Perched majestically above my little town of Woodsville, NH sits Mount Gardener. I’ve tried researching this little mountain, and haven’t found anything about it. I know it actually sits in the town of Bath, NH. I know that there is a trail to the top, I know that a big chunk of it used to be owned by a particular farmer. I know that the lookout, called Lone Oak, is owned by a local man I’ve known my whole life. I’ve found nothing at all of it’s history prior to it being brought into the Upper Valley Land Trust a couple of years ago. Apparently, there are some locals that know more, but the history of this particular trail is more personal for me.
I grew up in this town. I grew up looking at this mountain every single day. I grew up exploring it, swimming in the rivers it overlooks, and camping on it. One of the first things I did when I moved back home after being gone for a decade was to climb on up, and look at my little town. Often my adventure posts will detail what gear I carried, how I planned my trip, history about the trail, and anything else I find interesting. This is not that post.
This post is about family, the outdoors, a memory of summer, and the beauty in my back yard. If you read my Lonesome Lake Trail Adventure you know that one of my favorite things to do in the wilderness is spend time with my family. I am lucky to share my life two happy, healthy children, and a spouse who actually enjoys my company as much as I enjoy hers. Because my kids are still fairly little (8 and 4) I don’t get too crazy with the hikes. It will likely be a few years yet before we become the family that bags Four Thousand Footers together. These shorter, less strenuous hikes will lay the groundwork for that though.
In my humble opinion this is the very best trail in the world for kids. It is short, a little bit tough, and has a super payoff view that kids love. Alltrails rates the Lone Oak Trail as easy. I agree, but with the caveat that it can be a little steep and have tricky footing in places. It is really easy to rest along the trail though. I will also add that if you go during summer like we did, the trailhead, and the early trail is full of poison ivy. Luckily its short enough for us that we didn’t worry about it, and just showered really well when we got home.
For this adventure, as it is so close to civilization, less than 3 miles from our home, and an area that I know so well I don’t think it would be possible to get lost; my wife and I only brought snacks, water, and hiking appropriate clothing. The kids were in standard kid gear: Sandals, T-Shirt, Shorts, that sort of thing. We did not bring, but should have brought at least a first aid kit and tourniquet.
At the trailhead there is parking enough for 1 or 2 vehicles, and if for some reason those spots are taken you can park along the road. See all of that green stuff to the left of the sign? That’s some of the Poison Ivy I mention above. I can’t stress this enough. The stuff is EVERYWHERE for the first leg of this hike. As someone who has an incredibly bad reaction to this filthy little herb, I urge you to use the utmost caution.
The start of the trail meanders along an old logging road through mature softwood trees. Most of it is very well shaded, and there is a small, shallow runoff stream you’ll cross. Keep a look out along the trail for the light blue blazes that mark the route, as well as the few signs.
Once you move off of the logging road the trail follows a series of ridges, and the trees change from primarily softwoods to hardwoods. Regardless of what time of year I take this hike, the brown under-story of decades worth of hardwood leaves always reminds me of the autumn of the year.
When I first started rangering around here there was no real trail. I remember the first time I took this hike. It was during April Vacation from School, and a couple of friends and I decided were were just going to hike it without asking our parents. We’d been staring up at this little peak for years, but didn’t want our parents to tell us “no”. It’s often easier to get forgiveness than permission after all. We did, however decide that mountain climbing was serious business, and packed enough gear to last a week. Mind you, this hike takes a grand total of 3 hours top to bottom with a solid hour hanging out at the top, but we were in middle school, and that’s how it goes.
Five, or Six years ago the whole trail and surrounding wilderness was granted to the Upper Valley Land Trust, and some work was done to make an actual trail there. One thing they did was put in steps at a couple different spots to make the transition between ridges easier.
As with any other trip into the woods, there’s actually quite a bit of wildlife. The trail isn’t particular busy so, the likelihood of seeing something is pretty high. I’ve seen deer, grouse, lots of different song birds, and even a little orange newt on this particular trip. The kids thought the newt was the best part. Well, the lizard and the snacks. Kids always love snacks. Give em enough junk food and you can get them to do just about anything.
The last ridge is a series of switchbacks that ends in a truly gorgeous view of my little town.
If you ever happen to be in the area of Woodsville, NH make sure you check it out. The hike back down is about 45 minutes with two small children. You can really do this whole thing in less than 3 hours.
Thanks for stopping by!
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