Poor Jim. He made the mistake of saying whatever you guys want to do. What we wanted to do was West Hitchcock and Mt. Hitchcock. The latter has something of a nasty reputation, with lots of blowdown fields on the west side. Ah well, Jim made it through the nastiness of the old Osseo Trail just fine, so the plan was set.
I had studied this puppy now three times. Once, when we were expecting to go from N. Hitchcock to there (I talked everyone out of that), and again when we went to S. Hitchcock (this was Brian's turn after we got completely turned around). So, I felt I knew it well, and I had a solid plan. We met at Lincoln Woods at 7:45, got all our stuff together (so I thought) and headed up a nearby woods road. About 0.4 miles up, I realized I had no poles. Oh crap. Ran back to the car, picked them up and ran back up. Jim and Brian were already getting annoyed by the bugs. Oops.
We carried along the logging road, it kept heading up and turning south back towards the Kanc and it was time to start whacking. After a little push through some young woods, we hit nice open hardwoods. We had to skirt north around an old logging cut that looked thick, and then started our climb in good woods to the ridge ascending West Hitchcock. The woods were still decent, but once we hit the ridge, we were rewarded with with open fern woods. A whacker's dream.
I had spotted a little ledge on Google Earth just off the ridge, and we were pleased by it. There was a great close shot of Scar Ridge, and the Osceolas and Mad River Notch were also visible.
So we continued our beautiful fern whack all the way to the summit, noticing some interesting cut logs, as if someone was trying to do a trail here. I had heard about this, it still struck me as odd. We hit the summit, relaxed for a bit, but the black flies were getting more and more annoying. Little did we know.
So my info. told me to head north of the col, and with Jim in the lead, I gave him what little guidance he needed. We hit a small blowdown field, nothing major, but had this interesting view of the Bonds. Too bad there were so many trees in the way.
We ended up at our low spot, shooting for directly west of the summit, and then began what we knew must come. Steep. Steep steep steep. Going further south wouldn't have mattered for steepness, we just would've encountered large blowdown fields. The woods were ok. Some scrappy bits, but mostly moderately open woods. Just steep. And buggy. And steep. And buggy. We plugged away at it, crossed a small slide, and Jim let me take the lead. At this point, I was shooting for north of the summit whenever possible to avoid anything sketchy.
It was a slow (buggy) slog, and we finally saw blue sky ahead. The ridge was very welcome, and very open and mossy.
The summit came quickly after that, and now the black flies were now horrid. One lower pant leg had maybe 30-40 bugs on them alone. We got the hell out of Dodge, and headed back the way we came since we knew it was decent. The plan evolved into slabbing around West Hitchcock to the south, picking up the ridge. As we crossed the col, and executed this plan, the woods got moderately thick, and the slabbing was getting annoying. Brian and Jim had no up left in them, so the decision was made to bail off the west drainage. I'm not a fan of drainages. I don't like recrossing brooks constantly, I don't like the numerous boulders, blowdowns and vegetation, but this was about everybody's comfort, not mine. We hit decent enough woods, and the usual drainage stuff appeared, but everyone was fine with this. But there was a logging camp in this area that made me happy to possibly find. I didn't, but I know about where it is for another time, and I did see some signs of logging higher up. Cool stuff.
Brian was bonking due to overheating. It was a choice between the bugs or too much warmth. We got to where the two brooks came together, waiting for Brian, and I flushed out something from the hobblebush. It looked like a too-large rabbit, so I was confused. Then it came bounding back to me and stopped about 6-8 feet away. It was a fawn. Staring me in the face. I stared back with Jim right there, and finally I snapped out of it at the same time Jim said it. Camera! Agggggh! I can't miss this! I pointed it and realized the stupid lens cap was on. Fumble fumble. I pointed it and realized the stupid power wasn't on. Fumble fumble. I took an unzoomed shot. I took a medium shot. Finally I got the closeup before it sprinted past me. Too cool.
We were worrying about Brian, but he had just stopped to get water. Heading down, I could see he was hurting. Hell, we've all been there before. I had Super Power Magic in my pocket for him. Now I was having trouble catching up to him. Finally, I shook it in his face, and he definitively accepted. Sour Skittles! Nothing works better, but you'd better like sour. Wicked sour. And have water. You can't just eat them without liquid. We exited the drainage, paralleling it, and found good slopes, good woods, and way less bugs. Sweeeeeet. Brian was doing better with the sugar boost, and we cruised to the East Side Trail, with a final steep descent. Jim found a friend along the way.
We hit two of the PUDs on the East Side (why I dislike this trail), and finally made the lot, with the cruel, cruel stairs. It was about 4:30, so I was in a hurry to get out (had said I shouldn't be any later than 3:00). Before I left, though, I saw something on my windshield. Huh? I paid my damned fee! Not another $75 fine! It was a pay envelope with “$100, JUST BECAUSE” written on it. I bust out laughing, showing the guys. I knew it had to be a close friend, as no one else knows my car. Turns out Joe went by this way on his way back from the Baldface area. Good one, buddy. :)
As Brian has said, the whack itself was pretty good, but the bugs made it horrible, much like last week (although for me it was more the wet last week than the bugs). Sigh. Life in New Hampshire. We'll just look forward to July, and ultimately a long, long fall. :) The company, as always, made the hike.