Warning! This particular Blog entry contains no stunning photos. It is mostly just "yada yada" narrative!
To continue with the theme of cautionary statements, some words of advice came to my mind while bushwhacking in the area of Iron Mountain (Jackson, NH) on 18-March. The advice is contained in the lyrics from the song entitled "The Gambler" as recorded by the American country music artist Kenny Rogers. Here are the words that came to mind:
"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, know when to run."
Before continuing, perhaps it might be helpful to set the scene with some maps (to enlarge, click on the maps).
_ The first map shows the current trail system on Iron Mountain. I've hand-drawn a blue line which approximates my bushwhack route which began from Jericho Road at the point where the road becomes gated.
_ The second map is a topographic map which shows a trail that leads in the direction of Green Hill, but stops (for whatever reason) before it actually reaches Green Hill. Vintage editions of the White Mountain Guide indicate that this trail did not stop as shown on the topographic map. Instead, the trail once ran from Jackson, NH (vicinity of current-day Red Fox Bar and Grille) to link up with the current-day Iron Mountain hiking trail.
And so, now that the scene has been set, here is the rest of the story. As many readers of my Blog know, I easily become bored if I do the same hikes over and over again. Although I do repeat some hikes, I'm always on the lookout for new destinations, or new routes to places that I've visited.
Iron Mountain is a destination that I've visited many times (via the conventional hiking trail, as well as bushwhacking). However, I've never visited the ridge that extends due south from the point where the conventional hiking trail heads southwesterly to the viewpoint called South Cliffs. I chose to hike to this ridge for several reasons. My first and foremost reason was because it would be a new destination for me. Secondly, the route up to the ridge was south-facing and I anticipated a nearly snow-free trek. And thirdly, I love bushwhacking. To me, it is the purist form of hiking that has been practiced well before trails were built.
My route was entirely on public land (USFS). The trek up to the ridge was indeed basically snow-free, and the woods at that location are mainly open hardwoods. This made for a relatively quick journey to the ledges that are located on whatever you want to call it, i.e. Iron Mountain's south ridge, south spur, south arm, whatever! Also, I was pleasantly surprised that the climb didn't seem as steep as one might expect from the tightly compacted contour lines on the maps shown above. Once on top of the ridge, there were some scattered patches of snow, but nothing of significance.
The views are abundant for nearly the entire length of this ridge since there is just one ledge after another. These views are somewhat similar to those that are seen when you follow the conventional hiking trail to the South Cliffs. Shown below are just a few snapshots from my trek along the ridge.
If you've read this far, then perhaps you might be wondering about the song lyrics that I mentioned earlier, you know, the bit about knowing "when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em"! Okay, fair enough, here goes. Since it was such a delightful day, I decided to do an "add-on" hike by continuing northward along the ridge to see if I could possibly locate the point where the abandoned trail (heading eastward toward Green Hill) diverged from the current-day hiking trail.
Things went pretty well . . . kind of! As I headed northward along the ridge, I eventually hit a persistent layer of snow which was 8 to 10 inches deep. My very unscientific theory is that not only had the forest canopy thickened, but also the angle of the slope was such that it did not receive the direct rays of the sun. The bad news is that I had not bothered to bring snowshoes. The good news was that I found what I presume are the remains of an old cairn which perhaps marked the beginnings of the now abandoned trail toward Green Hill (see photo below).
Not only did I locate the cairn, but there were definite hints of an overgrown trail corridor. Even though it was slow going without the aid of snowshoes, I decided to follow the corridor. It would have been so very nice to continue onward to Green Hill, as well as to the knob beyond it. But as the snow got deeper, and my available time grew shorter, the words of Kenny Rogers finally kicked in. It was indeed time to "fold 'em"!!
At the point where I stopped, the trail corridor had disappeared. I pulled out my GPS and took a waypoint. When I got home, I plotted this waypoint onto the topographic map shown above. Remarkably, my waypoint corresponded exactly with the point where the map shows the trail ending!
Perhaps in the Autumn, I'll make a return visit with the anticipation that without snow, I can better see any faint signs of the abandoned trail and more easily bushwhack all the way to Green Hill, and beyond!
My trek back down the mountain was uneventful. However, it was getting late. I very much dislike coming out of the woods by headlamp, not only for some personal reasons, but also because darkness can complicate any unanticipated problems that might arise. Regardless, there were some pleasant mountain vistas as evening started to settle in. Shown below is one such scene.
For anyone wishing to read about the history of Iron Mountain, my fellow Blogger name Karl has an excellent report on his Blog (click HERE).
To sum it up, as I've frequently said in wrapping up many of my Blog reports, this was a very enjoyable adventure! The only thing that would have made it even more enjoyable would be if I could have continued onward to Green Hill and beyond. However, the decision to "fold 'em", was probably wise, plus it provides an opportunity for a new adventure on yet another day.