Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hiking Up to a Snowy Sandwich Dome

After two weeks of not hiking I was ready to get back on the trail. This past week I was fighting off a mild flu "bug" and was still feeling some lingering affects from that today. My plan was to hike up to Sandwich Mountain also known as Sandwich Dome (3,993') with a stop at Jennings Peak (2,976"). I would be going up the Sandwich Mountain Trail, take the spur path to Jennings Peak before summiting Sandwich Dome then return to the trailhead via the Drakes Brook Trail.

 At the trailhead

Trail gets steep

Trail takes a sharp right

Another day of cold temps and wind made this a good day for a hike with minimally exposed areas. I drove through Franconia Notch just as the sun was hitting the snowy summits. A last minute decision had me driving across Tripoli Road instead of continuing on I93 and across Route 49. I've never been across Tripoli Road and wasn't sure if it was closed for the winter. The gate was open and I continued on.

Mount Washington from an outlook


I crossed the bridge that goes over to Livermore parking area and turned right to continue on to Sandwich Mountain Trailhead. This can get very confusing with roads going everywhere to the condos and townhouses but I made the right turns and found my way out of there and back onto Route 49. It was just a short distance to the trailhead. There was one other vehicle in the parking area and one more came in behind me.

A quick break while enjoying the views

It was cool but not cold and there was no wind in the parking lot. I started out with two layers under a fleece outer layer. Was not cold enough for the new winter hiking boots I bought yesterday, Keen Summit County III. I'll have to break them in on another day. I went past the power station, crossed Drakes Brook and began my hike up the Sandwich Mountain Trail.

Jennings Peak

A slab of granite to get down over

Spur trail to Jennings Peak

It's a moderate climb with a few steep rocky sections before coming to an outlook with great views. One view was toward the beautiful snow-capped Mount Washington. A few photos and I continued on. At 2.7 miles I reached the Drakes Brook Trail junction. Another tenth of a mile and I turned to go up the spur path to Jennings Peak. There was some very nice views from the ledges on this summit. I stayed long enough to capture some more photos and a panoramic video. A short return descent and I was back on the main trail heading for the summit of Sandwich Dome.

Southern view from Jennings Peak

View to the east from Jennings Peak


I met one other hiker coming down. He said it was windy and cold at the summit and he was dressed for it. Just before reaching the summit at the Algonquin Trail junction I decided to change out of my sweaty damp layers and put on a dry one along with my Primaloft jacket. It's always worth the few moments of cold discomfort when stripping off damp layers in a frigid breeze to put on warm dry layers. I was now ready for the cold, windy temps on the summit.

Smarts Brook Trail junction

Algonquin Trail junction

On the summit of Sandwich Mountain (Dome)


Seems I changed just in time, it was only 90 yards to the summit. There was a cold wind blowing but I was toasty warm in my dry layers. There are limited views from this summit. I didn't bother getting my customary panoramic summit video but just captured some still photos wherever I could see between or over the trees. I didn't stay long as my toes were starting to get cold in my regular hiking boots. As long as I'm moving my feet and toes stay warm but I don't have to stay in one spot for long before the cold creeps in.

Mount Washington from Sandwich Dome

A view to the south

Looking down on Jennings Peak

Summit pin

Once again I had timed my hike just right in order to have the summit to myself. As soon as I started my descent I started to meet hikers on their way up. At 1.2 miles I stopped long enough at the trail junction to delayer before turning to go down the Drakes Brook Trail. It was here that a very upset barking dog came running up to me, it's hiker soon caught up and said she was dogsitting for someone. Apparently this was as far as she planned on going today. They both turned around and went back down the same way they came up. I never did pass them on the way down.

For some reason the descent on this trail seemed to take forever. I was still not feeling up to par from whatever was ailing me this past week. The last mile had me plodding along with my pack feeling heavier with every other step. There were a few waterfalls that were worthy of a photograph but other than that I made no other stops. My last water crossing of the day was across Drakes Brook. I can see how this would be difficult if not impossible to cross in high water. Today it was easy, I didn't need any challenges at this point with the way I was feeling.

Waterville Valley ski trails

Waterfalls along Drakes Brook

It was almost another half mile back to the parking lot on a logging road. I reached the gate and could see the parking lot was now very full. I changed my clothes and relaxed for a moment while eating a snack before driving home. This would be the third time this Fall hiking in snow or ice. While I didn't use any traction it was good to know my microspikes were in the backpack just in case.

A very muddy and wet section of trail

Crossing Drakes Brook

I will now be able to add this summit to my completed list of the New England Hundred Highest. It is also the tallest summit on the New Hampshire 52 with a View list at 3,993'. Only seven more feet and it would have been on the 4,000 footer list. Today's hike was enjoyable and exactly what I was looking for as far as staying off of any exposed terrain and out of the wind. Winter is not officially here but while it may be Fall weather in the parking lot early winter conditions have settled in on the high summits.

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

No comments:

Post a Comment