Hiking Mount Cube – Meeting Appalachian Trail Hikers And A Bit Of History

A group photo with our outdoor columnist Amy Patenaude (front) and her friends Jody and Kris. The three busy friends finally got together to do some hiking on Mount Cube in Orford. Along the way they met a couple who were hiking the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine as well as coming across some historical markers along the trail. It’s our Healthy Living issue. We hope this inspires you to get out and do some hiking before the cold weather gets here.
A group photo with our outdoor columnist Amy Patenaude (front) and her friends Jody and Kris. The three busy friends finally got together to do some hiking on Mount Cube in Orford. Along the way they met a couple who were hiking the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine as well as coming across some historical markers along the trail. It’s our Healthy Living issue. We hope this inspires you to get out and do some hiking before the cold weather gets here.

Time, time, time, it passes too quickly. Friends near and far should get together more often, but when we do we try to get in a hike. My friend Jody from Philadelphia was here for just a few days and was staying with my other busy friend Kris.

We studied the forecast and it looked like Monday would be the best pick for good weather for a hike. We decided on the date quickly, but choosing what mountain we should hike was a bit more difficult. Not a 4,000-footer because the peaks left on their list are way up north and further than they wanted to drive (and too much elevation to climb—Madison and Adams next visit).

They still wanted big views. I suggested Monadnock, Sunapee, Kearsarge, Moosilauke, yup, yup they’ve done all them and more. I would have suggested Smarts but the fire tower is closed and its summit would offer no views without it, but hopefully the tower will be repaired someday. Finally we agreed on Mount Cube in Orford, New Hampshire.

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On top of Mount Cube we stand around an old survey marker. From Mount Cube by Steve Smith, Lincoln, NH: “1870’s: Summit is site of triangulation station for U.S. Coastal Survey, overseen by Prof. E.T. Quimby of Dartmouth College. Bolt and etched triangle can still be seen in ledge on South Peak.”

Mount Cube rises just barely above 2,900 feet, but its open ledges from its South and North Peaks have big wide vistas. The Appalachian Trail crosses Mount Cube’s South Peak and follows its ridge north a short distance, but it has been rerouted many years ago so it no longer crosses the North Peak. I knew that there would be a good chance to meet Appalachian thru-hikers too.

We chose the shortest and nicest trail up Mount Cube. The Mount Cube section of the Cross-Rivendell Trail is only 2.1 miles. The entire 36 mile CRT connects the Riverdell Interstate School district and runs between Vershire, Vermont to the top of Mount Cube.

At 9 am we met at the trailhead on Baker Road, one mile south of its intersection of Rte 25A. There is an information kiosk and a blue trail sign marking the trailhead. There is room to park cars on the edge of the well graded dirt road.

We all made it there on time, but one thing was missing. That one thing was sunshine. That morning there was sunshine in Franconia and there was sunshine in Newbury but not here, yikes! We were certain the clouds would burn off.

The lower half of the trial has nice soft footing as it winds up the mountain. As we hiked higher the trail was wetter. Well it did rain during the night. About half way up I stood in front of the outlook cut that usually provides a nice view to Sunday Mountain. I pointed into the whiteout and explained that this is where the 6th graders get a good look at the small mountain they hiked over earlier on the CRT when there are not clouds blocking the view.

The trail gets steeper and crosses a stream and I note that it is one of the few stream beds with water flowing in it that I have seen this summer. We crossed over a few bog bridges too. Soon we were scrambling up ledges to reach the summit. When we reached the orange and black trail signs we were sure we were on top. We hiked right into the middle of a cloud. The ledges were mostly dry and it was not raining, but we couldn’t see a thing but foggy whiteness around us.

Jody and Kris working their way up the Mount Cube section of the Cross-Rivendell Trail. This is the shortest route up Mount Cube, 2.1 miles.  This trail is the most gentle but you will still have to scramble up some ledges.
Jody and Kris working their way up the Mount Cube section of the Cross-Rivendell Trail. This is the shortest route up Mount Cube, 2.1 miles. This trail is the most gentle but you will still have to scramble up some ledges.
Scribbles and her friend were soaked after a wet night on the Appalachian Trail. They started from Georgia in April and are giving it their all to reach Mount Katahdin before the Park closes in mid-October.  They realize they are cutting it close but hopefully with this stretch of good weather they are making good time and will make it.
Scribbles and her friend were soaked after a wet night on the Appalachian Trail. They started from Georgia in April and are giving it their all to reach Mount Katahdin before the Park closes in mid-October. They realize they are cutting it close but hopefully with this stretch of good weather they are making good time and will make it.

We hadn’t been on the summit for more than a minute when two backpackers appeared. After sharing a few pleasantries the couple explained that they had experience the worst night they have had on the Appalachian Trail (AT) since they left Georgia in April. Their tent didn’t keep them dry during a big downpour and everything they had was soaked. We pointed to the sign that read 3.3 miles to Rte 25A. I told them about the Welcome Hikers Hostel in Glencliff and that they probably wouldn’t have any difficulty hitchhiking there and that seemed to cheer them a little. They politely posed for photos and took off as fast as they could manage.

Kris and Jody said they had no interest in visiting the North Peak ledges and were content to sit right where they were and try to wish the clouds away.

I followed the AT north and then went left up the spur trail to the ledges. Except for a couple short steep scrambles the trail is rather flat. I stood on the edge of the steep ledges and looked down. I could just barely make out the roofs of the Thomson’s Mount Cube Farm directly below. That was all I could see, no big Moosilauke, nothing more.

Back over the ledges I paid more attention to the names carved into the stone and I hunted for traces of orange and black paint that were old Dartmouth Outing Club trail blazes.

I spied this carving on Mount Cube’s North Peak ledges it reads: Aug 7, 1870, J. Lawrence Orford, NH
I spied this carving on Mount Cube’s North Peak ledges it reads: Aug 7, 1870, J. Lawrence Orford, NH

When I reunited with my friends they were happily eating homemade pizza and chatting away with another backpacker. The fellow was wearing shorts and shivering and waiting for his girlfriend. They were headed southbound on the AT and when they reached Vermont they were going to tackle the Long Trail. I gave him a candy bar that he split and gave half to his friend when she showed up a few minutes later.

Jody and Kris had used their smart phones to pull up some images of what the view should have looked like without the clouds. Jody took a photo of her feet with the endless whiteness in the background. I had taken the same type of photo of my feet but it was a super day when I was here just a year ago and I would send it to her when I got home (I did).

We got off the summit ledges and we were happy that they were dry enough that they were not slippery. As we descended Kris pointed to the sky and remarked that it was getting brighter. When we reached the lookout we could see Sunday Mountain and the green of Vermont too.

While driving home we drove into some showers. I hoped that the AT hikers were warm and comfy somewhere or would be soon.

The day never cleared but the next day the sun did shine and Kris took our Philadelphia friend for a quick morning trip up Mount Kearsarge before taking her to the airport.

Have fun.

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.