A Half-Marathon to North Conway
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
With plans to be in North Conway by Saturday evening, I took it upon myself to make my drive over action-packed to break up the back roads. During my Thursday work-study, I made sure to bring my map and strategically plan out how to make my three-hour drive from Northern Vermont worth my while. In conclusion, I ended up mapping out a 13+ mile day where I’d need to move my car 4 separate times- truly one of the beauties of a tracing mission.
When it was all said and done, I planned and executed: 1.4 miles on Boy Mountain, 4 miles on the Crystal Mine Trial, 5.7 miles on Cave Mountain & The Langdon Trail, and another 2.35 on the Pudding Pond Loop in North Conway. And just like that, I landed at my dinner plans right on time for 6 pm.
While this was a training day in all respects, this was a monumental turning point for my mentality. A 13-mile day, while always exciting, is not a lot for me, and it did not present much of a physical challenge after my winter of vigorous lower body and stair training. It was, however, a mental training day for one big reason: I didn’t use any aid.
I know what you’re thinking- aid? Izzy this isn’t rock climbing or doing a pull-up with bands, this is just solo hiking. Here's the thing though- hiking aid is distraction. Hiking aid is podcasts, music, and talking on the phone. It's anything that takes you out of the moment you're living in. But today, for the first time, I didn’t do any of that. It was me, my thoughts, and repeatedly singing Kanye West’s The New Workout Plan from 9 am to 6 pm. And for this reason, it was the most beneficial hiking “date” I have ever taken myself on.
Here's the breakdown.
9 AM Boy Mountain via Boy Mountain Trail
The only hard part about this hike was figuring out where the hell it started. I drove past the
All Trails coordinates once and saw no signs of parking or where the trail started. So I drove by again, after reading some reviews about parking by a stone wall, and there it was. Parked parallel from the Jefferson Spring, which was being heavily utilized all morning, I could look ahead towards the blue house and see wooden signs with arrows on them pointing up towards the woods.
I ditched my backpack at the car and headed up towards the woods to a trail that was very wide and well taken care of that gained at a steady rate, just under 100 feet per 0.1 miles. Though a decent grade, I was at the top in 18 minutes where I found a nice metal bench and a terrific view of the Northern Presidential Range.
The way down was no different than the way up, except I was not frightened by a quail this time, and the descent was completed in 12 minutes.
Through and through, this hike really reminded me of Goffstown, New Hampshire’s North Uncannoonuc… except this time the view was the New Hampshire’s highest & most breathtaking peaks- not downtown Manchester.
10 AM Randolph Crystal Mine via the Crystal Mine Trail
I kicked off my Crystal Mine Trail expedition by pulling up to the wrong coordinates and fortunately meeting a nice man who was fixing the windows at the Mount Jefferson View Motel who could point me in the right direction. With his help, I continued down Route 2 to the 3-bay garage of the Old Homestead. Fortunately, I found the trail sign very quickly here, and it was hard to miss as they are less than 5 years old and very vibrant, as were the orange blazes on the trail.
The first 2 minutes of this trail felt like warnings to not continue. Two intense blowdowns & a muddy stream crossing were not the most promising beginnings. However, I went onwards and played connect the dots between the blazes as I navigated through blowdown city on a trail that is so new it was hard to see where it was. Luckily, this did not continue for the whole hike.
The trail alternated between the woods & what I imagine are ATV/snowmobile trails. You start in the woods, walk the wide trails, briefly go back in the woods, then come out into a beautiful birch & maple forest on the wide trails, and finally back in the woods one last time to reach the mine.
Though the ending of this hike wasn’t traditional in the sense it wasn’t a waterfall or a mountain, this did end up being my favorite hike of the day due to the magnificence of the old forest. I also appreciated that I got to see maple tapping operations & untouched maples all along the same hike. The Crystal Mine trail is in my opinion, an excellent recent addition to the AMC White Mountain National Forest Guide and one that I hope maintains its charm as it grows in popularity. If anyone knows of trail maintenance opportunities on the Crystal Mine Trail, please reach out, I’d love to help!
1 PM Cave Mountain Spur & The Langdon Trail
My longest objective was a bit of an odd one, as I ultimately hiked Nearly 1,800 feet of elevation to not summit anything substantial. Yet again, the tracing objective prevailed in my decision-making, as I figured there was no point in summiting Parker when I’ll have to do it again to bag other trails at some point.
I started on the Langdon Trail for a few moments before turning on to the Cave Mountain Spur, which quickly became the worst 20 minutes of my entire day. I gained some 400 feet of elevation in 0.2 miles on my way to the top of the cave, but the problem wasn’t so much the elevation but the fact that the trail was extremely eroded and also covered in slippery leaves… this did not make for the best trip downhill & there wasn’t even a bear in the cave.
After conquering the cave, I continued up the Langdon Trail, briefly entering into the Presidential Dry River Wilderness, and making my way up to the trail junction that turns left towards Parker Mountain and right towards the Langdon Shelter. I found a little bit of ice by the time I reached this elevation, so I was even happier to be turning around, as I don’t love the kind of hikes where you keep switching in and out of micro-spikes. All in all, I think I may have enjoyed this hike in the snow, but it was a good way to push myself by maintaining a consistent pace among the flats & the steeps!
4 PM Pudding Pond via the Pudding Pond Loop
To my surprise, my day ended at the Conway Town Forest, which contains an abundance of AMC trails. For my last trace of the day, I added on a small loop that was on the map, and one that wasn’t just to up my mileage for the day. The small, unnamed loop on the map, was actually Pudding Pond Loop and it was a really pleasant and completely flat trail to explore in the evening. There were a lot of people mountain biking on the town trails too, which made the last leg of my distraction-free hiking a little bit more interesting. I think this would be a great pre or post-dinner loop to explore in 30-45 minutes if you ever find yourself in this corner of North Conway.
If you've kept up this far, thank you. Until next time, which will probably be tomorrow when I do the same thing on the way back, see ya.