Cobble Hill & Cooley Jericho Road Trails | 1/9/23
Updated: Jan 11
Today’s hike was more of a necessity than a pleasure, which is something I think I have yet to say along a whole 35% of all the trails in the White Mountain National Forest. Even on the difficult suffer fest hikes, there was still something to take out of it but today was simply… road.
I began, questionably as there was no sign, up Cobble Hill Trail. As I walked, I noticed all other traces of recent activity remained behind me. The skin track stopped about 30 feet into the trail, the three other tracks I saw veered off where the GPS incorrectly states the trail goes (see below), and then it was just me and the bobcat tracks.
Going in and out of tree cover altered the ground conditions, taking me from iced over trail to cringing as my brand-new microspikes ground against the rocks. As I approached the height of the land, there was an abandoned car in pieces along the side, which was a new one for me in the Whites. Once I hit the height of land, I stopped for a snack, checked my GPS again, and kept going.
My mistake was knowing one hike I was to do today was 3.2 miles and one was 2.1 but not committing to memory which was which. So, because there was no concrete “end” to the trail, I just kept walking, figuring this was the 3.2 mile one. I will specify, though, where I walked over the other side of the HOL was still Cobble Hill Trail, just the Class 6 road part, not the WMNF part. Oh well, at least I know I was thorough.
I turned around at the end of the road, at 3.58 miles (instead of 2.1), and got back to my car quicker than I’d gotten out since I could follow my footprints around blowdowns and water.
When I got back to my car and realized my extra 3 miles were unfavorable toward beginning another hike, I contemplated just going home. But, I instead decided to set a turnaround time and go for Cooley Hill anyways. I settled on a 2:45 turnaround, which I could manage if I stuck with an 18-minute pace on the flats and a 30-minute pace on the steeps, approximately. Even though I had a headlamp with fresh batteries, all the moose tracks I was coming up on got me wanting to finish in the daylights.
I drove a bit down 112 and then turned onto 116, where I just barely spotted the trailhead and noticed the snow was packed down by heavy machinery. I tucked my car off to the side as much as possible and started my haul up Jericho Road Trail to the sound of saws. Before I turned off the actual road, I saw the logging operation in full force and got by quickly. From here, the trail seemed to go through 4 different “zones.”
First up was the moats. This area was wide, looked semi-recently logged, and was full of multiple moat-like divets that were a bit of a gamble to plant my foot on. This area went by the fastest but was the least pretty.
The second was spruce land which had a handful of creative blowdowns, which would not have worked if my backpack was any larger. Here I saw a bobcat, deer, and rabbit tracks.
Next was a massive clear-cut with a kind of view of the Kinsman’s land, which was my favorite of the four zones and would have been miserable in the summer as the brush was at my legs even with no leaves! It was here I felt assured I was doing this trail during the right time of the year.
Last, but not least, was moose land hill. The final climb to Cooley Hill, which begins at about 1900 feet and lasts until the top at 2484 feet, was my athletic endeavor of the day. As the clock ticked, I had less than half an hour to do the last bit and couldn’t help but keep checking my watch. Truly, if it wasn’t for the 8 or so difficult blowdowns to maneuver, I would’ve been faster, but I made it up to the old fire tower based at the summit 8 minutes before my turnaround time!
Once I saw the yellow trail signs of the CJCF, I was relieved and ecstatic that I’d covered all of my goals for the day despite by earlier screw-up. By the turn around, I was moving faster on the way down but constantly got snow down my back as I went under snow-covered trees. Yeesh.
There wasn’t anything wrong with what I did today, but it wouldn’t be a recommendation for a non-tracer by any means. But, for a tracer, I would say now is probably a good time for these trails!