When I did my Sandwich Range traverse I stuck to the central part of the range where all the 4000 footers were. I knew that I would return to the Sandwich Range eventually to hike Sandwich Dome. I had seen it from the ledges of Welch and Dickey and thought that it looked interesting, as well as a sharp rocky knob standing near the mountain. On top of that, Sandwich Dome was a New England Hundred Highest, falling just 40 feet short of making the 4000 Footer lists.
So on a Sunday morning in June I left my house at 4:00 am to get to trail head around sunrise to be done before some forecasted rain descended upon the mountains. On the way I stopped beside a swamp to take a photo of sunrise.
I got to trail head at 5:45 am, and found it empty of cars and people. It was cool and cloudy with a breeze from the west. The hike started off easy, the Sandwich Mountain Trail made its way across lowlands and passed a buzzing power junction. After crossing Drakes Brook (which could be difficult to cross in high waters, but not that day) and hiking deeper into the woods the trail became more moderate and eventually steep as it approached Noon Peak.
In researching the hike I knew I would hit two peaks on the way to Sandhich Dome, the first was Noon Peak. I arrive at the flat and open peak at 6:40 am.
The peak afforded some nice vistas to the east as well as views of my next peak and my destination, Sandwich Dome. The trail dove into the forest, dropped into a col and then climbed up toward Jennings Peak, in places the climb was steep. I came to the Jennings Peak spur trail and took it. I arrived at Jennings Peak at 7:30 am and realized that it must’ve been the rocky knob that I had seen from Dickey and Welch.
I enjoyed the views and sat for a snack. To the south I saw another rocky knob that looked like it would be a great little hike in the future.
I found it a little hard to push on as Jennings Peak was definitely a pleasant little peak to hang out on and explore, but move on I did. Back at the Sandwich Mountain Trail I started the final climb to Sandwich Dome and entered the Sandwich Range Wilderness.
It was a moderate hike through old forest up to Sandwich Dome. I arrived at 8:15 am and had another snack. To the northwest I could see weather approaching from Mount Moosilauke.
I saw a herd path near the summit and tried following it, hoping I would find another vista. But, it petered out and after a short stint of bushwhacking I turned back. I headed down the trail I had come but when I got to the intersection with Drakes Brook Trail I took it. The trail descended quickly but then flattened out as it crossed and followed the Drakes Brook back to the parking lot. According to my notes I twisted ankle and fell at some point, but don’t really recall the incident.
After crossing Drakes Brook a final time the trail followed an old logging road to the parking lot. I was surprised to find an abundance of Lady’s Slippers along the road.
At one spot near the parking lot there was a copse of saplings and when I crouched to look below them I saw the bold pink splotches of hundreds of Lady’s Slippers tucked out of sight.
It reminded me of my “Secret Garden” as a young child. Near the cottage that my grandparents stayed in during summers on Long Island, Maine, there was a clearing in the woods where dozens of Lady’s Slippers grew. My grandmother and I would walk to this spot frequently to look at the flowers. Being orchids, Lady’s Slippers did not grow easily, so they were somewhat rare to see and a pleasure to behold. Later someone built a house nearby and my Secret Garden was turned into a driveway.
I drove home through rain and was back in time to spend the afternoon with my family. The goal of the hike was to bag Sandwich Dome, needed for my New England Hundred Highest list, but Jennings Peak was the highlight of the hike. I love impromptu hikes with a small goal but where you end up discovering something you unexpectedly fall in love with. I look forward to visiting Jennings Peak again.
Going to the mountains is going home.
Video of Sandwich Dome hike
Music from Free Music Archive: “Calm the Fuck Down” by Broke for Free
MAPS & STATS
Date Hiked: 05 June 2016
Trail Conditions: dry, damp
Weather: cloudy, sprinkling
Wind: breezy from West
Highest Elevation: 3960′
Elevation Gain: 2700′
Distance: 8.7 miles
Book Time: 5:45
Actual Time: 4:45
Tracing White Mountains Trails:
Sandwich Mountain Trail
Jennings Peak Spur
Drakes Brook Trail