Monday, October 8, 2012

Baldface Circle Trail

The fall colors were spectacular as we hiked one of the prettiest routes in the White Mountains on Saturday -- the 9.8 mile Baldface Circle Trail to the summits of South Baldface (3,570') and North Baldface (3,610'). The day started damp and humid with few others on the trail; perhaps people were deterred by the forecast for rain.
The lower slopes of South and North Baldface are dominated by beech trees of various ages in the overstory and hobblebush in the understory. Hobblebush was a palette of colors all its own.
The first 2.5 miles of the Baldface Circle Trail are a gradual, moderate climb to the South Baldface  shelter, a nice spot for a rest and a snack. We met several hikers later in the day who were headed to this shelter for an overnight. We hope they made it there before a huge downpour late in the afternoon, just as we ended our hike.
The trail changes dramatically above the shelter. Immediately the trail passes over a series of exposed rock slabs and outcrops. The climb is tricky when wet and dangerous when icy. The rains of the previous few days left the rock wet enough to slow our pace--we climbed carefully and safely.
A father with his three kids (ages 8-10) began hiking the same loop and we leapfrogged with them throughout the day. The kids scrambled up the ledges effortlessly, with enthusiasm and energy. As did Kodi. We paused often to take in the views, as low clouds drifted across the valley below.
Fog and clouds limited the visibility to the surrounding mountains; up close colors were vibrant on the rocky slopes.
Eventually the trail rises above the steep outcrops and becomes more gradual in its ascent. For the next four miles on the Baldface Circle Trail the views are sweeping in all directions.
The upper slopes of South and North Baldface were swept by fire in the early 1900s, resulting in open slopes and summits that still remain after more than a century. Here is the view as we looked up the final half mile to the top of South Baldface.
Along the way we met more groups of hikers; lots of friendly folks and everyone was jubilant about the colors and the weather, especially the lack of rain. The Baldface Trail between South and North Baldface and then over toward Eagle Crag has some ups and downs, but mostly beautiful views looking east down into the bowl and west into the vast Wild River Wilderness.
A view east into the Baldface Circle bowl.
On the Baldface Circle Trail headed toward North Baldface
Standing on North Baldface looking back toward South Baldface
Kodi and I on the Baldface Circle Trail with the Wild River Wilderness behind
The colors at our feet were just as wondrous as the views across the slopes of northern hardwoods
At last, by early afternoon it was time to leave the ridge and descend the Baldface Circle Trail back to our beginning. It was just at this point that we felt a few sprinkles. By the time we reached the car, seven hours after our start, it was raining a bit harder. As we left the parking lot it poured. We timed the hike just right.

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