April 29, 2022
"One can do worse than be a swinger of birches" Robert Frost
Easter is over at church--which is a relief--and spring is finally here, even up north. Normally I take Mondays as my sabbath but this week I took it on Friday so I could head up Mount Shaw with Allison. Shaw is a member of the 52 With-A-View list. While I am certain that I have climbed some before. I do not remember them well, so I am starting over. Shaw's neighbor is Mount Roberts--#1 on this go-around. Shaw is #6.
Mount Shaw is reachable from the "Castle in the Clouds" park in Moultonborough, NH. The park name comes from one of the industrialists who used the area as a private playground in the early 20th Century. It was originally the name of his house. Mount Shaw is also named after one of those industrialists. During Shaw's time as owner, Robert Frost--through a complex of social and family connections--used to hang out there.
That is something to think about while hiking. The guy had a good eye for nature. He is worth examining a bit past the school curriculum poems if you have the time. In any case, this mountain is a poetic place.
We hiked it on a clear, cold, windy day. The route we took was about 9 miles and meandered through leafless hardwoods (probably not many birches, actually) and over smaller hills on it way to the top. Spring is a good time to head up. The walk consists mostly of a network of snowmobile trails, which are busy in the winter. In addition, this mountain is very close to Lake Winnipesauke, which means in-season traffic and crowds. We were there before the chaos.
There were others on the mountain of course but we had our immediate area pretty much to ourselves most of the time. This was particularly true at the beginning. In fact, we had an early hike encounter with an adult Black Bear and two cubs. We stopped in our tracks and waited for them to make their way to wherever they were going. We couldn't get a clear picture and weren't about to disturb them. It was very, very, cool.
The color palate on the walk was mostly browns and grays with the occasional evergreen breaking the landscape a bit. The bare trees gave us some great off-season obscured views we wouldn't have had otherwise. The walk was relatively easy, with a few hard-working, sweaty bits--at one point we were walking up a rocky stream bed--but generally manageable. The one piece of advice that I think is pretty darn important is to either bring a map or take a picture of the one on all the kiosks near the bottom, or both. There is no direct route up Shaw. We hit five trails on our way. Each is color coded to the map so, if you have a map, you will ultimately make it.
We made it to the top for some fabulous views north into the White Mountains. There is still snow on some of the taller peaks. It was very windy so we tucked our way into a side trail for rest and snacks before heading down.
As we were on our way back we met and chatted with a retired couple previously from near where we live in Massachusetts. They live in NH now. They had done "the lists" and made their own to work on. I like hikers in the north. In the 'burbs if you say "hi" to someone on the sidewalk they usually react with fear or annoyance. As a Mainer it took me quite a while to get used to not talking to strangers when I am walking in town. This was a great opportunity to be back in northern New England and not feel like passing the time of day with a stranger is an imposition to them.
We took this hike to get in shape for things to come as mud-season fades. That said, it was a workout in and of itself. 9 miles on the flat will get to you. These ups and downs make it more of a challenge. That said, it was a great hike. It took us about four hours, including a slight detour to catch the lake view on the other side. Times may vary.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.