Skatutakee & Thumb Mountains - 2/2/17
I had the middle of the day free Thursday, but not enough time to do anything big or far away. Some of the 52 were on the agenda but the lousy weather up north made me look south, south-west to be exact, and off to find Skatutakee and Thumb Mountains I went. The toughest part of the whole day might have been finding the trailhead, since over in that part of the state cell phone service is hit or miss, and as I neared the place it was miss, which meant my gps/map was useless. It took me an hour and quite a bit of driving out of the way before I put it together when I did actually get service, so I didn't even hit the trail until one o'clock. Parking at the Harris Center I crossed the street and headed up the un-tracked Harriskat Trail. There was an inch or two of fresh snow over maybe 8 inches of hard packed melted/re-frozen stuff. It made for quick bare booting on the moderate grades and at the junction with the Thumbs Down Trail I decided for no real reason to stay on the Harriskat Trail up Skatutakee Mountain first and do the loop clockwise. For the most part it stayed moderate as it climbed, transitioning from the hardwoods down low into a pleasant pine forest higher up before popping out on the summit ledges just below 2000 feet. Right as I did a snow squall blew in, blocking out the views, so I just took a seat in the stone throne on the summit for a snack break and waited it out. Five minutes later the views (surprisingly nice I might add) returned, showing the neighboring Monadnocks.
SW NH has a lot of nice history and scenery to see along the way, making for an enjoyable slower paced ride
The Harris Center is where I parked
Untracked but well blazed and easy to follow
Not just blazes, but directional arrows where needed
Woods transitioning to somewhat open scrub covered ledges at the summit
Stone throne, perfect for a snack and waiting out the snowflakes
Cleared out as quick as it came in
The Pack Monadnocks
Grand Monadnock looking, well, grand!
After a good look around it was off to Thumb Mountain on the Thumbs Up Trail. A peaceful pine filled saddle between the two was dusted in snow, which made for some nice quiet time as snowflakes continued to drift down. Then it was a short but steep spur up to the summit of Thumb Mountain. I actually had to put on my Hillsounds for the only time all day, as it was hard packed like the rest of the trail but steep enough I couldn't get up without falling. Only about 5 minutes in the spikes but it did up their efficiency rating. Shortly I hit the summit and then the view ledge beyond, which gave an even better view of Grand Monadnock as well as a nice look back at Skatutakee Mountain.
Headed for Thumb on the Thumbs Up Trail
Interesting marble (??) cairn
Looks fluffy but it was pretty hard and slick
Summit of Thumb Mountain
Sitting area just past the summit
View just past that. Apparently bobcats like views too. Who knew?!
Look back at Thumb
Life is good! Even if snow squalls are squashing the view
Eventually another snow squall enveloped the views so back I went to the junction of the Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down Trails and fittingly I took the Thumbs Down Trail. Moderate grades made for a fast descent, with a quick stop at Jacks Pond before rejoining the Harriskat Trail and returning back to the Harris Center and my car around 4. Total mileage was around 4.5 and elevation gain about 1500 feet according to Google Earth. I thought this was a great little hike and with fresh snow would make a nice, moderate snowshoe trip. If you only did one peak I'd go for Thumb which has a slightly better view I thought, but the best section of woods was between the two peaks and really there's no reason to not do the whole loop. I think it'll make a great summer or early spring hike too while the higher peaks are still thawing out and I'm sure I'll be back with the family when that happens. For now it was a really enjoyable half day outing in a part of the state I'm not really that fond of as far as hiking goes. But now I have other objectives over that way too, so perhaps I'm starting to warm up to the area. Time will tell I guess. If it looks interesting to you there's a good map and more info right here... http://www.harriscenter.org/trails
Going down on the Thumbs Down Trail
Minor water crossing
Skatutakee Mountain across the pond
Sun setting on another good hike