Lake Escapes: A short walk up Rattlesnake Mountain offers a high payoff
George Andrews from Hebron, N.H., stands on top of the West Rattlesnake trail overlooking Squam Lake on Thursday, June 26, 2014
(GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff)
Normally, a great panoramic view involves a long, steep hike.
Not so in Holderness, where a 2-mile walk on the Old Bridle Path leads to a rocky plateau atop West Rattlesnake Mountain.
And down below, spread out like a gentle painting, lies Squam Lake, where Jane Fonda tried to mend old wounds with her father, played by her real dad, Henry Fonda, in On Golden Pond.
The lake cuts through lush green landscapes on the mainland and islands, resembling pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have yet to be fitted together.
The beauty here, beyond the natural setting, is the minimal effort needed to reach the spot.
The trail, about 10 miles from Interstate 93’s Exit 24, begins from a parking lot a few yards off Route 113, a winding, secluded road. Long wooden steps greet you at the start, followed by a rocky dirt path beneath tree branches that block the sky.
Don’t let the name of the mountain fool you; there are no venomous creatures slithering along the trail or hiding in the woods. There are, however, mosquitoes – lots of them – and they had a nice lunch, snacking on the photo editor and me during our midafternoon hike, so bug spray is highly recommended.
And some caution while walking is needed because of the thick, sturdy roots that line the ground like, well, rattlesnakes.
But within a half hour, you’re at the top, where last week we found George Andrews, a 64-year-old retiree who moved to Hebron from Connecticut last summer with his wife “because this is retirement heaven. Also because of the taxes and politics in Connecticut.”
Affable, Andrews wore a white T-shirt, jeans, a beach hat, a fanny pack, a white beard and wire-rimmed glasses. He likes to kayak, canoe, hunt, fish and snowshoe.
He also likes to hike, and he was appreciative that this particular trail was forgiving on a particularly sticky day.
“I highly recommend this, even if you’re slow moving,” Andrews said. “It says in the guidebook that it takes about 35 minutes, but I made it in like 20 or 25.
“This has got to be one of the greatest views to see for the effort it takes to get up here,” Andrews continued. “The other thing I would say is bring a camera, even a cell phone.”
With clouds rolling in and the hills in Moultonboro turning grey, Andrews chose to head down, ahead of the storm coming from over the lake.
We followed about 10 minutes later. On the way, a light rain began to fall, tapping the leaves above us, which kept us dry, sounding like bacon sizzling over a low heat.
The mosquitoes continued to munch, but it wasn’t long before we reached the parking lot, at which time the rain was heavy and cool, adding a welcome touch to the high humidity.
Andrews was gone, but he had succinctly stated what we’d felt as soon as the lake and mountains had unfolded before us: This was a great payoff, after a relatively modest investment.