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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States
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11 August 2015

A Different Way to Hike to Mt Crawford (NH)

Perhaps another fitting title for this blog posting could be something like "A hike to the "orange spot" . . . and beyond! :-)

You might have noticed the "orange spot" when driving northbound on U.S. 302 in the vicinity of the Davis Path.  It's located high up in the ravine just a bit west and south of Mt. Crawford.  This report describes a trek to that location, and beyond!

The red arrow points to the "orange spot", as seen from U.S. 302.
Probably most would agree that the views from Mt. Crawford are fabulous.  And, because of these excellent views, hikers will often make it their sole destination for the day.  However, there is really only one practical way to get there, which is to do the 5.0 mile round-trip hike from the Davis Path trailhead on U.S. 302. You ascend and descend via the same route. There is no loop-option available.

So, with the above in mind, I considered creating a loop by interjecting a bushwhack component to this trek. Please understand that I'm not touting this to be the greatest idea ever!  Actually, I didn't even know whether my plan would work.  However, I rationalized that it would be something fun to try, regardless of whether or not I succeeded.

My plan was to do a lollipop loop (about 5.7 miles round trip) by hiking the Davis Path to a certain point, and then leave the trail and head for the "orange spot".  I would then continue up the headwall of the ravine to the ridge that extends westward from Mt. Crawford; head eastward along the ridge to the top of Mt. Crawford; then rejoin the Davis Path for the descent back to the trailhead.

The map shown below illustrates the route described above.  My approximate bushwhack segment is shown in yellow, and the on-trail segment is shown in red.
Map showing my route of travel
Upon arriving at the "orange spot" I found that it consists of a massive field of scree and rock.  From this location there is a view looking southward down the Saco River Valley.
View from the "orange spot"
There are a lot of ants on the "orange spot".  And so, with tongue in cheek, I'll speculate that perhaps it's just one giant ant hill! :-)
Just a few of the many ants on the "orange spot".
After spending some time at the "orange spot", I had a decision to make.  Should I "GO-ALL-THE-WAY" up the headwall for a touchdown!  Or, should I simply call it a day?  Although it was readily apparent that the headwall was steep, it was also apparent that there were still plenty of nice open woods for as far as I could see.

So, I decided what the heck!  I calculated that it was only about 0.3 mile from the "orange spot" to the top of the ridge.  It turned out to be a good decision since the woods and the terrain for that 0.3 mile were very conducive to bushwhacking.  And although it was indeed very steep, I really don't think it was much steeper than many segments of the Davis Path.

Upon reaching the ridge, it wasn't long before I was "bushwhacking" along open ledges en route to Mt. Crawford.  And as I traveled along the ridgeline, I began to experience fabulous views.  Some of my personal favorites are shown in the photos below.
Stairs Mountain at upper left; at bottom right is the massive ledge known as Crawford Dome (another fine bushwhacking destination).
Looking at Crawford Notch in the vicinity of Mt. Willey and Mt. Webster
The unmistakable pointy shape of Mt. Chocorua at top center of photo
Once on the open ledges, I could see the summit of Mt. Crawford (see photo below).  It was very odd to be approaching this peak from this direction!
Approaching top of Mt. Crawford from its western ridge
A couple of other things that were seen along my route of travel included a large garter snake (a very civil serpent), as well as a variety of fungi-type plants.
A very civil serpent
A variety of fungi-type plants
You might ask how long it took to do this loop. Well, if I deduct the chunk of time spent while stopping to look at stuff, take photos, snacks, etc., then I'd guesstimate that the actual hiking time was just under 4 hours.

To sum it up, this adventure was one heck of a lot of fun! I would definitely consider doing this improvised loop again the next time I plan to visit Mt. Crawford.

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ADDENDUM:  Prior to this adventure, I did a similar trek in April 2013, but used a route that differs from the one described in this blog posting.  Click HERE to access my April 2013 posting.
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2 comments:

  1. Wow! What a beautiful hike, and a great day for it! Your photos prove that it truly is better to go off the beaten path sometimes!

    I love the photo of the Indian Pipe fungus. We don't have any plants like that in Utah. Too dry.

    If not ants(!), what really did cause the orange color of the "orange spot"?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Rita for your accolades!

      Further regarding the “orange spot”, perhaps some reader who is versed in geology can offer a better explanation about the coloration. My layman's explanation is that once the dark organic veneer of topsoil has been eroded, it exposes the underlying substrate, which in this case consists of an orange-colored mixture of coarse sandy material and rock. That’s about as far as I can take it! :-)

      And regarding the Indian Pipe, it is indeed fascinating! And although it resembles a mushroom, it's actually a plant that lacks chlorophyll. Rather than generating energy from the sun, it gets its nutrients via a parasitic relationship with trees. There is a very nice article about Indian Pipe at the link below which can be cut and pasted into your browser:
      http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/indian_pipe.htm

      John

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