July 11, 2016

Hiking Mt. Fayal

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

View from the summit of Mount Fayal.
Before I had actually climbed the mountain, I’d seen iconic photographs taken from the summit that inspired me to make the trek. The Mt. Fayal hiking trail is a one-mile loop that reaches a gorgeous lookout over Squam Lake, and took me past many captivating sights along the way. Knowing there wasn’t yet a full map and summary of the hiking trails for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, I found this to be a perfect opportunity to map the trails while I climbed.

Prior to beginning the ascent, you have several options for reaching the Mt. Fayal trailhead. My choice was by following the exhibit trail towards the amphitheater. From this point, I walked to the right, away from the amphitheater and towards the marsh boardwalk. Before the marsh boardwalk, a mowed pathway cuts back through the vegetation on the right; this trail, the end of the ecotone trail, will connect you to the Mt. Fayal trailhead. However, if you get yourself on any three of the Science Center’s hiking trails, you will eventually see one, if not a few, trail signs describing where you are and where you’re going.

View from first lookout.
I eagerly bounded up the slope, recording my movements using a voice recorded on my phone as I excitedly peered around the peaceful forest. I will make it clear now that ascending the side closer to the Welcome Center is the steeper part of the trail. Taking full advantage of lunging my lunch away, I was surprised it took no more than fifteen minutes to reach the first lookout, with a view so nice I first assumed it was the summit. Plopped there on a bench, I did not hesitate to enjoy the vistas for a second while a scrawled in my notes. I continued to go up a little bit further until the path began to level out as I reached the summit. As I finished this leg, I walked towards another bench facing a clearing and was stunned as I continued to move past the vegetation blocking my view. What a sight! After twenty, twenty-five minutes of hiking, I was looking at the iconic images of the lake I had seen from photographs. You should know, seeing the view in person after a sweaty scramble to the summit, is about 100 times more breathtaking than you’d imagine by just looking at snapshots.

After breaking, I continued on the trail from behind the bench, as it plateaued and eventually descended. The descent wasn’t as steep as the trail coming up, but loose rocks might make it slightly more difficult for inexperienced hikers. The Mt. Fayal loop trail intersects with the Forest Trail on this side of the loop, near the Piper Homestead. I was thrilled to find that the trails intersected at such a perfect spot; the only remains of the Piper Homestead is the stone cellar hole, but it’s accompanied by an informational signboard with artifacts on display. Overlooking the cellar hole, while reading about the history of the homestead, I was fascinated to learn the homestead included a barn once located on the opposite side of the trail, but both had burned down in a fire. From the Piper Homestead, you can continue up on the Forest Trail or continue on the Mt. Fayal Trail back down to the Welcome Center, like I did. At the bottom, I turned left to where the trail intersects with the Ecotone Trail, as I made my way back towards the Welcome Center.

From start to finish, the hike took me through various landscapes with enthralling sights along the way, in a matter of about 45 minutes. I did, in fact, encounter some wildlife on my hike - a black bear to be exact. Though this was my first experience coming face-to-face with a black bear, I was experienced enough to know to make noise on the trail, which most likely kept him at bay. When hiking the Mt. Fayal trail, or any trail for that matter, your chances of running into wildlife aren’t zero, thanks to growing populations of humans ultimately leading to shrinking habitat for bears and other wildlife.

When it comes to black bears, know this: these curious creatures can smell you from a mile away and will almost always keep their distance from humans. This brings me to my next point: the bears I am referencing are not the man-eating, ferocious grizzly bear from The Revenant. Black bears tend to have a more docile attitude and typically have a healthy fear of other bears and humans. There is a loophole here, though, if you come across a black bear cub GET OUT OF THERE! Black bears protect their cubs at all costs, especially if they feel like a hiker is encroaching on their family picnic - you want to give the bear as much space as possible.

Tips for hiking (anywhere, really):
  1. Make noise on the trail! I keep all of my keys on a big carabiner (an almost janitor-sized collection), which I hooked to my side-strap camera bag to make a nice jingle-y, clanging noise while I walked. Other ideas? Attach a tin or aluminum cup, attach your whole mess kit even, or try putting some bells on your pack. I know everyone likes peaceful walks in the woods, but making noise will help alert a bear that something is near and will advise the bear to stay at a distance. In my case, when I heard the bear, he was already watching me walk away from about 400 feet off in the woods. 
  2. Hike in open areas so you can see into the woods (and see the bear, and it can see you) Where I was hiking, there was great visibility off the trail so that both the bear and I could see each other from about 400 feet away. If you know you’ll be hiking on a densely vegetated trail, plan ahead with steps 1 and 3. 
  3. Carry bear deterrent spray; it makes for a great backup plan if the situation gets sticky 
  4. Remember to stay calm! The second you feel the adrenaline kick in, gulp it down, and calmly take charge. Depending on the bear and the encounter, there are different steps to take to avoid further contact. Thus, I recommend doing more research about how to handle even closer bear encounters, particularly when bears become defensive
Here are some links on how to escape a bear in the wild:
  • http://www.wikihow.com/Escape-from-a-Bear 
  • http://www.bearsmart.com/play/bear-encounters/ 
A great way to see black bears safely is from the black bear exhibit at the Science Center! Both of our ambassador black bears can be visited at their exhibit, daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm with the last trial admission at 3:30 pm. Along with being able to watch the bears in their daily routines, the black bear exhibit features countless educational activities and displays to keep you entertained and curious!

Interested in more black bear information? You’re invited to come listen to expert Ben Kilham speak at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center at 7:00 pm on August 9 as a part of our Adult Lecture Series. Ben Kilham has studied these animals in a vast tract of Northern New Hampshire woodlands. At times, he has also taken in orphaned infant bears- feeding them, walking them through the forest for months to help them decipher their natural world, and eventually reintroducing them back into the wild. Ben Kilham has even been featured in five internationally televised documentaries, as well as making appearances on over forty radio shows. Don’t miss the opportunity to understand black bears from the perspective of a well-seasoned expert! There is no charge for attendance but reservations are required and can be made by calling 603-968-7194 x7.

1 comment:

Teresa B said...

Awesome article. Thank you for the information!