Smarts via Daniel Doan & J Trail
After not being able to get out together over my thanksgiving break, Liz and I made it a priority to get out on the first weekend of December to kick off "microspikes actually leave the pack" season together. But, because I was inconveniently located back at college, I was insistent on Western New Hampshire. We looked at Gordon Pond, Reel Brook, and Daniel Doan-J Trail. The first was ruled out because of sockedin's recent write-up on it, and the second because Liz wanted to hold off on the Kinsmens for her probable Winter 48. I had no complaints about doing Smarts a second time this year, I got a slim 1:30 drive from Burlington!
Having had a cold all week, we started late and I was backing out of my dorm at about 7 am. On my way down, I started listening to the Sounds Like a Search and Rescue podcast, which made the drive fly by. After passing the comically always green Northeast Slopes on 25, I had a short dirt road before the Quinttown Road TH. Liz arrived shortly after and I hopped in to drive to Daniel Doan, which had two decent places to park.
After the curvy hill, which I imagine would be horrible in winter conditions, we parked at the kiosk because we didn't feel like seeing what the rest of the road would look like. The next 0.2 miles to the orange-signed trailhead would have been just fine to drive.
The start of Daniel Doan was just as tricky to find as people reported- but no hard feat with Gaia. At the first split, we went over the bridge and then followed the practical straight path. Eventually, blue blazes kick in but they were extremely faint. Also, the lower elevation conditions were ridiculously muddy and full of icy puddles, not a trail sneaker conditions day.
Once we got above the mud disaster, we went up steadily and trail finding was no longer a concern. With the exception of one sort of wide water crossing, there was noting sWe put spikes on when we saw the 1/4 mile warning sign of the Cabin, which I felt was appropriate timing as the ice got worse as we neared the summit.
After a snack break at the cabin, neither of us felt inclined to do the firetower since we'd both already hiked Smarts so we just proceeded to the J trail. We kept our first spikes on for the whole first half of the trail, taking them off after the majority of the wooden bridges were over.
J Trail was surprisingly gradual and full of somewhat recent-looking moose scat. After we crossed Jacob's Brook (bridge) we had a quick gravel road walk to the car, making for 7.5 miles and 1,912 ridiculously gradual feet of elevation gain.