Sunday was a perfect day for a drive up north to check out the foliage progress. Not too warm and not too cold with almost perfect blue skies.
Roaming around Milan and Stark, I didn’t see much yet for fall colors. Still another week or so to go. So, at about 1 PM I headed up Nash Stream Road to check out the Percys for the first time.
Several miles up the dirt road, I reached the trailhead and parked. Digging through my bag of maps, I could only find one small Cohos Trail map showing a rough outline of the Percy Trail system. This kind of thing makes you really appreciate the well-documented trails we have in the whites! (For those of you who don’t have the Cohos map, here is atopo track of the trail). It was about 1:30 as I left the car, and within a few minutes I passed a family coming down from the top. That would be about the only humans I saw all day.
The trail was well maintained, rising gradually for the first mile before coming to a huge boulder. At this point, the trail began to get a little bit steeper, and within another quarter mile, it touched the bottom of the rocky slabs.
The trail ran alongside the slab, occasionally stepping onto it before veering back into the woods. The rock was dry and posed no problem, but I could see that in wet or icy weather there would be a long slide to the bottom!
At one point there was a rope tied to a tree for assistance, but it was not a necessary tool today.
The trail continued upwards, slowly veering off into the saddle between the two peaks. At the top of the col, the trail hit its first intersection with the Old Summer Club trail. This trail heads south towards Stark, while the main trail continues on towards North Percy. Since I was making good time, I headed down the Club trail, looking for the South Percy cutoff.
This unmarked, previously unofficial trail starts at the lowest part of the col near a CT sign, veering off to the right through some ferns towards a rock face. It then angles steeply up the side of the mountain. The trail is unmarked but easy to follow. In no time, I was at the summit.
The guides describe South Percy as somewhat wooded with some good views, so I was pleasantly surprised by how open the summit was! With just a bit of poking around, I was able to get views from every direction of the compass. Dominating the view is the looming bulk of North Percy across the gulf. To the south, the Presidentials and the Kilkenney stood tall and proud. To the east, the entire Mahoosuc range lined the horizon behind Long Mountain, and to the west, the obscure peaks Goback, Teapot and many others stood guard over what looked like Mt Mansfield in the far distance!
Overhead, three birds of prey were performing extreme acrobatic feats, climbing and diving. By the time I had my camera out, I was only able to capture blurry photos of themflying away! I spied them a few more times during the afternoon, but they stayed out of camera range.
I spent a good half hour here enjoying the sights and reading the entries in the summit canister. Quite a bit of traffic comes to this spot!
Soon, it was time to go back down to the col and up the North cone. The Percy Loop trail branches off to the right just as the trail angles left and straight up the mountain. I planned on using that route on the way down.
The ascent of the North Peak was fairly steep, but nowhere near as bad as it was described in the several reports I had read online. In no time, I was standing on the summitwith fairly unobstructed views in all directions. It was about 4:00, so I had the entire mountain to myself. To the north, I could see down the Nash Stream Valley flanked by the Whitcomb Ridge and Sugarloaf. In the far distance, the obscure peaks of the Great North loomed. To the south, Mountains stretched in every direction beyond the glistening pool of Christine Lake.
Another amazing find was that the top was covered with ripe, juicy blueberries! I sat down and had a small feast!
After an hour at the top, it was unfortunately time to leave. I didn’t want to push walking unfamiliar trails in the dark with a headlamp.
One last look around before leaving.
The Percy Loop trail wound along the contour line around the cone of the peak before dropping down on the North side. It was rerouted a few times to avoid blowdowns, but was well marked. At the bed of a dry stream, the trail merged into an old woods road, which it followed at a gentle graded pace for the remaining few miles back to the road.
A quick road walk and I was back to the car before 6. A great little hike for a crisp clear day!