Honestly I knew this would happen, even though I like my new job and once my finances are in order I'll be able to thru hike, it is a bit soul stealing. I have definitely found myself gravitating more towards reading Trail Journals and Appalachian Trials, I am returning to the same longing-for-the-trail rut that I was in before I left on deployment.
This was made a bit worse by my recent vacation to the Lakes Region. Walking the Flume Gorge in the Whites had me stop and think while I was staring up at Mt. Liberty. 'If I had started in February I'd be done, if I had started a bit later I could be right there.' The emotions this concept brought out in me made me realize I still have a true aspiration to hike the length of the AT.
All that being said, this is not a post about my feelings...it's a post about a walk I took through the Belknap Range.
I covered this briefly in my post 'Planning and Shamming' but I was turned onto the Belknap Range Trail (BRT) by my mom who wrote about the hiker patch for one of her classes. It is a 12.2 mile End-to-End trail which takes you across 8 of the 12 peaks needed to score the Belknap Range Hiker patch, and I love hard earned bits of thread (see: GoRuck Challenge)
So true to my initial plan I woke up at 0500 sharp (quickest I've woke up in a while) and drove to the parking lot for Mt. Major which was honestly just down the road from where we were staying on Lake Winnipesauke. I made this trek on the last day of vacation after doing quite a bit of swimming the day before while 'floating' down the Merrimack River, to drag peoples tubes back into formation in the current. So my legs were already pretty smoked and I really started to feel it as I pushed off from the Mt. Major parking lot at around 0530.
The climb up Major is a pretty simple one, but with my legs burning as they woke up to the notion of more physical activity today, it was a bit more painful than it would have been otherwise. Upon reaching the summit I was greeted with an amazing view of the surrounding lakes, which I stopped for a pack off break after screaming up the trail as I sent summit photo to my girlfriend at 0610.
I packed back up and got back underway listening to my iPod the whole way, while I appreciate being out in nature and love listening to the sounds of the birds and wind sometimes the soothing sounds of DMX and Slayer are just what a hiker needs (or the score to the Lord of the Rings movies that make you feel like you've been transported to the Shire). Which brings forward the question I pondered as I walked toward Mt. Anna.
Who barks more DMX or the Baha Men?
Right? You can't call it....and neither can I.
Anyways, most of summits in between Mt. Major and Mt. Klem were a blur, there was no fan fair or in some cases no signs...if there are no signs is it still a summit? Coming down from Mt. Klem the BRT hooks around Round Pond before the ascent to Belknap Mountain. Most of the trails had been pretty easy up until this point and there was a rough rock scramble to get to the summit of the highest peak in the range.
On top of Mt. Belknap is a Fire Tower that my Mom used to hike trash out for, she tells me the man that manned the tower in her day enjoyed anchovies. She told me her cloths and equipment would reek of fish for about a week after making a trip like this. The fire tower still stands there today and is featured on the Belknap Range Hiker Patch.
From just below the summit of Belknap you can see the top of the ski lift on Gunstock, at this point it was about 1000 and I had most of the trail behind me. The last remaining mountains are Gunstock and Rowe. The hike between Gunstock and Belknap is quick, on the top of Gunstock I shared odd glances with a bunch of people standing in line to use the zipline. I imagine they were laughing at me for having to walk down the mountain and I'm laughing at them thanks to South Park.
After sending a photo of the top of the ski lift to my folks and my girlfriend, I pressed onto Mt. Rowe on Ridge Trail. This was probably the easiest section of the hike that was mostly a gradual downhill path to the summit of Rowe which featured the lamest completion point of any hike ever, a post at the end of the trail that terminates into a radio tower and an access road, if it wasn't for the notion of beer at the bottom of the access road I would strongly recommend people hike this path the opposite way I did as it will end on Major which has the best views of any of the summits, though it might make for some challenging descents over the course of the trail.
I walked down the access road (falling 3 separate times due to the steep grade and loose gravel) past the under construction mountain coaster and into the outdoor patio bar known as 'The DropZone' I guess this is where the ziplining adventurers drink. I got a Tuckerman's Pale Ale and the aptly named Summit Nachos while I waited for my ride to come and regaled the bartender with my hike after she seemed impressed someone would walk 12.2 miles from Major to her bar (it's not impressive, I've heard some people walk 2,180 miles)
In short, it was a great hike and I would recommend it for an easy day trip for no other reason other than to get on your way to your Belknap Range Trail Hiker Patch. Also, since I was sending summit photos to my parents and they said 'We're following you on the map!' I think it's about time I got my SPOT GPS beacon up and running if I am going to be doing a Presidential Traverse soon, so my folks can follow me online.
Time: 6 Hours
Avg. Speed: 2.03 MPH