Saturday, April 20, 2013

Potash and Hedgehog 4/18/13

Working title: Dueling Banjos

Peaks: Potash Mountain, Hedgehog Mountain

Trails: Downes Brook Trail, Mt. Potash Trail, UNH Trail

Mileage/time: 9.2 miles, 3200 feet of gain, book time of 6:10, actual time of 8:15

This report is a day or so behind schedule, sometimes life gets in the way of writing. I planned on writing it yesterday, but between looking at a house, and the beautiful weather, I couldn't very well keep myself inside. It got so warm here in Portland yesterday, that I broke out the shorts, and with my roommate in tow, went skating. Our first foray gave us everything, bright sunshine, a breeze to push against, and luck with traffic lights, allowing us a mostly uninterrupted run into the Old Port. Later in the afternoon, we set out again, but clouds had overtaken the sky, and drizzle fell on us occasionally. We watched a fog bank, sitting just off some of the inner islands of Casco Bay, blowing parallel to the shore. By the time we started back, the wind shifted, and the fog soon enveloped the city. It was a glorious day.

But I digress. Back to the mountains.

This would be another Meetup hike, with me again in the lead, but this time for Northeast Peakbaggers. I would be joined by my good friend Mike, Theresa (who we both met on Sandwich Mountain), and Leslie (and her dog Banjo). Now, I'll start off with an apology to Leslie. When she pulled into the lot, I went over to introduce myself, and she hopped out of the car and said, "nice to meet you again". I'll admit, she looked familiar, but I couldn't place where I knew her from. I'd find out later in the day, that we had met up with her and her friend Sandy(i, ie?) when Mike and I did Moosilauke back in January. Apparently, I did too much, and met too many people this winter, my apologies!

Once everyone got situated, and Mike moved his truck away from a large hole in the parking lot, we set off up the Downes Brook Trail just after 8, snowshoes on our packs.

The trail was haphazardly snow covered from the start, but it was firm enough that we were able to walk on it without postholing. The real fun would begin once we were on the Mt. Potash Trail, which we turned onto after a brief 0.3 miles. Now to the crossing of Downes Brook. There was evidence of a torrent in here, definitely from Irene. We got across the initial open section via a sturdy branch, and then were able to rock hop in a rather circuitous manner, to the other side. Every rock I stepped on moved, even the big ones! It was disconcerting to say the least. With the crossing out of the way, we started upward, putting on microspikes at the point when the trail crosses a logging road. This road can be used to bypass the crossing of Downes Brook in high water, it's accessed from the Kanc, about 0.2 miles west of the trailhead.

Up and up we climbed, until we broke out onto some ledges below the summit of Potash. Even though it was overcast by the time we reached them, the summits were clear, and there were great views over to Passaconaway and Paugus.

My camera likes to get its white balance settings messed with, hence the odd coloration of the last two pictures. No worries though, I fixed it once we reached the summit. After ducking back into the woods briefly, we broke out again on open ledges, for the final climb. We soon reached the summit, which has far reaching views, ranging from the south, to the west, to the north.

The Hancocks and Carrigain

Whiteface, South Potash, The Sleepers, and South Tripyramid


Zoom on Carrigain

The Captain, in the center

The Sleepers
I had remembered to bring another lens with me today. The one I've been using most recently, has an issue on my camera, referred to as a "cyan shift", affecting the top and bottom right corners of my pictures. In addition, I brought an old warhorse, my 50mm Leica Summarit, which thanks to a 2x crop factor on my camera, turns into a 100mm. For a lens that was manufactured in 1949, it still gives (in my opinion) newer optics a run for their money.

Banjo on Potash
After an extended break on Potash, we began our descent. Some of us switched back to microspikes after the ledges, myself being the only one staying in bareboots. The crossing was done via the same route as on the way in, and we soon found ourselves back at the trailhead. We took a minute or two, and ditched our snowshoes in our vehicles. Banjo was overjoyed when Leslie called to him, and we started back up the trail, this time on the UNH trail.

The UNH trail is a loop, going up one side of Hedgehog, and coming down the other. I'm not sure where I had read it, but I had seen a recommendation, saying to do the loop counter-clockwise. In our experience, we would have rather done it clockwise, more on that later. We encountered the same mixed conditions as we had on Potash. Some snow, some ice, the dreaded monorail, which was still stable. Sooner than later, we arrived at the spur trail for Allen's Ledge, and took it.

Bear Mountain from Allen's Ledge

The group on Allen's Ledge
There was another big ledge just next to Allen's Ledge, and I took a look to see if it was climbable. Handholds were minimal, and footholds were tenuous at best. Banjo made it to the top via another route, and looked down at us from the top. I went around and found an easier way, Leslie and Mike made it up the steep way.

"It doesn't look so bad from down here"
Back on the trail, we soon found ourselves at the summit of Hedgehog, which has great views from various ledges on and around the summit.

Tripyramids rising over Potash to the West

The mighty Passaconaway


Another extended break later, we pushed on. Now we realized that it would have been better to ascend this way. The terrain off the summit was steep, and in current conditions, I would have rather been climbing up it. It soon mellowed out, and we were treated to more views from the eastern ledges. There were a couple of spots off trail that would make great camping spots, and we saw evidence of old fires to corroborate that. The rest of the loop was nice, dropping you into open hardwoods, with a continued monorail, and some mud. Once we skirted the edge of a clear cut (thanks to the Kanc 7 logging project), we popped back out at the loop junction, and made our way to the cars.

The ladies took off towards their respective homes. Mike and I had other plans, a short diversion to the Yankee Smokehouse, where we filled up on smoked meats and other delicious things.

Thanks to all of you for a spectacular day!

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