyway, no worries FH, we had plenty of snacks and were happy to share with hungry Polly!

Gear testing: Janelle had ample opportunity to test out her new walking poles on the way down.

The way down was equally mellow and we happily made up songs about killer grouse to pass the time. Despite it being a little out-of-the-way, we thoroughly enjoyed Black Mountain and plan on returned from the other side via the Black Mountain Tail.

As a side note, Janelle continues to get stronger at a scary pace. Unlike Monadnock, she refused to let me carry any of her weight despite some shoulder pain and achy feet. She made it clear she wished to finish on her own and she did. Our next piece of gear will be a day pack that fits her. The fun continues!

For our whole photo album from our hike, plus some shots of Echo Lake in Franconia Notch please click here: Black Mountain

If you go: There are two options for getting to the summit of Black Mountain, but the White Mountain Guide says the Chippewa Trail is the most scenic. At only 1.8 miles, it never really climbs steeply, but offers a variety of look outs and interesting trail diversions along the way. Plus, it offers some classic New England ledges and a spectacular view of Mt. Moosilauke. Black Mountain may top out at less that 3,000 feet but the bare summit ledges make it seem like you’re much high. We highly recommend this off-the-beaten-path beauty!

The only way to get to the trailhead is about 2 miles off Route 116 down Lime Kiln Road. It’s fine now, but be careful during spring when the hard mud on that road will turn to sloppy ruts. There is a small parking area at the trailhead that fits about three cars.

We rate this hike a perfect 5! Family Friendly. Great Views for the miles hiked. Interesting below tree-line woods hiking. Counts toward a list. Super ledge and rock hiking potential.

This entry was posted in 52 With a View, Monday Round Up, Trail Reports. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Monday round-up: Black Mountain solitude and the rare beauty of a perfect hike

  1. Jim Stevens says:

    A great hike and close to our home. A nice hike from the other side too.
    If you go back in later spring you will see some protected flower on the trail edge.
    I won’t say where but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding them.
    So many great view point up there.
    Jim S.

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