After balking at joining friends for Flags on the 48 on Saturday for various reasons mostly concerning the weather, we lucked out with a perfect weather day on Gunstock Mountain the following day. It was the kind of day you wish every hiking day was with clear skies, cool temps and great visibility. The previous day had been warm, wet and humid with the threat of thunderstorms later in the day. With two dogs that are a bit thunder-shy and who don't particularly like hiking in the rain, heat or humid weather, we thought it best to wait and see what the next day would bring and it paid off!
One of our old fall-backs is the Belknap Range when we want to hike and don't really want to drive for hours to and from the White Mountains. On several of our most recent trips to the Belknaps we had hiked Gunstock from the Gilford Village side rather than from the ski are, so it had been a year or more since we had been on this side. We were surprised to see that there have been quite a few changes. Constantly looking for ways to make money in the off-season ski areas have found new ways to entertain visitors. Some of the new stuff at Gunstock includes Segway rentals and a course to ride them on. There is also a rope and climbing course to try your skills as well. Most interesting to me though, and I'm sure to my grand daughter is the new zip-line course.
Zip-line riders will ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain and ride a series of zip-lines from tower to tower. It looked to me as though there were some good long rides and some steep drops and that unlike ones I have ridden before that these had a braking system whereby one could control their speed. I will be investigating these further, if not on my own, then certainly when my grand daughter returns to visit.
We hiked the Brook Trail from the parking area without incident until we were near the junction with the Belknap Trail. Here we met a couple of hikers on their way down the Brook Trail who were looking for Belknap. We turned them around and set them on the right course and headed up to Gunstock. We had a nice lunch on the deck of the pub and marveled at the clarity of the views. Occasionally zip-liners would arrive at the summit on the chairlift and minutes later we'd hear their shrieks as they zipped back down. Below us Lake Winnepesaukee looked deep and blue, and beyond we could see mountains all the way to the horizon. I spent much time trying to determine which mountains I was seeing as I had never seen so many from this vantage point before.
We hiked back down the ski trails from the summit and the dogs had a blast running back and forth through the virtual meadows. These were filled with late summer wildflowers like Aster, Goldenrod and Knapweed, and some that I didn't know. I was glad that we had taken the clockwise route as this allowed us to continue looking at the easterly views that would have been to our backs if we had gone up in the opposite direction. About half way down a hiking rail breaks off in the direction of Mount Rowe, and we followed it to the summit where there is an access road for the cell tower. The road is the trail back down to the parking area.
At the bottom we let the dogs cool off in the pond by the ski lodge and watched as zip-liners zoomed above the pond to the final tower. It was a great hike on a perfect day! Not too much for old dogs, and not too little for young dogs. They both plopped down on the ride home and fell asleep.