If you’re peakbagging the New Hampshire 52 with a View, don’t leave Mt Pemigewasset for last. It’s not an inspiring peak to climb, even in the snow. The views of Franconia Notch are obscured and you have to cross under Interstate 93 in four places, which just spoils the mood. You can’t even see the famous Indian head profile from the trail.
I hiked Indian head last Friday, ascending on the Mt Pemigewasset Trail and descending by the Indian Head Trail, a distance of 3.3 miles. These two trails do not make a loop, so I hitchhiked back up the Flume Visitor Center Lot after I came out of the woods onto Rt 3, in the midst of the old resort section of Lincoln, NH.
I’ve never been a fan of the tourist mania that overcomes visitors when they come to the Whites, and I’d have never seen the Indian Head profile if I wasn’t peakbagging this list. But, although the hike was a bust, the trip still had merit.
Hikes are Not Journeys
I guess what I mean is that there are two sides to every hike: there’s the hike and then there’s the journey.
For example, I recently exchanged some email with a sectionhiker reader who hiked The Long Trail in Vermont for 35 days straight, without once leaving the trail for a town resupply. They didn’t find the experience very enjoyable, what with the torrential rain and the green tunnel of Vermont, but I think part of what was missing for them, were the interactions with people off the trail. That’s a large part of the journey: the luck, the kindness that people show you, trail magic, the great hitches, and interesting things that you see in town.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is the same way. The journey includes the trail and the towns along the trail. It’s not just a 200 day hiking and camping trip.
Back to Indian Head. The best parts of this trip were when I bushwhacked around the summit following the tracks of a large rabbit, and when I hitchhiked back to my car. I always find it amusing when I see their tracks on summits. I guess the animals like the views, too!
Hitching on this section of Rt 3 during a week day in winter is a doubtful undertaking: half of the motels at this end of Franconia Notch are closed for the season and there is no one around. But I scored a ride from the first vehicle to pass me, after waiting for 5 minutes.
The driver was a local in a truck who’d done his share of winter peakbagging and could identify with a lone hiker walking up the road in plastic mountaineering boots. We had a nice chat and he drove me back to my car. It wasn’t very far, but I really didn’t want to road walk in those boots.
All in, not a bad warm up hike in preparation for my Mt Washington Ascent the following day, but not really a very challenging one. Nice ledges at the summit though, if you want a picnic over the Indian’s forehead.
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