At a major trail junction before crossing Johns Brook, we elected to take a short-cut along older trails in order to avoid the slightly more circuitous route that goes by Johns Brook Lodge itself. This was probably a mistake, as we discovered that the older trails that across Johns Brook were not at all broken out and in fact we really couldn't see where they were. We resorted to simply cutting across at the closest point to the trail on the far bank, and fortunately the snowpack was still good enough to allow us to cross Johns Brook with little effort. Soon we were at the junction with the main Johns Brook valley arterial trail (the Phelps Trail), at which point we elected to switch back to microspikes for the long (5km or so) hard-packed walk back to the Garden Trailhead.
Off-trail Johns Brook Crossing
Joining with Phelps Trail
The walk back to the Garden Trailhead along the main Johns Brook Valley trail (the Phelps Trail) was both easy and hard. Easy because it is generally a mildly undulating, downward-trending grade, wide, well-packed, and free of brush; Hard because we'd now been hiking for twelve hours and our feet were sore and we were tired. But, there was nothing to do but to trudge, and so trudge we did.
We got about halfway along the remaining walk back to the trailhead before dusk grew enough to require headlamps. We could now taste the refreshing drinks waiting for us at the Stewart's in nearby Keene, and that quickened our steps a bit. We arrived back to the trailhead by headlamp at roughly 8 p.m. - a rather long fourteen hours after setting out. Not the fastest time, but nevertheless an excellent time (of a different sort, if you know what I mean). This had definitely been the most spectacular of Brian's winter 2023 hiking series, and now he's well-positioned at having completed twenty-nine winter summits, with only seventeen to go. Congrats, Brian!
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong and Gothics Loop - click map to view
Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong and Gothics Loop - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet