Blue's Belknap Blues 12/3/11
Alton Bay at Sundown from Straightback Mountain
Straightback Mountain 1910' / Mount Anna 1670' / Mount Mack 1945' / Mount Klem 2001' / Rand Mountain 1883' / West Quarry Mountain 1894' / East Quarry Mountain / North Straightback
From Jesus Valley Road: Purple Trail/ Turquoise Trail/ Blue Trail/ Red Trail/ Mount Klem Loop/ Quarry Trail (Maybe some others, too)
10.5-11 Miles 3200' Elevation gain
Kevin, Judy, Emma and Blue
After dozens of trips to the Belknaps we decided it was high time we actually finished the list of hills that makes up this beautiful range. Some of the hill tops are what might be considered "Official", meaning they appear and are named on the USGS Topo maps, while others are considered "Unofficial" meaning they were given names by such entities as the local Boy Scout Camp. Although only one hill reached an elevation over 2000', it was apparent while making this hike that it made little difference if we were hiking an "Official" named hill or not. The fact was that each had its own character and each provided sections which were alternately difficult, moderate and sometimes easy. The north side of several of the hills were actually steep, difficult rock scrambles that by the end of the hike were becoming increasingly taxing on body and spirit.
There is now a pretty good map of the Belknap Range online at:
It should be noted that it may contain some inaccuracies. Of important note is that trail colors on the map were used only to identify different trails and do not pertain to the colors used for blazes along each trail. With all that in mind we were able to plan a loop hike across this range which included Mack, Klem and West Quarry, all of which were objectives we wished to achieve to complete our Belknap list. As I stated above the loop was approximately 11 miles long with an elevation gain in the vicinity of 3200'. This proved more difficult than what we had imagined in that the elevation gain was spread out over the entire 11 miles whereas many hikes that may be longer with more elevation gain tend to be downhill after the summit goal is achieved.
We chose the nearest trailhead to our home to save travel time so, starting out from Jesus Valley Road we made the short, steep climb to Straightback Mountain. Having once been a blueberry farm the summit is very open and scarce of tall trees which allows for great views in most directions. There was a skim of ice on puddles which mostly melted away during the warm day which stayed in the high 30's to low 40's with never more than a breath of air all day. Emma and Blue were quite happy with the cool temps and moved along at a very good clip throughout the hike. If Emma did eleven miles, then Blue did probably a couple more as he darted after every forest scent that presented itself throughout the day.
Over the years Emma has learned that conserving her energy is an important factor to be successful during these long hikes. At her age she has become a master of the "conservation of motion" during our hikes. Not so with young Blue, a happy go lucky three year old who takes great joy in his mountain hikes. On this hike he was afforded the chance to zig-zag his own trail back and forth across the human herd-path, thus striking fear into the hearts of both red squirrel and grouse alike. He has reserved a lot of pent up energy for these hikes as his momma is still in the slow healing process from a fractured sacrum suffered when she was knocked flying by dogs at the dog park. She is coming along well but isn't ready for the rigors of the trail and in the meantime Blue looks forward to his excursions with his foster mom and dad and his big sister Emma.
From the summit of Straightback we continued northwest dropping several hundred feet in elevation on the way to Mount Anna. On Anna we had a short break with lots of snacks and the dogs seemed very pleased that we had stopped. To this point we were hiking on familiar trails, but now we took a northerly direction and set out for new territory, what we refer to as "Redlining" even though it may not count towards any particular accomplishment. From here the trail dips way down into a saddle between Mount Anna and Mount Mack and there are several easy stream crossings through areas that are probably very wet after significant rain events and during spring run-off. The trail can be difficult to follow at some points and the addition of fallen leaves can add to the problem. However, the defoliated landscape of late autumn allows views towards the objectives and on a clear day navigation to each high-point should be pretty simple.
We reached the summit of Mack and sat down to have our lunch. We had been on the trail about three hours and we heard the first and only voices other than our own that we would hear until almost the end of the hike. We spoke briefly with two women on their way to Mount Klem. With a quick check of their map we concurred they were headed in the right direction and they were off. We saw them again briefly as we travelled in an opposite direction around the Mount Klem Loop. After we ate we chose a trail which led north across the summit of Mack where I was somewhat surprised to find a radio tower and some sort of windmill structure which appeared to have long since lost its usefulness.
Beautiful Round Pond
We descended to the edge of beautiful Round Pond, certainly worthy as a destination in itself and definitely not to be missed if one is visiting Mounts Mack and Klem. From the edge of the pond we picked up the Mount Klem Loop again. At a point along the trail I chose a herd-path which seemed to lead towards the high-point of Klem and judging by the fact that it led to a small cairn at what appeared to be the summit I would guess that we did indeed find the trail-less summit. Shortly after this we saw our two women hikers again passing in opposite directions and a little further on we came to a junction where I was pretty sure we wanted to turn east, but had some momentary confusion. After a brief trip continued along the Klem Loop to a nice southern outlook, we retraced our steps to the junction and began our trek east at the junction.
Emma at the Mount Klem Cairn
We clamored down into another saddle and made a somewhat steep, difficult scramble up to the next high-point which I thought must be West Quarry, but it turned out to be Mount Rand. It had a very nice view from the northeast side out across Lake Winnipesaukee and Rattlesnake Island to the Ossipee Range and Mount Washington beyond. From here we clamored down another steep drop to another saddle which also had a steep scramble waiting for us on its southern edge. At the top of this scramble and well along the trail we came to a summit marker where I discovered that we had just climbed West Quarry and not East Quarry as I had initially thought.
In the Quarry
Another descent into a somewhat deep saddle brought us to the remains of the old granite quarry which gives this section of the range its nick-name, "The Quarries". A quick look around found quite a bit of evidence of the former quarrying operation. Many large slabs were piled around with obvious signs of having been cut from the living rock of these hills. Scattered about and marked with yellow surveyor's tape were iron implements that were once used when this operation was in full swing but were now left to be a part of the history surrounding these hills. We did not take as much time to explore this area as I would have liked as the hours of daylight we had left to complete this hike were now rapidly waning.
From the quarry there was yet another steep rock scramble up and then a winding, meandering trail led around and eventually across the high-point of East Quarry. There is still quite a bit of evidence of recent logging activity on the eastern slopes of East Quarry, though it is also obvious that mother nature is doing her best to reclaim this part of the range. There were a couple of tricky spots to negotiate as we passed through the logging cuts and roads, but we were now once again on previously travelled trails and knew the general direction we wanted to proceed in so passed through with little difficulty. Again we dropped down into a saddle, this time more shallow than the previous ones we had encountered, and here, between East Quarry and North Straightback we found all that remained of a once magnificent moose. All that was left were the sun-bleached bones, the head and antlers were gone to make trophy somewhere. Hide and meat were taken and hopefully put to good use and anything that was left was scavenged no doubt by the local coyotes whose presence was obvious along the trail throughout the hike. The dogs sniffed and looked at us as if to say "What happened here? Is this all that will be left of us one day as well?"
The Lovely Bones