Monday, August 30, 2010

Whiteface and Passaconaway - August 26, 2010 - #5, #6

This loop I tackled myself as everyone else stayed at the campground while Alex played with his cousin for the day.  I took Blueberry Ledge trail up Whiteface, Rollins over to Passaconaway and then Dicey's Mill trail down.  This hike was over 12 miles and the longest I personally have done for at least 15 years.  Gave me a good workout and 1st time this summer I can say I got tired on a hike.

I got to the parking area around 8:30 and it was empty.  Headed up Blueberry Ledge at a fast pace (for me) and stopped at the first ledge/view and had a quick snack.  After some easy hiking I came to the south ledges.  The day before we had over an inch of rain and the rocks were still extremely wet and slippery.  If Alex was with me I would have turned around.  It made for some interesting scrambling up the rocks as I could get no traction at all with my boots.  At one section there are holes drilled into the rocks where wooden steps use to be.  Now just the holes and I had to put 2 fingers in each hole and pull myself up with my hands as my feet alone were not able to get any reliable grip.  Hoping I didn't slip and fall back down I made it up over the several sections and decided to take a break sitting on a rock that had great views of Passaconaway on the other side of the Bowl as well as panoramic views to the south.  I could make out Mt. Monadnock and the Uncanoonuc's near Manchester.  Between them is my house, but couldn't quite see it.

Saw 2 groups of people at the top of this ledge as they came up behind me but I left and headed back up just as they reached the top of the cliffs.  The actual summit of Whiteface is (i think) marked by just a cairn in the middle of the trail in a very wooded area.  It seemed like the highest point and the trail started to head down from there on so that must have been the summit.   The trek across the ridge to Passaconaway was quick and easy and I saw not another person until I reached the trail junction with Dicey's Mill Trail.  Ran into another solo hiker here and we ended up ascending Passaconaway not far from one another.  But by this point the trail gets much steeper and my fast pace caught up with me and it was a struggle to get to the summit, but I made it and saw the sign to the true summit.  Headed up into the thick scrub and followed all the herd paths around, stood on what looked like the highest point and then continued out to the nortern view which I had read about.  This is the top part of a long abandoned trail but travels for about .2 miles to a spectacular view north.  The weather was not great and Washington was hidden in the clouds but the view was still great, I can only imagine how nice it is on a clear day.  This is a great isolated spot and descent chance of not seeing anyone else there as it is not on the main path.  But I did run into someone who beat me to this spot (only 1 of the 3 parties I saw the entire day) so after some short chatting I headed back up to the summit and then down the East Loop looking for another lunch spot.  Found another ledge to eat lunch on and rested for a while.

I headed back down and took Dicey's Mill trail.  This section is very easy and a gradual descent all the way through some old growth forest.  I read that this entire bowl has never been logged and some of the trees here are over 400 years old.  I am not an expert in Old Growth Forests by any means, but these trees sure did look rather old to me.   The woods were mostly all hardwood Birch trees and many extremely large trees were everywhere.  There were standing dead trees as well as huge trees that had fallen years ago rotting away on the ground.  I like hiking through woods like this as you know things have not changed much since the time Europeans first arrived.  That is a rarity in the White Mountains (or anywhere for that matter) as even the kind of trees that grow in many place are not only relatively young, but not even the same species that inhabited the land originally.

The forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon and it suddenly got darker when clouds moved in over head.  I had gotten my 2nd wind, the trail was pretty flat so I started jogging at a slow pace for a while.  However the rain started very light and I pulled out my poncho before I got really dumped on.  It did rain however I probably never needed the poncho so after it stopped, I took it off and finished the last mile or so rather dry.  There are some really good camping spots along the way next to the river - not sure if you can camp there or not, but they would be great spots.

The trail ends in the back yard of someone's house!  Literally, you walk out of the woods onto  their driveway just a few feet from the barn and their cars.  Had I started up this trail I might not have dared to find the entrance for fear of tresspassing.  Both this trail and Blueberry Ledge start on private property so a big thank you to the land owners.  It is probably a matter of time before new owners come in and close off access to these hiking trails.  Which would be too bad, but inevitable I think.  And to be honest, had I owned this particular house I would not close the trail but I would divert it away from the driveway and house a bit!   After walking down their driveway there is another 1/2 mile or so on the road before the parking area.  Over 12 miles with the side spur tot he view on Passaconaway and finished around the estimated book time with some tired feet!  Not the greatest views but a nice hike through some old growth woods, an exciting scramble up some steep rocks and very few people - the recipe for a nice hike!
From parking area, Whiteface is in the clouds
Some fancy stonework
First view of Whiteface
From south ledges
From south LEdges
From south ledges
going up
This ALOT stepper than it looks, those holes use to hold steps and is what I had to put my fingers in to pull myself up
And up
An idea of how steep this section was
Looking back down
Passaconaway over the Bowl from Whiteface
Chocurra in distance
Finally, something steep the trail did not go up
Looking back down, parking area is in the rectangle field in the center of picture
Passaconaway from Whiteface
Summit of Whiteface (dont get excited)
Down the bowl (all old growth birch)
Ridge (Rollins Trail) between the mountains
Tripyramids from Passaconaway
I think this was Passaconaway summit, if not it was one of the other herd paths up there - walked around them all
From view spur path on Passaconaway
From view spur path on Passaconaway
From view spur path on Passaconaway (Presidentials are in clouds)
From view spur path on Passaconaway
From view spur path on Passaconaway
From view spur path on Passaconaway - of Mt Hedgehog
Whiteface from Passaconaway
Down the Bowl
End of trail, coming out in someones back yard
End of trail looking back at Whiteface, the trail IS their driveway
From parking area, a little clearer now - Whiteface in distance left

Viewpoint on drive back to campsite, Whiteface is on the left and Passaconaway on the Right.

GPS Track

Elevation Plot

Mt Tom & Mt Field - August 24, 2010 - #3, #4

Ever since we hiked Jackson and I was pointing out the names of some of the other nearby peaks to Alex he thought "Tom" was a very funny name for a mountain and wanted desperately to go and "see whats on top".  So, while we were camping for the week on Conway Lake we decided to go see what is on top of Tom.

We got to the trail head later than I wanted, partly due to Tom being on the opposite site of the WMNF as Conway Lake and the other because I took Bear Notch Road instead of just going up to Bartlett from North Conway.  But we started out pretty early, still first on the trail.

The trail starts out pretty easy with a gradual climb up.  We spent some time around Beecher and Pearl Cascades exploring the area.  The rocks were wet so we couldn't get too far out into them, but ended up backtracking up and down and around a couple times before continuing on.  The water is relatively low this time of year but any falls and cascades like these are still nice to visit.  The time spent here put a real dent in the probability of also being able to hike Mt Field, but I'd rather see all the sites along the way and miss a mountain then finish and say we bagged 2 peaks instead of one.

After the cascades we continues up the trail and it gradually got steeper but not too bad, still a relatively easy hike.  We played lots of games, some of them made up, while hiking.  Guessing colors, animals, trees and numbers.  A few people passed us on the way up, but not too many.  We reached the Mt Tom Spur trail junction, took a time check and plenty of time to ascend the summit.  The trail got a bit harder here nothing compared to the final part of Jackson that we did earlier.  The summit itself was not all that spectacular, found a cairn on one of the trail forks and took some pictures.  It seems like the highest point.  The summit is mostly wooded with short trees.  A trail to the left headed to a geocache which we found easily.  The trees there were about 4 feet tall so completely over Alex's head but there was a very good view west and North.  I picked Alex up so he could see and "WOW!" was his response!   There was also a trail diverging to the right to a bench where we sat and ate lunch with great views of the Presidentials.  We could see Jackson and Webster where we hiked last time.

Before we had much of our sandwiches eaten a dog came along, sat down, and did his best to guilt us into giving him some food.  After a few minutes his owners came along: a mother and her 2 kids who were also working on the 4000 footers.  We chatted with them for a while and Alex and her son compared their Cambacks.  They snacked and left, we finished our sandwiches and 2 other ladies came in and sat down.  There was a canister under the bench with a log book in it which I signed.  Dont think it was a geocache, but signed the log anyway.  Chatted with the ladies and back down we went.

The plan was to look at the clock and see if we had time to do Mt Field or head back down and make the decision when we reached the junction of the Mt Tom Spur and A-Z Trail junction.  We were about a half hour past where I wanted to be, probably should have headed down but Alex wanted to hike Mt Field (as did I!) so we continued 100 yards down the trail and then made the left up Willey Range trail to Mt Field.  Ran into a few more people, but still pretty quiet.  This part was a steady climb up to Mt Field.  Alex started to get tired and want to rest but given the time I knew we had to push on or end up hiking in the dark.  We did take a couple snack breaks on that section, reached the summit of Field - another forested and viewless summit but took our customer summit photos and made our way to an outlook down a short path to the north where we sat down and took a longer break and finished off our bananas.  There were great views north and east.  We were also visited by several Gray Jays just like we saw on Jackson.  We just had to have them eat of our hands again and I even put some bread on my head and had one land and take it away (was wearing a hat).  Gave Alex my hat and got the birds to land on his head as well - pretty neat.

The time was not looking good at all so we headed back down the trail towards Mt. Avalon.  We ran into the same ladies we saw on top of Mt Tom again, they had taken a wrong turn and were heading up this trail to Field. This was rather steep and slippery and slow going.  Glad we were heading down this part instead of up!  Mt. Avalon is a very short spur path and from the guide book it affords much greater views than either Tom or Field so I wanted to head up there as well.  And as advertised, the views from Avalon were the best looking up and down Crawford Notch.  We ran into the ladies a third time and they took our picture at Avalon as I was pointing out the summits of Field and Tom to Alex that we just finished climbing.

At this point given our very slow pace we were looking at hiking after sunset for an hour so I stressed to Alex that we need to get down as fast as we can while still being safe.  I had to get him to stop talking (which is EXTREMELY difficult) as he hikes faster that way.  His response, "But daddy, I try but I just can't stop talking!"  But he did stop talking and we cruised along very fast (for us) and manged to get down about a half hour before sunset.

This was Alex's longest hike so far, took us a whopping 11+ hours!  But we tend to see all the sites along the way, hang out at the views for extended times, explore the waterfalls, etc. which makes it all worth it. 

Two 4000 footers on this trip and time wise probably the limit that I'd want to take Alex on as the last couple hours I had to really push him to finish in time.  We'd be better off tackling shorter hikes that we can enjoy more w/o rushing.  Although this hike was still great, and a total of three 4000 footers done so far!

(camera will not focus after *someone* dropped it on Jackson - this trip was the last with that camera!)
Sunrise from our campsite before we left
Summit of Mt Tom
Summit of Mt Tom
Field from Tom
Mt Field Summit
Mt Field Summit
Gray Jay landing on Alex's Head
View from Avalon

Top of Avalon pointing to Tom and Field