Round Pond And Mount Mack A Fun Day In The Belknaps
by Amy Patenaude Outdoor/Ski Writer
The weather was a little iffy. Weatherman said it might rain but we bet on it to stay partially cloudy and we won the bet.
We opted for a different kind of route by taking advantage of Camp Bell not being is session yet and starting our hike at the camp. From the camp’s athletic field we followed an old woods road and soon passed a sign that read “Hikers Welcome”. From here we stayed on the woods road until we came to a herd path that crossed Moulton Brook and the path followed the brook upstream high above the right bank.
What a delight to tread an old path. There were a few pieces of old flagging and a few newer ones along the way. I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you have experience bushwhacking and are comfortable in the woods.
Higher up, the path led to some mammoth rocks and ledges and the path continued right between an opening and out through to the other side.
The ledgy area was a garden of Pink Lady Slippers! Dozens and dozens of the delicate flowers carpeted the forest floor.
The path popped us out onto the green blazed and well trodden Round Pond –Piper Link Trail somewhere between the Old Piper Trail and the Boulder Trail.
We turned right and hiked east down the Link Trail towards Round Pound. When we came to the intersection of the Boulder Trail we stopped to admire the stone steps that were built by the Belknap Range Trail Tenders (BRATTS). The BRATTS have done amazing work in the Belknaps. They do a lot of work to keep the trails well blazed and clear and they perform many hours of heavy labor to prevent trail erosion. The BRATTS are all volunteers!
Round Pond was quiet and placid. The clouds were low. We stood on the trail near the shore; yet another area that the BRATTS have made the trail a nice place to hike. Rocks and fill were moved here to stabile the trail and address drainage (no mud here now folks). The trail looks natural and I am certain most hikers are unaware of the work it took to construct the trail.
The pond carried the voices of approaching hikers and we knew in a few minutes we’d be meeting people on the trail. Four hikers said hello as they quickly marched by us. We lingered a few more minutes enjoying the view of the pond.
From Round Pond it was just a little over a half a mile to reach the ledgy summit of Mount Mack. Mack’s summit elevation is 1,945 feet and is the highest point in the town of Gilmanton. There are nice rock cairns and a sign. The clouds seemed to have lifted and the sky was a bit brighter but I wouldn’t call it sunny. Gazing at the nearby mountains of Whiteface and Piper yield a wonderful wilderness sensation; only trees and a few granite ledges outline their ridges.
Mount Mack has a communication tower near its summit. We were also surprised to be passed by some four-wheel ATVs that must have had a key to the gate down below. It was certainly curious why they were out there. Truly their presence felt so out of place considering how lovely and quiet the forest experience had been all day.
We descended Mount Mack the same way we had come up on the Orange Trail. But instead of returning to Round Pond we followed the red blazes back down and then finally returned to Camp Bell via a work road.
The Belknap Range Mountains are lovely and the 12 major summits are a prize list to complete. The Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association sponsor the Belknap Range Hiking Program and will send you a patch when you notify them of your completion of the list and include five dollars.
The BRATTS offer a patch too (BRATTS.org) and it is the Belknap Range Redliner. A redliner is someone who has hiked all of the trails and there are 65.5 miles of the trails in the Belknap Range.