It is fun to drive across the mountains to do hikes on the westernmost edge of the White Mountain National Forest. My artist friend Bob Gordon of Conway has been casually working on the hiking list called “52 with a View.” He goes with various friends, and I have been on a couple, including Black Mountain and Blueberry Mountain, both in Benton.
The “52 with a View” hiking list originated back in 1991, when Lib Crooker, the founder of Sandwich’s “Over the Hill Hikers,” was looking for other hikes after many in her group had completed the 48 New Hampshire 4,000-footers. She observed that the other official list in the state — the New Hampshire Hundred Highest — had a number of gnarly bushwhacks. The group decided to make their own list of hikes all over the state up mountains with trails and good views, giving them the opportunity to travel from Jaffrey’s Mount Monadnock in the south to Pittburg’s Mount Magalloway in the north.
The list became known to the wider hiking community, and Over the Hill Hikers has offered a patch for those who complete it. Last, I knew the hiking patch was handed out by Mark Tuckerman of Sandwich (Is he related to the botanist Edward Tuckerman, after whom Tuckerman Ravine was named? I haven’t asked him).
Check out the blog of this group at overthehillhikers.blogspot.com. You can also buy a book of their history on Amazon called “Over the Hill Hikers.”
Dan Szczesny, author of the recent book “The White Mountain,” did a hiking adventure in 2011 up all 52 peaks on the list with his young next-door neighbor, Janelle. He wrote a book about their adventures called “The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie.” It raised awareness of the “52 with a View.” They even took a hike later up Mount Magalloway with PBS’ “Windows to the Wild” host Willem Lange.
A few years ago, I traveled for first time to a hike near the town of Glencliff on the western side of the Whites with my New York friend Carl. We hiked up the Tunnel Brook Trail. This is a unique and beautiful walk up to a chain of ponds in a deep valley just to the west of Mount Moosilauke.
The hike to Blueberry Mountain begins in the same neighborhood.
Recently, I met Gordon at his art studio on the Kancamagus Highway in Conway, and after we drove over the mountains to Lincoln, I was the navigator to the trail head.
From Lincoln, we continued straight on Route 112, then bore left in a few miles on Route 118, crossing the highlands south of Mount Moosilauke. At a very sharp corner, we reached Route 25 in Warren and traveled north to the village of Glencliff, where we bore right on High Street.
There is no street sign for High Street. A good way to know it is coming up is by passing a small sign on the right for the Glencliff Home. This is a state-run facility on the top of High Street. It used to be a private TB sanitarium, and today is for elder developmentally disabled and mentally ill. It is a historic complex that is worth checking out either before or after you hike.
We turned onto High Street and drove up a mile, passing the dirt Long Pond Road on the left, where we intended to start walking. There is also no road sign for Long Pond Road. But there is a trail sign for the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail hits the dirt road a short way down it. North bound thru hikers walk up it to High Street and continue uphill on tar to the trailhead for the Glencliff Trail up Mount Moosilauke.
For us, parking on the roadside with big snowbanks was not good so we continued up the road a short way to the Appalachian Trail parking lot on the right and walked back down to Long Pond Road, which we headed down.
We soon reached a bridge, passed the Appalachian Trail, then continued uphill on the road. We passed the Tunnel Brook Trail on the right.
The road was packed by snowmobiles. We walked uphill on it to the Blueberry Mountain trailhead located in 0.6 miles on the left. The trail was packed down but snowshoes were needed. We headed up the 1.7-mile trail. Looking up through the bare trees, the high overcast clouds were breaking up, with a jagged line of blue between each mackerel scale. But the shadow of the clouds never went completely away until after the hike.
We were glad we had come in the winter. The first part of the trail was a wide logging road with frequent openings to the side. Better they were white with snow than with stumps and slash. They also opened up the view, already enhanced by the seasonal lack of leaves. The long ridge of 4,802-foot Mount Moosilauke rose behind us and remained impressive the whole hike.
As we rose up the southeast side, the woods gradually thinned to become snow-covered open ledges with scattered red and pitch pine. The views got better and better. It was that part of a hike when you stop feeling like you are trying to get somewhere. You are already there.
“There must be a ton of blueberries here,” said Bob.
We passed a great view south over the valley of Warren towards Mount Carr and Mount Stinson, with Plymouth hidden beyond. To the east, the long shape of Mount Moosilauke defined itself as the bare summit emerged from behind the south summit.
The trail swung around to the north to a summit cairn, where there were restricted views over trees. We paused to eat, then headed back down across the beautiful snowy uplands.