1-15-2022 Parsons-Middle Mountain

View from Middle Mountain on a cold day. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)

Middle Mountain (1,857 feet) in the Green Hills Preserve above North Conway is not quite a forgotten mountain. It doesn’t take long after a snow for its 2.1-mile trail to be packed out.

But compared to its neighbor Peaked Mountain (1,738 feet) it is less popular. The summit view from Peaked Mountain is quite spectacular, and there is a popular loop hike on it.

The view from the top of Middle Mountain is unique. Trees partly cradle the view as you look down range over Rattlesnake Mountain and Redstone Ledge, and get a private viewing to the southeast past the Conways.

It is definitely worth seeing, and the trail is a great workout any time of day.

When I climbed Middle Mountain on a cold afternoon a couple weeks ago with friends Pam and Bruce Andruskiewicz, I realized I hadn’t done it in years, and had been up Peaked Mountain many times.

It was around noon on a Friday and I was heading back north from Dover when I got a call from Pam.

“We are going to hike up Middle Mountain this afternoon, want to come?”

Sure. I normally would not tack a 4-mile hike onto a road trip south. But Middle Mountain was a known quantity and would be lovely in the winter afternoon light. How could I resist?

I met them and we headed. In North Conway, we took the North-South Road to Artist Falls Road and right on Thompson Road to the Pudding Pond parking lot, also accessing the Green Hills Preserve.

Because of recent popularity, parking is not allowed on the road side anymore for safety and respect for local residents. So arriving there should be well-timed because you can easily not get a spot. By mid-afternoon some hikers, walkers and fat tire bikers have left. We were lucky as there was only one spot.

Before getting out of the car, I put on microspikes and didn’t take them off until later sitting in the same seat after the hike. We walked down the old road and turned left on the Middle Mountain Trail, crossed the powerlines and entered the woods.

The Green Hills Preserve was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1990. Back then, it was 2,822 acres and now it is 5,500 acres. Long ago, it was common land where settlers could hunt, graze animals and cut firewood.

In the 1800s, the town sold it to private owners but it was never developed. In 1966, two ladies bushwhacked up Peaked Mountain and began the process of preserving the Green Hills. One was Anna B. Stearns, and she provided the funding for The Nature Conservancy’s purchase.

The Nature Conservancy usually cites rare species in the reason for preserving land. There are some rare plants up there, but there was also a fire.

In the early 20th century, a fire raged over the Green Hills. This set the stage for a rare forest type called a “red pine rocky ridge” A 700-acre area on Peaked and Middle Mountains has this type of forest, easily recognized as modestly sized even-aged red pines (seeded during the fire) with open glades beneath.

Back to our hike on the Middle Mountain Trail. We soon reached a junction where the Peaked Mountain Trail bore left on an old road. We continued straight up the side of a ravine, soon passing a bike trail on the right.

Further on, we passed a small box secured to a tree about chest high. It was a wildlife camera set there by the The Nature Conservancy.

For a few years a number of these cameras have been set up in the Green Hills. It is a study to determine what wildlife uses human trails, especially busy trails. This coincides with a New Hampshire Fish and Game study and website called “Trails for People and Wildlife” that benefits landowners. With the Green Hills cameras, photos of people are discarded immediately upon inspection of the cameras.

Continuing up, we passed a junction with the Middle Mountain Connector on the left. This ascends to a saddle near the summit of Peaked Mountain and connects with the Peaked Mountain Trail.

A popular loop hike on Peaked Mountain is up the Peaked Mountain Trail to the summit, then down the Middle Mountain Connector and back to the bottom on the Middle Mountain Trail.

As we climbed beyond that point, the Middle Mountain Trail became less packed down. As the trail swung around to the east side of the mountain for a way, the afternoon sun was hidden from us, and it grew colder. As we approached the summit ridge of Middle Mountain, we could see sun up there hitting the trees and we looked forward to reaching it.

Finally, we hit the ridge and walked over to the top. The view was great looking south. The sun warmed us psychologically but not physically. A cold breeze chilled us quickly. We snapped some photos and headed down, slowly warming up and content.

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