Alicia's Trail 5/4/2013
For our first 2,000+ hike of the year we decided to stay pretty close to Manchester. Crotched was a bit of a mystery in preparation. I wasn't able to find any officially named or mapped trails to the summit. So, I took to Google maps and found what looked like some hike-able trails starting at the ski area and working up the eastern side of the ski trails to the summit. Turns out I was right, but much more so than I expected. We hit the hill on a glade right that started just behind the mountain's large maintenance area on the far side of the dirt parking lot from the main entrance.
We followed the glade until we ran into a small hut to the side of the trail. We noticed a sign on a tree hidden behind the hut that read "Alicia's Trail." Again, I had no research to support a choice here, but it was heading off in a good direction and it looked to be in fair condition, so we went with it. Turns out this was a pretty good trail, the lower portion was a bit hard to spot on occasion, but otherwise didn't cause any problems. We crossed a small glade after just over a half-mile of hiking and the trail opened up to be a much cleaner, clearer, semi-marked trail.
Above the glade crossing we found that we were on soft ground with very few obstacles and fairly newly cut (less than ~3 years old) switchbacks at some of the steeper sections. After a short section of hiking on these trails we came to a few intersections. Had to make a couple guesses at the best direction, marking our own choices with sticks on the ground along the way. Eventually we got it right after one or two turnarounds. We found ourselves on the ridge between the ski area and the peak, looking for the best trail to hit the peak (knowing that there's a tower on the peak). We came to a 3-way intersection, at which we took the wrong direction first, but came back and found that the downhill (only slightly counterintuitive) trail heading south from the intersection.
This proved to be the peak trail, eventually running around the south side of the peak and looping up to the towers.
Well you would think we could just follow the trails, as we marked, back down the hill, right? Wrong. We did follow several of our markers, but apparently missed one about halfway down the hill. It didn't hinder the finish of the descent by too much, but once we ran into the power lines on the eastern side of the mountain, I realized we had gone too far east. We continued to follow the trail we were on for a few more minutes until we ran into the same glade we crossed at the lower portion of Alicia's Trail. we hooked up with this and took it west to recover from our mistake.
We eventually came back to our intersection and headed back down to our parking lot with no major issues, other than a wrong step into some deep water at the base of a ski trail.
We noted that the upper trails were actually a lot of fun to walk. It would be nice to have some confident trail maps, but even without them, it wasn't a terrible navigating experience. The markings on the upper trails were tapes raped around trees. They were a mix of colors, so it was easy to be confused, but if nothing else they give a sense that you're on an organized trail. My suggestion? Hike from the South (Greenfield side of the mountain) as there are some relatively well-marked trails according to a few web sources, though this one was definitely a lot of fun.