Fri, Jan 30, 2015
Mt. Major Main trail to the Boulder trail
As usual, it had been far too long since I had a chance to go hiking, and with family visiting from NY I didn't think I would have a chance to make it happen, but their credit, the fam was up to it!
With three kids in tow and none of them over 6 years old, I thought we should make our trip something that wasn't too strenuous, but that still had some value (translated: good views!) and Mt. Major fit the bill perfectly. Checking in the Southern NH Trail Guide, I found everything I needed to make sure this one didn't end up with the seven of us lost. I was disappointed to see that the guide didn't have a map of the Mt. Major hike, considering how popular it is. But my TopoUSA software came in very handy and we had what we need to make the trip.
Since everyone on the hike was on vacation, we got going late in the morning. A quick stop at Subway gave us the provisions we needed, and we reached the trailhead right around lunch time. After a few minutes of gathering the dogs, kids, packs, poles and assorted other stuff, we heasded for the trail.
The first thing you notice from the parking lot is that there are actually two trailheads; one to the right, one to the left. Unfortunately, neither trail is well marked, so we were unsure of which trail we were taking. A quick check of each trail yielded a small sign on each that told us which trail was which: the trail to the left (South) was the Boulder Loop trail, and to the right (North) was the Mt. Major Trail. We chose the Mt. Major trail and got moving.
The trail begins with a very reasonable climb and moderate footing. Despite the fact that this trail is wide enough to drive a truck up(it's an old lumber road) heavy traffic on this trip has taken its toll on the route which had the little ones stumbling a bit. Rocks of all shapes and sizes dotted the trail which was fun for my little girl, but kept progress fairly slow. The occasional boulder on the side of the trail gave the kids regular diversions that also kept our pace down, which was ok for the couple adults that haven’t been, well let’s call it “active”.
The trail continues on much the same way until about ¾ of a mile, when it turns left and steepens slightly. Footing doesn’t improve here, it stays pretty much the same and the kids struggled a little here. (It was at this point that my daughter began to ask to be carried). However things level out again for about ¼ mile before ascending once again to a beautiful outlook where we were rewarded with our first decent views. Mt. Winnepesaukee was visible from this vantage and several groups were tempted enough by these views to stop and eat there. We continued on towards the summit.
Another 100 yeards up the trail we arrived you get to the mountain's ledges which are fairly steep for little kids or old folks like my sister. :) The good news is that there is an alternate route around the steepest section which we took advantage of "for the sake of the kids". No really, it was the kids we were worried about. No, I'm serious! It was the kids!
Before long, all of our views were excellent and we could see for about 4000 miles in any direction. The kids were having a ball climbing up the granite ledge like real rock climbers, and I think the adults were too. After almost two hours we reached the rocky summit.
The summit is very open with both rocky ledge and scrub with plenty of area for the kids to run around. There is also the remains of a stone hut here, which I found littered with the garbage from a Boys and Girls Clubs of America group that had just left. I spent 20 minutes gathering their trash (they were nice enough to leave an empty bag as well) and then had a lot of fun running around with my daughter. We took in the awesome views for about 45 minutes, then decided to head back down.
Since we had already hiked the Mt. Major (Main) trail, we all thought it would be fun to take the Boulder Loop trail back down. Heading off the summit to the South, the Boulder Loop trail was fairly easy to find by looking for the orange (or "salmon" as I was corrected to say) blazes. The grade down was very moderate for the first 300 yards and passed through an area just off the summit that was 80% scrub and trees and 20% ledge. This made a good potty break for small bladders. After this, the trail gets steep.
We continued down the steep section of the Boulder Loop trail, occasionally slipping and stumbling. Footing was difficult and before long our little group was stretched out. At about 1/2 mile from the summit, there is a small boulder field (imagine that, aren't we on the Boulder Loop trail?) that has a small "lemon squeezer" and some fun little nooks for the kids to play in. After five minutes, we moved on.
The trail gradually levels and footing improves significantly. Little legs moved much easier, and despite the longer length of this route, we made fairly good time. An hour and ten minutes after we left the summit, we were back at the cars.Total hike length: 3.9 miles
Total Elevation: 1150 feet
Breakdowns by three-year-olds: about 4
Out of two, the number of three-year-olds awake at the end: 1
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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy