Thursday, August 21, 2014

30 miles Wandering around Wonalancet

 (...although 'Floundering around Ferncroft' may be more accurate.)

Goal: Do a long day and connect the redlining “dots” to complete (almost) Section 8 of White Mountain Guide

Route: Bickford, Bolles, up/down Beeline, Beeline Cutoff, Bolles, Old Paugus, Whitin Brook, Cabin, Lawrence, Oliverian Brook, Square Ledge Branch, Square Ledge, Old Mast Road, Blueberry Ledge, McCrillis Path, Flat Mtn. Pond, McCrillis Trail, Blueberry Ledge, Tom Wiggins, Dicey’s Mill, East Loop, Walden, Wonalancet Range, Wonalancet Shortcut

Start: 0545
End: 1830
Mileage: 31.3 (19.0 redlining miles)
Vertical: 10,000 feet
Total # trails: 22
Weather: Perfect
Bugs: None
Hikers encountered: 0 in first 16 miles, 2 on McCrillis Path, 1 on Flat Mtn. Pond Trail, 7 on Blueberry Ledge, 2 on Tom Wiggins, 1 on Dicey’s Mill

Was looking to do another long day in the Whites but feeling rather uninspired by some of the more commonly done loops and traverses. Needing almost 30 redlining miles in the Chocorua-Eastern Sandwich Range--and disliking the long drive from Vermont--I decided to string together a long day from Ferncroft to mop up most of my remaining miles and trails.

Tuesday afternoon was a warmup of almost 10 miles with some of the shorter Wonalancet Trails -  Gordon, Red, Pasture, and Tilton Spring Paths - and also the White Ledge Loop before dinner. Spent the night at White Ledge Campground.

At 0545 Wednesday I started up Bickford Trail and proceeded to Bolles, then up and down the Paugus Branch of Beeline. Beeline was steep but not nearly as nasty as I’d expected from some trail conditions reports. I took Beeline Cutoff back down to Bolles, then crossed the river and headed up Old Paugus Trail, doing the little 0.3 m. out-and-back before proceeding across Whitin Brook Trail. At Cabin Trail, I took a right, then a left on Lawrence, a right on Oliverian Brook, left on Square Ledge Branch, left on Square Ledge Trail, and finally down Old Mast Road to Ferncroft.   With all these turns (!) and unfamiliarity with this area, I was frequently referring to my map! Upon reaching Ferncroft I was at mile 15‘ish, about halfway. I took a short break and stocked up on water before continuing West on the Blueberry Ledge Trail.

Repeating a bit of trail from the day before, I then continued straight on McCrillis Path, where I met my first two hikers of the day, two pleasant gentlemen who advised me on the relo’d trail conditions ahead. The new section of trail is well blazed in blue, has frequent tiny ups and downs and passes by an impressive flume and some grassy sections near the bottom. Then it was up Flat Mountain Pond Trail, where I encountered a woman walking her two beautiful Newfoundlands who both came over to say hi. Perhaps it was because I was 20 miles into the day at this point, but McCrillis Trail proved not to be one of my favorites. The 3100 foot climb from Whiteface Intervale Road wasn’t that bad, but it went on and on and on, and my altimeter kept disappointing with exasperatingly slow progress! One bit of excitement was a huge pile of fresh looking bear scat which looked to be predominantly raspberries!

Finally I topped out on the south ledges of Whiteface and, with a quick scan of the beautiful view but without pause, continued down Blueberry Ledge Trail. In the next 0.7 mile stretch I would meet 7 hikers, with 2 more on Tom Wiggins. I’d been curious about the Wiggins Trail. Seems a trail signed with etched warnings “NOT RECOMMENDED, STEEP AND LOOSE” might be pretty bad, but I did not find this to be the case. Sure, it was steep but guess I expected a sort of talus slope, and it was really no worse than any other steep White Mtn. trail. Too impatient to look for a dry rock hop across the Wonalancet River, I just splashed through so had wet feet for the final miles. Today’s "quitter trail" was that of a right turn down Dicey’s Mill, but I headed left and back up. I “needed” just 2 short stretches of trail from this point to the end: the 0.2 mile East Loop below Passaconaway and the 0.4 mile shortcut below Wonalancet. But it would take another 6+ miles of hiking to get that 0.6. I don't need to be told just how stupid all of this is! 

Compared to McCrillis Trail, Dicey’s was a lark, and soon I was looping back on the Walden Trail and down the crazy steeps of Mt. Nanamacomuck wondering how in the heck I ascended this trail last winter?? Other than the top parts being steep and rough, Wonalancet Shortcut and remainder of Wonalancet Trail were unremarkable, and I was cleaning off in the stream by 1830 before the long drive home.

I didn’t figure out the total vertical until this morning and was surprised that it came out to 10,000 feet. No wonder it took me as long as the Mahoosuc Traverse! This was an interesting convoluted “loop” and a fun way to connect redlining segments. These trails are beautiful and well taken care of, and I wish I didn’t live so far away so I could hike them more often.

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