Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Trail 5 Springfield/New London Road to Great Brook Bridge - A Family Matter

Trail 5, at 8.4 miles, is the longest of the 14 SRKG trails. As such, I decided to split Trail 5 into two days, each day using the Perley Road at Twin Lake Villa as the access and egress to the SRKG.

Scouting trailheads, and exit road to divide Trail 5 in half

Dividing the 8.4-mile hike into two days sounds good, but where does this division take place? And how much will doing the Trail 5 in two days add to the Trail 5 length? The Guide book has an excellent map of Trail 5, and it also has what it calls “bailout trails.” Inspecting the map, I recognized Twin Lake Villa and Riddle Brook Trail. I had hiked in this area before, but without paying attention to their relationship to the SRKG trails. SRKG Trail 5 meets the Perley Road one mile from the Twin Lake Villa stone bridge over the Riddle Brook. Perley Road would serve as my western exit from the SKRG for Day One, and my eastern trailhead entrance to SRKG for Day Two. My wife, Catherine, would serve as my fellow scout as we hiked Perley Road to locate its junction with Trail 5.

Day One

On day one, my son Tim and I start Trail 5 at the Trail 5 western trailhead off NH Route 114 (Springfield-New London Road).

At 3.9 miles, Trail 5 meets the Kidder Brook Trail, where it joins Perley Road, and where we leave the SRKG trail for a 1-mile gravel path to Twin Lake Villa where we find our vehicle.

On day one, Tim follows me in his truck to Twin Lake Villa Riddle Brook stone bridge. We then drive my car to the NH Route 114 Trail 5 trailhead in Springfield. The Trail 5 trailhead is across from the Trail 4 Protectworth trail Tim and I had previously hiked.

From Route 114, we hop over a stonewall and climb a short hill to an open field. We follow the trapezoid signs to a wooded path, and at .5 miles, we emerge onto what the Guide describes as “historic Webster pass road. Local folklore says this was the route Daniel Webster used to drive his sheep (his tuition) to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover.”

Here we are a bit confused because there is a SRKG trapezoid on a tree in front of us pointing right. To the right of this sign is a trail into the woods. The Guidebook says, “the SRKG turns right on Webster pass, then at 0.7 mi. leaves it, turning left and uphill.” I was following Tim, and he takes the path to the right of the trapezoid. I pause, and the Guide says otherwise … yet the sign initially seems Tim is on the right track. So, after a short discussion, Tim continues on his path, and I go right on the Wester pass road. Which one of us will see the next trapezoid? I saw a trapezoid on a pole, and looking up the road another trapezoid pointing left into an uphill woods trail.

I must report this trail sign confusion to the SRKG trail maintenance workgroup.

This uphill trail ascends, turning left (1.0 mi) along a stonewall. Above on our right is an abandoned mica mile. Traces of mica are scattered in our path. Our path turns right over a ridge, and we ascend to a clear-cut field with a stunning overlook of the countryside. The Guidebook does not mention this field, and the trail across this area has SRKG trapezoids on 5-foot high tree stumps. Our guess is this was a forested area before this version of the Guide was written, and the signs were placed there during the clear-cutting. After passing through a brief section of woods, we entered another clear-cut field, also not mentioned in the Guidebook. 
Our path leads to a ridge top with a sign, OVERALLS to the left and the SRKG sign going right. The Guidebook mentions viewpoints of Ragged Mountain and Mount Kearsarge, but we could not identify these mountains in our vista. From the Overalls we turned right and headed south toward Royal Arch Hill. 

Mt Sunapee and Lake Sunapee Viewed from Royal Ledges
The spur trail to the Royal Arch ledges was well worth the short path. We had a panoramic view, especially seeing Mt Sunapee with Lake Sunapee at its feet. Magnificient. 

Our hike continued snaking up and down three short hills, till we crossed over the Kidder Brook Bridge. We were now 3.7 miles and three hours into our hike. We were still in the woods and did a short climb to an unnamed road, with SRKG signs pointing right. We followed the road, and shortly we took a left into the forest and its uphill path, and in another .2 miles, we met Perley Road. This would be our exit way and 1-mile hike downhill to Twin Lake Villa, where we left Tim’s truck.

Altogether, our hike was 5 miles – four miles on SRKG and one mile on Perley Road. A four-hour hike.

Day 2

On day 2, 7 am, I leave my car at Twin Lake Villa’s parking area at the Kidder Brook Trail Stone Bridge. I huff and puff 1 mile uphill on Perley Road, where I spot the SRKG trapezoid sign as it exits from the western trailhead path on the left. There is another trapezoid directing the SRKG up the hill, and I continue another .2 miles on Perley Road, and take a right on the wooden carved Old Poor Road sign, a wood road.

I stay on Old Poor Road for .2 miles when I spot a beaver pond, and the path and its trapezoid turn me right on the SRKG trail. I take a spur to the pond and spot pink lady slipper flowers – always a beautiful flower to see, stop, and enjoy. The path crosses a few small run-off streams and follows the pond to another large beaver pond where the SRKG trail signs give me two choices of routes. I refer to my trusty SRKG Trail Guide and go left to inspect the beaver dam which, appears to be the headwaters of the Great Brook. Frankly, the dam looks as if the beavers did not show up this year.

The path by the beaver dam joins the second choice of the trail and descends in the woods and then beside the brook’s Upper Cascades for as far as I can see in the woods. The pond, the source of the water of the cascade, is low, so I see only ripples of water over these vast granite rocks. I would expect if this were the spring season, the brook would be roaring and splashing as a series of waterfalls that fall in stages down steep rocky slopes, to where the Great Brook will eventually find its way into Pleasant Lake.

The trail now turns into the woods on an old forest road and straightforward walking. I cross a footbridge over Crockett Brook. Shortly after passing the brook, there is a yellow sign indicating signage for an old Hays farm, identified only by cellar holes. The trail then makes a sharp left with the trapezoid identifying the turn. The Guide indicates I am 7.6 miles from the Route 114 Trail 5 trailhead, which tells me I have less than a mile to my destination of the Great Brook Bridge trailhead. From here, the trail follows the Great Brook.

My wife was waiting at the Pleasant Street and Lake Shore Road parking area. My time from Twin Villa to the eastern trailhead was 3 ½ hours. My MapMyRun graph showed me hiking for six miles.

Hiking from Twin Lakes to Great Brook Bridge was a great hike. I took my time and enjoyed the habitat. The hardest part of the hike was the initial one mile continual uphill on Perley Road. The wooded trails were rather easy to walk, but I did have to cross a fair number of small brooks and run-offs. If this were a spring hike, I would recommend gaiters as I did pass through a few spots of thick mud that it in spring would be a challenge.
Pink Lady Slippers
Hiking along the two beaver ponds is quite scenic, and seeing the rare lady slippers was enjoyable. The last two miles of hiking through the woods was an effortless wood road walk.

The whole trail is readily marked. I had essentially no issue having to locate the trapezoids. The trail is very well-maintained, as indicated by recently sawed blowdowns. Trail 5 is categorized in the Guidebook as DIFFICULT. I would agree, only because of the distance.

Now prepare yourself for a hike, get yourself a partner, stay two hiking poles apart, and never say, "I wish I had hiked the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway."

Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway (SRKG) Trails Hiked by OutdoorSteve and Friends - Click below links

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