Even with the best laid plans, sometimes "things" happen! I had intended to do a longer hike on 13-August, but my morning was gone before I knew it! Given the compressed time frame, it seemed like a good opportunity to drive to neighboring Vermont, and hike to Wheeler Mountain. Not only would this be a mountain that I'd never hiked, but the short round-trip mileage would be a good fit for the time available to me.
As you'll discover when reading this report, I actually ended up having time to do two hikes, i.e. the short trek to Wheeler Mountain, plus another even shorter trek which included Gnome Stairs and Wheeler Pond. Let me state from the outset that even with doing two hikes this was a very easygoing day. The combined round-trip mileage for these hikes was only about 4.2 miles!
My two little treks are highlighted in pink on the snippet of map that is shown below. (PLEASE NOTE: Since the time this blog report was written, there have been changes to the trailhead parking and to the trail leading to Wheeler Mountain. To view these changes, click/tap this LINK.)
My two short hikes are highlighted in pink
From my home in Bethlehem, NH, it takes an hour or less to drive to the various trailheads in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. This is only about 15 minutes longer than it takes me to get to many of the trailheads in NH. True to form, in just under an hour from leaving my home, I arrived at Wheeler Mountain Road (located on the north side of US Rt. 5 between Barton and West Burke, VT). Trailhead parking for the Wheeler Mountain trek is quite limited. There's only enough space for about 5 cars. The lot was completely full when I arrived in early afternoon on a Monday! I was able to tuck my car into a shallow bump-out along the road about a tenth of a mile away.
After having hiked only the first tenth of mile of trail, you're faced with the decision of whether to take the White Trail or the Red Trail. The Red Trail is basically a 0.3 mile shortcut which terminates at a point along the White Trail. Although the Red Trail is short in length, it's long in character! It provides a number of fun scrambles up steep pitches of bare granite. Any moisture or ice would make this a dangerous route. However, conditions were dry on the day of my hike, and so I opted to ascend via the Red Trail, and then use the White Trail for my descent.
In some ways, this hike reminded me of the Welch-Dickey loop in the Waterville Valley area of NH. Of course, if you've not done the Welch-Dickey loop, then that statement doesn't mean too much! Regardless, the next photo shows a scene that is fairly typical for the numerous segments of trail that traverse bare rock.
Segment of trail en route to Wheeler Mountain
Along the way to Wheeler Mountain, there are many places where you get very nice vistas of the surrounding mountains. One such view is shown in the next photo. Mt. Pisgah with its enormous cliff face is in the center of the snapshot.
Mt. Pisgah with its enormous cliff face is seen in the center of this snapshot
From the top of Wheeler Mountain (and from an adjacent viewpoint known as Eagle Cliff), there is a vista which includes a portion of Lake Willoughby, plus Mt. Pisgah and other nearby mountains, such as Bald Mountain and Haystack Mountain. All three of the aforementioned mountains (Pisgah, Bald, Haystack) have hiking trails. I've hiked to Mt. Pisgah on several occasions (click HERE for a report of one of those visits). However, I've not been to either Bald Mountain or to Haystack. Those will other adventures for another day!
The next photo was taken from the Eagle Cliff viewpoint on Wheeler Mountain.
Vista from the Eagle Cliff viewpoint on Wheeler Mountain
As you might have noticed in the snapshots shown above, this hike isn't exactly a wilderness experience. A few roads and houses are visible. To my mind, this doesn't detract from the beauty of the surroundings, but others might disagree. And to be totally upfront, besides a few houses and roads, there is an even bolder indication of mankind's presence. Plainly visible at many points along the hike, there is a nearby windmill farm.
Nearby windmill farm that is visible at many points along the hike to Wheeler Mountain
Even though this hike isn't a true backwoods experience, there are some lovely spots along the way where the woods are gorgeous and almost "hobbit-like". One example of this is shown in the next photo.
"Hobbit-like" woods along the route to Wheeler Mountain
As stated at the outset of this report, the hike to Wheeler Mountain is short. And so, that concludes what I have to say about this miniature adventure!
With ample time to spare after hiking to Wheeler Mountain, I decided to do another tiny trek. To orient yourself, you can refer to the map shown at the top of this report. I left the trailhead at Wheeler Mountain and then drove a short distance to a small parking area which is located on Wheeler Mountain Road about midway between the trailhead for the Moose Mountain Trail and the Gnome Stairs Trail. I then did a loop by first visiting the feature known as Gnome Stairs, followed by a hike around Wheeler Pond, and then back to my car.
The landscape feature known by Gnome Stairs is mildly interesting. Perhaps it's more appealing at those times of year when more water is flowing. Regardless, the next photo shows Gnome Stairs as it appeared on the day of my visit. I feel compelled to mention that the water/rock combination actually is sort of an inky-blue shade, and is not the result of some "photo trickery"!
By comparison, the Wheeler Pond portion of my loop was far more interesting. For one thing, there is a nice view of Wheeler Mountain from the south end of the pond. The next photo shows this vista.
View of Wheeler Mountain as seen from Wheeler Pond
Shown below is a zoomed photo of the same vista as seen in the previous snapshot. (Could that be a little bit of autumn color showing up in mid-August?)
Zoomed photo of Wheeler Mountain as seen from Wheeler Pond
It should be noted that Wheeler Pond doesn't need to rely on Wheeler Mountain for its attractiveness. It has its own intrinsic beauty. From another point along the shoreline of the pond I took the following snapshot. The lighting seemed to be nearly perfect to capture some of the brilliant colors. And I should hasten to add that the green material on the surface of the water isn't some sort of pond scum. Rather, it's a carpet of water lilies. My little "point and shoot" camera simply is incapable of providing enough definition to distinctly show the lilies.