We decided on Bald Cap, a little trail-less peak in the area of Dream Lake near Shelburne, NH. There's a couple of falls that we could check out, and there was a view across Dream Lake to the Presis. The forecast looked decent enough, warm and maybe a shower. And this was just one of those trips where things didn't work out.
It all started when I woke up. I was thinking, “gee, it's awfully light out.... CRAAAAAP!” Craaaaap wasn't exactly the word I was thinking, but you get the picture. I picked up my phone, it was 6:40, and punched the missed call button. Uh, Brian, I'll meet you up there. Fortunately they only had to wait 20 minutes.
We spotted a Brian's car at the Peabody Brook TH and took Joe's and my vehicle to the Austin Brook TH, complete with a turnstile. The mosquitoes were horrendous and it only took a few minutes to throw on the DEET. I amused myself watching Brian and Greg swat away, despite the bug juice. The trail for a good while is actually a logging road on one side of Austin Brook. There's a point where the trail crosses the brook, but this was impassable without a good boot soaking. Yanking out the map, I noticed the trail recrossed up ahead, and we followed herd path, arriving at a bridge. After some time, the trail left the logging road, eventually joining a much older road. Some poor guy had to leave a logging trailer up there, that must have hurt.
The trail was pretty much boulder and root free, seeing little use, but sadly it was not water free. They got another drenching up there the night before, and I wasn't looking forward to the whack, opting to bring a poncho instead of full rain gear. The trail in places was literally a brook in itself. We took the Dryad Falls Trail, and then the spur to the falls, which we had seen from a clearing from afar earlier. The spur comes up about ¾ of the way up, so while nice, it wasn't that impressive as it could have been.
We continued up, finally noticing we were now in the clouds. We suspected no views toady, and sure enough when we got to Dream Lake, I could barely see 10 feet out into the lake. Oh well, this and plenty of other interesting things in this area to explore later. So on to the first height of land east of the lake on the Mahoosuc Trail. We saw open woods, but we also had a steep climb, so we stayed on trail for now. Coming up to the height of land, the trees thickened, and eventually became a wall of 10' fir. Well, we didn't want to backtrack, so we plunged in, and were shortly rewarded with shorter trees, which whittled down to hardly anything of consequence. Of course, by now my pants were sopping wet. At least it was warm.
Brian wanted to avoid a 100' drainage along the way, and he got his wish as the woods pushed us further and further to the left, following a flat ridge to near the top of the drainage around 2850'. There were some boggy areas, and Joe sunk up to his knee, but otherwise there were surprisingly no other mishaps. The woods opened up even more into a beautiful moss covered forest.
These are my favorite kind of woods, green everywhere. We skirted some ledges and some thicker stuff, and stayed in open woods all the way up. Joe and Greg had gone ahead, and I was amazed from the footprints in the moss we were choosing almost exactly the same route, despite the open woods.
At the summit, there was a welcome breeze, and something even more welcome. A beer. A full beer. A full 24 oz. can of beer. Why does this keep happening to me? As usual no one else wanted any, and being a firm proponent of leave no trace, I had to take it with me, but it was so, so heavy. Well, only one thing to do. I sure I was a sight drinking a beer hiking down, and at one point puffing away on a butt, too. This is titled, “There is so much wrong with this picture.” The poncho is only one of the things.
We were all over the place on the way down, and I wasn't even leading for most of it. Must have been the beer fumes. We were attempting to make a little more direct route to the lake, but ended up going too far south into some junk woods, then back on our old track, then more easterly. Even Desi was leading and was doing a real fine job of it, given how little whacking she's done. We kept finding good woods, I led for a bit, right into a wall of fir and spruce with no way through. Greg said “how about this way?” So I said, sure, go right ahead, chuckling at how I led us into this crap, and sure enough he started getting blamed for it. I'm a bad boy. :)
We were only about 500 feet from the trail, but it was a slow time getting through thick woods and blowdowns, but we finally emerged into some open woods about 50 feet from the trail, about 500 feet east of the lake. Good thing we didn't come out any closer, it was all very wet flooded bog. We met Joe there who was surprised at our direction of exit. Hey, we were surprised too!
OK, only a mere 3.1 miles to the road. Sigh. This was along a long stretch of bog bridges that were super slick, and sure enough I did an ass plant into the water, the ass being the only part of my pants that were dry. Sigh. One section was flooded out by a beaver, and we welcomed the sight of the trail actually going down. The going here was pretty wet, and to boot, the trail needed some serious brushing. Yay, more wetness. We skipped the Giant Falls spur (who the hell wants to go up now?!), came out to a more flatter section and went into cruise mode. At one point Joe spotted a ledge high up, with a very steep climb. I finally couldn't resist following Joe, and it was indeed a very steep climb, but we at least got something of a view towards the Moriah area.
We were relieved to get to the road, until Brian was saying “Crap, where's my keys,” searching somewhat frantically. I was assured they were there somewhere, until he said, “I think they're in my jacket in your car!” So what can I say? It was an honest mistake, and wasn't it me who slept through my alarm? OK, I'll take a run down. He wanted to go with. No, that's ok. No, I insist! He was dieing to get away from the bugs. Reasonable enough. :) I had thought it was about a mile, turns out it was two. Lucky for us a couple we had met came up and spared us the last 1 or 2 tenths of a mile.
Thanks to the bug situation, we opted for Mr. Pizza. Poor Brian had some (apparently) killer marinated chicken tenders, but Meat Lovers Pizza won out. We all eyed Joe's Sausaghetti hungrily. It was a nice day in the woods, and the only shame of it was how wet out it was and how unprepared for it I was. I enjoyed the whack, but I would've enjoyed it that much more with rain pants, given the openness and beauty of it. Ah well, next time.