29 March 2011
A Mountainous Gaze from Mt. Hayes (Mahoosuc Range)
The Mahoosuc mountain range extends from Gorham, NH to Grafton Notch in Maine. Mt. Hayes is the last peak at the southern end of this range, and it's also ranks last in terms of altitude, reaching only 2,555 ft at its summit. The tallest peak in this range is Old Speck at 4,170 ft.
Although it's officially the spring season, there's still plenty of winter to go around! I've been to Mt. Hayes on a number of occasions, but have only ventured up there once during snow-season. That trip was done about 4 years ago using the Centennial Trail. This past Tuesday (29-Mar-2011), I decided to access Mt. Hayes via the Mahoosuc Trail since I'd never done a snowshoe hike using that trail. (By the way, at the end of this report, I'll give some details about parking.)
Upon reaching the trailhead on Hogan Road, it was a pleasant surprise to find that there was evidence of human foot traffic along this trail. Although the track consisted of a combination of snowshoe and bare-boot activity, the treadway was overall in pretty good shape.
But, as might be expected (if I'd thought about it), the broken-out trail ended at the spur path for Mascot Pond. From that point onward, the main Mahoosuc Trail was unbroken. There were occasional deep post holes that had been created by moose that had decided to "hike" a segment of the trail here and there.
Although I broke trail for the remainder of my journey, it's really not saying too much! Fortunately, the snowpack was very firm which allowed me to basically walk on top of the snow. And actually, since the snow smoothed out all the rocks and roots, I think I made better time than during warm-weather conditions!
In about 1.5 hrs from leaving my car, I arrived at the wide-open ledges located about 0.3 mile from the actual summit of Mt. Hayes. The first thing to catch my eye was something that led me to believe that maybe true springtime conditions are actually coming! It was nice to see that there was a large portion of ledge that was snow-free and dry! It made a perfect spot for lunch.
Although the views were great to experience in-person, the lighting conditions were not ideal for taking photos on this particular day. I'll bore you with just 2 snapshots taken from this ledge.
LOOKING SOUTHWARD DOWN THE PINKHAM NOTCH
VIEW FEATURING MT. MORIAH AND NORTH CARTER
After visiting the ledges, I hiked further northward along the Mahoosuc Trail. I stopped for a moment at the cairn marking the summit of Mt. Hayes, and then continued onward to the junction of the Centennial Trail.
From this junction, I decided to do some exploring off-trail. This exploration provided some decent views. There was a nice vista toward Cascade Mountain, even though it was partially obstructed by trees (SEE PHOTO BELOW).
Also, way off in the distance, there was also a view toward the Pilot Range. The highly-zoomed snapshot below shows this particular vista. (It's by far not the best photo I've ever taken!)
After my little off-trail exploration, I began the return-leg of my journey. When I arrived at the spur trail for Mascot Pond, I opted to do take the 10 minute side-trip just for the heck of it. None of the snapshots taken from there were particularly inspiring. However, I will show one photo (SEE BELOW) taken from this location. It's looking toward the entrance to the old mine shaft (circled in red) which is located at the base of Leadmine Ledge.
I didn't take the time to remove my snowshoes in order to trek up to the old mine on the loose gravel surface. However, I've been up there during warm-weather months and have taken photos such as the one shown below.
The entrance to the mine shaft has been barricaded not only for human safety, but also for the safety of the bat population that lives there. Click HERE for an interesting link that contains additional information about this.
After my brief visit to Mascot Pond, I retraced my steps back to my parked car. Along the way, I took the photo shown below. It's looking down the canal toward the powerhouse with Imp Mountain and North Carter in the background.
Okay, as to where I parked, here goes! As you know, the trailhead for the Mahoosuc Trail in Gorham is sort of in "no-man's land", especially during snow season when Hogan Road is closed. The current White Mountain Guide (28th Edition) only provides directions via the Hogan Road approach. Since the road is closed to automobile traffic in winter that would mean doing a 4.5 mile road-walk. I didn't do that!
The sign at the trailhead (SEE PHOTO BELOW) contains the words "US Rt. 2 VIA RAIL TO TRAIL". Those words are preceded by an arrow pointing in the direction from which I had come. The sign further indicates it is 2 miles to some point on Rt. 2. Wherever that point might be, I didn't park there either! Actually, it's unclear to me if the sign is even directing you to a parking spot??
Public parking is permissible in a lot at the base of the old B&M railroad bridge on the east side of US Rt 16. This is where I parked. The lower deck of this bridge is available for pedestrian use. It's perfectly safe to cross on-foot, especially since metal decking has been installed within recent years.
Once you walk over the bridge to the other side, you will immediately see a huge sign that points to "AMC Trail" (SEE PHOTO BELOW). And, all along the way, there are additional signs and blue blazes that guide you to the trailhead. This route does NOT take you over the dam at the powerhouse! (As the current White Mountain Guide correctly points out, it is no longer permissible to cross the dam at the east end of the canal where the powerhouse is located.)
I think it should be said that even though I parked in the public lot at the base of the old B&M bridge on Rt. 16, this location is not sanctioned as trailhead parking (at least that is my understanding). Therefore, each person would need to decide for themselves whether to use this as a launch point for a hike to Mt. Hayes on the Mahoosuc Trail.
TO SUM IT UP: It's a great half-day hike up to the ledges on Mt. Hayes. Yes, some of the views from this ledge incorporate the village of Gorham in the line of sight. However, I don't let that discourage me from visiting this spot now and then since the views from there are quite nice, at least in my opinion!
Since publishing my report, I've received the following E-mail communications.
1) The following was received from a Gorham resident.
“The walkway under the trestle and the conversion of the upper deck to a snowmobile bridge was done by the town of Gorham with state funds. The state owns the trestle and the parking area adjacent to the trestle, so it's perfectly legit to cross over the river via either the upper or lower deck. Brookfield hydro owns the RR right of way from the trestle to the papermill upriver, so the AMC has elected not to maintain the trail in this section. The "AMC trail" signs between the trestle and the trailhead were installed by Brookfield and are their recommended route around the hydro station which is now gated off on both sides.”
2) The following was received from an AMC spokesperson in regard to the sign at the trailhead for the Mahoosuc Trail which gives a mileage of 2.0 miles to Rt 2.
"We changed the mileage on that sign to reflect the change in distance when hikers were no longer allowed to cross the dam and when the lower deck of the trestle by VIP Auto Parts in Rt 16 in Gorham was closed off for hikers and there was no plans to repair it. This added some distance walking the roads and rail-to-trail from the RT 2 Snowmobile parking area just a little past KFC . . . the State was able to provide the funding and repair and reopen the lower deck for hikers allowing them to park and cross at RT 16 once again. Simply, this sign [has] not yet reflected that change . . . I have CC'd . . . the AMC Trails Supervisor . . . so he can add this sign to his project list for 2011."
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