Today, I took the day off. I drove the kids to their camp bus and headed north to the White Mountains. After a 1 1/2 hour drive, I arrived at the Waterville Valley Ski Resort. But it’s July, you say. And you’re right, I’m here to hike, not ski.
Mt. Tecumseh is the mountain that the ski slopes descend at Waterville Valley Ski Resort. Mt. Tecumseh is also the shortest of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. #48 in fact, coming in at 4,003 feet. Just barely makes the list. It was also MY first of the NH48.
There are two ways to ascend Mt. Tecumseh. Well, technically 3, actually 4. There is a trail from Tripoli Road. And there is a trail at Waterville Valley. There are also the ski slopes themselves, and of course, in winter, chair lifts. I chose to hike the trail (aptly named the Mount Tecumseh Trail) from the ski resort to the summit. You can park right in the ski resort parking, and the trailhead is just across from lot 1.
At the start of the trail, you immediately cross and brook/stream and will cross this a few more times. Lovely and peaceful.
Now I had been warned the trail was rocky. Puh-lease, at many points the trail is not rocky, it is JUST ROCKS. And at one point, some kind soul (or souls) moved the rocks into stairs, making those sections much easier to ascend. The rocks/stairs section seemed to go on forever. I think it was at least 1.5 miles of straight rocks/rock stairs.
In any case, the trail was nice. The trees rose up the sides of the trail and became very piney at one point, it smelled like Christmas.
Near the summit, Sossman trail joins the Mt. Tecumseh trail (more on Sossman in a minute). Just after this the trail forks, with both forks marked with a summit sign. I took the left fork, which suddenly became a very narrow trail, just rocks (of course!), but now added a drop-off to the left. Then the summit!
Although it was about 80 degrees everywhere else, it was actually a bit chilly at the top (hence the jacket), and especially because I was soaked through with sweat from the climb up.
Now, I had two choices to go back down. (Since I was not parked near Tripoli Rd. that was not a choice.) I could take the same trail back down or I could take Sussman Trail, which leads over to the ski slopes. Lots of people recommended taking the slopes down, including a gentleman I spoke to at the summit, who had climbed Tecumseh several times. So, okie dokes, ski slopes it is! I took the other fork down from the summit to where the trail met up with Sussman Trail.
Now at first, this was a fantastic idea. Sussman Trail was lovely, woodsy, a little rocky, but not bad, and fairly level as it took me over to the ski slopes. The ski slopes at the summit were fantastic! All sorts of wildflowers, grasses, wide open views, and the surreal addition of chair lifts. Had an interesting moment, where I was thinking that being at a ski resort in summer feels very post-apocalyptic, when suddenly I realized the chair lift had started moving! Kind of freaked me out for a minute.
It was a bit weird not walking on an actual trail. I felt like the Leave No Trace police would come arrest me, or at least employees of the ski resort. But it was all fine and good, until it wasn’t just lovely wildflowers. It was completely overgrown and often times knee-high grasses and poison ivy and other flora. I was literally bushwhacking. I was also incredibly grateful for my trekking poles as they saved me at least once from stepping in hidden holes in the terrain under all the plants. While the open terrain made for a nice view, it also meant I was boiling under the sun. And nervous that I was being a complete idiot and had no business being there. (Incidentally, I met up with another hiker in the parking lot and they had the same experience, so I guess I was in the right place). Lesson learned, ALWAYS hike where there is a trail, no off trail for me. I just really didn’t feel comfortable and doubted myself the entire way.
Also, you know how your knees and legs are really tired after a day of skiing? Yeah, try walking down the slope next time.
(That isn’t the terrible bushwhacking section, that’s the nice, easy section).
Anyway, that’s #1 done for me!