Peaks: Mt. Wonalancet, Hibbard Mountain, Nanamocomuck Peak, Square Ledge
Trails: Old Mast Road, Wonalancet Range Trail, Walden Trail, Square Ledge Trail
Mileage/time: 9.3 miles, 3854 feet of gain, book time of 6:36, actual time of 6:00
Solstice day, the longest day of the year, ushering in the dog days of summer. While I like summer, I have trouble properly explaining myself in the heat and humidity, that our humid continental climate provides. Sometimes the mountains provide refuge, and welcome cool breezes, but sometimes, there's no hiding from it. That, I'm sure, will be a story for the not so distant future, as this day proved to be comfortable.
After losing a lot of much needed sleep on Wednesday, and not getting anywhere near enough to make up the deficit on Thursday, Friday morning came too soon. But I had a hike to lead! I set off for Ferncroft, under cloudy skies, though at least peaks were visible as I drove up 113. Having been to Ferncroft a handful of times, I used my GPS, and in its wisdom, it sent me down a dirt road. I'm glad it did, because I never would have seen this view.
|Whiteface and Passaconaway|
Once arriving at Ferncroft, I readied myself, and awaited my three companions for the day, Elena, Dominic, and Mike. I hadn't hike with Elena since Garfield in April, and had never met Dominic before. The big field at Ferncroft wasn't full of flowers per se, but there were some in bloom.
Once we had grouped up, and were just about to head off, I realized that the strap for my camera bag was broken. Instead of trying to fix it, I attached the bag directly to my pack, and called it good. We set off up the Old Mast Road, which was used by the British to haul timber out of these woods, for use as ship masts. It was wide and gentle, and shortly, we turned on to the Wonalancet Range Trail. The trail doesn't muck around, occasionally slabbing, but mostly just going for it, as it climbs towards its namesake, Mt. Wonalancet. There is a nice ledge along the way, giving us views south towards Ossipee Lake, and east towards Paugus and Chocorua.
The sky continued to be overcast, which was a blessing, as we were all fairly warm from the climb. This also helped to keep the bugs at bay, and they turned out to not be that bad throughout the day. We passed uneventfully over the wooded, unmarked summit of Mt. Wonalancet, and continued onward towards Hibbard Mountain, a peak on the 52 With A View list. Along the way, we passed through a particularly lush, beautiful section, along the Wonalancet Range Trail.
The short climb up to Hibbard commenced, and we soon found ourselves at a small view ledge near the summit, with views back to Mt. Wonalancet, and out over the valley.
The clouds were starting to break up, and we soon crested the summit of Hibbard, where the views were less than spectacular. Is it time to de-list this peak? I'd say yes. The only decent view I could get, was by standing on a rock at the summit, and even then, it was pretty obstructed.
Moving on, we climbed over another unnamed bump, and reached the junction with the Walden Trail. I found one thing out about this trail, no matter what section you're on, it's steep! We dropped down, steeply, to a fern filled col, and our thinking was that we might just go right up the other side. Nope, we dropped a bit more, and circled around the base of Nanamocomuck Peak. Then came the steepness. Use those hands, and pull yourself up the rocks and roots. I personally love steep trails, and this one was no exception. We topped out on the unmarked, viewless, Nanamocomuck Peak, and stopped for lunch.
After lunch, we shortly reached the junction with Square Ledge Trail, and began to scrub all that elevation that we just gained. We reached the slide alongside the trail, and Mike and I scrambled up to get some views.
|Presidentials and Carters, with Hedgehog in the foreground|
|Passaconaway looming above|
We passed a couple with their dogs shortly before the Passaconaway Cut-off junction, and then started back up. Now I'm not sure we ever actually reached Square Ledge. After passing some cliffy bands, we reached the highpoint on the trail, and when it started going down again, we questioned it. Backtracking, I saw somewhat of a path, more of a bushwhack, that led out to a small view ledge.
Not terrible, but not especially view laden. No worries, Paugus was sure not to disappoint. Dropping off the high point, we descended steeply next to the reddish walls of the ledge itself, impressive.
At a clear, running stream, right near the junction with the Square Ledge Branch Trail, I figured now was as good a time as any to filter some water. While I was doing so, Dominic told me he was tired, and that he wouldn't mind waiting at the junction with Old Mast Road, while the rest of us went up and back to Paugus. I told him that we'd discuss it when we got that far, another 1.1 miles distant. The reality was, I made up my mind about halfway there, if he didn't think he could do it, we'd descend as a group from the junction. The mountain will be there another day, unless they move it on me. The Square Ledge Trail became very brushy, with foliage nearly obscuring the footbed in places. There was also deep mud, and plentiful blowdowns to navigate.
Once we reached Old Mast Road, it was pretty much all downhill. It starts off fairly narrow, and soon widens, becoming much more roadlike. The sun had come out by this point, and lit up the deciduous woods.
We popped out of the woods exactly 6 hours after we started, and I spied a car at the other end of the lot, that looked vaguely familiar to me. While walking down there to check out the plates (which would be a dead giveaway as to who it was), a truck pulled in. I immediately recognized the man as Hiker Ed Hawkins! I had met him for the first time on 12/3/2011, the day Bob (Wolfgang) completed his grid on Jefferson. He asked us if we wanted a PBR, which Mike and Elena agreed to. Myself, I'd been carrying a 22 oz bottle of White Birch Tripel in my pack for these last two hikes, and it needed to be gone. We chatted with Ed for a good hour, and just before we left, we were able to congratulate Grid finisher #38, Mike Innis (sp?), along with this hiking partner and dog.
Smoked meats were calling, so Mike and I took off to the Yankee Smokehouse. The others would have joined us, but unfortunately Elena and Dominic had to get back to Boston. A delicious meal was had, and I trucked it back to Portland.
Speaking of that red car. It wasn't who I thought it was, but I saw a post on the Facebook from my friend Xar, that she was looking for someone to run on Back Cove that evening. I texted her, saying I was into it. We missed seeing each other on Washington last Saturday (she ran the road race), when my group didn't make the summit, and it had been too damn long.
The sun was just setting, on this, the longest day of the year, when I pulled in. Of course I didn't have my actual camera, so this cell phone picture will have to suffice.
Xar pulled in, got ready, and we set off clockwise around the bay. Color drained from the sky, as we updated each other about our lives since we last saw each other, which was in November last year! By the time we neared the bridge, the moonlight was shimmering off the surface of the bay, lending a special atmosphere to the run. At this point, we walked a bit, then ran, almost to the end, when I got a nice side cramp. We decided that it had been too damn long since we had seen each other, much less done anything, and that we needed to keep the time-frame reasonable, like a month, instead of six. I won't say that it didn't leave me exhausted, but it felt good for the most part, and it might just become a Wednesday thing.
So here's to the longest day of the year, may they get shorter from here.