Percy Peaks Adventure
Hiking/Walk DATE: 08/09/2020 - 08/09/2020
Trip/Event Location: Stratford, NH
Max # People: 6
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous
As our GO team took in the views on the recent Shelburne Moriah hike, there was curiosity about a pair of bold, conical peaks that featured prominently to our north: North and South Percy Mt, a.k.a... Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:
We will meet up at the Percy Peaks Trail parking lot on Nash Stream Road in Stratford, NH. GPS coordinates [44.66572, -71.45760] or in Google Maps, search on “Percy Peaks Trail”. The trailhead is approximately 2.5 hours from Concord, NH. Please add time for necessary pit stops, fueling, unforeseen delays, etc.
From MA and southern NH, head north on I-93. After you’re through Franconia Notch, take exit 35 for US-3 N toward Lancaster/Twin Mountain. You’ll go through a traffic circle in 28 miles. 9.0 miles after the circle, turn R onto Rt.110 East. In 2.6 miles, turn L onto Emerson Rd, continuing straight onto Northside Rd for another 0.7 miles. Where the road takes a sharp right-hand bend, go L onto Nash Stream Rd. In 2.7 miles the small parking area will be on your right, 50 yards short of the trailhead itself.
The Percy Peaks are noted for lots of steep, often ledgy stretches, so we all were happy to wake up to a bright, partly cloudy summer day. We met up at the trailhead at 10 as planned, with our cars pretty much being the last that the small parking could fit. Our last car found an acceptable (not blocking, and not in a ditch) spot just off the dirt road road. With carpooling not being the best idea in light of CoVid, the car counts at trailheads everywhere are running higher than is typical for the time of year/day of week/time of day. Still though, in this case we’re talking about just a half dozen or so cars, so we were pretty confident that we would not be running into any crowds.
All of us have been part of numerous GO trips over the years, so we were surprised to realize that this was Chuck’s and my first outing with Mo and Fred. Glad to close the loop, guys! After introductions, we were off and running (well, hiking). Mo and Fred had hiked these peaks in the past, and their memories lined up pretty well with the expectations of difficulty that I’d formed in researching the hike. The woods were very pleasant, with the trail sometimes following a small stream. As the trail steepened and got rockier, we were treated to lots of lush, green moss. Upon getting to the col between the two peaks, Mo mentioned that what we had done thus far seemed a bit easier than what he remembered experiencing before. Relative to what I had read, I thought so as well.
From the col, we stuck with our original plan to hit South Percy first, the smaller of the two peaks. We encountered a few small scrambles, but with the help of some switchbacks the climb was moderate. On our way up, we caught some great views of North Percy across the col, barely a half mile away. The summit was wooded with alpine spruce, so we got our views from lookout points rather than directly from the summit. We also noticed lots of blueberry plants. In fact, the rocks, spruce, blueberries, and sedge endowed the summit itself with intense natural beauty. Some sampling of the berries definitely took place (yum). After relaxing there for a short while and spurred on a bit by some potentially bothersome, darkening cumulus to the west, we picked ourselves up to head over to North Percy.
The trail up North Percy also offered some small scrambles, until we left the trees for the most part and were confronted with several hundred yards of open ledge – similar to Monadnock’s upper reaches – but steeper. The rock was dry (fantastic not to have had recent rain) and offered our shoes great grip, but there were points where some of us favored bringing hands into play along with feet. As with the first part of the hike, in contrast with expectations the ledge challenge felt only mildly challenging – perhaps thanks to the dryness of the rock and serenity of the weather.
The views were everywhere, and we still made note of the mildly ominous, darkening clouds in the distance. However, what most caught our attention was the fact that we were surrounded by acres of ripe mountain blueberry plants. A lot of picking and munching took place over the final stretch to the summit (I was delighted to find a spare Ziploc bag in my pack), segueing to a sit-down lunch, taking in the views. At that point, we were relieved to note that the clouds around us were no longer looking at all threatening.
When ready to head out, the consensus was to exit via a longer route than we came in on, both to experience another trail both for variety’s sake and the fact that its grade was more moderate. Fairly quickly, we reached the short spur trail to a tent site – complete with tent, but no occupants. In addition to the Percy Loop Trail we were on, two other trails left the site, a path down to the brook to get water and another trail down called the “Trio Trail”. We didn’t remember at the time, but this trail was the northbound continuation of the Cohos Trail that runs all the way to Canada from Crawford Notch; had we explored it fully as we did the tent site and the water path, we would not have been back to our cars by sundown...
As we continued down, the conversation turned to the national political situation. The conversation was friendly and thoughtful, but after a while, delicate attempts were made (gradually successful) to channel the energy into other topic areas, such as sports and après hike food. We got back to the cars shortly before 5, and decided to caravan over to Lancaster (a half hour away) to grab a bite, armed with Mo and Fred’s familiarity with the area. Sadly though, none of the establishments we targeted were open that CoVid Sunday evening, and we decided just to call it a day. It was a fun one indeed.
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What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event
- Great trip report Alex...poetic and descriptive...I would not have expected any less from you...LOL. Reading the report and viewing the pictures now have these peaks on my 'to do' list. Happy to hear you guys had a great time!!! - Gandalf