Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mount Cube and the trials

Saturday, July 7, 2012:

This is the summit of Mt. Cube.  It's a popular day-hike destination, having a really nice view from the glacier-polished bedrock at the top.  The mountain in the distance is Smarts Mountain, which I climbed yesterday (the one with the fire tower on top).  The 3.5 mile climb up Mt. Cube from NH 25A is well trampled, and is easy trail at first, but it gets pretty rugged when it gets steep approaching the summit.  Watch out for slippery exposed bedrock.

That's the north side of the mountain.  The south side, down to the Hexacuba shelter (spelled wrong on the sign) is the same.  Unlike most mountains, there's not an easy side to this one.

The rock on Mount Cube is mostly pure quartz, which when polished by the glacier and then coated with moisture (today it was from condensation - humid air in contact with cold bedrock), is every bit as slick as ice.  I didn't trust standing still on the flattest of surfaces, let alone trying to climb by stepping on less-than-flat surfaces of the stuff.  That made for some slow going - finding a place to safely plant your feet on a dry root or a bit of soil.

Such were the trials of Mount Cube - my morning fare.  In the afternoon I ventured north from NH 25A over Ore Hill and encountered an entirely different sort of trial.  Bugs!  The same humidity and cloudy weather that was making the quartz sweat on Mt. Cube was energizing the mosquitoes to a frenzy along a 1.5 mile stretch of continuous swampy, mucky trail, mostly on rounded granite stepping stones.  Fortunately wet granite isn't quite as slippery as wet quartz, but with the distraction of the bugs, it was hard to keep your concentration on planting your feet squarely on the center-top of each rock - fail to do so and your foot slips into the muck - it happened to me a couple times.

Here was one section of trail I definitely dreaded going back through a second time.  Fortunately once you begin to climb up out of the lowland the bugs disappeared and the trail footing got downright easy.  The bugs didn't even return as I passed more wetland - the one photogenic sight in this stretch of trail - a pretty water lily pond with the lilies in full bloom - all of the yellow flowering sort.

The sun came out for a while in early afternoon, but by the time I was ready to run the gauntlet of swamp and bugs again, a nice black cloud rolled in and it began to rain.  It was just some sprinkles, but the timing couldn't be worse - I could just see those mosquitoes rubbing their little fore-limbs together and drooling as I stumbled through their demesne.

Needless to say I was thoroughly itchy and covered with red bumps when I finally emerged at the road.  Ah, the trials of the wild and wooly wilderness.


Below is a map of today's route, and the elevation profile too:

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