As many readers of my Blog know, I try to do something that is new to me for each of my treks. I don't always succeed in achieving this goal, but do take every opportunity I can to make it happen.
When trying to decide where to hike on 15-Jan-2013, out of the blue it occurred to me that I had never hiked the segment of the Sandwich Mountain Trail between the trailhead and the junction with Drakes Brook Trail. And even though I'd been to Jennings Peak (3,460 ft) on several occasions, going there via the Sandwich Mountain Trail would be a new experience for me.
My modest goal for this particular day would be merely to hike to Jennings Peak. That would be my final destination. There was no desire to go onward from there to Sandwich Dome. I have visited that mountaintop many times via a couple of routes. My most memorable trip to Sandwich Dome was a loop hike involving a bushwhack, as well as the Smarts Brook Trail, along with portions of the Algonquin and the Sandwich Mountain Trail. (Click HERE to read about that adventure.)
Within a few hundred feet of the trailhead, the Sandwich Mountain Trail crosses Drakes Brook. It is the only water crossing on this trail. On the day of my hike, the crossing was tricky, but doable. I knew that if it was beyond my comfort level, then I could always utilize the option mentioned in the White Mountain Guide which states: ". . . you can reach the trail on the other side of the brook by bushwhacking up the west bank from where Drakes Brook crosses under NH 49."
Shown below is the Drakes Brook crossing as it appeared on the day of my hike. The route I took across the brook is highlighted in pink.
According to a booklet by Guy Waterman entitled "An Outline of Trail Development in the White Mountains 1840-1980", the Sandwich Mountain Trail has been around since 1879. When walking corridors as old as this, one cannot help but have thoughts about all the hikers who have traipsed along this trail over the past 130+ years, and all the tales that could be told about those many adventures.
Regardless, the story of my adventure is really rather mundane. The snow on the trail's treadway was well consolidated by hikers who had kindly used snowshoes to break out the trail. The recent January thaw had further hardened the treadway such that I was able to comfortably use Microspikes for the entire trek. I did have my snowshoes strapped to my pack, but they just got a free ride. They never left my pack since there was no risk of post-holing at any point along the way.
The next photo collage just shows a random selection of a few of the features that I came upon while hiking the trail to Jennings Peak.
Random selection of features along the trail to Jennings Peak
Besides the views from the top of Jennings Peak, there are a number of other vistas that are available from the Sandwich Mountain Trail itself, as you work your way up the mountain. The series of six snapshots shown below is a collection of trailside vistas, as well as views seen from the top of Jennings Peak.
None of these photos fall into the category of "knock your socks off", but they do provide an idea as to the scenery that was experienced on this hike. One thing that is apparent in all these snapshots is the pathetic lack of snow, especially for northern NH in mid January. I think the lack of snow on tree branches makes things look more snow barren, particularly in the photos of distant vistas.
Sweeping vista looking over Waterville Valley (Osceolas to Tripyramids)
Zoomed view of Mad River Notch
Zoomed view of Tripyramids
Zoomed view of Mt. Washington
Rocky "bumps" along the Acteon Ridge
To sum it up, even though I have visited Jennings Peak on other occasions, revisiting this location was made special by hiking a trail that was new to me. It also happened to be a good fit for the type of hike I was seeking on this particular day. I wanted something that wasn't too long, nor too short. Jennings Peak was "just right". Call it a "Goldilocks" hike, if you will. :-)