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Mapping the world

Alton Bay, NH: Mt. Major October 16, 2010

Filed under: hiking,NH,US — autonomy @ 3:26 pm
Tags: ,

A somewhat challenging barren summit yielding a spectacular view.

43.519394,-71.27305

Columbus Day weekend, and we weren’t the only ones planning to attend the Oktoberfest gathering at Loon, as witnessed by every hotel and campground in the vicinity being sold out. Needless to say, we didn’t make to Loon, but did drive up to NH to Mt. Major instead – and spent quite some time crawling in what seemed to be leaf-peeper/Oktoberfest traffic. On a Saturday morning. You know, it seems that the worst traffic jams happen on a Saturday morning, because people don’t want to drive Friday night after work.

If you ask me, NH is awesome, but if I were from MA, which I am, and if I wanted to go look at the foliage, which I sometimes do (especially in the fall, for some reason), I would first and foremost drive out to Western Mass, which I have done. But then again, most Bostonites seem to think NH is an untamed wilderness and that Western Mass starts somewhere around Worcester. In fact, I’ve heard from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend that most Bostonites are blissfully ignorant to anything past the 495 loop, excluding the Cape.

There sure are many places to hike in MA, but having seen much of Western Mass and itching to get out of Boston, if even for a day, we decided to drive up to NH and make a daytrip out of it. As expected, we weren’t the only ones there…

This was the case for both sides of the road

After circling the parking lot like hawks, we squeezed the poor car into a tight spot on the highway, bitched a little about having to walk too far from the parking space, and set out on this 3-mile round-trip hike. The irony of leaving the city to escape the crowds and ending up on a packed trail painted a somewhat grumpy climb, especially when I saw what the trail looked like:

Erosion...

At some points you could see that Park Services rangers have spread gravel on the trail, to slow down the erosion process. Can’t imagine how much fun it must be hiking with bags of gravel. Surprisingly, though, we didn’t run into that many people on the trail – just on the summit.

Most hikes are like this: you start at the base, hike through the woods, perhaps following a brook, and when you reach the top, you get to see a great view. On Mt. Major, you get to the view about half-way through the hike. The first time you see Lake Winnipesaukee, you think it’s awesome and you start taking pictures:

Most of the upper part of the trail is spent climbing giant boulders

But the view keeps getting better and better.

Of course, you get to admire the view on the way down, as you are facing it. But watch out for those steep ledges

I brought a pair of overly long skiing poles with me as cheap man’s trekking poles to help with the climb/descent and to scare lions away. This trail involves quite a lot of stair-like climbing of large rocks, as opposed to just walking uphill. I think the poles helped me a bit, as my knees didn’t really hurt after the hike, but I’m not entirely sold on the merits of trekking poles as yet. Maybe after another decade of hiking, biking, and gruesome ultimate frisbee games, my knees will beg for mercy; I’ll report then.

So the hike was rather challenging/dangerous because there are plenty of rocks to climb and there’s always a risk that you’ll slip, especially with the ground water running from the summit and being almost frozen at the top. By the way, I hope the girl wearing UGG boots on this trail will wise up at some point in her life.

But at this point you might wonder, what did it look like at the top?

Barren.

Some people continued down this path – I don’t know where it lead, maybe it was another way down. I didn’t want to find out – you know how when it’s raining/snowy outside, cold, and windy, but you are dry and toasty warm in your clothes? This was nothing like that. About 30mph wind, and the temperatures were at least in the low 40s (it was supposed to be a high of 55F that day on the ground), if not in the 30s.

The people in the above picture were later blown off by the wind and then froze to death. You can see that the person in the red jacket is already falling over. I started making a 360-degree panorama but after about 4 frames I found out that my jacket isn’t really wind-proof, so I had to abandon the idea. I did manage to snap a similar-looking panorama as seen previously

So, go on a nice, sunny day, and bring warm clothes with you. NH peaks, especially the famous Mt. Washington, seem to be notorious for cold winds and rapid-changing weather.

You can see the trailhead parking lot in this picture

Since we were in the area, we stopped by Weirs Beach, NH. It’s a small town on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee with a beach, a drive-in movie theater, a scenic railroad, and a small boardwalk – kind of like a tiny, tiny version of Ocean City. We didn’t have time in the morning, and the dinner was sold out, but there are cruises happening daily on the Winnipesaukee.

Parking

Plenty of parking at the trailhead – 43.519394,-71.27305 – but on a busy day it will fill up and you’ll have to park along the highway. Weirs Beach has meters that are in effect, strangely, from 10am until 10pm.

Trail Stats
Follow the blue markers, although the trail is so well-traveled, it’s hard to lose it. This was about 3 miles round-trip and took 1hr15m to get to the summit, about an hour to descend. Not a loop, but there seems to be another way down that I don’t know about.

Cost
Free.

Food
Pizza places in Weirs Beach. Picnic at the top of Mt. Major.

Hotels
N/A

Nearby
N/A

Links
GPX file Picasa pictures EveryTrail map
link link link
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One Response to “Alton Bay, NH: Mt. Major”

  1. Anna Says:

    Winter has been long and snowy, leaving the blog without new posts. Looking forward to new trips and posts!


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