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Hike-NH.com - View topic - Ossipee Pine Barrens and Foss Mountain

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 Ossipee Pine Barrens and Foss Mountain 
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Hiking Forums Are My Crack
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 Ossipee Pine Barrens and Foss Mountain
Thursday afternoon I got some time off for good behavior. A half day at work, the kids with the grandparents and the wife at the beach meant I was free to go off and enjoy the 70 degree blue sky afternoon. Not enough time for a big hike, but enough time for more than a nature walk, so I grabbed my stuff and headed towards Ossipee. I don't often get to head north on a weekday, so the light traffic and quick ride was a pleasant surprise. I had three places I wanted to squeeze in before dark so I wasted no time getting there. Even better, from Rochester to Ossipee I had a pace car in front of me and made really good time following him! :D

Pace car for the ride up



I had read Hiking Ladies report on here a couple weeks ago and Bayle Mountain sounded really appealing, and as I haven't done much hiking in the area other than the Castle In The Clouds property it sounded like a great way to get a foot in the door. And should my goal of getting all 10 Ossipee mountains in a day this summer fall short after the first nine on the other side of the ring dike I'd at least have all 10 done after that. I'll link that report here if you're interested in another short and sweet hike near the barrens and just pick up where that left off.

It's only a 15 minute ride to the Ossipee Pine Barrens, which is one of the Nature Conservancy's preserves and contains the largest area of this globally rare landscape around. The pitch pine and scrub oak forest is, as the brochure says, like no other place in New Hampshire. The gravel and sand left behind by the receding glaciers is hundreds of feet deep in the area and little else can survive here except this type of forest that needs fire to survive and regenerate, so the do controlled burns, annually I believe, and it leads to a healthy and unique forest. It's some of the last remaining territory in NH for the whip-poor-whill and the nighthawk, neither of which I heard or saw but will definitely be back sometime to poke around more.

Easy trail looping through the Ossipee Pine Barrens



Pitch pines require fire to regenerate in a unique way and open their cones to release seeds



The pine needle covered trail I took was about a mile and a half long. Much of the forest floor in the area is blueberry bushes so there were millions of them blooming along the way. It must be a real treat to walk through there in late summer when they're ready to eat, and I definitely plan to find out!

Blueberry bushes in bloom



I was hoping to check out the Ossipee River, which is known for it's remakably clear water, largely due I guess to all of the pitch pines in the area and the acidity leaching into the groundwater from their needles. That day however I decided not to continue to the river and just finish the loop, as there is a longer trail that follows the river I want to do and didn't have the time for if I wanted to hikt my third and final destination for the day. There's also a few other shorter trails if anyone likes the look of the area, maybe 10 miles or so in all of trails, and I'd like to get back and see more of it. Very interesting landscape and I've never (that I know of) heard a whip-poor-will or nighthawk. So some summer evening that is on my ever growing to-do list.

Brushy undergrowth, pitch pines and scrub oak, last refuge in NH of the whip-poor-will



With the sun sinking fast and knowing I had a half hour ride ahead of me I hopped in my car and headed off to try and find another of Hiking Ladies reccomended spots, Foss Mountain. The roads in between the two places were paved to begin with but then turn into dirt for miles, and not just dirt, but twisty, winding steep washboard dirt. The posted speed limit was 35 most of the time but it would probably have been suicide to try and maintain that speed in anyhting but a rally racer like they use on the auto road races. Even in my 4-Runner and in 4WD there were numerous spots where care was required, most notably on Foss Mountain Road, where at one point on this narrow winding dirt road there's a rise like at the top of a roller coaster and until you go up steeply and crest it to go down steeply you can't see what's coming or where the road goes. It's really quite a dangerous spot, as if someone was coming the other way you'd never see eachother until you collided at the top. The final steep climb to the trailhead actually has a sign that says use 4WD and go slow, and I really have no guess how a normal car would do here.

Sunset on Foss Mountain



I made it to the trailhead at 7:50, and the sun was setting at 8:06. Fortunately the trail is well laid out and worn down to the bedrock in many spots, so the 1/4 mile trip with just 300 feet of elevation gain only took me 8 minutes and at exactly 8:00 pm I set foot on one of the top bang for the buck mountain views I have ever seen in a far reaching sort of way. There was a warm stiff wind blowing which kept the black flies away and let me just hang out and enjoy the show.

Sunset over the White's from Foss Mountain



Moon over the Ossipees a little to the south



The whole package pulled together, but the photo doesn't do it justice



Nothing dramatic. No cliffs or notches, no giant gulfs with 5000 foot peaks perched nearby, but wave after wave after wave of mountains rolling off to the horizon in all directions. Whatever mountains this little 1600 foot peak is part of dropped away steeply to the west, the Ossipees, the Whites and more filled up the horizon. There were some low clouds on it so the sun actually disappeared before the scheduled time, but the clouds above were lit up orange when I got there, faded to gray and blue and finally finished at dusk with a blush of pink in the White Mountains area. I spent about 45 minutes up there taking it in and headed down with just enough light to get to my car without a lamp.

Hint of pink beyond the White Mountains near dusk



I headed back down the dirt road and then took 153 to 16 in Ossipee. I'm not sure if that's an easier way to get there from the pine barren area but it's probably a little easier to go that way if you were coming up route 16 from the south and involves less dirt roads, although you still have to drive up Foss Mtn Road which was the worst of them. From there I headed home, stopping at the new rest area/scenic viewpoint of the Ossipee's where the driving range used to be to check for ticks as I found one taking a nibble of my thigh shortly before I got there and wanted to at least give a quick check for anymore obvious ones. Thus ends my streak of 36 years and never having one bite me. :? While doing that I took one 15 minute exposure of the stars at twilight over the area I spent my day in, but didn't do so hot making star trails. The moon crept into the side of it, but I didn't feel like spending any more time messing around with the exposure so I called it a night and went home to check for more ticks.



All in all a very good afternoon, considering I left the seacoast area around 1:30 and by 9:00 has hiked Bayle, the pine barrens and Foss for a sunset. I do want to go back to the Barrens and hike the Jackman Ridge trail sometime as well as the West Branch trail along the river. The nice thing about them is they are short little mile, mile and a half trails, except for the West Branch trail, so they are easy to add onto a day trip up there or even do with kids when the blueberries are out. Nice little unique spot. If anyone is in the area and wants to check them out they are a couple minutes off route 16 and have maps and brochures at most of the trailheads. There's also more information on the Nature Conservancy website below if you're interested.



And the rest of the pictures from there and Foss Mountain are here if you'd like to see more.



Last edited by Granite Guy on Mon May 20, 2013 6:58 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun May 19, 2013 11:06 pm
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I did the Pine Barrens 2 yrs ago while my mother was sick and I was restricted on time. I only did the loop hike u did and was hoping to hear some cool birds but didn't. I didn't notice that there were other trails, so husband mentioned wanting to see it so we'll have to go back. (Marys mtn isn't far from that GG- if u ever are looking for a short hike for family). I would love to see a blue garnet butterfly which supposedly are prolific in these types of places. (There are pine barrens in concord where f & G are studying them. I wasn't lucky enough to see any though. When I went there was trash in the parking lot all over the ground and it looked like a forgotten place. They certainly are unque trees and you see some of them hiking in the Ossippees.

Great description of the steep road to foss. the first time I did it I just about had a panic attack at the crest and backed down instead of cresting. I went back on a 2nd occasion and bit the bullet. I actually think that the road can be avoided by going around, iiRc and I only realized it after the hike was over.

I ended up parking down the road below the parking area and walked up. There was nobody around when I did it but a bunch of people showed up as I was leaving. It is such a neat little mtn, I think. Looks like good blueberry field picking too. You'll need to return on a sunny clear day.

Loved the deep pink pic at the latter part of sunset. Makes me think owith ur family. The overnight hikes we did on caribou, horn and west royce.

Loved the star shot at the rest area! So cool!


Mon May 20, 2013 2:46 am
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Mon May 20, 2013 11:40 am
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Mon May 20, 2013 3:49 pm
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Back when we were dating my wife & I when to Foss Mtn to pick blueberries. My future brother-in-law asked us to take his dog for the exercise but warned us to keep an eye on him because he was in the habit of following his nose & wondering off. Sure enough when we were ready to leave the dog was gone. We stood on a granite knoll calling the dog & looking off into the distance. After a good while, I figure we had to go tell my brother-in-law. As we got down off the knoll we discovered the dog sitting at its base, wagging his tail. Apparently he was happy that we had finally finished yelling.


Mon May 20, 2013 8:31 pm
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Blueberries in bloom, a beautiful sunset, a black-fly deterring breeze: Sounds like an excellent trip and an even better use of some time off. I haven't been up near there since I was a kid.

I loved your narrative about the pitch pine. Don't you just love nature and its super cool traits? It's like a forest's own little insurance policy.

Thanks for sharing.

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Tue May 21, 2013 5:20 am
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Definitely do love nature and all its mysterious way. What amazes me is most of it is performed by organisms without a brain, yet humans with all our infinite wisdom, have trouble doing things as naturally, efficiently and creatively.


Tue May 21, 2013 8:01 am
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Wed May 22, 2013 10:01 am
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Wed May 22, 2013 10:29 am
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Wed May 22, 2013 11:38 am
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