View from Emma's Cairn
Belknap Mtn. 2382' /Gunstock Mtn. 2250'
Brook Trail/Saddle Trail/Gunstock Mountain Trail
4.5 miles 1200' Elevation gain
Kevin, Judy and Blue
We returned today to the last hills we would ever hike with our beloved Emma. We took a different route than the one we had hiked with Emma on her last day. From the parking area at Gunstock we hiked the Brook Trail, one we had taken with her many times. Blue was along with us, just as he was on Emma's last hike. He had spent some time the night before looking for her when he got to our house. He seemed a little more sad than usual last night. He is always a little sad when he is with us because he is away from his Linda who he absolutely adores. He likes being with us, but it was obvious he knew Emma was no longer with us and he missed her.
Glades Along the Brook Trail
It was sunny and warm as we ascended, crossing the ski trails a few times. It was hazy, but not all that hot, but the mosquitos were voracious down low along the brook. A quick note for the BRATTS (Belknap Range Area Trail Tenders) the sign for the Brook Trail is destroyed after you cross the ski trail and enter the woods for the second time. It is still hanging there, but is ruined. I won't say what I think of those who would do such a thing. When you exit the woods again and cross the ski trail for the 3rd time there is no obvious marker or blaze where you should re-enter the woods visible from where you come out of the woods. We know where it is, but we met a woman on the summit who couldn't find it and had taken a ski trail up from there. You may hear from her...
At Her Cairn
At the junction with the Saddle Trail we stopped as Blue was wallowing in what was left of the seasonal brook. This was where I took the last few photos of Emma I will ever take. We spent a few minutes here as I tried to choke back some tears. We are trying hard to not let the sadness get the best of us anymore, but it is a struggle. Soon we were off towards Belknap where we knew friend Hal had erected a cairn in Emma's honor at the viewpoint. We cannot thank him enough for this selfless, thoughtful act, it means so much to us. It is a beautiful cairn, erected perfectly with a triangular shaped rock on top which to us symbolizes the three of us. It is fit together as though a stonemason had built it and it is perfect! It overlooks the Big Pond to the east, and beyond to the Ossipees, the Sandwich Range and all the way to Mount Washington where Emma is a well known and admired celebrity. Hal, it is just beautiful and we cannot thank you enough!
We had some lunch at this beautiful spot and took a lot of pictures. After we ate we were off to the summit of Belknap where we could hear the workers. If you haven't been there recently you may or may not be surprised to see that the communication building and towers have been moved to a spot just south of the fire-tower and that the old stuff is in the process of being removed. Quite a job on a hilltop that has no road access. The old building was being dismantled while we were there. Each component was piled in orderly spots to be recycled: propane tanks, wood and metal were piled up and the concrete had been bagged in those construction debris bags. I assume they will be lifted out by helicopter. The poor guys working on the demolition were using an electric jack hammer with an extension cord running up the fire-tower and into the cab for electricity. Knocking down a concrete block building with an electric jackhammer must have been an arduous task, kudos to them! Akin to trying to mow hay with an electric lawnmower I should think...
Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor
I climbed the tower hoping to find Hal, but he wasn't there. We had met on our previous trip, but neither of us had realized who the other was. I did not know that along with his trail-tending skills he was a fire-warden as well. On the return trip we hiked over to Gunstock where we stopped on the deck of the Panorama Pub, unfortunately closed this time of year. We had a drink and a rest while we took in the views. Rather than our usual descent from there down over Mount Rowe, we took the ski trails back down to where they cross the Brook Trail, then back down the Brook Trail so as to stay in the shade for Blue's sake, as the sun was beating down on us. Along the ski trails we found many patches of wildflowers including Blue-eyed Grass and Blue Flag Iris. It was a special treat to know that Emma meant enough to Hal, and the hiking community, that a cairn was erected in her honor in such a beautiful spot. We shall be forever grateful, thanks again, Hal!
Full set of pics HERE: