Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wonalancet Wanderings - Oct. 12, 2015

Route: Flat Mountain Pond Trail, McCrillis Trail, Rollins Trail, Dicey's Mill Trail, East Loop, Walden Trail, Lawrence Trail, Cabin Trail
Peaks: Whiteface, Passaconaway, Nanamocomuck Peak, Wonalancet Hedgehog
Mileage: 14.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 5450ft
Book Time: 10hr 5min (actual 9hr 10min)

For the final hike of the 3-day weekend, I got to finally hike again with my good friend Theresa. We'd last hiked together on the moonlight Presidential Range Traverse, mostly due to conflicting work schedules. For this hike, we'd worked out a nice-sounding route through part of the Sandwich Range, picking up nearly 10 miles of new redlines (for me, a couple less but still many for Theresa).

Leaving a car at the road-side pull-off for the Cabin Trail (across from a private driveway that the trail starts up - don't park on the driveway!), we shuttled over to the Eastern terminus of the Flat Mountain Pond Trail for the start. We would take the Flat Mountain pond Trail as far as its junction with the McCrillis Trail (not to be confused with the McCrillis Path in the same region of the mountains), and take that trail all the way up to Mt. Whiteface. Most hikers heading to Whiteface take the Blueberry Ledge Trail, which is steep in places and has several moderately tricky ledge scrambles (depending on conditions, they can be dangerous). The McCrillis Trail, by contrast is very gentle in its early stretch, before finally getting to work. It gets steep, but not crazily so, and there is only one sloping ledge in the woods to contend with before hitting the Southern summit of Whiteface (which many hikers mistake for the summit - it is not). We took a nice break here, as the day was rather warm and humid (especially for mid-October!), and we weren't going to have much for views for most of the rest of the day anyway.

Starting point
Beaver pond on the early part of the Flat Mountain Pond Trail - nice color over there!

A view up towards our first objective: Mount Whiteface
The ledgy face of the Southern peak of Mt. Whiteface.

The one ledge scramble on the McCrillis Trail

Hazy views to the South

More haze - from ledges near the South summit of Whiteface

View towards Ferncroft

Mt. Chocorua behind the long lumpy ridge of Paugus

South summit of Mt. Whiteface. If you stopped here, you didn't go to the real summit!
Mt. Passaconaway looms across The Bowl
Once leaving the Southern ledges, we continued along the Rollins Trail down, then up to the true, wooded summit of Whiteface, where a quick picture later we were off. The rest of the Rollins Trail gently meanders its way down to the deep Whiteface-Passaconaway col, with a few restricted views into "The Bowl", the valley between these peaks that has never been logged in recorded history. Once we began the climb up the Dicey's Mill Trail to Passaconaway's summit, we took a short detour into the clearing near the trail that was the site of the now-removed Camp Rich Shelter. I've read that the latrine had been left, and I wanted to see that for myself (why, I don't know!). Sure enough, it is there, up a steep incline behind the old shelter clearing, a simple box toilet.

Remnants of a blowdown snarl that occurred when the remnants of Hurricane Sandy blew through in 2012.

View into The Bowl

Site of the former Camp Rich shelter

The Camp Rich latrine.
Once we made the summit of Passaconaway, we re-traced our steps back down and took the East Loop the short distance around the summit cone to the Walden Trail. From here to Paugus Pass, the Walden Trail was steep in places, rugged, and challenging. Most challenging was a sheer ledge just above Paugus Pass, which if it had been wet or icy would have been extremely hard to descend. The trail was also clearly lightly-traveled, and Paugus Pass was eerily quiet.

The Tripyramids from an outlook just below the summit of Passaconaway

The Hancocks (L), The Captain (ledgy lump in the center), and Mt. Carrigain (R)

Franconia Ridge in the distance

Summit of Passaconaway, where someone decided to deface this tree to mark the site...

Lightly-traveled trail on the Walden Trail. If you look closely, you can see a person who just finished descending a ledge.

Head right for Paugus Pass

View from an outlook along the Walden Trail

View ahead to Paugus, with the top of Chocorua peeking out.

Mt. Chocorua

This ledge was really "interesting" to descend.
From Paugus Pass we continued past the Kelly Trail before reaching our descent trail: the Cabin Trail. The Cabin Trail started off with a slightly obnoxious side-hill section, but that was short-lived and soon became a nice, gradual descent to the road. Aside from a massive multi-treed blowdown snarl that completely blocked the trail (though there was a flagged route around it), there was nothing tricky on this trail, and it offered nice descent back to the waiting car.

Near the lower terminus of the Cabin Trail

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Moriah - 10-11-15

Route: Stoney Brook Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail
Peaks: Moriah (4049', NH4K)
Mileage: 10.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 3450ft
Book Time: 6hr 45min (Actual 6hr 30min)

This was a nice hike for the second day of a 3-day hiking weekend. Originally I had grand plans for doing a large loop from the Wild River Campground, but with a long day on tap for the next day, I opted for my usual route to Moriah: the Stoney Brook Trail. While about a mile longer round-trip than the approach from the Northern terminus of the Carter-Moriah Trail, I like this approach more, as it has a long series of ledges with tremendous views to the Presidential and Carter Ranges, and across the Wild River Wilderness into Maine.

I started off from the trailhead off of Route 16 as usual, a bit later than normal as this was a short hike for me these days, and I didn't have to drive very far to get back to my campground (in Shelburne, NH). I was in no rush, but still made fairly short work of the climb up to the junction with the Carter-Moriah Trail. The first 2 miles of the Stoney Brook Trail are gentle and moderate in grade, with a steady but not steep final push up to the ridge. Once at the junction, it is only a short bit until the first ledge, which mainly looks into the Wild River Valley, and was the site of my first of many breaks. I fully intended to enjoy the nice weather and lack of a need to be anywhere later to enjoy all the views.

There was some nice fall color right across the street from the trailhead.

The Stoney Brook Trail has one major crossing down low, and a couple of lesser crossings up high, like this one.

The upper crossing on the Stoney Brook Trail

Looking across the Wild River Valley to the Baldface Range

Looking up along the cliffy ridge to come

From the first ledge, the trail dips in and out of the trees, passing over a set of steadily nicer ledges with views in nearly all directions in the first mile from the junction. After that, there is a short dip and stretch in the woods, before reaching the junction with the Kenduskeag Trail a short scramble from the summit spur. Just before this dip, I ran into Hiker Ed, who I've met a few times before, and is a bit of a White Mountains hiking legend: he has completed the New Hampshire Grid (all 48 4000-footers in each calendar month) FIVE times! He was on his way down, but it was nice to chat for a few minutes before we went our separate ways.

Pine Mountain in Gorham, with the Crescent Range and then the Kilkenny Range behind it.

The Carters from the ledges en-route to Moriah

The top of Washington, along with Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison - the Northern Presidentials

Mt. Washington

Looking down into the Moriah Brook drainage towards the Wild River

The summit of Moriah from one of the ledges - note the people on the right side standing on the summit rock.

There's still a little ways to go to get to the summit though.

Jericho Mountain wind farm in Berlin, NH

Ledges. Love them!

Ledges on the side of trail-less Imp Mountain, near the Imp Campsite

Wild River Wilderness

The Baldface Range

The summit is getting closer.
The summit rock was clearing out just as I arrived, and I ended up having it to myself for 10-15 minutes before a small Meetup group arrived, with several familiar faces from the group I ran into on the Kilkenny Range the day before! We all hung out for quite a while, a total of roughly 1 hour for me, simply enjoying the beautiful weather (the temperature was about perfect, with a slight breeze and mostly clear skies).

Shelburne Moriah from Moriah's summit

The Northern Presis from Moriah

Summit benchmark

Old Speck Mountain in the distance - over the border into Maine

On the way down, I hung out at several of the ledges for a little while again. There are a ton of places one can stop along this route, and it was great to stop at nearly all of them. Once back to the trail junction with the Stoney Brook Trail, I didn't really stop until I was back to the car. Despite all of the breaks along the ledges and the hour-long stop on the summit, I still did this hike in slightly under book time! All that was left was to return to the campground and prepare for an early (pre-dawn) departure in the morning.

Looking back at the summit on my way down

I think this is Rogers Ledge in the Northern Kilkenny Range

Percy Peaks

In the background, the Northern end of the Kilkenny Range - Cabot, The Bulge, The Horn, Unknown Pond Peak, Roger's Ledge (L -> R).
The Southern end of the Kilkenny Range behind the Crescent Range - Starr King, Waumbek and the Weeks (L -> R)