Well it has been a few weeks since the Sidekick and I had a chance to head off to the White Mountains so I was looking forward getting our feet back on the trail. Once again the weather didn’t look like it was going to cooperate fully and we had a smaller window then normal to complete the hike so we headed up Spruce Hill Trail to Speckled Mountain. The Spruce Hill Trail shares a parking lot with East Royce Trail, there is no facilities at this location so make sure you come already prepared with water. Spruce Hill Trail is on the opposite side of the road from parking lot, during the months of full foliage the trail head can be difficult to see because the sign for the trail is on the opposite side of the trail.
As the trail heads away from RT113 there is a noticeable difference in the trail condition then from the other trails that we visited earlier this summer. The trail was much rougher and the condition was degraded due to water erosion. The first half mile of trail winds through mostly a beech grove. This section of the trail is very rough with loose rocks covering the trail. Since this section of the trail doesn’t see a lot of traffic there are a few areas where you need to keep an eye on the trail blazes because it would be easy to get off trail especially areas that have been effected by water runoff. These runoffs often will look like the trail especially when the trail is following a stream or brook. Once the trail reaches the Caribou Speckled Mountain Wilderness Boundary line (WP Wilderness line) the forest nature changes to a majority of conifers. After passing the boundary line the elevation grade of the hillside increases and the trail will start on a series of rough switchback as it climbs up the ridge line.
After climbing up the switchback the trail reaches a small plateau which is the smaller peak of a small saddle, the trail will get a little wet here since the run off is a little restricted in the trough of the saddle. Don’t get too excited as you reach Spruce Hill there is not much of a view. If hiking over this section as a part of a longer hike this area though has a few good camping spots off the trail well sheltered and dry. After leave the mildly disappointing peak of Spruce Hill the trail does begin to get a little bit more tricky to navigate especially with a sidekick strapped to your back. The trail plunges down into a small ravine between a couple of ridge lines once again be ready for a few areas of muddy terrain and wet spots. The trail will shortly start to climb again out of the saddle and towards the ridge line of Ames Mountain.
Shortly after climbing out of the saddle we will meet our old friend Bickford Brook Trail (WP Spruce Hill Bickford Junction). Spruce Hill Trail runs into Bickford Brook Trail and ends here. The sidekick and I continued on up the Bickford Brook Trail heading towards Speckled Mountain. This section of the trail is really easy going. Bickford Brook Trail actually travels over the remnants of the old access road for the fire tower that use to be on the top of Speckled Mountain. For most of this section the trail follows the lay of Ames Mountain so this section is a great area to make up some extra time or if the Sidekick wants to do some hiking on his own.
After walking on the Bickford Brook Trail for about 3/4th of a mile we run into another intersection (WP BBT/BRT Junction) we will be leaving the Bickford Brook Trail and head towards Speckled Mountain. From this intersection it is only a half mile more until we reach the peak so keep going. After leaving this junction the trail continues to be in good condition and easy going. The trail actually will open out into a huge clearing (WP Clearing). During raspberry season this clearing will be full of fruit so a hiker should really be careful of bears in this area. The White Mountain National Forest has recently had an increase the bear population and this is a prime location for them. The path narrows into a small path as it winds through the grass and raspberry plants. Make sure you are on the right path because game trails branch off from the path in multiple locations along with a few paths that some hikers have created in heading to camp sites.
After passing through the clearing the trail becomes a good bit narrower and rocky as it makes the final ascent to the peak of Speckled Mountain. As the trail approaches the peak it will start to open up to the rock face of the mountain. There you can see what is left of the Fire Tower that use to crown this peak. All that remains are the concrete pylons that formed the mounting points for the tower. I wanted spend more time exploring the top of this area. According to the map there is suppose to be a spring in the area. The weather had been interesting during the whole hike. High winds and sprinkles of rain kept showing up and then leaving allowing the sun to shine through. One of the reasons I picked this hike was because the terrain of the area offers shelter from the worse of the wind. The sidekick was not that pleased once we were on the peak and exposed to the high winds so we headed back after only a few minutes. From what I saw while there Speckled Mountain seems to be a popular camp location when people are doing over night hikes in the area.