Remember hearing about those spring rainstorms in New Hampshire and Massachusetts where dams threatened to break and roads collapsed? Yep, that was when my father and I had the bright idea to climb Belknap Mountain.
Bad luck followed us every step of the expedition. We got a late start. There was construction west of Laconia that slowed us down at least ten minutes each way. Our rain gear was insufficient. However, what really set the day up to be miserable became apparent as we pulled onto the carriage road up the W side of the range. Despite the fact that mud season was over, that it was only 1:00 PM, the gate was closed. Needless to say, we were not thrilled.
Setting out, the road remained paved for a short distance, than turned to a decent dirt road. Numerous signs and wording painted on the road mockingly reminded us that "Gates close at 6:00 P.M." We followed the sinuous roadway around steep switchbacks as it ascended several hundred feet up a stream valley. Slightly over a mile from the car, and already drenched, we spotted the White Trail (which we had been erroneously informed as being only 1/10 mile longer than the Green Trail), and began our climb, by now thoroughly soaked and already nearly in the clouds. It was in the forties: not cold enough to be a serious concern, but still cold enough to make for a very miserable walk.
We headed roughly south at a mild climb, crossing raging streams of water and avoiding the larger puddles. I found myself becoming agitated with the slow rate of climb, the utter lack of views, and my father's surprisingly sluggish pace. After a while, I reached a trail junction and a rocky ledge, which looked like it would offer fine views in fairer weather. Here, the path took a sharp turn in the opposite direction, following the ridge.
Of course, thinking the trail was shorter than it actually was, seeing the time we'd spent hiking, and with clouds obscuring our visibility, I believed us very near the summit. Boy, was I wrong! We proceeded over false summit after false summit, rocky slabs, and an increasingly coniferous forest. After an agonizingly long trek to a open area of rock slabs where the trail jogged briefly downhill and met the Yellow Trail, I knew the summit had to be seconds away. It was still, however, another five minutes before the tower at last came into view.
My father and I stayed around just long enough to touch the highest rocks, then decided on a speedier descent down the Green Trail. I'd heard reports of unusually slippery rocks on this specific trail, but at this point, we didn't give a damn; we just wanted out of the rain. The rocks were indeed slippery, but I applauded the trail's tendency to head straight downhill, if even at a moderate pace. Some trail relocations marked with orange ribbon tied to trees bypassed some of the longer and more slippery portions of the main trail, though we had to still move slowly at a number of spots. Relieved, we made it down in considerably less time than it had taken to ascend. I smirked at the trail sign stating the Green Trail was "not recommended for descent".
From there, it was a little over a mile back to the car. We ran down some of the steeper portions of road to cut down on time, and at last made it past the gate and to our warm and dry haven. Both of us agreed to call it a day, and scrapped our previous plans of county highpoints further south.