Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Hike to East and West Royce Mountains

I kept watching the sky on the drive to the trailhead. In one direction was dark, ominous clouds and in another direction was blue sky with clearing clouds. There was also low clouds over the summits so I was not sure what kind of weather I was in for today and just hoped for the best. My destination was Evans Notch for a hike to East and West Royce Mountains. I would be using East Royce Trail to East Royce Mountain then back down to Royce Connector and Royce Trail to West Royce Mountain.

 Wild River - Evans Notch

 Trailhead Map

 First brook crossing

Arriving at the trailhead there were two other vehicles. Four men were just preparing to leave on their hike. We would pass each other several times. I was expecting a wet hiking trail after the rain we received over the past couple of days. The first brook crossing was right at the trailhead. While all water crossings were wetter than normal, today they were easily crossed. It wasn't long before I passed the group of four hikers.

It is one mile to Royce Connector trail junction. I veered right and continued on the East Royce Trail to the summit of East Royce. The trail took on a steeper climb and there were plenty of wet roots and ledges to navigate over.

 Royce Connector trail junction

 A trail of wet, slippery roots and ledge

It was along this stretch of trail that I met three hikers making their descent. Back down at the beginning of the trail I saw a trekking pole rubber tip and it looked like it had just fallen off. I picked it up thinking it was from the hikers ahead of me. Sure enough, one of these three hikers was missing the rubber tip from his pole. We talked for a few moments then continued our hikes.

The last section of this trail to the summit is mostly ledge and I was thinking what it might be like in icy conditions. I would assume this is not a heavily used trail in the winter with the road being closed and a several mile hike to the trailhead, but I could be wrong.

 East Royce summit

 West Royce Mountain from East Royce Mountain

As I reached the summit of East Royce Mountain a cool breeze was blowing and felt good. What it failed to do was keep the flying insects down. There was a black fly feeding frenzy happening and I was the main course. I broke out the can of Off and gave myself a good dousing. This held them at bay for a moment...almost.

 The crevice is the trail.

Didn't plan on staying here long. I snapped some photos, got a bite to eat and started my descent. I met the four hikers again just below the summit. We stopped and chatted briefly then I was on my way to West Royce.

 Royce Connector and Royce Trail junction

 Sweaty mushroom

As I descended the black flies went away, what a relief. I reached the Royce Connector and started across the col between East and West Royce. This was a very nice stretch of trail with very little elevation change for 1.4 miles.

 Final 0.7 to the summit of West Royce Mountain

 A first view from Royce Trail

 A few more feet to the summit of West Royce

Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of West Royce through the trees and knew that at some point there would be some significant increase in elevation. This would be the last seven tenths of a mile. While the trail definitely goes up the entire length to the summit I didn't consider it to be too bad and there were no steep ledge scrambles. It was along here that I almost stepped on a large garter snake that was sunning itself across the trail. This usually happens on every hike in warm weather.

One last signpost and I was at the summit. There were some very nice views that stretched as far as the eye could see even with the scattered cloud cover. I have only done one other hike in the Evans Notch area and was not familiar with the names of the surrounding mountains. It is a beautiful and wild piece of country.

I met the four hikers again on the Royce Connector, this would be the last time today. They were on their way to West Royce. One was sitting down with a tendon strain and wanted to give his ankle a rest. He was going to wait for the others to return and picked a good sunny spot with a view.

 East Royce Mountain from West Royce Mountain

 Wet, muddy trail

Almost at the end of the trail and back to the parking area I was thankful for completing another great hike unscathed. About this time I was jumping from one large rock to another when needles from a spruce bough raked my naked eyeball. It felt like my cornea had been scratched but there was no blurred vision and knowing there was little that could be done I continued on. So much for unscathed.

Final view on the descent

Back at the trailhead parking there were five vehicles. I had met several hikers on my return trip. Although the weather was questionable early this morning it turned out to be a very pleasant day. This was a great hike and I plan on coming back to Evans Notch again to explore the other trails and mountains in this area.

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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