Sneaking in the Last Fall Hike on the Kilburn Ridge Trail, New Hampshire

I have a feeling that last year’s disastrous winter will be soon be a distant memory.  New Englanders and our beloved visitors, who come from all over the globe, I am pleased to announce that we have a potential nor’easter on our doorstep.  As a result, that dull brown foliage we equate with November will hopefully be replaced with a pristine white by the end of the week.

Regardless of the bland November views and the hope of snow on the horizon, I still had time to get in one last fall scouting expedition to fully set up my winter hiking agenda.

In my previous article, I wrote about the splendor of the Kilburn Loop Trail, six miles of natural beauty that encompasses several large ponds.  I elected to return to this fabled area of Southern New Hampshire to explore another trail that I had only given a partial glance last time around.

Unlike the loop, the Kilburn Ridge Trail held the promise of elegant vistas; ones that I hoped would involve a bird’s eye view of the ponds I had only seen from the ground level before.

For this trip, I only had an early morning to kill, a tight schedule that fit perfectly with the modest 3.4 miles from start to finish.  This tame distance allowed me to believe that I could hammer this hike out before many people had gone for their second cup of coffee.

Novembers in New England have a way of throwing people into a deep depression.   Locals fret about their impending oil bills and the long nights and bitter cold that can rip through their pre 1900 built homes that held little regard for the concept of insulation.  As a result, it was no surprise that at 8 a.m. on a cloudy 40-degree day, I had the entire trail to myself.

For the first mile I could see why I was alone.  My legs were tight, my hands cold and the wind that whipped through the pine trees bit my face sharply.  However, as is the case with any fitness expedition, the first mile is the toughest and, after my legs warmed up to my rapid movement, I was able to enjoy a starkly different array of scenery then when I traveled the Kilburn Loop.

There are few things more calming and thought-provoking then an isolated walk through a wide-open pine forest.  The wind plays an elegant tune from the tops of the trees and the views in all directions go relatively unobstructed due to the lack of thick undergrowth that can commonly cover other heavily wooded areas.

The pine forest at mile two

In fact, there were only two substantial distractions from my peaceful state-of-mind; the rushing water of a large stream that fed one of the ponds situated just to my South, and the not-so-pleasing muddy swamp that greeted me with a fart-like smell that resembled more of a chili dog gone bad, then a natural phenomenon.

Mmmm… swamp smell

Although the hike had one relatively steep climb, it was one that will only pose a mild challenge to snowshoers who are able dig deep for the roughly ten minutes of ascent that it takes to scale this part of the mountain.

The steepest climb is a half mile from the summit

Although I was disappointed that the view at the top did not provide me with the views of the pond I had hope for, the views to the East and West, which included a distant view of Mount Monadnock (see previous article), rewarded me thoroughly for the roughly 45 minutes it took me to go from my car to the top.

Western view has Mt. Monadnock in the distance

Eastern view

For those who have a little more time on their hands then I did on this day, a Kilburn Ridge to Kilburn Loop, would give snowshoers an excellent 8.5 mile hike that would provide the best of both worlds.  And, with a little positive thinking, the early snow fall in New England, may allow me to check off this winter hike from my list earlier then originally planned.

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Evan Chadwick

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