September is the New August – Percy Peak Perambulations

Carol and I were camping two nights at Milan Hill State Park.  Camping is hardly the word for it as we were staying in a well-provisioned yurt.  Other than the cold outhouse, it was pretty luxurious.  And this yurt, yurt #4, has the best views in the whole park, apart from atop the fire tower, so it’s always booked well in advance.  We booked two nights mid-week in late September, hoping to catch the peaking autumn colors.  In fact, had we been here last year at this time, we would have caught peak colors.  But this year everything was on hold.  We still hadn’t yet experienced a hard frost.  How would the trees even know when to turn without Nature’s not-so-subtle prodding?IMG_5519Today Carol decided to stay in camp to soak up the views and do a little painting.  Can you blame her?  You could easily see 30 miles south to the Presidentials and the intervening valleys were filled with dense early morning fog, so typical for New Hampshire’s autumns.  I decided to hike up the nearby Percy Peaks, in Stark NH.IMG_5569Along the way, I decided to check out obscure back roads (as I typically do) to “discover” this waterfall on Phillips Brook.  I say discover only because I didn’t know it was there.  Lots of local folks must have known about it as the path in was well worn.  But it wasn’t on any map or in any guidebook so I could still claim my own discovery.  Besides, Carol finds waterfalls to be a constant inspiration and the subject of many of her paintings so I knew she’d approve of this.IMG_5527_1Finally I arrived at Christine Lake, where you can see the two Percy Peaks in the distance.  I thought I’d try the Old Summer Club Trail to the top that starts here.  It’s a longer, but gentler, approach to the Peaks that I hadn’t tried before.IMG_5566There’s a lot of history to Christine Lake and the Percy Summer Club that nearly surrounds it, but probably not the kind of history you’d expect.  If you google “Percy Summer Club” the first listing you will see is the summary of findings in a court case from the 1800’s that took nearly 20 years to settle and, when it was all over, ensured public access to any and every lake in New Hampshire of 10 acres or more.  It turns out the wealthy folks who bought all this land for a “fishing camp” tried to prevent the locals from fishing in Christine Lake.  The courts eventually ruled against the fishing club and established the precedent of access for all.  I wonder if this case were to come up today whether the courts would still be so fair-minded?  But now, over 100 years later, the lake is peaceful, and lovely as ever, although I didn’t see a soul fishing on it.DSC00533I don’t know why the Percy Peaks aren’t more popular.  The two peaks offer stunning views in every direction.  Trails lead to both the South Peak, which you can see in this picture, and the higher, balder, North Peak, from whose side I took this photo.  Their rounded shapes remind me of The Bubbles in Acadia National Park.  Maybe it’s because they are not in the well-known White Mountain National Forest, nor does the Appalachian Trail pass nearby.  They are located in the Nash Stream Forest, a huge state-owned parcel of land only acquired by the state in the last 25 years.  For beauty, they could certainly be a famous destination.  But thanks to their non-national park, non-famous status, they are a treasure only enjoyed by a relative few.IMG_5548I love how the top of the North Peak is all exposed, leaving everything very diagonal and geometric.  It’s like returning to 8th-grade geometry class again with the only horizontal being the distant horizon (naturally).  The red berries of the mountain ash add some color to the scene.IMG_5550 IMG_5551Speaking of color I was very surprised to find extensive patches of blueberries all around the peak.  I always think of August as blueberry season on the mountain tops and was surprised to find that not only were most of the berries still on the bushes (I guess the birds already had their fill) but that they were all very ripe and delicious.  I suppose the first frost would have done them in but since no frosts had come yet, the berries were still there for the taking.  Hence the title of this blog.  With warm temperatures still prevailing, and with a freshness that I used to associate with August in the Adirondacks (from boy scout camp), I would have to say that this year, and maybe more frequently in the future with global warming unabated, September will be the new August.DSC00535But since we humans don’t regulate our seasonal clock as well as the blueberries, all the summer visitors had gone, school was back in session, and I had the Percy Peaks entirely to myself.  I didn’t see another soul the entire hike, and that suited me just fine.  This photo is of the vista looking southeast, with Christine Lake in the foreground, South Percy to the right, and the Pilot Range and White Mountains in the distance.IMG_5538I say I had the mountains to myself, but that wasn’t entirely true.  Flocks of raptors of various kinds were circling the peaks and riding the thermals, maybe for fun, but probably in search of their next meal.  I was lucky to get a closeup of this turkey vulture as he flew over me.IMG_5561But all things come to a close.  I did see some colors appearing in anticipation of winter, even if most of nature was happy to delay.

When I got back to camp, Carol eagerly agreed to visit the newly discovered waterfall, and we returned there for an hour or two until the sun began to set.  Then it was back to the yurt and this evening’s views:

Evening views from Yurt #4 in Milan Hill State Park

Evening view from Yurt #4 in Milan Hill State Park

Happy travels!

End of blog.  Paging down may expose you to ads.  For more park explorations in Vermont, please visit The Park Explorer in VT.

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2 responses to “September is the New August – Percy Peak Perambulations

  1. I think the Cohos Trail goes over at least one of the Percy Peaks – a part of the trail I’ve never explored (I’m a Connecticut Lakes-area fan). Your description combined with what I’ve read in the Cohos Trail guidebook make this sound like a wonderful destination.

    • Yes, the Summer Club Trail merges into the Cohos Trail on the way up. I’ve never done the Cohos Trail except this little snippet and the trail south of here to Rogers Ledge. Both are locations with great views.

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