Outdoor Adventures: Mount Shaw trumps hazy, hot and humid
The haze hid much of the landscape. But that’s what happens when you decide to shun air conditioning and creature comforts like a couch with a clicker for an early-morning hike on a day when hazy, hot and humid promise a frustrating tag team.
And the trio delivered, along with tenacious gnats that swirled around our heads, dodging in and out of our eyes, ears, noses and throats.
The buggers were having a field day.
But we first had relaxing Fields Brook and its enchanting cascades. In the early hours before the bell rung for the first round with those hiking hurdles, my wife, Jan, and I felt the cool breeze along the unmarked but red-blazed carriage road called the Mount Shaw Trail, venturing by the hemlocks and along that flowing brook with its ledges, refreshing water and soothing sounds.
Though there was some steep stuff, we eventually made it to the glorious Mount Shaw summit with its sweeping vista and then on to Black Snout with its lake view across the way and moose scat down below.
Splendid? Yes. But this is not an eight-mile moderately strenuous return trip hike for the inexperienced hiker, as a good portion of it is on an unsigned trail leaving from an unsigned trailhead along Route 171 in Tuftonboro, readily found by those using the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Southern New Hampshire Trail Guide (2nd. edition, 2005).
It takes some work, but, oh, the rewards of sweet grassy trails near the summits with stunning vistas in a land easily missed by those seeking the Whites.
Robust and lovely Mount Shaw is a member of the Ossipee Mountains, northeast of Lake Winnipesaukee, and housed in the more than 5,381-acre preserve under the auspices of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.
According to the LRCT, Shaw and its brethren are part of a ring dike, a circular formation of volcanic origin nines miles in diameter whose impenetrable terrain long discouraged roads and settlement.
Shaw is the highest of the Ossipees, topping off at 2,990 feet with some wonderful views of the Lakes Region and north to the White Mountains. Its eastern shoulder contains a fine outlook on Black Snout, a 2,803-foot peak that affords a fine look over the Big Lake. There are a number of other mountains in the area – including Faraway Mountain, Mount Roberts and Turtleback Mountain – all part of the LRCT’s Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area purchased by the organization in the early 2000s.
Shaw is named after Boston businessman B.F. Shaw, who in the late 1800s had a private estate there as well as a summer hotel for visitors. Later in the early 1900s, shoe manufacturing magnate Thomas Plant – of Castle in the Clouds fame – owned the land. Between the two, carriage roads and bridle paths were constructed.
Those in boots must pay attention on the initial leg of the journey by the brook and groovy hemlock grove as it’s a good third of a mile before the first red blaze is spotted and there are a host of unmarked roads that could seduce hikers to follow.
But the unmarked Mount Shaw Trail eventually leads up, steeply at times, to wide and welcoming marked trails less than a mile from the summit, complete with refreshing loops on the tops making for darling grassy diversions from traditional peak pathways.
One of those trails was the white-blazed Black Snout that made for happy feet. The easy-to-follow path led to the Mount Shaw summit, complete with log bench for sitting.
It was on the way down that we met the only people we saw on the mountain that day, and then learned that there were other ways to tackle the summit, like from another Route 171 trailhead. And there was even an LRCT map (available through lrct.org).
Usually we’re a couple who sticks to our hiking plans, but this time we decided to add Black Snout to the trip and the easy outing yielded even more Lakes Region views, much hidden by the now late-morning haze that began to hover over the region.
Satisfied with the oft-hefty climb, it was time to head down along the same route. The gnats were waiting as we returned to that glorious woods road. Sure, we did some swinging, but they were persistent.
Eventually, we eluded them from the safety of our car, the air conditioning cranked on high for the ride home.
(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)