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 Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15 
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 Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
Mount Ascutney
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The Fifty Finest is a stupid name for a list. Indeed if you look at the list many of them are far from the finest around. But they are the 50 most prominent peaks in New England, and I like the lists that are scattered around with different sights to see, so even though I'm not officially doing this list, I'm about halfway done and draw from it every once in a while. Since the wife and kids were out of town, and it was shaping up to be too darn nice of a day to work in the garden, I looked at a few places and hit the road with a much later start than usual. After an easy 2 hour cruise through the heart of NH and driving past the trail heads I finally made it to Brownsville, Vermont around 12:30 and had my boots on the Brownsville Trail 15 minutes later.

Mt. Ascutney and the Sugar River
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Mount Ascutney rises from the Connecticut River Valley and stands isolated and spectacularly alone. It is a defunct volcano, with a defunct ski resort on it's slopes and a few defunct quarries scattered about it. But as far as hiking goes the mountain is open for business! It has at least 5 trails up it, so I had a tough time deciding which ones to take, but eventually settled on a loop with the Brownsville and Windsor trails and a mile of road walking in between them. It seemed to have the most to see along the way. An old quarry, the summit platform and half a dozen viewpoints called either Rocks or occasionally Outlooks. The Brownsville Trail started out fairly steep, climbing up through the greenest woods you'll ever see, that it seems you only find in Vermont for some reason. After about half a mile the trail leveled out a bit, and was actually the old road up to the Norcross Quarry I believe. Not much to look at, but wildflowers were everywhere, and the spring green was extra springy, so a nice mile or so of hiking brought me up to the old quarry fairly quickly. It went out of business in the 20's and much of the equipment seems to have just been left behind. Old gears, guy wires, cart tracks, bolts, anchors and even a large boom are still there. There's also the first nice view of the day from atop the slope covered in unused stone, where the tracks just go to a precipice and end. Maybe that's where they brought the unusable stone to just dump it down the slope?? I don't really know, but whatever it was there's a nice view to be had from the point of land the tracks are on.

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My route on the nice maps they provide you
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Brownsville Trail. My route up
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The first mile follows an old road up to the quarry site
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When you hit the site it is full of artifacts
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The woods are filled with guy wires, many of which seem to have been lifted up as the trees grew
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The actual cliffs the granite was quarried from
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Cart tracks go right to the edge of the cliffs
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The cliffs and debris field provide nice viewpoints
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The trail even goes right around one of the old booms
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After exploring the quarry site for quite a while I went on my way, climbing up and around the cliff bands the granite was quarried from, often on nice stone steps they must have built just because they had a lot of unused pieces of stone left at the quarry site. There was another viewpoint atop the quarry cliffs, but it was getting overgrown I think. The woods quickly turned into a beautiful spruce forest. Apparently the hurricane of '38 didn't get them when it wiped out the lower stands, so the transition is quick from the younger hardwoods below to the beautiful older growth forest in the middle. Really nice woods to ramble through if you like that sort of thing. Soft and earthy underfoot with little ground cover and big tall trees reaching for the sky. The trail continued up, a mixture of short steep pitches followed just in the nick of time by switchbacks almost every time I thought I might need a breather.

Quarry Lookout from the top of the cliffs
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Some of the old growth woods spared by the great hurricane
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Local resident keeping an eye on things
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Then the woods made another blink of the eye transition, to red pine and more jumbled volcanic rock. The red pine forest was more open than the dense spruce, and warmer too. At about 2400 feet you hit the knee lookout, which is another decent view that is less overgrown than the last and looks out at the spine of the Green Mountains.

Switching rapidly to red pines and rocks
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Knee Lookout
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Another quick transition to typical birch and balsam trees above this let more sunlight in and there were a lot of wildflowers soaking it up. Red and painted trillium as well as trout lilies, bunchberry, yellow and purple violets, New Jersey tea and Carolina spring beauties. They were all over the mountain but seemed to be thriving around 3000 feet.

Entering the wildflower sweet spot I guess
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At about the three mile mark I hit Brownsville Rock spur trail, which may have been my favorite spot on the whole mountain. A large open rock face with great views down to the tiny town of Brownsville thousands of feet below and out beyond that to the Green Mountains. It was a bit hazy to see the farther north mountains like Camels Hump and Mansfield clearly, but Killington and others were front and center. Farms and fields were sprinkled across the valley below and few lazy clouds hung in the sky. Just a great spot to sit and relax, so I did just that before moving on to the summit.

Brownsville Rock
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Overlooking Brownsville
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Brownsville, VT
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I came to the observation tower first, which had a group of teenagers on it, and since it's not a very big platform I waited my turn. Eventually I climbed on up and had it to myself for a bit. 360 degree views stretched from Monadnock right up the Connecticut River Valley and out to Mt. Washington at the extreme end of visibility. Then the Green Mountain's long ridges spanned the horizon on the other side. Not dramatic views, maybe even a little "Monadnockesque" but really nice views of farms, fields, mountains, rivers and more as far as the eye could see. But since this mountain is a monadnock I suppose that is what you should expect. There was a board for each direction showing what you could see, which was kind of nice because other than Monadnock, Sunapee and Cardigain I would have had trouble identifying much of anything.

The summit tower
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It gets you about 30 feet up, enough to see over the tree tops
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View south of the actual summit as well as South Peak
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View west of the Green Mountains
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View north, over North peak and towards the White's
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The White's, just barely visible
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Info boards nicely tell you what is what
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The neighboring monadnock
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After the tower I took the short spur to the actual summit. The two large communications towers are there along with USGS markers, but the views are overgrown. I could have gone back the way I came but wanted to check out a few more things including some viewpoints, a sub summit and one of the hang glider launch sites. I followed the Weathersfield trail down to the West Peak, home to one of the launch sites, as well as another nice view. From the clifftop perch you have a great view west but no gliders were launching. Apparently with some skill, the right conditions and a bit of luck you can make it 95 miles from Mt. Ascutney all the way to the ocean. It's rare, and only 15 people have ever done it from what I gather, but it can be done. Knowing nothing of hang gliding this absolutely shocks me, but with the right thermals and winds and what not it is indeed possible to make the trek and it must be a hell of a way to see the Granite State along the way! But being on foot I carried on, taking the Hang Glider trail next towards the South Peak and branching off on the Castle Rock trail, which takes you to the restricted viewpoint near some jagged rocks, I assume known as the Castles but don't know for sure.

Touring the top I visited the actual 3,144 foot summit
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Complete with a brass survey marker
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And some towers
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Stopped by West Peak and the hang glider launch site
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Looping around towards Castle Rock
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Castle Rock
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View east out over the Connecticut River from Castle Rock
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From there it was time to descend, and the Windsor trail was my route. It is one of the oldest routes on the mountain and a bit more worn and eroded than the other trail. The hardwoods weren't as nice as the pines and the rocks were different too. Some marble dotted the woods and I even found a big chunk of pumice stone from the ancient volcano. Kind of cool I thought, as I haven't seen anything like it this side of Yellowstone, but other than that this was the express route down so I carried on, stopping to visit the Log Shelter built in the 60's and really in rough shape now. Obviously it's still used often, and has some bunks and a small wood stove in the fireplace, but the tim roof has holes, the sides are covered with tarps and overall it looks like it needs some TLC and I think I'd take a pass on spending the night there.

Ancient pumice. This rock only weighed a couple ounces
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The shelter, set into the mountainside
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A bit rustic for my tastes
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But complete with wood stove and bunks
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Shortly after I came to the Blood Rock spur trail, which was named for a local youth who while trying to carve his name into the rock with an axe missed the mark and covered the rock in blood, or so the story goes. The spur was a steep 1/4 mile to a restricted viewpoint, and the rock face sloped away dangerously with lots of pine needles at the top of it. I inced out for some pictures but really there wasn't much to see so I returned to the Windsor Trail and continued to drop down alongside a stream, where the only real black flies of the day found me and put a spring in my step. My last stop was at Gerry's Falls, which with the dry spring we've had were barely a trickle, but they had potential, and on a wet day looked like they could put on a nice show.

Blood Rock. Not really worth the effort IMO
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A slip would definitely be bloody however
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View from the rock
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Cornish-Windsor covered bridge. Longest wooden bridge in the U.S. and longest two span covered bridge in the world
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Gerry's Falls
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Flowing kind of weakly today
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Jack In the Pulpit growing nearby
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The last 3/4 of a mile went by quick, as the trail was wide with good footing and you could jog down easily enough just by letting your momentum take over. Finally I hit the trail head parking lot, which then left me with a little over a mile of road walking to the other trail head I had parked at. Normally I'm not a big fan of them, but this walk in the setting sun on a country road wasn't that bad. I passed a few farms with cows mooing and sheep making whatever sound sheep make, and really, what more could you ask for out of a hike in Vermont? Finally I reached my car and headed for home, stopping along the Connecticut River for some final views and a sunset. All in all a great day out and a great hike. Weather, views, trails, scenery, all of it gets an A+ from me. I don't know anything about the other three trails on the mountain but I can't recommend this route highly enough. It ended up being 8.5 miles or so with all the spurs and road walk. More than reasonable I think. Even if you've hiked other trails on the mountain this one is worth another visit. The 50 Finest may not all be among the finest hikes out there, but this one, I think, definitely is.

Finishing up an awesome afternoon
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Time for a road walk
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Which, as far as road walks go, wasn't all that bad
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Yep. It's definitely Vermont
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Crossed back into NH
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The bridge and Ascutney
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Sunset on the Connecticut River
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Covered Bridge and Ascutney
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That's all folks!
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Mon May 18, 2015 11:51 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
YELLOW VIOLETS!!!!!!!! Let's go! I haven't seen any yet this year!

I did the first part of this hike years ago with my son. It was a hot 4th of July and we bailed. After seeing your photos and reading your report, I regret not finishing. The other thing I regretted is trying to avoid peeing in the woods by NOT DRINKING. After bailing out and then finding a great Vermont swimming hole nearby, I was nauseous and could not drive home. I asked Arun if he ever felt sick to his stomach but just couldn't vomit. "It's called a hangover, Mom!" I guess dehydration is the common link for both! Anyway, I noticed there was a waterfall, too. We'd like flowers and falls, even though that wasn't Glen Ellis by any means, it still was pretty. Now I'm actually thinking of going there Memorial Day. I noticed you did not mention ticks :D :D :D .


Tue May 19, 2015 12:11 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
Load of wildflowers and yellow violets up there Becky. No ticks on me, and I did my share of rolling on the ground to check out/get pics of the flowers and quarry. There was however the general VT State Park sign warning to prevent Lyme disease at the trail head billboard.

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Definitely worth going back to if you get a chance. Something around Stowe/Waterbury like Stowe Pinnacle and Mt. Hunger would also be great on the holiday weekend, both for the hiking and amazing food choices they have in that area! :D


Last edited by Granite Guy on Tue May 19, 2015 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue May 19, 2015 8:08 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
Nice, definitely on my short list, since I keep staring at it from my bicycle. What a beautiful area! I'm growing fond of that corner of the state, too bad its 2 hrs from my house. Glad to see a route since I've read there are alot of trails and that it is steep. Looks interesting for sure. Good stuff.


Tue May 19, 2015 11:19 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
There are 5 trails up it. 4 on the maps. The Bicentenial Trail isn't but comes up from the West Windsor town forest and is barely maintained it appears from the group I spoke to coming up, as well as very steep they said, and unexciting. I didn't find either of these overly steep and a very enjoyable hike for sure. Also just under two hours from me, but I actually enjoyed the ride through Sunapee, Newport, Claremont etc. Radio up, sunroof open, windows down and roll! 8)


Tue May 19, 2015 12:49 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
Nice detailed report, but you had us at artifacts! :lol: We are hopefully going to get out of NH and try hiking in other states this summer. We are looking at a week in Vermont to finish the 5 4K's up there. If time permits, we may go here too, looks and sounds interesting.

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Tue May 19, 2015 7:26 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
I think we all agree that fifty finest is a bad name. I just checked, I guess I'm at 15. There are a good few that I have designs on of course, but definitely not because of that!

This is one that has sort of recently come onto my radar, which means I'll probably get around to it in about 3 years. It's funny, as I was reading and looking I thought "hmmm, this seems a bit Monadnock-ish" even before you mentioned it. And then it's an A+! Maybe I'll make it in 2 years. . . . And appreciation for the route recommendation.


Tue May 19, 2015 7:31 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
Looks like I'll have to go that way next time I hike Ascutney! The last time I hiked it, I took the Weathersfield Trail. It has some nice stuff to see along the way, but since it was in the dead of winter, it was all buried and frozen :( . Nice mountain, though! The Futures Trail from the SP campground would make for a nice, long dayhike in the future ;) :) .

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Tue May 19, 2015 7:52 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
WeRmudfun wrote:
Nice detailed report, but you had us at artifacts! :lol:


There's definitely a lot of artifacts for you on this one. From the quarries to the most modern abandoned ski area in the northeast. Clear a lot of memory space for the video if you go! :D

Grindboy wrote:
It's funny, as I was reading and looking I thought "hmmm, this seems a bit Monadnock-ish" even before you mentioned it. And then it's an A+!


The mountain and views are very Monadnock-ish, maybe because it is a monadnock tself, but this one has a lot more to see, if that makes sense. Nothing in your face but all the farms and villages, towns, bridges, the Connecticut River cutting down the valley, almost all of the Greens on one horizon and central and southern NH from the Whites down to Mass along the other. Way more to see than Monadnock for sure.

hiker0200 wrote:
The Futures Trail from the SP campground would make for a nice, long dayhike in the future ;) :) .


I almost took that, just to see the Steam Donkey actually, but then it sounded rather boring otherwise. And with it being the opening weekend of the campground at the State Park I thought it might be crowded. I think I made a good choice on the route. I'm sure they all have their own charm, and might be equally as nice, but I don't think any could be more enjoyable or interesting than the Brownsville route.


Tue May 19, 2015 8:38 pm
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All I can say is, it's on the list. 8)

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Wed May 20, 2015 7:25 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
I'll be waiting for your 50 Finest trip report from Elephant Mountain :D (or one of the other handful of 'whacks). I'm apparently at 26/50 myself, but have never been to Ascutney. It's "on the list" like everyone else said, this sounds like a nice route so thanks GG!

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Wed May 20, 2015 7:42 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
JustJoe wrote:
All I can say is, it's on the list. 8)


Well, it has a road, so while you're hobbled you could still visit this one, and I think for just the 3.00 day use fee.

madmattd wrote:
I'll be waiting for your 50 Finest trip report from Elephant Mountain :D (or one of the other handful of 'whacks).


You'll be waiting a loooooooong time! :wink:


Wed May 20, 2015 8:46 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
Granite Guy wrote:
JustJoe wrote:
All I can say is, it's on the list. 8)


Well, it has a road, so while you're hobbled you could still visit this one, and I think for just the 3.00 day use fee.



Thanks. But I think I'll be hiking this one. :)

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Wed May 20, 2015 9:11 am
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 Re: Mt. Ascutney and a bunch of Rocks - 5/17/15
JustJoe wrote:
Granite Guy wrote:
JustJoe wrote:
All I can say is, it's on the list. 8)


Well, it has a road, so while you're hobbled you could still visit this one, and I think for just the 3.00 day use fee.



Thanks. But I think I'll be hiking this one. :)


So much for the auto roads list I take it?! :D


Wed May 20, 2015 10:56 am
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Granite Guy wrote:


So much for the auto roads list I take it?! :D


It's a great idea but other than something like Pack Monadnock, I don't want to summit anything the first time by car.

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Wed May 20, 2015 11:53 am
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