Some of you may know Ragged Mountain as one of best family-oriented ski areas south of the White Mountains. Others may know Ragged as the ski resort that went through troubled financial times and periods of ownership turnover. Still others may know it as the mountain looming over Danbury. I know it from my skiing days of yesteryear, when my daughter, Meghan, worked there as a “lift rat” and I could ride the lifts for free.
A week ago, I learned something new about Ragged Mountain — the awesome trail that runs over the two main summits of the east-west running ridge, highlighted by two prominent peaks, Ragged and Pinnacle.
The trail over Ragged Mountain is part pf the SRK Greenway, a 75-mile loop of hiking trails that encircle the Lake Sunapee area like an emerald necklace, connecting Sunapee, Ragged, and Kearsarge mountains.
In the mid-1980s, a small group of people associated with several conservation organizations, including the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, began building on the dream of having a “Forever green, great circle of trail corridors and conserved lands providing walkers with minimally developed access to the mountains, lakes, vistas, and historical sites of the region” (SKR Mission). The loosely knit associations and individual landowners formed the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Coalition and the trail became reality. This brings to mind the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The trail is broken down into 14 sections of four to seven miles each, and each section can be easily hiked within a day. An end-to-end car spot at trailheads should be considered to avoid hiking out and back and doubling your mileage. The trails are for day hiking only; no overnight camping is allowed. Camping on a landowner’s property may result in SRKG Coalition losing permission to pass through the owner’s property. A Trail Guide featuring full-color maps, a detailed description of each of the 14 sections of trail, and photos from the trail is available by ordering online at http://www.srkg.com/srkg-trail-guide/. The guide also contains information on links to other trails touched by the “emerald necklace”, including the renowned Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail, a 50-mile hiking trail linking Mount Sunapee with the iconic peak of Mount Monadnock.
When I looked at the map of Ragged Mountain (2,225 feet), the trail seemed to be a nice, gentle climb to the summit. However, as I have experienced before, maps don’t always provide a true reading of the trail. Ledges, blowdowns, mud, briars, and shrubs like hobblebush don’t show up on a map, and we experienced much more than we expected.
Reuben, Fran, Dick, and I began our hike at the trailhead on New Canada Road, which is off Route 4 in Wilmot. The trail is well-blazed and follows logging roads for the first two miles. Reuben sprinted ahead; his aging legs seemed to be rejuvenated after a few days of restful relaxation at home. However, by the end of the day, the scrambles over rock ledges had taxed his stamina. The same can be said of me and my aging legs. It was a long eight-mile day, returning to the trailhead at New Canada Road just as the sun was beginning to sink below the treeline. We came prepared with headlamps but were fortunate we didn’t need them.
I came to understand why the mountain is called Ragged. We climbed up and over several ridges, and rock scrambles were frequent. Reuben plugged along, slowed down by the rock climbs. When we finally reached the summit, we were greeted by the ski resort’s high-speed quad chair and the ski patrol cabin. We met two other hikers who were familiar with the trail and the mountain. They said we picked the right day, because snowmaking would begin the following day.
As we ate our lunch, we scanned across the horizon, identifying Franconia Ridge, Cannon Mountain, and Mount Tecumseh. Even though this mountain is a midget compared to its neighbors further north, the views are outstanding.
Since it was around 1 o’clock when we finished taking in food and scenery, we needed to move along to the brother of Ragged Peak, the Pinnacle. The trail to the Pinnacle was well-blazed, dipped into the col separating the two peaks, and then gradually climbed to the obscure summit of The Pinnacle. Along the trail were several viewpoints that overlooked the town of Andover, Proctor Academy, and Mount Kearsarge. The trail continues from the Pinnacle by descending into Andover and ending at Proctor Academy, where there is limited parking in front or behind the Farrell Field House.
If we had planned more thoughtfully we would have done a two-car drop, by leaving one car at the Andover Trailhead before we began our hike from New Canada Road. Instead, we had to reverse direction, hike back to Ragged Mountain and descend over several ridges, a five-mile hike that would bring us back to our vehicle just as darkness was closing in. As we made our way down the mountain, Reuben began to lag behind. He needed several boosts to scramble up the sharp inclines. I knew he could make it back to the trailhead, because his spirit will not give in to fatigue. I came to realized that this challenging hike was not a good choice for an aging dog and, in the future, I’ll have to do a better job of researching trail conditions.
However, there is one important step that I could have taken to ensure Reuben would make it back safely, and without having to call in a search-and-rescue team. Several weeks ago, I was at the vet’s office with Reuben and was made aware of the Pack-a-Paw Emergency Dog Harness, made by Mountain Dogware. The harness allows you to carry your injured or fatigued dog securely and comfortably on your back. This is a good investment for anyone who hikes with their dog. Besides fatigue, a dog may become injured and need to be carried out. The trail may have ladders to scale, such as the Six Husbands in the Great Gulf, or ledges and cliffs that dogs can’t climb or descend. Being able to carry your dog in a pack safely allows you to continue your hike without taking undue risks with your favorite hiking companion.
Stefen Keith, the creator of the canine rescue harness, wrote to me the following, “We hike in the Whites with our large dog, Izzy Girl, almost every weekend. That is where and why the Pack-A-Paw Rescue Harness was created. Especially now that she is getting a little older, we always have our harness with us. We’ve even used it to carry her up the ladders on Cannon High Trail and for the steep ledges on Whiteface and a few other summits. Oh, also for carrying her across some gnarly stream crossings too. Hopefully we’ll never need it for an injury but I’ll always be prepared as Izzy girl LOVES our adventures!”
You can find out about the Pack-a-Paw Rescue Harness by going to the website, Mountaindogware.com The Rescue Harness will be on Reuben’s gift list for Christmas.
For comments or questions, contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.