The trail starts at White Ledge Campground off Rte. 16, in the White Mountain National Forest. When I got out of the truck in the park, I didn't see anything resembling a trail, so I just took off walking up the paved road in the campground and before long I stumbled on it, next to a sign that said "Parking for campground patrons only." A good citizen, I had parked in the "non-camping" spaces, next to the bathroom (which was good as outhouses go, but not as classy as a real chemical or composting toilet.)
This is fairly early in the trail, after an encouraging start (flat, carpeted with pine needles); it starts up gently after a quarter mile or so (estimated) and continues to do so less and less gently up to the summit, an overall 1,450 feet over 2.7 miles to the summit. The entire loop is 4.4 miles, mostly forested except for the half-mile or so (again, estimated) on the ledge (it's more of a bald, not really a ledge) approaching and leaving the top.
The trial is marked with yellow blazes (it's a White Mountains National Forest trail, not an AT trail, which would have been marked with white.) Although you can't see it in the picture, there actually is a yellow blaze at the top of this rocky path, which otherwise has possibilities for going astray.
As does this one. The bare rock path was a little slippery -- it had rained last night. I was glad for my rubber-tipped trekking poles.
It was also quite hot on the rocks in the sun, towards the summit. Here's Journey with her tongue dragging the ground. She went with me, to defend me against marauders of whatever species. She was much more surefooted than I on the rocky parts. This spot was the first open mountain view after emerging from the woods.
Cairns like this marked turns, since the blazes painted on the rocks might be easily missed, sending you off into the wild blue yonder. Turn here...
And again up ahead at that next one. The blazes tell you which direction; the cairns call your attention to them.
This isn't a cairn; no human put it there.... I wonder how long it's been there.
A lovely view to the southeast...
And, in case you're so intent on looking for yellow blazes that you forgot to look up...
Less-familiar view of Mt. Chocorua and the "Three Sisters," from the east.
On the trip down the mountain, I unleashed Journey; footing was so hard that I didn't want to take the chance of her jumping ahead pulling me down. She was the perfect hiking companion -- she'd spring down the ledges and then wait for me to pick my way down, although she had to entertain herself by watching squirrels in the trees while she waited. She was great. If she ran ahead too far, I'd call, "Journey, wait!" and she'd stop and wait for me.
As I said, it was hot... over 85*F by noon. Journey found a mudhole to wallow in, being part pig; I was too busy thinking, "How am I going to get that off her for the ride home?" to think to take a picture. She wouldn't have shown up anyway; the forest-floor mud was as black as she is. Luckily there was a stream crossing later on (there's one each way, stepping stones) and she got rinsed off there. We were back at the trailhead at 12:45; 2.5 hours exactly for 4.4 miles, including stops for pictures, breath-getting, Camelbak drinks (Journey drinks from the Camelbak too; I squeeze the bite valve and she catches the stream in midair.) I guess I've still got triathlete-think in my brain: X hours:minutes for X miles including stops. ~Sigh~ It gets worse.... the AMC White Mountain Guide estimates 2:55 for this loop, so I beat that by 25 minutes including stops...
However, I was not hurrying. I wanted to see everything. And hear everything. I heard something big crashing in the brush about 100 feet off the trail; I couldn't see it, but it sounded too big to be a whitetail deer, which would have made it a moose or a black bear. I'm not afraid of either one, but a moose is one of those critters I don't want to meet face to face by myself in the wild. Meeting up thus with bears in Maryland, I've learned that saying, "Hi!" is enough send them packing. However, I'm not used to moose, and don't know what to say to one. Journey started her "There's something chaseable there!!" yipping, though, which deterred whatever it was from coming our way. Good dog. She was on leash at that time, or she'd have been after it. It is no mystery to me how she ended up at the dog pound as a stray. But now and then I think how much she lucked out, given the usual fate of dog-pound strays. Traveling in a truck all over the country, going for long runs and woodland hikes. Doesn't get much better for a dog. Or a dog-owner.
I saw a hairy woodpecker (that name cracks me up); heard what must have been a pileated woodpecker, since the drumming was too loud to have been a downy or hairy w.p. There are veerys singing in these woods; they have a lovely distinctive trill that sounds to me like running several successive soft mallets down (not up)the scale of a xylophone. Red squirrels, a tufted titmouse (that's a bird, not a mouse, in case you're not familiar with it); most of the creatures, though, must have been holed up in a damp shady place out of the heat. So most of the had that lovely just-me-and-the-forest stillness... somehow enhanced, rather than disrupted, by my companion dog.