The plan was to push myself a fair bit more than of late and do a 10 mile loop with a whole bunch of cumulative elevation gain up Wonalancet (I believe a 2.5k peak), Wonalancet Hedgehog (a 3k), and Passaconaway. Not epic, not really huge, just big for me. But, we all know plans and me do not seem to get along well…
I woke up at 5:30 and actually managed to be on the road at 6:15. I had a nice drive through areas less traveled. Coming into Tamworth, I was thinking this is Rocket21 country. A nice playground, has he. All was pleasant, and I was anxious to get on the trail, until I passed someone and in short order noticed that the coolant temperature was rising very quickly. Yoiks! Pulled over, let it set, found the reservoir empty, and refilled. Gently went on my way after a while, and maybe 5 miles down the road, repeat. Urg. Resevoir was empty again. Refill. So much for my pre-hike hydration. Well, I was only a few miles from the Ferncroft lot, so no point in turning around now. This can be dealt with later. I babied it into the lot, and set on my way at 8:15 trying to forget this mess.
This was not to be. Could I limp it back into Meredith where my wife could easily navigate into? Oh, she has to babysit from 1-5. How much would a tow to Concord cost? Is the head gasket ok? Should I cut the hike short? On and on, around and around. I missed the Wonalancet Range Trail junction, apparently too busy admiring the bridge right there and too deep in thought. I only got as far as the Wilderness boundary (a clue), but thought, oh, it’s going to be one of those days.
The trail is quite pleasant at first, and gradually gets steeper, and this helped to shift my focus away from the car. Boy, was I spoiled from Osceola and Big Bickford. Then it got really steep, with some interesting rocks to climb. I just huffed and puffed and kept a steady slow pace. Once at the cutoff junction, it didn’t really let up, but then came the reward of the ledges, and some nice views south. It was still perfectly sunny, despite the doom and gloom the weather service predictions showed for clouds replacing fog and lowering a lot by about this time. The ledges are quite expansive and as one would expect, loaded with blueberry bushes. Alas, I was too late and most were gone. I found a few stragglers and was happy for that.
The trail climbs nicely after this, and passes over the wooded summit of Wonalancet. The descent was blessedly gradual, and it was nice to get in cruise mode. Somewhere I passed over Mt. Hibbard, where I couldn’t tell you. This is a series of PUD’s, but nothing majorly annoying. I really only get annoyed at PUD’s on the way back to the trailhead, where all climbing should be done. Somewhere on the way, I thought of Mt. Passaconaway, and the name Mt. Matthew McConaughey popped into my head. The Rocket21 force is strong in this woods, it is.
Getting to the Walden Trail, I’m glad I checked my map. I had almost forgotten I had to go right to get to Wonalancet Hedgehog, and then make my way back to go to Passaconaway. I checked out the first view spur, and it’s nothing to write home about. The grades were easy and I quickly spotted the infamous Hedgehog summit boulder. Oh dear, this does look impossible to get up. I wanted to get on the top to get the reported views, not because I’m completely anal about standing on the high spot. Around the back there was a stack of logs. Unfortunately, standing on them still offered no handholds. There was no way being solo I was going to take any serious risks, but then I looked at a 1” fir branch, and found I was able to hold on to that to hoist myself up enough to reach a hand and foot hold. Yippee! Ohhhhh…. The views are mighty limited, with the trees increasingly taking them up. Passaconaway was just visible.
So, time to evaluate the situation. Go for Passaconaway, or head down to the Old Mast Rd. and call it a day. I thought long and hard about this, it was about 10:15 and as my stepson would be gone until 5 and my wife would be for that reason occupied until then, figured there was no reason why I shouldn’t go on. Then I realized if there was any way I could get the car back to Concord, or get towed in, it needed to be before 5 so she wouldn’t have to make an extra trip. I might be able to get out by 2:30 or 3, and that wouldn’t do. So there it was. I was bummed about this, as I was really feeling good and ready to tackle another 2 miles and 1000+ ft. of elevation gain (including that not so insignificant peak south of Passaconaway), but hey, things happen, I got another 3k, and was having an otherwise pleasant day of it.
It’s a flippin’ steep drop off Hedgehog. I finally came to the 4-way junction, and heard the first voices of the day. Twenty feet down the Old Mast Rd. was the Sneaker Family enjoying the day out in the woods, looking like Mom, Dad and the two kids were all having a pleasant time. I figured they might be heading up to Square Ledge, until Dad asks me where the “Blueberry Trail” was. Uh-oh. He explained he was trying to get up Whiteface, to which I nicely explained it’s “way over there”. I brought out my map and explained where he was and where he went wrong. Well, he decided Passaconaway was just fine by him. This had me a little nervous, given the ledges, and I did explain there was some really steep sections with bad footing heading up the Walden Trail. I gave him my map, and off they went on their merry way. I truly hope they had a pleasant day.
The Old Mast Rd. rocks. It’s the perfect trail for speed hiking. I just turned off the muscles trying to hold me back and cranked down the trail. No real rocks, no real roots. Perfection. I got down in short order, and then went about dealing with the car. Couldn’t find any leaks, the reservoir was empty again. Filled it, and gingerly went on my way. Five miles down the road it acted up again. OK, no shifting into high gear going up the hills. Getting back into Meredith, I checked it again and it was still full, so I suspect the water pump’s hurting. It was a long, long drive home, constantly monitoring the temperature with the heater blasting, staying on back roads until I finally felt it might be ok to venture on 93 in Tilton. As it turns out, I’m really glad I cut this hike short if nothing more than to avoid the late afternoon traffic, which wouldn’t have helped the situation. I greeted my wife, a sweaty stinking mess.
So overall, a good way to make the best of a bad situation, and make a really weird report title. Hey, it’s possible I ran over a hedgehog that lanced my water pump.