To finish off the 12 peaks in the Belknap Range, on Monday, Cameron and I decided to do an 11 mile loop hike of the eastern Belknap peaks. We needed 7 more peaks to complete the list and although we finished the hike, we’re not quite done with the Belknaps.
To start our adventure, we headed to the Mt. Major trail head, and headed up the Mt. Major trail, blazed in blue. Along the way we saw some very large boulders in the woods and an old foundation/cellar which we checked out. We didn’t stay on this trail very long, but continued on the Brook Trail blazed in yellow until the intersection with the North Straightback Link, blazed in green. This junction is not signed or marked and the green paint is a medium green and not easy to spot. The junction looks as if a woods road of some sort veers off to the right, if you look down there carefully, you will see a green blaze or two. Once on the trail, it is really well blazed, for we could see four or five blazes at time when looking forward up the trail. This trail climbs quickly and soon we were high enough to see the lake in the distance. We arrived at the summit of North Straightback, not on the list (South Straightback is), so we picked up the white-blazed Quarry Trail, headed towards the Quarry summits. While the Quarry trail does have some white blazes, it also has white flagging in places, and a few cairns on ledges. We never did get lost, but we did have to pay attention to the trail and whatever markers were there.
We passed East Quarry, and then headed to West Quarry, our first summit of the day that counted for the list. Along the way we saw remnants of an old granite quarry complete with rusting equipment. More ups and downs later, we arrived at the summit of Rand. Next, we headed to Klem, this was another descent and then ascent to another ridge. Along the way, we were able to overlook a beaver pond, complete with one lodge, below us.
The Quarry Trail intersected the Klem Mack Loop Trail/Belknap Range Trail near the summit of Klem. This trail has red painted diamonds nailed to trees and once in a while, a painted red blaze. What we didn’t know and I failed to gather from the guidebook was that the true summit and sign of Klem was on an unsigned bushwhack/herd path off of the red-blazed trail and up the hill. I didn’t read the description for the Klem Mack Loop or I would have figured this out. We did try several places where we thought a herd path went in, but both ended in woods with no sign of a trail. Cameron was concerned about the time, since we weren’t half way around the loop and it was already 1:00p, so we made the decision to move on and figure it out when we got home.
We quickly moved on to Mack and found that it has a small communications tower, and then over to Anna, where we picked up a blue-blazed trail and on to South Straightback. Between Mack and Anna, we saw the first person of the day. After this we’d see only three more people until the summit of Mt. Major where there were quite a few families and small groups. South Straightback is where we had some of the better views of the day, being up higher on ledges and seeing out to the lakes and back to all the peaks we’d already been on.
After that it was off to our last peak, Mt. Major, up and over the ledges and there we were – Mt. Major. We enjoyed the views and then headed for the car, just 1.5 miles away, and hiking out on only one small repeat section of trail that we’d hiked in on earlier in the day.
We had a great day, thankful for blue skies, great views and that we did not get lost on the Quarry Trail (we’d read it happened to other groups!). We did come home a little disappointed about Mt. Klem, though. All those summits had signs, so we knew we had missed something!
P.S. Today, I decided that I’d figure it out how to get to the summit and sign on Mt. Klem as a solo hike. I hiked in from another direction, via a fire road (same parking area and trailhead as East Gilford Trail), Round Pond Trail and Klem Mack Loop Trails to the same spot where we thought the herd path diverged. I went back in and after bushwhacking around a bit came across a herd path. I followed it and sure enough, there was the summit with the sign. I followed the path back out to the red blazed trail, turned around and realized my mistake. There are two little herd paths, one to the left and one to the right. Only the right one takes you to the summit, the left one dead-ends in the woods. That done, I went back to the summit and then bushwhacked back down to the trail, since the trail proper circles the summit cone. It was quicker to do that and saved a little mileage rather than going around the summit cone again!
We will make one more trip to the Belknaps so that Cameron can pick up that last summit using the same route, so we’ll have a more detailed trip report and pictures.