“When you’re young you prefer the vulgar months, the fullness of the seasons. As you grow older you learn to like the in-between times, the months that can’t make up their minds. Perhaps it’s a way of admitting that things can’t ever bear the same certainty again.” ~ Julian Barnes
Seeing as change is the only real constant, it was fitting that these four days featured all sorts of it. With few exceptions, leaves are off the trees throughout the Whites, obscuring the trails and creating a slippery nuisance of their own. It would appear that "stick season" is (hopefully) destined to be short-lived, and with a little luck, the snow should soon be piling up at all elevations. There. Will. Be. Skiing.
Wednesday 11/12: Chocorua 'B' trails
Peak: Mt. Paugus - South Peak (3080')
Trails: Champney Brook Trail, Bolles Trail, Bee Line Cutoff, Bee Line Trail (Paugus Branch), Old Paugus Trail, Bee Line Trail (Chocorua Branch), Brook Trail, Liberty Trail, West Side Trail, Piper Trail, Champney Falls Loop
Mileage/time: 16.0 miles, 5416' of gain, book time of 10:40, actual time of 7:46
New redlining miles: 9.2
In desperate need of a solo day I put together this "sort of" loop, to satisfy not only the need for big solo miles/gain, but new trails of course. Ashley was planning a solo day as well, and it looked like we would cross paths at the junction of Bee Line and Old Paugus trails. Game on!
A super early start (and two trips back to my house for things I forgot!) got me on trail just after 7, clouds hanging low, drizzle falling lightly, and fairly warm temperatures. The Bolles Trail is really great, crossing the height of land between Mt. Paugus and Mt. Chocorua at easy grades, passing the remains of a logging camp and the former Paugus Mill.
Finishing off this section down to Bickford Trail, I turned around and went up Bee Line Cutoff to the Paugus branch of Bee Line. Here's where the real climbing started! Though slightly obscure at the start, the trail became more defined, and got gaining in short order (1100' in 0.9 miles!). Climbing into the fog, I got to the junction quickly (and was a sweaty mess), where I checked my phone. Ashley and I had been updating each other throughout our hikes, and since she wasn't there yet, I decided to head toward Paugus to meet up with her. Just before the summit, there she was... so I ran up, tagged the summit, and returned to hike down with her to the junction. Both our days were going well, though the humidity and the warmth made it difficult to regulate temperature.
After a snack and me mentioning bears on Bickford Trail (where Ashley was headed, I'm horrible), we parted ways. Down steeply on the Bee Line back to Bolles, I took a nice spill after stepping on a wet log, very much reminiscent of a cartoon fall, and just as amusing! The other side of Bee Line was a joy, climbing up to Brook Trail at easy to moderate grades, a far cry from its more westerly twin. Back into the fog, I decided against hitting Chocorua, and the ledges on the upper Brook Trail only reinforced my decision. Besides, why ruin a perfectly good view record (currently 4 for 4 on Chocorua)!
Around the summit on the West Side Trail, I got to business on Champney Brook Trail, making a fast descent to the falls. While not running well, the falls are still impressive in their own right. Down the remaining sections, I ran into two women who I scared the hell out of, making it out to my car just before 3.
Driving toward Conway, I got in touch with Ashley and met up with her and her sister at the Muddy Moose, where I met Whitney for the first time! An early dinner, beers, and a chance meeting with Mike and Brett solidified a hike the next day... though we didn't yet know where.
|Near the height-of-land on Bolles Trail|
|Prayer flags just off trail|
|Stove door at an old logging camp|
|Bee Line Cutoff scenery|
|The upper Paugus branch of the Bee Line Trail|
|Contortion required on Old Paugus Trail|
|Nearing the south peak of Mt. Paugus|
|Around the rock|
|A typical section of the Chocorua branch of Bee Line|
|Ledges on Brook Trail|
|Cascade above Champney Falls|
Thursday 11/13: Speckled looping
Peaks: Speckled Mountain (2906'), Durgin Mountain (2404'), Butters Mountain (2246'), Red Rock Mountain (2141')
Trails: Cold Brook Trail, Red Rock Trail, Miles Notch Trail
Mileage/time: 13.0 miles, 4320' of gain, book time of 8:40, actual time of 7:52
New redlining miles: ~6.8
After some decision-making Wednesday night, we told Mike (and also Brett) to meet us at Sunrise Shack for 6am. Well 6am came, and Ashley and I were 10 minutes late to the restaurant... but no Mike or Brett. Coffee in hand, we waited a bit, until I sent a text to Mike saying we hadn't been joking about 6am. He had read it as 8, and told us to order! Brett showed up shortly thereafter, followed by Mike. A classic start to the day!
A rough ride commenced, up over Hurricane Mountain Road into Chatham, then out Deer Hill Road into Stoneham. We stopped at the abandoned base lodge for the old Evergreen Valley Ski Area, we'll be back to check it out further this winter. Finding the Miles Notch/Great Brook trailhead wasn't bad, and we went back to the Cold Brook Trail to start out. Relying on memory (and not having the guide with me), the start was ambiguous... the trail sign is at the road, but you can drive up more than a mile to a pullout before a washout (ROUGH). A friendly hunter ("Mike, he's got a gun, RUN!" ~ Brett) directed us where to park, but we now know that we had to start at the trail sign for the whole trail to count. Blasphemy.
The lower Cold Brook Trail is a mess, logged all to hell, and not marked at all as far as I could tell. Following the most obvious route, we eventually came to the WMNF boundary, and the trail became more like a trail. Passing the junction for Evergreen Link, we started climbing more steadily, soon breaking out onto the first in a series of fantastic ledges on the south ridge of Speckled. Over a couple of subsidiary bumps and passed a small tarn, we got up to the summit of Speckled, and were almost instantly set upon by a pair of Gray Jays. Great views all around, and cute (needy) birds provided much entertainment.
Next up was the long east ridge of Speckled traversed by the Red Rock Trail. You may recall my trip across this ridge (HERE if you don't) this past spring, in the clouds, so I was excited to have some views along the way. Also, the Red Rock Trail is one of my personal favorite low elevation ridge walks in the Whites. The highlights are the picturesque little cols, the summit ledges of Red Rock, and the ledges and cliffs accessed by a short herd path near the summit. There are few better perches, and it must be amazing in the fall foliage.
Our descent on Miles Notch was made tedious by downed leaves (damn the leaves!), and an unnecessary ~400' climb over a small ridge with little more than a mile to go. We still made it out without headlamps, and bounced up the rough road to Mike's truck. Beers and dinner at Delaney's, before further relaxation and sleep, another hike was upon us for Friday!
|Cold Brook Trail|
|South to Pleasant Mountain|
|The long ridge we'll be traversing in the foreground|
|I'll call it Speckled Tarn|
|The Baldfaces from Cold Brook Trail|
|The Kearsarge Group and the Sandwich Range|
|Cold Brook Trail|
|Gray Jay photobomb|
|Gray Jays want morsels|
|The Royces and Moriahs|
|Carters and Mt. Washington|
|One of many pleasant cols on Red Rock Trail|
|Gorgeous white mosses|
|A giant at the Great Brook junction|
|Eye in the rock|
|Out to Kezar Lake from near Red Rock|
|Red Rock cliffs|
|Great woods descending Miles Notch Trail|
Friday 11/14: Shelburne stragglers
Peaks: Crow's Nest (1287'), Mt. Cabot (1512'), Mt. Ingalls (2242')
Trails: White Trail, Orange (Wiggin) Trail, Blue Trail, Red Trail, Yellow Trail, Scudder Trail, Mt. Cabot Connector
Mileage/gain: 11.2 miles, 3308' of gain, book time of 7:15, actual time of "I'm pretty sure we beat it"
New redlining miles: 7.8
Awaking early, there was a surprise on the ground... SNOW! Ashley's wish for the leaves to become a non-factor had come true! Grabbing coffee, we headed to Gorham to meet up with Whitney and Chris (Superwoman and Superman), for some of the colorful trails in Shelburne. Finding the trailhead for the White Trail was somewhat of an adventure in itself (with no guide of course), but we got there and got going, snow crunching underfoot. This was the area to be hiking in on this day.
Our route was circuitous: Up the White Trail, back down to Orange Trail, up the Orange Trail to the Blue Trail, down to the Yellow and Red trails, up the Blue Trail to Mt. Cabot, down the Red Trail to the Yellow Trail, Yellow Trail to Scudder Trail, Scudder Trail over Mt. Ingalls to Rays Pond, and an up and back on the Cabot-Ingalls Connector on the way down. Ridiculously confusing, helped by signage at junctions that were set back in the woods, real awesome.
Flagging in all the colors of the rainbow (blazes too) was very prevalent on these trails, as they are much disrupted by logging. The snow helped, and I don't think they would have been anywhere near as attractive without it. We had some decent views from Crow's Nest, several directional views from near Mt. Cabot, and very good ledge views on the upper Scudder Trail. Snow squalls moved through off and on, punctuated with sunshine and cold winds.
It was great to finally meet and hike with Whitney and Chris, after following their various exploits for so long. Maybe one of these years I'll be in good enough shape to keep up with the two of you!
An early finish meant more relaxation time. Ashley cooked up a great dinner, and beers were had before a solid sleep. Thanks for putting me up (putting up with me?)!
|Early morning surprise|
|Contrast as we start out|
|The unsigned start of the White Trail|
|An alright view from Crow's Nest|
|Yeah, it's there somehwere|
|A colorful junction|
|View toward Gorham|
|East to Evans Notch|
|The Moriahs in a squall|
|The gang at Rays Pond|
|Coming down the Scudder Trail|
Saturday 11/15: Mt. Anderson
Peak: Mt. Anderson (3740')
Trails: Nancy Pond Trail, bushwhack
Mileage/time: ~9.6 miles, ~3000' of gain, book time doesn't matter, actual time of 9:56
Way overestimating how long breakfast and getting changed was going to take, I got up super early and was at Priscilla's just a few minutes after they opened. A great breakfast, and a quick drive got me to Signal Ridge trailhead a full hour before my companions were to arrive. Oh well, I'm pretty good at entertaining myself. Andrew and the Marshmallow Man showed up on time, and we shuttled over to Nancy Pond Trail. The original plan called for adding on Lowell as well, but as you can see, that didn't end up happening.
The Marshmallow Man decided to start out quick in the morning cold, but my legs weren't having any of it, so Andrew and I got him to slow down. Don't want to burn too bright before a bushwhack! Up past the cascades (frozen is the only way I've ever seen them) and the switchbacks snow fell lightly, but as we approached Nancy Pond, the sun came out and warmed us up. Just beyond the wilderness boundary, we jumped into the woods, happy for the mostly frozen ground in this swampy area between Nancy and Norcross ponds.
As far as bushwhacks go, this one was fairly straightforward. Setting an almost due west compass bearing (Andrew had his GPS), we fought through pencil woods, finding the path of least resistance. I was definitely happy to have the full coverage of pants, gloves, and shell... and even still I came out with many scrapes and bruises. We didn't run into many blowdowns along our route, but the woods were not accomodating, and with few exceptions were universally thick. One open area had us swimming through chest high snow covered spruce, in a small sunny bowl to the east of the summit. Putting the Marshmallow Man in the lead the last few hundred feet to the top was a mistake, as some serious contortionist moves were needed to get over and under some obstacles. We made it the 0.9 miles to the canister (tracked by Andrews GPS) in 2 hours 20 minutes. Rough going. Just beyond the summit was our (my) quarry, a view... and what a huge one it is. Up close and personal looks at Lowell, Vose Spur and Carrigain, with the massive expanse of the Pemi lowlands, and the Bonds, Franconias, Twins, Zealand Ridge, and Hale. Just around the corner was another ledge with a view To Tremont, and the eastern Sandwich Range.
Descending roughly the way we came, with some skirting around the contortionist nightmare, we picked up our tracks again and followed them out. Andrew got really into exclaiming "WHOA!!!" when slipping or running into branches, or anything really. It got hilarious real quicklike. Getting back to Nancy Pond, we dropped packs and took a short break. Here I noticed my packs top pocket and both my hip belt pockets were open. Coincidentally, the only missing item was the one I needed most (since the sun had just set), my headlamp. Starting down, I made haste to get down to Nancy Cascade before it got too dark for me to see without my companions assistance. I made it in time as the purple hues deepened to the east, and then descended by the light of others lamps. The stars were very bright once the light was fully out of the sky, and the open woods along the lower section of trail made for prime viewing.
I dropped Andrew and the Marshmallow Man back at his car, and wished them well on their drive back to Boston. Rolling through Conway, I stopped and picked up a new headlamp, no tax, and some discounts helped out!
|Nancy Pond Trail|
|Remnants of Lucy Mill|
|Our target from Nancy Pond|
|Pencil woods at the start|
|Nope, kind of thick|
|The north flank of Anderson|
|Swimming in the bowl|
|Don't worry, we'd already opened it|
|Lowell in front of the Sandwich Range|
|Carrigain and Vose Spur, large and in charge|
|The Franconias and Bonds|
|The Twins, Zealand, and Hale|
|Tremont and the eastern Sandwich Range|
|Nancy Pond Trail|
|Stairs and Resolution in the purple|
What a great weekend, watching the changes, and enjoying not only solitude, but great company throughout!
New redlining: 23.8