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Sandwich Mountain via Smarts Brook Trail

I try to take at least one overnight backpacking trip every year with my family. Scheduling can sometimes be difficult, and we don't always succeed, but I am blessed with a wife and children who like the outdoors, and most years, we are able to schedule an overnight trek sometime during my childrens' summer vacation. During the summer of 1995, after much research into possible trips, we settled on Sandwich Mountain via Smarts Brook Trail.

Sandwich Mountain is in the southern section of White Mountain National Forest, a few miles southeast of Mt. Tecumseh. We chose to hike it via Smarts Brook Trail, which is accessible from Route 49 a few miles east of Interstate 93.

Friday (3.0 miles). Elisa, Matt, Adam, and I reached the trailhead a bit before noon, and after the usual confusion of getting four people loaded up with their gear and ready to go, we were on our way. Smarts Brook Trail follows an abandoned logging road for it's first 2.5 miles; this section of the trail is also popular with mountain bikers, although the only evidence of their presence that we encountered were occasional tire tracks. Smarts Brook meanders alongside the abandoned logging road, and there are a couple of nice swimming holes a mile or so in from the road. I assume for most people Sandwich Mountain is a one day excursion via shorter, more direct trails; most of the people we encountered on Smarts Brook Trail were only day hiking a portion of the trail. Soon after the trail leaves the logging road it enters the Sandwich Range Wilderness, and all evidence of mountain biking disappears.

Our pace was leisurely, and by the time we were half a mile inside of the Sandwich Range Wilderness, we began looking for a campsite. We finally chose a well-used site that was on the opposite side of Smarts Brook from the trail, and we made our crossing and began to set up camp. We ended up collecting several pieces of broken glass from the remains of a primitive fire pit that someone had made, and then we broke down the firepit and camoflauged it so that hopefully future hikers would not be starting fires, at least at this site. The site we had chosen featured a nice log that doubled (tripled?) as a cooking surface, a table, and seating. After preparing a nice meal of pasta, we washed the dishes, tidied up the campsite, and hung our foodstuffs out of bears' reach. As dusk deepened into night, we went inside our tents and, after talking for a bit, we fell asleep.

Saturday (5.4 miles). After a hearty breakfast, we rehung our food bag, packed our daypacks, and hit the trail. Almost immediately, we entered a 1.5-mile stretch of the trail that is in the middle of a giant, granite boulder field. Many of the boulders were house size and larger, and all of them were overgrown with trees, root systems, and moss. This whole section of the trail was truly spectacular.

At the end of the boulder field, the trail takes a sharp left and begins to climb steadily towards its junction with Sandwich Mountain Trail. This section of the trail is very different from the boulder-strewn section we had just been in. As in most areas of New England, we were able to gauge our vertical progress by noting the changes in the forest around us--Birches, maples, and oaks at lower elevations, overtaken by evergreens as the trail climbs higher, and finally, the stunted,

We ate our lunch (sandwiches, of course) on the summit, and soon after we surrendered our rock to other summit hikers and we began retracing our route back to our campsite. Although I prefer loop hikes to the out and back variety, this was one hike where retracing my steps was as much fun the second time around. We reached the campsite at about 5:00 pm, and after fixing and devouring our dinner, we went to bed early.

Sunday (3.0 miles). After we woke up on Monday morning, we broke down our camp and got underway. A pleasant, late-morning two-hour hike later, we were back at the trailhead, having stopped along the way only long enough to prepare a trail side Sunday brunch.

Total trip mileage, 11.4 miles

Copyright © 1996, David Lister

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Document last modified on Friday, 19-Jan-2007 07:29:13 MST.