The Official Old Mountain Coffee® Giant Wilderness Traverse™
In late July, Strat and I did an extended version of the classic Rocky Peak-Giant traversal: starting at the east trailhead in New Russia, traversing Rocky Peak Ridge to Giant, but then instead of descending directly to 73, taking the north trail off the “back” of Giant deeper into the wilderness near Green, and then over Hopkins and Spread Eagle before finishing right in Keene Valley. Or more precisely, finishing at the door of Old Mountain Coffee for post-hike treats.
This was a very fun, mellow, quiet trip! We had both seen all of these summits, but had not seen the east approach (except Strat, in the winter), nor any of the trails connecting Giant to Hopkins, nor the descent from Spread Eagle to the Beede Road neighborhood. So, lots of new experiences punctuated by visits to familiar peaks. And we had the whole place to ourselves: only saw a single other party on trails the whole day.
It was a very damp and unseasonably cool morning following a long day of rain, so the whole first half was walking through magical rainforests of massive old-growth trees, or shivering inside clouds along the open ridge lines. We could swear some of that fine mist was snow. But endless ripe blueberries, interesting stunted oak trees, the steady trickle of fun little rock scrambles, and plenty of conversation kept us moving. We both get cold easily and are very stubborn about digging warm layers out of our packs, so that’s just how we do things.
We misremembered the exact sequence of the little peaks and features along that ridge traversal, so the middle part felt endless, and then unexpectedly we found ourselves on Rocky Peak. Felt good to be on one of the few parts of trail we knew just as a bit of sun came out to warm us up, and we made excellent time getting over to Giant.
Next was the descent along the north trail toward Green. We had talked about maybe bushwhacking up Green to work on our hundred-highest log, but I had an excellent rationalization for our cold tired bodies to save this for another day: a full east-to-west traversal of Green starting in the brook near Owl’s Head sounded way more interesting. I had read there were cool rock formations, why miss out on that?
Anyway, the north trail was a treat. Always interesting to see how different these lesser-used trails can feel. This was a primeval area full of green mosses and ferns, gray mist, and the rich reds and browns of rotting wood. All of these colors were even more saturated after the rain. It felt like moving through a waking dream or some fantasy film.
On the way to Hopkins, the trail goes over a bump on the shoulder of Green through a rather shadowy stretch of spruces. To add to the spooky mood, we found lots of ghost pipes growing at the edges of the trail. So I named this Ghost Pipe Mountain.
The clouds finally broke just in time for our arrival at the Hopkins summit, and we savored dry rock and spectacular views. It’s one of our favorite summit views. Then time to finish up, we were ready for snacks so we hurried down into town. We had started the day with a stop at Old Mountain to fuel up before the hike, and now were finishing it there, reporting the day’s exploits to Nick—the same barista who saw us off in the morning.
Good times and a fun route. I would revisit this in every season to see how the terrain, views, and effort levels change in various conditions.
Here’s some Strava data.