Is it Martha, Cherry, or Owl's Head? | 5/8/22
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
"Is it Martha, Cherry, or Owl's Head?" Ryan and I wondered as we parked alongside Route 115 in a last-minute effort to find a backup hike. Initially, we had set off from Johnson with the hopes of bushwhacking off of Haystack Road in Twin. Unfortunately, however, with the road closed and the clock around 1 pm after our late start, we decided we needed a backup given we didn't have time for a 6 mile road walk and a 4 mile bushwhack. So, after years of fortuitously avoiding the three different ways to explore Cherry Mountain, (which I now know has so many names because it is one mountain, Cherry, with the peaks Martha & Owl's Head) we parked at the Owl's Head Trailhead and began.
The trail started extremely swampy as it dodged around an old logging or access road that one can only assume diverted from the straight path to accommodate land ownership. After just over half a mile, the trail was dry and so was I. After a long winter and a previous summer full of exclusively 6 am starts, it occurred to me I don't know what to do about the sun. We made sure to stay diligent with electrolytes as we made our 4.77-mile round-trip hike with 2,381 feet of elevation gain, something I like to call "4000-footer gain for 52-WAV miles."
After the muddy section, the trail remained consistently steep until it began opening up to stunning views to the East and West, but most notably towards the Great Gulf which was perfectly framed in a bluebird skyline. Originally having planned to take a quick peek and get going, we were sat down on the rock pointing at things before you knew it. It was somewhere around there we started talking all gross about appetizer bread dressing (if you know, you know) in perfect timing to turn around and see a passerby who probably heard everything we just said. Oops.
Much to our surprise, we got talking and he offered us a ride back to the trailhead so that we could do both sides of Cherry Mountain, an aspiring tracer's miracle! The journey down was pleasant and full of both reflective and current conversation between the three of us, most notably about the Old Man on the Mountain and the excellence of Daniel Webster's famed quote at the site.
The journey across Martha's Mile was slightly more rugged and provided ample but avoidable snow patches, but the quick pace we were moving at made it fun to jump from rock to rock while watching carefully for ankle placement. I would say that while the trip up from the Owl's Head trailhead was steeper, the journey back down to the Cherry Mountain trailhead was less steep but more technical in terms of the number of rocks on the trail.
All in all, I would say that the two peaks of Cherry Mountain contributed to one of my favorite 52 WAVs to date! I certainly look forward to returning in the winter to hike the one last path up the mountain on the fire road.