Considering the weather forecast for the upcoming days, it's doubtful that the snow will survive on Black Cap Mountain (North Conway, NH). But, on the day of my hike (06-April-2013), there was plenty of white to be seen.
Some consideration was given to doing a loop by hiking Hurricane Mountain Road on the ascent, and then for the descent, use the mountain bike path known as the Red Tail Trail. However, since I was uncertain about the condition of the Red Tail Trail, I opted to use the Hurricane Mountain Road for both ascent and descent (see map at end of this report). Guess some might consider this as using the KISS principle (Keep It Super Simple)!
There is a suburban neighborhood at the point where Hurricane Mountain Road is gated during the winter months. So, to walk this road beyond the gate, I thought it might be necessary to park several tenths of a mile away at the trailhead lot for the Kearsarge North Trail. However, I was delighted to find plowed parking just a few hundred feet away from the gate on the south side of Hurricane Mountain Road. There was room for about 5 cars. I confirmed with a local resident who was walking her dog that it was okay to park there.
The next photo shows the general appearance and condition of the roadway for my 2 mile walk up to the trailhead for the Black Cap Trail.
|Condition and appearance of Hurricane Mountain Road beyond the gate|
The roadwalk took about 45 minutes, and it really wasn't that boring. The corridor is surrounded by picturesque woodlands, and the lower end of the road parallels a brook (next photo).
|Brook paralleling lower end of Hurricane Mountain Road|
I had snowshoes with me. However, they were unneeded since the snowpack was firm enough on both Hurricane Mountain Road and on the Black Cap Trail to allow for bare-booting.
This was the first time that I've hiked to Black Cap during the winter months. The Black Cap Trail and surroundings looked so very different from warm-weather conditions. I barely recognized anything along the route to the summit!
Upon reaching the top of the mountain, I was surprised to find a big red dot which marked the summit. I don't recall having seen this red dot on previous visits. But then again, I might simply have forgotten it was there!
|Red dot (rather than a cairn) marks the summit of Black Cap Mountain|
My favorite vista from Black Cap is looking northward where the view of Kearsarge North dominates the scene and is flanked by the Presidential Range on its left and the Baldface Range on its right (next photo).
|Kearsarge North (center) flanked by Presidentials on left and Baldfaces on right|
Black Cap has an abundance of open ledges which provide numerous panoramic views. You can see many well-known landmarks in the distance, including Mt. Chocorua, Mt. Carrigain, as well as mountaintops in the Sandwich Range, Franconia Range, Twins-Bond Range, and a host of other mountains and lakes.
Although I do love visiting Black Cap, I can never seem to photographically capture its magic. It could be that the prolific number of mountains are simply too far away to achieve the same dramatic impact that is seen with naked-eye. Perhaps the next photo will help to illustrate what I mean. In this snapshot you can see peaks on the distant horizon ranging from Carrigain on the left to the Twins on the right. Nice view, but it truly seems to be of case of "you had to be there" to fully appreciate it!
|Peaks on distant horizon ranging from Carrigain on left to Twins on right|
Black Cap (2,369 ft elevation) is the tallest mountain in the Green Hills Preserve (click HERE to read more about this magnificent parcel of land).
It took many years of difficult negotiations, but the Green Hills Conservancy was able to purchase huge parcels of land which was due in large part to generous funding provided by Anna Stearns shortly before she passed away. A boulder near the summit of Black Cap has an inscription which honors her (see photo below).
|Boulder near the summit of Black Cap with inscription honoring Anna B. Stearns|
Besides the high peaks on the distant horizon, you can of course see features that are close by. For example, you can gaze down at the alpine ski facility on Cranmore Mountain. Considering the amount of bare ground seen in this photo, it will come as no surprise that the ski slopes are now closed for the 2012-2013 season.
|Cranmore Mountain alpine ski facility|
The Cranmore ski slopes have an interesting place in history. In 1938, Harvey Gibson was able to negotiate with the Nazis and liberate the Austrian-born master skier named Hannes Schenider and bring him to the United States. Together they developed Cranmore's ski slopes and made history by introducing the Arlberg technique for downhill skiing.
Upon returning to Hurricane Mountain Road after my visit to Black Cap Mountain, I decided to do a short trek to the neighboring mountain across the street. Appropriately enough, it's named Hurricane Mountain (2,100 ft. elevation). There is a faint path leading to this little mountain. However, rather than try to follow it, I simply bushwhacked the short distance, and used my GPS to confirm that I had reached the top.
Much as expected, the summit of Hurricane Mountain is wooded. The only semblance of a view that I found was a tree-obstructed vista of Upper and Lower Kimball Pond. Besides this partial view, the only other thing I found to be of interest was a group of perfectly-aligned trees near the point where I began my trek to Hurricane Mountain. I presume this is a result of man's handiwork. It surely doesn't look like something Mother Nature would do!
Below is a photo collage which shows the features I've mentioned above regarding Hurricane Mountain.
|Photo collage showing features pertaining to Hurricane Mountain|
And lastly, shown below is a map which highlights my route of travel for this hiking adventure (click on map to enlarge).
|Map highlighting my route of travel|
To sum it up, this was the first time I've hiked to Black Cap Mountain during the winter months. Although it was a totally different experience, it was every bit as enjoyable as my previous treks during the warm-weather months. It was also a fun adventure to bushwhack to Hurricane Mountain. However, I don't foresee making a return visit to that mountain unless I discover from someone that I overlooked seeing something of significance! :-)