Ossipee — November 19, 2011 — It is the time of year to harvest a few more hikes before winter arrives. Late Monday afternoon, my friend and I hiked the short and steep 0.75 mile trail to the ledgey 1,680 foot summit of Sentinel Mountain in the Ossipee Range.
The whole process was fun, from figuring out how to get there, to driving through the historic section of Ossipee called Moultonville, to the hike, and to finally getting back down to our car at dusk. But before taking you there, here is a little bit of geology of the area that I gathered from a phone call to Bob Newton, geology department head at Smith College, and occasional lecturer on the geology of the Ossipee Range.
Sentinel Mountain rises steeply above Dan Hole Pond and Little Dan Hole Pond, at the southern end of the Ossipee Range. It is located inside the ring dike of the collapsed volcano that formed the circular Ossipee Range. At it begins a range of higher peaks that sweep around the west side of the range, culminating in the 2,990 foot Mount Shaw.
These peaks, once molten rock that reached the surface of the earth before cooling, are mostly comprised of a hard and resistant rock known as Moat Volcanics, a composite of basalt and rhyolite. In contrast to this, most of the lower and more gentle eastern side of the Ossipee Range is comprised of Conway granite. Intruded after the collapse of the volcano, this Conway granite never made it to the surface, and crystallized deep in the earth. However, time and erosion brought it to light, and being softer and less resistant than the tougher Moat volcanics, it eroded quicker, making for a more gentle eastern half of the Ossipee Range today.
The sharp and sassy little peak of Sentinel Mountain, right on the edge of the Conway granite, but composed of Moat Volcanics, has a low fracture density, making it especially hard to erode. Thus, its dramatic shape as seen from below across Little Dan Hole Pond.
Back to our hike. Previous to last Monday, we had taken a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive around Little Dan Hole Pond, so we knew how to get there. But to get directions to the actual trailhead, we checked out Jeremy Clark’s Hiking Guide found at FranklinSites.com, and looked under the peaks of Carroll County. We also looked at the “Trail Bandit Map of the Ossipee Mountains,” created by Bob Garrison. This is available to freely download on the Franklinsites.com Hiking Guide. Both these sources were helpful, but once there, we still had to do a little scrambling at the last minute to find the trailhead.
From West Ossipee we drove south on Route 16 to the exit for Center Ossipee. We followed Main Street into Center Ossipee, then continued straight out of town on Moultonville Road. At a fork we took a right up Valley Road and in almost two miles, just before reaching Little Dan Hole Pond, we took a right on Bents Road. There is one driveway on the right after turning onto Bents Road. You continue beyond that, and take the next right, 50 feet into a gate for the trailhead. Don’t block the gate. There is a gravel pit further in, owned by Terrace Pines Campground, just up Bents Road.
Mark and Jane Wright of Terrace Pines Campground located on Dan Hole Pond, also own the lower part of Sentinel Mountain located in Center Ossipee. Beyond the town line, the upper slopes and summit are owned by Camp Merrowvista of Center Tuftonboro. Both camps welcome hikers, and expect the land and people met there to be treated respectfully.
Recently, new signs on the trail have made the hike straightforward. We didn’t start up until 3:30 p.m. We wore hunter orange vests, but didn’t see any hunters. The trail went from one old logging road to another, but was easy to follow, with paint marks on trees. Then at a sign, it turned sharp left up the final peak.
That was one steep third of a mile. The rocky trail wound up through a shady hemlock forest, hills in the Ossipee Range growing more visible behind us to the north. Soon we could see the summit ledge ahead, and together we walked out on the top.
The views south and west opened up, with Alton Bay visible below the Belknap Range to the west. Dan Hole Pond spread east to west directly below us. Climbing up on a big glacial erratic sitting on the ledge, we could see a snow dotted Mount Washington to the north.
It was mostly cloudy with a slight fall chill in the waning day. We spent a good half hour or more up there, to get the most of this late afternoon foray in the mountains. We knew that we had headlamps for the descent if necessary. On the way down, although we took our time, we didn’t need the headlamps. But near the bottom we decided to turn one on and swing it with our stride, just in case a hunter at the end of his day heard us rustling through the dead leaves.
Later I talked to Mark Wright, who said that there had been few hunters so far, as warm weather had kept the deer stationary and hidden.
But the temperature would soon be dropping.