There are a few reasons I like hiking the 2.6-mile round trip hike on Bayle Mountain (1,853 feet) in the Ossipee Range. From the wide summit ledges, there are expansive views over lakes to the east. Looking to the west, one gets a feeling of being enclosed by the higher peaks of the Ossipee Range, of literally being inside an old volcano.
From the road, the first 0.75 miles of trail is a winding snowmobile trail. It is always fun to start a hike on gentle terrain, where you can be introspective and relax into your surroundings rather that start straight up a peak.
The remaining 0.57 miles is uphill in an attractive mixed forest, passing around a profusion of broken ledge and boulders left from glacial plucking on the southeast side. Reaching the summit ledges, you can do the rounds of different vistas in four directions.
I’ve been up Bayle a couple times since the fall, each time very different. The first was in early October with a group of friends. Previously, there had been a few inches of snow, then rain, then a cold spell that froze the slush.
During the rainy period, a local flock of turkeys had traveled on the snowmobile road, leaving many aligned tracks in the slush. These were frozen solid on the day we were there, and looked quite dramatic, like a flock of avian nomads.
We plowed through leaves on the upper trail, and on the summit got out of a cold breeze at the northern lookout. As we sat and ate snacks in the cool air, the infectious humor of our group seemed to keep us warm.
Much more recently, yet before the last snowstorm, I climbed Bayle Mountain alone to catch the sunrise on top, leaving home about 5:45 a.m.
In West Ossipee, I turned from Route 16 onto Pine Hill Road (across from Pizza Barn) and traveled 4.8 miles. At the end of Pine Hill Road, I took a right on Connor Pond Road, and after a meadow bore right on Marble Road.
In a half-mile, I pulled into the trail parking spot on the right, across from a hunting camp (if you cross a bridge over a stream you have gone too far). Dressing warm, I put on outer mitts and foot traction, walked around a corner on the road and took a sharp right up a groomed snowmobile trail.
The eastern sky was already starting to lighten up, but dawn wasn’t until 7 a.m. and I had some time to enjoy the dark woods. In a while, I reached the left-hand turn off for the summit. This is a very obscure turnoff.
In the summer, there is a little cairn there. Now, it is mostly covered with snow and ice, and the left side of the trail must be closely watched for the subtle signs of the cairn and a small trail just before it. I put on my MSR snowshoes and proceeded up the trail.
As I made my way up the summit trail, the bottom of the eastern sky behind me turned watermelon red, and I stopped to a few times to look at it through the thatch of hardwood branches.
On top, I walked over to the eastern view that looks out over Connor Pond and Ossipee Lake towards Green Mountain and beyond. The red horizon was more intense and the vapor trail of a jet streaked high above Green Mountain.
It was 10 degrees that morning, and a slow breeze made my hands icy as I tried to take a few pictures. After visiting the northern lookout I headed down the trail to stay warm through movement. Only then did the sun itself break over the horizon and direct sunlight spill over the landscape around me, turning the snow salmon pink.