Working title: Old trail runners are just better
Trail: White Ledge Loop
Mileage/time: 4 miles, 1372 feet of gain, book time of 2:41, actual time of 1:56
After yesterday, and a number of contributing factors, I decided to go back, park at the same place, and do what I intended to do. I changed up a few things too. For one, just to see if my hunch was correct, I brought my beat to hell, 200+ miles on them, La Sportiva Wildcats... in place of the Raptors. It also helps that I'm staying in Conway for the next couple of days, as I take a Wilderness First Aid course at SOLO.
Starting a hike so late in the day was a bit disconcerting, but when you know your limits, and how fast you can move, you can generally pick a hike for your time allotment. Now I just need to live closer. There's also something about hiking in fading light, the unfamiliar angle of the sun, and the second golden hour of the day. That and having your first completely snow free hike of the year. Bonuses abound!
I took my time getting things together for the weekend, and didn't end up at the White Ledge Campground until just after 5. Slipping on my trusty Wildcats, which feel like slippers on my feet, I walked through the campground, and started up the trail at 5:15. Soon I reached the split, but not before I started sweating. The woods were still, and I'm sure if Rt. 16 wasn't so close, there wouldn't be a sound either... can't have everything. I decided to go clockwise, though I can see going counter would be similarly enjoyable, and spreads out the climb. But why take the easy route?
The west side of the loop climbs gradually at first, then puts the pressure on, and keeps it there almost all the way to the top. I can't say I didn't stop to take a breather, more than once, my calves burning, and my body still a bit stiff from yesterday. Hiking on back to back days doesn't often happen, but I aim to change that once I've moved. An unmarked herd path led down to a sweet little view ledge, looking out to the south at a marching string of lakes.
Further signs of spring were everywhere, sprouts popping up from under the leafy cover of last fall, and leaves unfurling from their buds.
I finally broke out onto dry, grippy, slabs, and soon reached a split. Arrows and the word VIEW pointed off in both directions. The first vista featured views out to Pleasant Mountain in Maine. The second had a decent view north towards Mt. Tremont, with Carrigain, Nancy, Bemis, and Willey all visible.
I didn't bother taking a break, instead opting to just continue along the loop. The eastern half begins by steeply descending ledges, sometimes slabbing, and brings you out to some nice views of the Moats, and the Green Hills. There are some nice glacial erratics just chilling on the ledges.
Once the trail drops off the ledge, you then need to regain a couple hundred feet of elevation, to reach the col between Round Top to the east, and White Ledge. Pesky elevation. The trail then loses elevation quickly, plunging back into the valley. The woods were dark, but the valley was the recipient of wonderful, golden light... which I can't photograph to save my life.
There was a junction that I wasn't expecting, and wasn't on my map. I would later find out that there used to be a trailhead on Rt. 16, and the trail connected with the loop here. The trail wasn't blocked off, or brushed in, but with it not on the map, I'd guess it was abandoned. I quickly made it back to the loop split, and down to the car, with nary a whimper from my feet. They like the old Wildcats, and really aren't fans of the Raptors. Something about the Wildcats having more cushion. All in all, a worthwhile, short loop hike... that I'd suggest doing in the morning.