Travel/Leisure: Climbing Pitcher Mountain

Published in The Heart of New England, July 2005:

The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of northern New England
Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont

Pitcher Mountain:
Small Climb, Big Views
by Lori Hein

I've climbed Pitcher Mountain some 50 times. This beautiful,
small peak sits four miles from my family's cottage on
Stoddard, New Hampshire's Highland Lake, and it's where
we go to indulge our bodies in exercise and fill our souls with

My 50 climbs aren't a testament to my athletic ability, but to
Pitcher Mountain's accessibility. It's a mountain that welcomes
you with quick, easy trails and rewards you with a summit
view that's hard to match. A fabulous return on time and
energy invested.

The drive to Stoddard, itself a scenic pleasure from most
locations, delivers you to the Pitcher Mountain
parking lot and trailhead on Route 123. From the parking lot,
the main hiking path, part of the Monadnock-Sunapee
Greenway, quickly offers up a choice. A rocky path on the
left heads into steep woods and straight up the fault line. Time
from trailhead to summit is about 15 minutes. This is the trail
we take when we're up for a bit of boulder-hopping or when
we want to be nestled in the cool, deep green embrace of

A wide, singsong path on the right ascends gradually, skirting
the high pastures of the Faulkner family's 200-acre Pitcher
Mountain Farm, home to about 50 tawny, long-haired
Scottish Highlanders raised as beef cattle. This is the trail we
take when we want to amble, to savor the first peek of
as it rises in the distance beyond the cows, farm
and miles of forest. This is the trail we take when we want to
follow the butterflies that seem to know the path's gentle twists
and turns. This is the trail we take in winter, when the steeper
path is icebound. Wider, sunstruck and well-trodden, this
path offers solid traction and the lovely crunch of snow

On either route, the climb lasts less than a half-hour, but the
360-degree panorama that greets you at the mountain's
2,163-foot top is endless. A steel fire tower stands anchored
to the granite, and if the watchman is on duty, you can climb
into the observation room to chat, ogle the unspoiled mountain
world that spreads in every direction and see a photograph of
the 1941 Stoddard-Marlow fire. That blaze ravaged the two
towns and destroyed
Pitcher Mountain's original wooden fire

But, in burning the mountaintop's tall trees, the fire created the
magical, unobstructed view, unusual for a short, low-elevation
climb. And it provided the nourishing soil required by the
thousands of blueberry bushes that today crown the summit.
In late summer, climbers bring buckets and baskets and coffee
cans and collect the wild berries, leaving a dollar or two in a
tin that the Faulkners nail to a parking lot tree. While some of
Pitcher Mountain is state-owned, the Faulkners own the parts
most day trippers visit.

As I stand on the summit for the 50th time, I turn myself
around in a slow, complete circle, drinking in ponds and lakes,
farms and pastures, dense, rich forests, and mountains tall and
small. I greet old friends like Mounts Monadnock and
Sunapee, Vermont's Green Mountain ski resorts lined up
across the
Connecticut River Valley, and, on very special
days when the air is crystalline, the faraway crests of the
White Mountains. I say hello to the dozens of peaks whose
names I've yet to learn.

I've come only 300 vertical feet from the parking lot. For the
50th time, I marvel at this small walk that yields such big