Backpacker - - Play List Weekends - By Matt Chabe

Mine Ledge, all bare an­gles and gray lines, breaks through the for­est like a breaching whale. I pick my way to the out­crop­ping and gather my courage, inch­ing for­ward un­til I’m peer­ing over the edge. It’s just one of this trail’s many high­lights, and I’ve got them all to my­self—at least for now. I’m on the west­ern sec­tion of the new Wantastiquet-Mon­ad­nock Trail, a 50-mile path that links the two epony­mous peaks in south­west­ern New Hamp­shire. It took more than 20 years for it to come to­gether, of­fi­cially open­ing to hik­ers last April. Out here on the lesser-known west­ern sec­tion, I ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort. It’s wild and per­fect for a re­mote leaf-peep­ing get­away. On the edge of the out­crop­ping, my gut clenches in­vol­un­tar­ily: Some 500 feet be­low me lies a ravine strewn with the remnants of an an­cient rock­slide. I raise my eyes, and a dif­fer­ent pri­mal re­ac­tion takes hold at the sight of the rich pal­ette of reds, yel­lows, and or­anges ex­plod­ing across the land­scape. When I hear my hik­ing part­ner ap­proach through the brush, I can’t help but shout: “You’ve gotta come see this.”


Fol­low the Wantastiquet Moun­tain Trail 2 miles along gen­tle switch­backs to the 1,322-foot sum­mit for a view across the Con­necti­cut River into Ver­mont.

2) Con­tinue east to a junc­tion just be­yond In­dian Pond, near mile 3.4.

3) Stay right, veer­ing south on Ann Stokes Loop, which fol­lows the ridge for .9 mile.

4) Peel north onto the Daniels Moun­tain Trail, cross­ing the forested, 1,214-foot sum­mit to an in­ter­sec­tion at mile 5.3.

5) Near Moon Ledge, turn east (hiker’s left) onto the Bear Moun­tain Con­nec­tor and go 2.5 miles to Pis­gah State Park.

6) Pro­ceed 1.6 miles north on the Davis Hill Trail to the spur for the Dort Shel­ter, a .2-mile de­tour north.

7) Re­trace your steps to the trail­head.



This three-sided, Adiron­dack-style lean-to can fit six com­fort­ably (first­come, first-serve). It’s in a grove of birch, ash, and low-ly­ing ferns and has a fire ring. Since the W-M Trail doesn’t ap­pear on topos yet, chances are good you’ll have the shel­ter all to your­self. So far, it’s the only des­ig­nated (read: le­gal) site on the en­tire W-M Trail.


The W-M Trail con­nects many smaller, in­ter­sect­ing trail net­works, and there are a lot of junc­tions and dif­fer­ent markers to fol­low. Brush up on your map and com­pass skills be­fore head­ing out, and, as a good rule of thumb, keep your eyes peeled for blue di­a­monds out­lined in white, de­not­ing the longer W-M Trail to­ward Mt. Mon­ad­nock in the east.


This itin­er­ary ticks off just the west­ern­most piece of the new, 50-mile W-M Trail. From the Davis Hill Trail (step 6), you can con­tinue 20 or so miles along a patch­work of trails to reach Keene, New Hamp­shire. From there, a bike path and a re­pur­posed railbed con­nect you with the Me­ta­comet-Mon­ad­nock Trail, which leads to the path’s end at Mt. Mon­ad­nock. For maps and in­for­ma­tion, visit chester­field­out­doors.com.


Fall color here typ­i­cally peaks in the first two weeks of Oc­to­ber. Most hik­ers flock to the big-ticket views on the east­ern half of the W-M Trail (like Mon­ad­nock), so you’ll likely score those to your­self on this trip: Over­looks at Mine Ledge (mile 2.6), In­dian Pond (3.4), and Moon Ledge (5.3) are all worth short de­tours.


The only re­li­able wa­ter source on this route is In­dian Pond near mile 3.4. Be sure to get enough to last the rest of the night be­fore con­tin­u­ing on. Or, if you pre­fer, you can tack on about .7 mile from the shel­ter to reach Baker Pond.

DO IT TRAIL­HEAD 42.8529, -72.5485; 3 miles north of Guil­ford, VT, on Moun­tain Rd. SEA­SON May to Oc­to­ber PER­MIT None CUS­TOM MAP bit.do/BPmapWM­trail ($15) CONTACT bit.do/w-m-green­way

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