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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States
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28 July 2011

Sandwich Dome: Killing Two Birds with One Stone


No actual birds were killed or harmed during a recent trek to Sandwich Dome on 28-July-2011.  However, I was able to accomplish two goals with this one hike.
On previous treks, I've hiked the Algonquin Trail from its trailhead on Sandwich Notch Road to the junction of the Black Mountain Pond Trail.  And, I've hiked the Smarts Brook Trail from the trailhead on Rt. 49, but only to the junction with the Yellow Jacket XC Ski Trail.  And so, one of my goals was to complete those un-hiked segments of the Algonquin and the Smarts Brook trail.
My second goal was to do a one-mile bushwhack eastward from the Smarts Brook to link up with the Algonquin Trail.  Not only would this facilitate a hike along the sections of trail that I had not previously hiked, but it would also enable me to do a loop-hike that would include a visit to Sandwich Dome.  I've thought about doing this bushwhack for awhile.  It seems like such a natural place for a trail.  However, I've not come across any reference to a trail ever having been at this particular location, other than an old trail that once went in a different direction (nearly due south to Atwood Pond).
Shown below is a map that displays the entire route I followed.  The overall journey was about 11 miles round-trip. 

Along the first 1.5 miles of the Smarts Brook Trail, there are a couple of interesting features (see photo below).  There is a cascade where folks enjoy cooling off during warm summer days.  On this particular day, there was a father and son taking a dip.  And just a short distance from the cascade, there is a little beaver pond which requires a short off-trail excursion if you want to visit it.  From the west end of the pond there's a view of Black Mountain.

Once I reached a spot about a half mile from the boundary of the Sandwich Range Wilderness, I left the Smarts Brook Trail and began the one-mile bushwack in an easterly direction along the corridor of an unnamed brook.  For the first tenth of a mile or so there was hobble bush and saplings which were annoying.  However, the vast majority of the bushwhack was through open woods which made for quick and easy going.
Open-Woods Bushwhacking:

It took an hour (1 hr 6 min, to be precise!) of bushwhacking to reach the Algonquin Trail at a point just a bit south of Black Mountain.  The Algonquin Trail actually has spots that are more rugged than anything I encountered during my bushwhack!  There are a number of rock scrambles such as shown in the next photo.  It's sometimes difficult to relate to where a trail is located in a photo, and so I superimposed a yellow line to show the track that the trail follows.
One of the rock scrambles on Algonquin Trail:

If nothing else, the Algonquin Trail is certainly a very scenic route to Sandwich Dome. Shown below are a series of snapshots taken from various points along this trail.
Black Mountain on left; ledges of Welch-Dickey Mountains on right:

Ledges of Welch-Dickey on left; ledges of Acteon Ridge on right:

Looking southward toward New Hampshire's Lake District:

Ledges of Acteon Ridge on left; Jennings Peak (pointed peak) on right:

Waterville Valley Ski Area on the eastern slopes of Mt. Tecumseh:

Okay, after thoroughly enjoying views such as shown in the snapshots above, I came to a spot along the Algonquin Trail where I could see my objective, i.e. Sandwich Dome mountain (see photo below).  From the point where I took this photo, the trail makes a short, steep descent, and then begins the final climb to the top of Sandwich Dome.  This approach route was new to me.  My previous visits to this mountain have been via the more traditional routes that include the Drakes Brook Trail, and the Sandwich Mountain Trail.  
Sandwich Dome on the horizon:

Sandwich Dome is just a few feet shy of being one of New Hampshire's 4,000 ft mountains.  Some maps list it as 3,980 ft, and others list it at 3,993 ft.  Regardless, it's a popular mountain to climb since there are remarkable northward views which include the Presidential Range, the Osceolas, Tripyramids, Mt. Carrigain, and many others.  A quick search of the Internet will produce a plethora of outstanding photos taken from Sandwich Dome.  Shown in the collage below are some of the snapshots I took during my visit, and they serve to show a few representative scenes from this mountaintop.
Collage of scenes from Sandwich Dome:

Steve Smith's blog contains an excellent description of a hike he did to Sandwich Dome in June 2010.  His report is full of interesting details, along with numerous photos.  Click HERE to access his report.
After soaking in the terrific views from Sandwich Dome, it was time to begin the 5.7 mile return-leg of my journey (0.6 mile on Sandwich Mountain Trail + 5.1 miles on Smarts Brook Trail).  I was uncertain as to what to expect, and how long it would take.

Well, I was in for a very pleasant surprise!  The Smarts Brook Trail has a gentle grade throughout, and with just a few small exceptions,  the treadway is smooth and pleasurable for hiking.   Owing to these excellent conditions, I was able to make the 5.7 mile descent in just over 2 hours.  And, within 3 hours of leaving the top of Sandwich Dome, I was sitting at home enjoying a post-hike beverage!

Shown below are some representative scenes from upper end of the Smarts Brook Trail.

Besides being a terrific trail for quick and easy trekking, there was some picturesque trailside scenery along the Smarts Brook Trail to keep me entertained.  Mind you, all of the scenery is indeed trailside.  There are no distant vistas of mountains and lakes.  The next photo illustrates the type of woodland scenes I'm talking about.

Also, I came across some small cascades along the Smarts Brook Trail at a point that was roughly about 4 miles from the trailhead.  The reason I know the approximate distance is that I saw these cascades just a few minutes after passing the sign shown in the next photo.  This sign might be the lone survivor of a bygone era!  I kept a watchful eye, but never did see any similar milepost signs along this trail.

Anyway, one of the cascades that I came across was multi-tiered, which I thought was sort of unique.  It was located slightly off trail, and there was no beaten path leading to it.  So perhaps it is seldom visited?  This cascade is shown in the next photo, and I totally realize it's difficult to get any sense of perspective from this snapshot.  I'd guesstimate that the height for the individual tiers ranges from only about 4 to 8 feet.  Sometimes, things of beauty come in small packages!

To sum it up,  hopefully this report will be of some interest to the 20 or so folks who usually read my Blog.   I don't post all of my adventures since they are either too mundane, or simply too boring to be of interest to even the most avid of followers!  Regardless, since this adventure had some unique aspects, it was considered to be "blog-worthy"!     


3 comments:

  1. Interesting hike - I've done the Welch/Dickey loop and have seen Sandwich Dome from other viewpoints, but never been there. I agree, that not everything to be seen is seen from the summit. The woods are full of interesting things, if you look. My son and I have seen a lot of neat flowers and fungus in the woods.

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  2. John,

    Wonderful views of the Sandwich Dome area and the journey sounded great. I love the cascade shot.

    I do want to say a couple things. First, you certainly have more than 20 readers...that's a fact! Second, I would encourage you to post all your adventures. Nature is wonderful and you can always find something to intrigue you, even on the most uneventful trips...whether it's a tree frog, the first fallen maple leaf or even a funny looking icicle on a melting snow runoff, there are people that will find value and joy in it.

    Personally, I would love to read all of your adventures, and wouldn't find any of them boring. Remember, it's your blog, not the readers. What is blog worthy is completely up to you, and it's our (the readers) privilege to be able to tag along! Thanks for the great journeys.

    Karl

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  3. SUMMERSET: It’s so refreshing to read a comment which recognizes “that not everything to be seen is seen from the summit”. As you so aptly state, “The woods are full of interesting things, if you look.”

    KARL: Oh my! Thank you so much for such a thoughtful reply. You have certainly presented some very valid points for thorough consideration. Perhaps I should contemplate taking some tips from a fellow blogger (Ellen Snyder). On her Blog (http://spicebush.blogspot.com/) she does some very short, but extremely interesting posts about wildlife and various outdoor wanderings.

    John

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