Saturday, August 30, 2014

The long valleys of the Sandwich Range 8/29/14

Working title: It's just right there!

New red-lining miles: 10.9

Keeping up the red-lining blitz, I finally netted plans to hike with my friend and fellow redliner Ashley. This one was a mutually beneficial hike for the both of us, here's to mostly new trails!

Hike #1: Church Pond

Trail: Church Pond Loop

Mileage/time: 2.2 miles, 124' of gain, book time of 1:10, actual time of 0:54

Waking early (4:30) and arriving early, as is my wont, I awaited Ashley's arrival at Sabbaday Brook. The current construction on the Kanc slowed her up, so we started out a bit later than anticipated. Driving back through, we pulled into Passaconaway Campground, and found the small trailhead for Church Pond Loop. The trail being called a loop is a falsehood, though it did used to be, the Forest Service having decommissioned the eastern half of the loop back in 2012. Not bothering with packs for this short hike, we set off. Nearly right away, the trail crosses (fords) the Swift River, which was anything but swift on this day. Taking off our shoes, we waded across in calf deep water... on the return, we just walked through. The trail itself was great, mostly flat, with a soft carpet of fir needles to walk on. Ending in a grove of red pines above the pond, and a bootleg campsite, we took a short herd path down to the shore, where a view of the area we were about to hike in greeted us. Back across the river, we hopped back in the car to head across the street... literally.

A view from Church Pond

Hike #2: The Long Valleys

Peaks: Mt. Whiteface (4019'), East Sleeper (3855'), West Sleeper (3881'), South Tripyramid (4080'), Middle Tripyramid (4120'), North Tripyramid (4160')

Trails: Downes Brook Trail, Kate Sleeper Trail, Rollins Trail, East Sleeper Spur, herd path, Mt. Tripyramid Trail, Sabbaday Brook Trail

Mileage/time: 16.6 miles, 4717' of gain, book time of 10:39, actual time of 8:47

Over to the Downes Brook trailhead, there were a couple of cars, and we hoped they were all hiking Potash or Hedgehog. Heading up, we began the first of two valley walks for the day. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cool, with the sun coming and going. Also perfect, was the current dry spell, which led to stream crossings being relatively low. This is a big deal on the two valley trails, as Downes Brook has ten (yes ten!) crossings, and Sabbaday Brook has seven, all challenging in high water.

Downes Brook Trail offered up very pleasant walking, and was only moderately steep as it neared the top. Footing was generally fantastic, with very little in the way of rock and root, making for easy hiking, and a quick pace. Partway up, we ran into a nice gentleman who lost the trail briefly, and was correcting as we passed by. Near the top, the constant sound of the brook went subterranean, and we emerged at the mossy junction with Kate Sleeper Trail.

A representative section of Downes Brook Trail

Downes Brook

Fall foliage? Already?!

Blowdowns across the brook

Taking a break for some food at the junction, the silence was nearly deafening. No wind, and barely the sound of water percolating toward Downes Brook, made for an idyllic scene. Back on our feet, the red-lining continued. First, we headed up the eastern section of Kate Sleeper, to the junction with Rollins Trail... and because it was right there, went and tagged the viewless summit of Mt. Whiteface. Back down to the junction, we carried on to the west. The last time I'd been on Kate Sleeper Trail was in June of 2012, before Hurricane "Superstorm" Sandy came through and decimated a large swath of the trail near East Sleeper. An incredible amount of work was required to saw a path through this blowdown field! Bonking slightly on the steep ascent to the spur trail, we made our way to the summit of East Sleeper (a New England 100 Highest peak), where the 360 degree trees were quite inviting.

Unknown flower in a boggy area just off of Kate Sleeper Trail

The exciting summit of Mt. Whiteface

Path through the blowdowns

Blowdown hell

Whorled Aster (Aster acuminatus)

360 degree trees

Following another brief food break, we sallied forth. The rest of Kate Sleeper Trail was very smooth sailing, and we checked out the herd path to West Sleeper (a New Hampshire 100 Highest peak), also because it was right there! Crossing the eastern leg of the South Tripyramid Slide, we got our first views of the day, an especially dramatic look across the valley to Sandwich Dome, then started the climb of the upper part of the slide proper. A welcome breeze was at our backs, as it got warm quickly in the sun. Into the woods again, we hit the wooded summit of South Tripyramid (a Trailwrights 72 peak), another in our now four summit strong string of viewless peaks!

Sandwich Dome

Looking over the Lost Pass area out to the Lakes Region

South Tripyramid Slide

Heading north along the ridge, we ran into a guy and his dog, running along, asking if the last Tripyramid was in the direction he was heading. Saying it was, we continued toward Middle, where we got our first summit (or near summit) views of the day, a good look out across the long valleys to Passaconaway and Chocorua. Steeply down, we reached the junction with Sabbaday Brook Trail, our exit, but not before hitting North Tripyramid... because it was right there! Being passed once again by the guy and his dog, we soon hit the summit, where his companion was waiting for him. Wishing them well, we checked out the north viewpoint, before scooting back to the junction ourselves.

Middle Peak, with Washington peeking to the right

Chocorua and Passaconaway, with Pleasant Mountain in Maine in the background

The Osceolas

A fungus among us!

North view to the Presidentials from North Tripyramid

Now on Sabbaday Brook Trail, we descended moderately for a short stretch, then plummeted into the valley on steep rock slabs. Not something to ascend or descend in the wet! Passing a framed outlook over the shoulder of the Fool Killer to Chocorua, the grade eased, and at the first water crossing, we took a break and filled up. The rest of the hike out was great, if not long feeling and somewhat blowdown filled, with smooth footing between questionable stream crossings, all being somewhat problematic due to storm damage and blowdowns. Past the wilderness boundary, we soon came upon the massive tourist attraction that is Sabbaday Falls, and the wide gravel path that leads to it. Skirting around and between the touristas, we made it out to Ashley's waiting Jeep. A solid sub-9 hour loop... killed it!

Chocorua over the shoulder of the Fool Killer

Sabbaday Brook Trail

The Peeled Birch


Ashley descending along with Sabbaday Brook

A small cascade emptying into the main brook

The construction crews had done a lot of work on the Kanc during the day, and most of the previously dirt sections, were now paved. Ashley dropped me at my car, and we agreed to meet back up in Conway for some dinner, since it was after 6pm, and we were both rather hungry. During my drive into town, I was waylaid briefly at the Albany Covered Bridge, as a hapless tourist with a bike on this roof rack, had to remove it, as he couldn't get through the other side of the bridge! Dinner and beer commenced at the Black Cap Grille, and we parted ways, with a plan in place for another hike. I stopped by my brother's house on my way back, and hung out with him for a bit, before heading home and getting some much needed sleep.

Thanks to Ashley for a great day in the Sandwich Range, and congratulations on knocking off a couple peaks (on lists you may or may not be doing!) and on getting to 31.7%!


  1. Yet another killer hike. You are FAST these days. Pretty sure you are not the same person I met a few short years ago. :>

    1. Stronger (mostly) every time I go out! I'm still the same bacon loving, beer drinking, SOB... just a bit quicker (NOT more streamlined) than before. :)

  2. I have no words..... Wow......