Doing a conventional hike to conventional destinations is rarely my first choice. And when I do one of these conventional hikes, I'm frequently remiss about writing an account of my experience since various forums related to White Mountain hiking always have an abundance of reports about treks to these popular destinations.
There is nothing about my trek that really sets it apart from what has already been reported by others on multiple occasions. My simplistic reason for taking a moment to write this report is merely to reinforce the idea that hiking is oftentimes just as much about the journey as it is the destination.
Many times, the "journey" is more than the hike along the trail. The drive to/from the trailhead can also be a pleasurable component of the overall journey. To illustrate my point, please take a look at the next photo which was taken on my way home AFTER completing my hike. Upon seeing this vista of Mt. Starr King in my rear-view mirror while driving along Rt. 116, I just had to pull over and take a snapshot!
Mt. Starr King as viewed from Rt. 116 near Jefferson, NH
Before continuing, here is just as a brief side note for any reader in other parts of the country who might be unfamiliar with hiking in New Hampshire. There are 48 mountain peaks in this State which rise over 4,000 feet in elevation. For many hikers, it's a prized goal to trek to each of these peaks. Mt. Waumbek (4,006 ft) is one of the 4K peaks. By using the Starr King Trail, you get a bonus mountain thrown into the adventure since this route to Mt. Waumbek also takes you over Mt. Starr King (3,907 ft).
Although it was mid-December in New Hampshire, true winter conditions were absent. There was bare ground at the beginning of my hike. However, there were some sporadic patches of ice along the trail here and there. Eventually, as I gained altitude, there was a light covering of snow on the trail. The hike required nothing special in the way of footwear. Snowshoes were definitely unneeded. There were a few spots where Microspikes would have provided some reassurance. However, with careful foot placement, even the use of that traction device wasn't an absolute requirement.
The next photo is a composite which shows the variety of trail conditions encountered on this hike.
Variety of trail conditions encountered along the way to Mts. Starr King and Waumbek
The next two snapshots merely serve to show some features that are present at the summit areas of Mt. Starr King, and Mt. Waumbek. Near the summit of Starr King is probably the most photographed fireplace in the White Mountains. It is a remnant of a shelter that was built in the 1940s and removed in the early 1980s.
A fireplace that was part of a shelter that once existed atop Mt. Starr King
And by comparison, shown in the next photo are less impressive features that are present at the summit of Mt. Waumbek. There is a large cairn, and a trail sign.
Large cairn and trail sign at summit of Mt. Waumbek
Further regarding Mt. Waumbek, there are no views of distant mountains from the summit itself. However, thanks to a patch of downed trees, there is a nice viewpoint just about 50 yards east of the summit on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. Because of partial overcast conditions on the day of this hike, limited views were available from this spot (as well as from the fireplace area on Starr King). Regardless, the next photo is a composite of two snapshots taken from the spot near the summit of Mt. Waumbek.
Composite of two photos taken from viewpoint near Mt. Waumbek summit
Although it wasn't the best day to be viewing the high peaks in the Presidential Range, the views FROM those peaks had to have been terrific since there would have been the added dimension of an undercast cloud cover. Perhaps the next highly-zoomed photo of Mt. Washington will illustrate my point.
Highly-zoomed photo of Mt. Washington from Mt. Waumbek showing undercast cloud cover
Even though there were no stunning views of mountain vistas on this particular day, there was still the journey itself, which was simply delightful. The Starr King Trail leads you through an enchanted forest which is beautiful at any time of year. However, it takes on a special beauty when it is highlighted by snow. The next photo is just one of many similar scenes encountered on this trek.
One of many trailside scenes of the enchanted forest along the Starr King Trail
As noted above, the Presidential mountain range was partially obscured by clouds during my journey along the hiking trail. However, as frequently happens, the clouds had cleared upon returning to the trailhead. But that was okay. Although the trail portion of my journey was over, my road journey home was just beginning. While driving home, there was a dazzling roadside view of the Presidential Range in all its glory (next photo).
Roadside view of Presidentials while travelling home from hike to Mts. Starr King and Waumbek
ADDENDUM: Added 18-Dec-2012
While looking for something else online, I happened to across the tidbit of historical information shown below. It seemed appropriate to add it to this Blog report.