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05 August 2012

Victor Head and South Percy On A Hot Summer Day


On a hot summer day (04-August), my friend Marty and I were searching for a hiking destination which was moderate, both in terms of distance and elevation gain, and was reachable via a route that was mostly in the shade.   It was purely coincidental that on this sultry day we chose to hike a pathway named the Old Summer Club Trail.

We began our hike at the parking area for Christine Lake. There were plenty of folks keeping cool by taking a dip in the crystal-clear lake.  We wondered if perhaps they had the right idea for outdoor activity on this steamy day!!  Regardless, the closest we got to the refreshing water was the backend of the beach area.  From there, we took a few snapshots of our destinations, i.e. Victor Head and South Percy.

In the next photo, Victor Head is the "bump" on the right, and South Percy is the "bump" on the left.
Victor Head and South Percy as viewed from Christine Lake

Our route is highlighted in purple on the map that is shown below.  As can be seen, there are shorter routes to the Percys, i.e. the Percy Loop Trail and Percy Peaks Trail.  However, since we both had hiked those routes, we decided to use the longer Old Summer Club route.  This would be an adventure that would be new and different for both of us.
Our route to Victor Head and South Percy

If you've never hiked in this area before, it's probably best that you bring a guidebook with you, or at least take time to familiarize yourself with the trail description before you begin your trek.  There are no signs or blazes until you reach the point where the Rowell Link trail comes in from the east.  Upon reaching that point, the northbound Cohos Trail (CT) network begins.  From there on, the trail is yellow blazed with some small CT wooden signs here and there.
Yellow blaze and CT marker on Cohos Trail segment of Old Summer Club Trail

The first stop of the day was Victor Head.  On the final approach, there is a ledge of rocks which appear to have been neatly put into place by a stone mason.  However, as far as I know, this is a naturally-occurring rock formation.
Rocks neatly laid into place, presumably by Mother Nature

Soon after scampering up the neat little ledge shown above, we arrived at the top of Victor Head.  There are two viewpoints from this location.  One provides a northwesterly vista of South Percy and North Percy (next photo).
South and North Percy as seen from Victor Head

The other Victor Head viewpoint affords a sweeping vista with eastward views of mountains in the Mahoosuc Range.  Also, there is a terrific southward view which includes peaks in the Pilot Range and Pliny Range, plus you can also see Mts. Madison and Adams in the Presidential Range.   All of the aforementioned can be seen from the official on-trail viewing ledge.  However, these views are less obstructed by trees from an off-trail ledge located to the east.  Although this "unofficial" ledge is only about 25 ft or so away, accessing it requires some tricky maneuvering.

I neglected to take photos of the eastward view toward the Mahoosuc Range, but did capture a few images of the southward view from Victor Head.  The next photo is a composite which shows the view from both the official ledge and from the unofficial ledge.
Southward view from Victor Head (comparing view from official and unofficial viewpoints)

Further regarding the southward view, by zooming in on the saddle between Mts. Madison and Adams, the faint image of the Madison Hut could be seen (next photo). PLEASE NOTE: Clicking on the photo might enhance the image.
Zoomed image of Mts. Madison and Adams (Madison Hut faintly seen)

After enjoying the vistas from Victor Head, we descended the Victor Head Side Trail, and then continued northward on the Old Summer Club Trail.  It appears that the upper portion of this trail recently had some trail maintenance.  There was fresh evidence of downed trees being removed (next photo).
Fresh evidence of downed tree removal from upper portion of Old Summer Club Trail

The final stop of the day was South Percy.  The climb to this peak is actually shorter (about 0.25 miles) than the climb to Victor Head (0.4 miles), and has less elevation gain (about 300 ft, versus 500 ft).   Also, the trail itself is very picturesque as it winds its way through lush ground cover and conifers.  The next photo shows a typical section of this trail.
Trail to South Percy

Although many might disagree, I actually prefer the South Percy peak to the more famous North Percy.  For one thing, I like the "in your face" view of North Percy from South Percy (next photo).  Also, on such as scorching day, climbing North Percy might be very unpleasant.  With the blazing sun beating down on the massive expanses of exposed rock, you know it had to be HOT, HOT, HOT!
North Percy as seen from South Percy

There are many other views from South Percy.  One of them is a southeasterly vista which includes a backwards view of the Victor Head "bump", along with the Mahoosuc Range of mountains lined up on the distant horizon (next photo).
Victor Head (center of photo), plus Mahoosic Range on distant horizon

Also from South Percy you can get some nice views looking southward, especially if you take some time to maneuver yourself to some ledges slightly off the summit.  However, on this particular day, I didn't take the time for any such maneuvering!  The views to the south were becoming very hazy, plus it was very HOT on the exposed summit.  I was most eager to snap a few photos and head back down to trees where it was shady and cooler.

Before scurrying off to the shade, I did manage to capture one semi-decent southward view (next photo).  Some of the more identifiable peaks that can be seen are The Horn (pointy peak on far right), and the peaks in the Presidential Range (to the left of The Horn).  The body of water is Christine Lake, where we began our trek.
Southward view from South Percy

I just have one more snapshot to present in this report.  If you have an interest in vehicles from the 1950s, then you might like to see the next photo.  Just off the lower end of the Old Summer Club trail is a portion of pickup truck.  Perhaps some reader can identify the exact model and year.  My best guess is a 1950 Chevy.
Old pickup truck off to side of Old Summer Club trail

To sum it up, this trek was about 8.75 miles (round-trip), and involved about 2,750 ft of elevation gain.  Under most circumstances, I think this hike would fall into the category of "moderate", which was our goal for the day.  However, considering the heat and humidity, perhaps this hike might have "dripped" over a bit toward the aggressive category. :-)

12 comments:

  1. Great post as always! Once again you have shown me a mountain that I had previously not been aware of. All of the recent trip reports have been talking about the oppressive heat; it all makes me look forward to winter! The last pic of the truck really intrigued me. I always wonder how stuff like that got to where it was.

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    1. Hey Grant . . . thanks for your comments.

      Agree 100% with you about looking forward to winter. About the only really good thing (in my opinion) about summer is the longer daylight hours.

      And regarding that old pickup truck, it would be interesting to know the story behind how some of the stuff that’s in the woods ended up there. In this particular case, I suspect the truck might be something left behind from the days when that area was logged.

      John

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  2. Looks like a great day! I hiked those peaks (and North Percy) a couple weeks ago via the Cohos Trail. I had a great feast of blueberries on North.
    -vegematic

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    1. Hi Vegematic,

      Thanks for posting your comments! I seem to recall reading something rather recently about your Cohos Trail adventures. However, I can’t seem to find it now. Assuming I’m not imagining things, can you post a link and/or e-mail me?

      John

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  3. Since you have been on your quest to hike in different areas, I was just thinking this morning that I should suggest you do Victor Head, since it seems your type of hike and lo and behold!! I haven't done this yet, but it has been on "the list" for quite some time. I saw Rocket 21 did it recently and was checking out his trip report on Franklinsites.

    It looks like an interesting peak. I used to go swimming at Christine lake as a kid and used to hang out with a friend who had a camp on Pike Pond, not far from there. There used to be a horse stable I visited nearby also on Bell Road. It is a beautiful area.

    I get confused between the Percy's. We did the Percy with the views and ledges, hiking up from Nash Stream Road a few years back. I want to get back and do the "other one" that looks like it has no views, or limited views. When we did Percy with the views, it was a gorgeous fall day and the foliage was peaking and I wanted that moment to never end it was just so beautiful! We were thinking that when we get back to do the other percy to try a different route (the name doesn't come to me) I believe it is further up Nash Stream Road.

    Your brave to have hiked in the heat. I got out to do Cathedral/White Horse and it was early and MUGGY!! I am not a fan of hiking in the heat and have been sticking to the smaller peaks this summer. Hiking just doesn't seem enjoyable to me when it is that hot. As it was I was completely drenched in sweat with that small loop!!

    Great Pics & trip report, looking forward to doing this sooner rather than later. Since I live in Bristol, the drive is a bit of a deterrant.... If not this year, I'll be sure to grab it next year....

    LOVE THE BLOG! It seems your hitting alot of peaks I am interested in!! I saw you have hiked around Philbrick Inn- which is also a neat area. I used to board my horse at the stable many years ago and had ridden alot of the trails out behind there and have done some of the hikes you mentioned in your old trip reports, as well as having xc skiied out there as a kid. I mtn biked up Austin Brook a couple years ago and was saddened by the decimation of the logging. It was so different back when I was there. But I am glad people have resurrected some of the trails. I hope someday to explore more of them, since I have only done a couple of them.

    Good stuff!

    Hiking Lady

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    1. Hiking Lady,

      Thank you for your kind words about my Blog!

      I certainly agree with many points you raised, such as the beauty of the Stark/Nash Stream area, and also your comments about the terrific hiking opportunities on the trails several miles to the south in the Shelburne, NH area (thanks to the efforts of the Shelburne Trails Club). And, like you, I have little enthusiasm for hiking when it’s hot! I much prefer hiking in the autumn and winter!

      John

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  4. We wish we knew it was 1HappyHiker we ran into on our way down from South Percy. It was finally nice to meet you. Read your blogs all the time. They are great and very informative!

    Happy Hiking!
    Mark and Marilyn Klim

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    1. Mark and Marilyn . . . gee, we really should’ve taken more time to chat. But even with the short time we spent talking, it was very enjoyable!

      Marty and I were very appreciative of the info you provided about what laid ahead of us on our trek which would cover the same ground you two had just traveled.

      Also, thank you so much for your very kind words about my blog reports. I’m truly appreciative!

      Hopefully, we’ll meet again somewhere on the trails, and will spend more time chatting about hiking the NH mountains.

      John

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  5. On such a HOT summer day I think I might have just stopped and submerged in Christine Lake and gone no farther—the lake looks soooo inviting!

    I love the progression of the hikes in your blog reports. It's nice to see the map, then the picture of where you're going, the scenes along the way, and finally the view from your destination. It almost makes me feel as thought I'm completing these hikes myself!

    As for the old truck, Tim and I have found similar rusting hulks of trucks and cars on our Rocky Mountain hikes. Old vehicles abandoned at 10,000 feet? The story behind these vehicles and their occupants would make an interesting novel, I think.

    Thanks for another fine post, John.

    Rita

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    1. Hi Rita,

      Yup! On such a hot/humid day, a better choice for physical activity would’ve been to swim some laps in the lake, rather than climb a mountain!

      And what a surprise to read that you and Tim sometimes find abandoned vehicles even at elevations of 10,000 ft. Unreal! Regardless, that is a terrific idea you have for a novel about the stories behind the vehicles, etc that are found at such unlikely locations. For abandoned vehicles, I suppose you could use the VIN number (assuming it had one) as the starting point to garner some further details.

      As always, thanks for taking time to post your thoughts about my Blog.

      John

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  6. Yeah, it was a hot one on Saturday! Very wise to make a shorter trip with easier elevation gain for such a day. The pictures are great as always. The different viewpoints and angles from the places you go are interesting; I wouldn't have known that if you look in the right place you can see Madison Hut!

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    1. Thanks Summerset for commenting!
      I could be wrong, but based upon your photos and the peaks and places you’ve identified, somehow I think that if you were standing on South Percy, you would’ve figured out that the faint glint in the saddle between Mt’s Madison and Adams was the area around the Madison Hut! :-)

      John

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