We tried the Harrington Trail today, a very rainy, wet, cool, foggy day. We parked by ourselves near Machias Pool on the south side of the mountain and hiked up the Administration Road to the Harrington Trail, so we really only did a short section of the complete Harrington Trail.
The Administration Road is under construction--or perhaps it's destruction. The old asphalt surface is being ground up or removed, leaving a more even, gravel surface that's pretty good for hiking. Lots of hay bales along the sides of the road are protecting the watershed.
And there was plenty of water today! Driving to the mountain we experienced some pretty heavy periods of steady rain. But it was worse on the road than on the hike. We donned our raincoats and army ponchos and headed on up the road. The stream that flows by the roadside part way up was flowing heavily, and seemed generally clear. We noticed a little bit of snow along the roadside, too. It was low 40s when we began our hike in midday, but obviously it had been much cooler not too much earlier.
After we passed the trail head for the Lower Link, we saw a piece of heavy equipment that was obviously being used for the roadwork. It was parked at the junction with the West Road. After that, the road turned from gravel to mud on the right and broken shale on the left. Not very good going today on either side.
Finally we reached the Harrington Trail. Although the hay bales weren't particularly high, the road crew had left a small opening in them (with a slight rise to keep the water from the road out) so hikers could make their way onto the trail. We crossed the bridge over the stream and had to walk through a stretch of muddy, watery trail.
As the trail headed uphill, the snow got more frequent and deeper, although it probably never amounted to half an inch (12 mm). The fog moved in too, and there was little to see. The rocky trail was not particularly slippery, fortunately, and after about 45 minutes total we reached the summit.
We had seen a set of footprints on the way up the trail, but there was no one at the summit. While I was a bit hesitant to take it, we decided to go down by the Jack Frost Trail so we just walked across the summit and headed down the Mountain House Trail. The start of this trail is a bit confusing. It goes by one of the viewpoints and then past the small pond near the summit. But when it reaches one of the parking lots, the blazes disappear and it becomes very difficult to find. Usually when we head down this way, we don't try to follow the blazes, so I knew how to get back onto the trail, but someone unfamiliar with it could get very confused.
The Mountain House Trail wasn't too badly affected by the rain. It's steep enough near the summit that the rain doesn't puddle up, and it's rocky enough that it isn't particularly muddy. When we turned onto the Jack Frost Trail, we shortly did run into some puddles, but not much mud. The trail was pretty good until we passed the High Meadow Trail. You may know that Jack Frost traverses a steep, hemlock-covered hillside after that. I was explaining how we needed to be careful about the set and very slippery tree routes when, sure enough, I almost slipped on one!
We made it down the hillside with only a couple more slips, and continued back to the Lower Link and finally the Administration Road to the car, a little wetter, but well -exercised!.
Looking at the map of the mountain though, it appears that it may actually be shorter to go down the High Meadow Trail, cut across by Echo Pond, and take the Echo Pond Trail to Machias Pool. I'll have to try that sometime. The Jack Frost Trail actually curves back so much it adds quite a bit of distance to the hike.
That's it for today. As usual, don't forget to check out Hiking Trails on Mt. Monadnock.