Mt. Tom (November 8, 2009)

Bretton Woods just opened for the season yesterday and the hiking season is closing in on us, but today was gorgeously sunny and warm with temperatures in the 50s so the prospect of doing an easy 4,000 footer was too tempting for Roger Gagne and me. The leaves are all gone from the trees now and the woods are open and gray. The hike to Mt. Tom from the AMC Highland Center is on the well-graded Avalon and A-to-Z trails, with an interesting Mt. Tom Spur side trail at the end that twists its way through the woods to the top. We followed beautiful Crawford Brook on the way up and crossed a number of small ravines where the stream trickled through the ice (left). There were dustings of snow on the trail even though the day was warm (right).
Mt. Tom has two really nice outlooks. The first one to the north is permanent and gives a great view of Mt. Webster and Crawford Notch (left) and of the Southern Presidentials (right). That alone would be worth the trip. We stopped there to munch on trail food and were soon joined by a pair of grey jays (below left), a reliable fixture of the mountains when you get to 4000'. They were ready for lunch so I shared some of my granola bars with them. I know we're not supposed to feed wildlife but grey jays are definitely the exception. First of all they're awfully cute and eat out of your hand, providing endless entertainment; second of all they're awfully cute and have it rough at 4000' so let's not deprive them of some extra calories. If I can feed chickadees on my deck then I can feed grey jays on Mt. Tom.
After the grey jays had their fill we moved on to the other outlook on the southern side of the mountain, looking east towards the Zealand Valley (right - blow up the picture to see the hut) and south towards the Pemi Wilderness. This is a temporary outlook resulting from a blow-down a few years ago. I've been on Mt. Tom each of the past three years and note with regret that the trees are growing back - we had to push our way a bit out of the trail this time to get our views. They're still awfully nice and something to enjoy while we can - and while waiting for the next blow-down! Trees don't belong on mountaintops anyway. With this deep thought out of the way it was back to the Highland Center - a 4-h hike. Still time for Roger to watch the Patriots and for me to wrap up the day with some tennis.

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