Mileage 4.8 | Elevation Gain 1,797 ft. | Duration 1:29
The morning began with an intense bout of self talk. I was getting over a rough week, all I wanted was to curl up with a good book (currently reading Death on Katahdin: And Other Misadventures in Maine’s Baxter State Park by Randi S. Minetor). Instead, I was gathering my things for my weekly training session with Kale.
As I was about to head out the door, my phone sprung to life. A voice text from Kale indicating that his afternoon opened wide up and wondered if I would be up for something fun…like a trail run/hike in the Belknaps. I now wonder if he really thought I would say no to an invitation like that. Anyway, after a few exchanges of information such as: which trailhead? trail shoes or boots? snowshoes or spikes? I changed into outdoor weather clothes, gave the cats kisses and pats and hit the road.
We met at the Carriage Road at the Gunstock Mtn. Trailhead. It was exactly what I needed. To be in the woods. To be in control of my every step. Feeling the pounding of my heart as I climb nearly 1,000 feet of elevation in a single mile. Kale listened to me vent and once I got that out it was time to let the forest take over. Silence settled as we came to the first overlook. I could hear the sound of a motor running – the lifts of Gunstock Ski Resort. We stayed on the main trail, not taking the Winter Shortcut, and popped out on top of the ski mountain. Yikes, people everywhere!
We did not stay long, though we did contemplate stepping into the Panorama Pub for a pint. From here we took the Saddle Trail and walked into a winter wonderland (see featured image). The pine trees were snow and ice-covered, it was beautiful. I was glad to be running these trails with Kale, who could likely run through these woods blindfolded. There are many trails in the Belknap Mountain State Forest and one could easily get lost, especially in winter.
From here, we took the Blue Trail up Belknap Mountain and climbed the ice-covered stairs of the wardens fire tower. Being slightly fearful of heights, I took my time and made my way to the top. Albeit windy, the views were stunning. Though, I was quite surprised with all the grey in the background of the photo (below). Anyway, as I went to adjust my headband I realized my sweat-soaked hair had frozen!
Wasting no more time, we headed on over to the third and final peak of the day, Piper Mountain (the North Peak). Leaving Belknap Mountain we merged from the Blue Trail to the White Trail and then to the Old Piper Trail where I posed for a few fun photos which Kale later hashtagged “queenofthemountain” on my Instagram feed!
For the final descent, we practiced our fancy footwork down the Piper Mountain Trail. The trail was steep at first, but then became gradual and fun! There were a few water crossings but nothing sketchy. The Piper Mountain Trail led us back to the Carriage Road and our vehicles, where we stretched and expressed our gratitude to the forest that never fails to provide.