We should have done the Whitcombs, given a logging road approach, but after a long trek last week, including crap woods on Muise, we needed a break, so Gore it was. We pondered our options. On the west side was 10 miles of known easiness, but on the east was a logging road going up a good distance that should make it only 6 miles. Hmmm, short is good! Right? Wrong.
We rode up Nash Stream Road, putting behind a truck. Hurry up, dammit! I wanna hike! So of course he turned off maybe a half mile from our destination. We found our road, and I got all excited as there was no gate, and it was drivable. Brian was more cautious, and sure enough, it ended quick. Ah well. It was frosty and we geared up quickly and set off. The road climbed quickly in the beginning and Joe was complaining about Brian's weight loss. “We would've have two or three stops by now!” Hee hee. The grade lessened to the point of nearly flat and we tooled right along. A big bonus today was sunshine ahead of the big snow storm for that night. We've been not so good about getting sunny days up north lately.
We came to the brook crossing around 2550 feet, and the road got sketchy after this. Google Earth showed this, and I was guessing as to a potential path, but we found a very closed in path nonetheless for a while. It was supposed to head up the ravine, but it petered out, and the woods got worse down towards that way, so Joe took the lead upward and we soon were in good woods again. We came across a very large, very old tree which was cool to see.
We knew we were headed for Notch Mountain, off a bit from the direct ravine route, but good woods made that diversion an easy choice. We were all in high spirits at the easy going. Then the wall appeared. The evil wall of spruce around 3200'. We looked left, we looked right. Crap, dive in. It only got worse. It got steeper, thicker and full of blowdowns. Ledges and ledgey ravines added to the fun.
Holy crap. I was hoping to get back early today, and this was throwing a wrench into things. This was far worse than what we dealt with on Muise. We pushed along, making all kinds of jokes to keep our spirits successfully up, and finally Joe called “open woods!” I said you better not be f***ing kidding, the reply was, well, more open than below. Sure enough, it was sparse knee high spruce. Hallelujah! It took us about 30 minutes to cross 500 feet of ground. Greg decided to head to Notch as we were just 400 feet away, but we could see by the tree shaking he wasn't making great progress, we were getting cold, so we threatened to leave him behind. We set off, and he made his was down to some amusement shaking trees making us wonder if it was his or a bear.
We headed to the left side of the col, trying to hit a road over there, and made that easily. I was expecting something a little more obvious judging by the satellite pictures, but it was just a nice track. We cruised up this, and this before too long petered out but left us in a nice open mossy area.
Yay! Crap. We ran into a wall of moderate stick woods, which I suddenly had a vague recollection of hearing about. This is the last thing we needed (so we thought), but it didn't last long and left us in mossy open woods. I sped ahead. I had little sleep the night before, and I was again mentally spent and just wanted to sit and have a smoke. The summit was easy enough to fine and provided a nice area to rest a bit.
I went off on the other side to at least allow the others to find the summit on their own without help, and there arrived in short order. We all knew returning the way we came was out, and Joe wanted a direct route to the car. No problem, that's right down the ravine. We set off after a bit, heading southwest away from the ravine back to the ridge, and hit moderate young woods nearly right away. Still it was downhill and we were moving decently. We made the turn south directly into the ravine and it was ok until we got down into the ravine proper, where thick woods and blowdowns again presented themselves. Sigh. We just can't win. That 10 miles of easiness sounded real good right now. We found an old road which I thought I had seen, but that petered out, and blowdowns were making it a curse in any case. Dammit all.
So we headed up southwest out of the ravine to try to intercept our tracks. The going was still bad, and there was a point I looked at my GPS in horror to realize we were heading back towards Notch! Brian and I broke off back to the southwest keeping in voice contact with the others, and we FINALLY broke free around 3100' where we regrouped. Turns out Joe took a good poke to the eye which led to some disorientation.
We stayed close to our track, veering to stay in good woods, and there was much joy at arriving back at the road. It was a pleasant walk down after that mess. The skies which had become full of high clouds, were now getting thicker. We had a sight of the Whitcombs, next week's destination. I was determined to find an easy, even if long, route to those. All in all, it was still a short trip, arriving at the car 6 hours after we started. We passed on Scorpios, and hit some snow around Tilton. I-89 was tricky with light, but very slick slush. I barely made it up the hill by the time I got home, glad to settle in as 15” of October snow fell through the night. As our peak list moves further south I guess I'd better get used to hiking in thick woods again.