Thursday, October 7, 2021
Start: stealth site near Starr King summit
End: B & M ski shelter
Elevation gain/loss: 3278’/5269′
Mountains climbed: Owl’s Head, Martha, Cherry
I was up at 5:45am and decided to pack up. I was on trail by 6:40am. It wasn’t too cold, perhaps around 45-50 degrees, and I happily rocketed along towards Jefferson and the gas station/deli there, eager for breakfast. At the gas station, I took a 45-minute break to charge my devices, resupply, and have breakfast. I enjoyed picking out some interesting things that I hadn’t eaten in a while, and managed to make myself hold still long enough to mostly charge my electronics. The staff at the gas station and deli were stand-offish and grouchy, and the people coming into the deli at 8am were locals and kept glaring at me, so I didn’t feel particularly welcome.
As I’d sat on the porch of the gas station, the thick clouds that I’d seen from the summit of Starr King had descended and the town was enveloped in a dense, cold fog. I set out for my 3.5-mile road walk and my hands quickly became numb; I took turns alternating my hands in my pockets. After the road walk, I entered Pondicherry; at first, the trails were muddy and the views uninteresting. But as I hiked further into the preserve, the mist started burning off. As I got my first view of the misty pond, I met my first hiker of the day, Jen; we amicably chatted about the Cohos for almost half a hour. Jen was one of the only people (who wasn’t actively hiking the Cohos) I chatted with on the entire trail who knew what the Cohos was.
As I circled around Pondicherry, the sun came out and the mountains came into view. It was breathtaking and perfect fall weather, with strong sun and a light breeze. I walked the rail trail for a bit before the trail cut over to Owl’s Head and Mt Martha. The hike up to Owl’s Head was just about straight up, but the views were really lovely. I saw half a dozen retired folks climbing Owl’s Head, but quickly passed by. Once I summited Cherry Mtn, I then descended the jeep trail, which seemed to go on forever, before emerging onto Old Cherry Mtn Rd. There was dispersed camping along the road, but the sites were huge and meant for multiple parties with cars or campers. It was still relatively early in the day and so I pressed on. I made it to the Bretton Woods gas station after more road walking, and charged up my watch and phone again. I went into the deli and bought a wrap, ginger ale, chocolate milk, and some Cabot cheese for dinner, as well as some fruit snacks for later. The staff were overwhelmed with the holiday weekend/leaf peeping crowd but they were friendly. Once my watch had enough charge to make it for another day and a half, I continued on my road walk, entering Bretton Woods Omni Resort. The entry road was busy, full of people heading to the resort and other folks just wandering around taking pictures of the colorful folliage. I utilized the Cohos Trail map and my own knowledge of the cross-country ski trails to find my way over to the golf/tennis/XC ski area and then onto the B&M trail. It looped around the field/golf course, with beautiful views of the resort. I was delighted to find the freshest portapotty I’d ever encountered tucked away behind some privacy fence along my route.
My feet had started hurting and my shoes were rubbing the balls of my feet painfully; my 5-day old socks did nothing to absorb or redirect the friction, so I ended up stopping and putting body glide on my feet to try and relieve the pain. I continued to wander down the XC ski trails (now mountain bike trails in the summer) as the sun started to set and the valley fell into shadow. I remembered how the XC ski trails had a warming hut and I wondered where it was located. I had enough service to pull up a trail map, and found both the warming hut and a ‘day shelter.’ The warming hut was off-trail by at least a few tenths and I also figured the warming hut might be locked and I couldn’t remember if it had a porch, but the day shelter was directly on trail. With the bench, it had enough space for maybe 2 people to sleep. I was nervous about the nearby road and ATV/snowmobile trail, but after checking my maps, determined it was too far away to be an issue, especially on a weeknight.
I got to the shelter at 6:30pm, a little bit after sundown, and decided it was my best bet. Otherwise, I’d need to tent, and I figured that would have a larger impact on the environment and have an increased risk of bothering someone. The shelter was a little cold, with the river roaring directly behind it, but it was cozy enough for my purposes. I was in bed and sleep by 8pm.