Sunday, June 5, 2011

Whiteface and Passaconaway

It felt good to be on the trail again yesterday for a daylong hike. Our last such hike was a wintry day in March with snow falling and near zero visibility at the top of Mt. Hight. Yesterday was clear and sunny with mild temperature in the high 60s. The only unwelcome participants were black flies, which pestered us when we stopped for snacks, lunch, or a view. For most of the 12.4 mile hike though we managed to ignore the tiny black flies (Srini might disagree!) and enjoy the flowers, birds, strenuous hike, and spectacular views from rock ledges. Kodi loved every minute, especially when he could flop into cold mountain streams.

We began our hike at the Ferncroft gravel parking lot in the rural village of Wonalancet within the picturesque town of Tamworth. Many trailheads begin here, with trails leading to various peaks within the Sandwich Range Wilderness. Thanks go to the volunteers in the Wonalancet Outdoor Club, which created a terrific trail map of the Sandwich Range and whose volunteers maintain these trails. Also, the trails pass through private lands before entering the White Mountain National Forest; the landowners kindly invite hikers to cross their lands via private roads and trails.

Our destination for the day was the 4,020' Mt. Whiteface, and then possibly onto the 4.043' Mt. Passaconaway, if we were feeling energetic. Here is the view as we started out from the parking lot (Mt. Whiteface is in the distance).


We crossed Squirrel Bridge then picked up Blueberry Ledge Trail, which leads to the top of Mt. Whiteface. Initially we followed the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff, which doesn't add any extra distance and parallels the lovely Wonalancet Brook. We heard the slow, steady tapping of a yellow-bellied sapsucker and listened to a black-throated blue warbler announcing its territory with zoo, zoo, zoo, zreeee.





The black flies and mosquitoes were a little pesky from the start so Srini kept up a steady hiking pace. I paused to snap pictures of wildflowers in bloom -- clintonia, hobblebush, starflower, and the eye-catching painted trillium.


Blueberry Ledge Trail, as its name suggests, has lots of exposed ledge as you climb higher. These open rock slabs offer great views in many directions. Some require hand scrambles and some minor rock climbing abilities. It would be a tricky route in icy or wet conditions.

A view from Blueberry Ledge Trail, looking westerly


A view of the rounded and attractive Mt. Passaconaway
looking northeast from a ledge on Whiteface.


Srini and Kodi enjoy the view of Mt. Chocorua in the distance, then Kodi and I absorb the expansive views down into The Bowl, across to Mt. Passaconaway and beyond to Mt. Washington



Srini admires the view from Whiteface Intervale,
a high rock ledge just below the wooded summit of Mt. Whiteface


We reached the turnoff for the loop hike to Mt. Passaconaway by 1:00 and were feeling good, so we turned north and joined lots of other people who had the same idea. Until then, we'd passed only a couple people - we had Blueberry Ledge Trail all the way to the summit of Mt. Whiteface all to ourselves. Kodi's small black body was hot so the first thing he did was flop into a small, clear stream, then he was ready to continue.

Kodi cools off in a small stream so clear
that you can barely see the water against the small stones


Views from Mt. Passaconoaway of Potash Mtn, Hedgehog Mtn,
and Mt. Chocorua, respectively




We returned via the Dicey's Mill Trail, which passes through the heart of The Bowl. This 1,500-acre research natural area harbors an old growth forest and the site of research on old forests. The Bowl was saved from logging in the early 1900s, although the 1938 hurricane and the 1998 ice storm had dramatic effects on the forests in The Bowl.

The upper section of Dicey's Mill Trail passes through a balsam fir forest. The trail was littered with piles of moose droppings, leftover from winter. Moose move into these higher elevations in winter where they find cover under mature fir and browse on the needles of young fir. The food is rather fibrous as you can tell from the droppings.




In the late afternoon we re-emerged into the fields of Ferncroft, still with a skip in our step, as the black flies followed us. A terrific day in the mountains, black flies and all.

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