Date Climbed: 11/29/2009
Distance: 8 miles
Low Elevation: 900 feet
High Elevation: 3198 feet
Elevation Gain: 2994 feet
Elevation Loss: 2753 feet
Start Location: Brook TH
Finish Location: Ferncroft Rd. TH
Route: Brook Trial, Bolles Trial, Bee Line Cutoff, Bee Line Trail, Old Paugus Trail, Lawrence Trail, Old Mast Road
Weather: Mostly sunny, very little wind, very clear skies, in the 30s
Companions: New Hampshire, BobC, JustJoe
Paugus Didn't Dog UsBrian (New Hampshire) had a Sunday free, and Sunday’s are always my best hiking day, so Paugus was the decision, a 52WAV and a NH3k if you do a short whack to the peak. BobC and JustJoe were looking for something also on that day, so the mighty foursome was for the second time assembled. We’re going by JoBoBriTy for now, but we gotta think up something better.
Brian and I carpooled with Bob (thanks!), where there was much questioning about Bob’s interesting GPS device leading us over a number of dirt roads. What troubled us more was its lack of a sexy voice. As it turned out, none of us had bothered to get driving directions. I’m learning Brian is utterly useless when it comes to planning, but he has good senses, so we play nice with him. We spotted Joe’s car at Ferncroft (thanks!), ran into Silverfox (good to meet you!) and Tim & Val (good to see you again!), and drove on over to the Brook Trailhead. The trail selection would be decided on the fly, which was a nice way to go about it for a change. Our first choice was unanimously the Brook Trail, as none of us desired a very lengthy long detour over Chocorua.
We headed up the Bolles trail, as heading further up the Brook Trail and back on the Bickford Trail just seemed silly. Geez, these route choices are easy. The Paugus Brook crossing was a cinch, with the stepping stones were about 4-6 inches above the water. These were nice open woods through here on a beautiful fall day, with mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the 30’s, and little wind, a relief after the previous day. Next up, a real choice, whether to take the Old Paugus Trail and check out Big Rock Cave before heading up Paugus, or to continue on the Bolles Trail. Discussion ensued, it was decided Big Rock Cave wasn’t worth the extra distance and elevation drop, so we carried on with the Bolles Trail to take the Bee Line Cutoff up to the Bee Line Trail. All this went by quickly, with nice easy grades, easy conversation, and easing quickly into our usual giving each other crap, with the severity increasing with each passing mile. It was a blast of laughs.
But conversation quickly all but ceased upon heading up the Bee Line. The grade steepened markedly, providing the first real workout of the day, which we all kind of enjoyed. We kept a steady pace, until the slope got even worse, now requiring frequent breaks. I mean we had to stop, not talking amongst ourselves was just too painful. Opportunities like this are to be savored, like a fine glass of Boone’s Farm. We could see blue up ahead, and on what seemed like a 35-40 degree slope, I commented that just meant it was probably only 25-30 degrees ahead, half-jokingly. I was soon not joking at all, as that’s exactly what happened. The woods were still open, but we were in a blowdown field, and at 2100 feet, the snow started appearing. This also meant the ice started appearing with some tricky hand and foot work, or some short whacks around the icy rocks. We skipped the spikes for now, but it probably would’ve been smart to toss them on.
We finally hit the Bee Line Trail, to much joy and happiness (yayyyy!). The majority of the climb was done, with only one more steepish pitch and the rest a pleasant ridge walk. We came to the views here and there, one with painting on the edge of the ledge labeled View, complete with an arrow. Another DUH! moment right up there with the viewpoint sign on Mt. Crescent last week. Sheesh. The views were limited until we hit the first Paugus ledge. It had a unique close view of Chocorua, some peaks to the NE, and a good view south. Kearsarge (aka home) was found for me, and the Uncanoonucs (aka home) was found for Brian. We carried on to the height of land, where the Old Paugus Trail turns into the Lawrence Trail, at the second ledge. The views here were OK, but for a 52WAV, we weren’t impressed. The views were typical of the Sandwich Range, except for the view of Chocorua. I do have to say the day was perfect for views, with the mountains in excellent clarity.
I had read that the whack was easiest (although not the shortest) from this point. It was only 0.4 miles, and we could clearly see the peak ahead, a rather flat summit. Ugh, this should make for a fun summit search. Worse, looking from the south, I knew the main elongation of the summit plateau was north to south, not east to west as I was looking at it. Brian and I were really looking forward to this whack, mainly to drag Bob through it, as he is really not a whacking person. Evil thoughts swirled in our minds, we would threaten to let him lead or just leave him there. I’d like to say he took in all in good fun, but he really was probably scheming to get us back.
We started off, hitting some moderately thick stuff right away, but this quickly opened up into wonderfully open woods. Brian led, which I’m finding is a good thing, as his senses for finding his way around the nasty stuff is excellent. Joe would occasionally find another way around us, seeing some more open ways, and probablyl happy to move a little faster. I kept an eye on our bearing thanks to a sunny sky, as we veered left, then right in the col around some junk, but always kept on in the right direction. We finally hit some young thick spruce, but going through this was a surprising breeze, short of the shock of more snow down our backs. The entire way up was easy, in fact, the easiest woods of the small number of whacks I’ve done. I could see higher ground on the left, and was quietly getting a little concerned we were skirting the summit instead of going up, but the way up there did not look easy. We quickly came to the end of the plateau, with nothing but down ahead. Ugh, now where’s the summit amongst this? I was fearing we would have to backtrack along the ridge, which again, didn’t look nearly as open as the way in, but I then spotted a herd path and found the clear summit about 40 feet from where we stopped. There was much joy and happiness (yayyyyyy!). This was a great surprise, as we were indeed north of the survey point noted on the maps, but looking back at Google Earth, the highpoint is indeed north. Brian led us right to it, and I’m very glad didn’t have to go somewhere Over the Rainbow to find the summit. I’m finding the two of us work well this way. This is our second whack together, and both times Brian lead us to within 50 or so feet of the summit, and I home in on it.
We headed back, following our footsteps. Arriving at the spruce patch, we decided to just go back the way we came instead of skirting it, since the way in was so easy. I “led” for this portion, which was stupidly simple since I just followed footsteps, trees without snow, and disturbed underbrush. The whole whack, including hanging at the summit for about 10-15 minutes took an hour. Even Bob liked this whack, which considering he is not a whacker, says a lot. We headed down the Lawrence Trail, hoping for more ledges, but nothing of note was found. I did note that where you would take the shortest route to Paugus’s true summit was pretty thick, so I was glad to have found the info on VFFT. There were some hairy moments coming down with the ice, but by and large, the trail was this wonderful gravel which gave good traction. On the way down, we noticed the extremely ledgey south ridge, and lamented a lack of trail there. We got through the worst of the steepness, got into open hardwoods, and then got an unpleasant surprise. Elevation gain. Argh. We weren’t expecting this, and it was pretty relentless. We got to the Cabin Trail junction, and carried on to our preferred method of elevation gain – the negative kind. Sadly, this would soon end, as we agreed to forgo the Kelly Trail with its promise of steep scrambles, and head on to the Old Mast Road, which I knew was very gradual. I warned of some more elevation gain, which Bob promised he wouldn’t whine about, so of course, I went way ahead of him so I wouldn’t have to hear it. That way, I could also complain without anyone hearing me, either. Joe was always well in the lead on these uphill sections, he’s a really amazingly strong hiker.
We made excellent time coming down the Old Mast Road, but I was surprised to find the trail split in two. Joe noted a logging road on his GPS, and my AMC online map confirmed this, but the main thing that surprised me was I don’t remember seeing this at all in August. Sheesh. We arrived at Ferncroft. There was much joy and happiness (yayyyyy!). We went back to the Brook Trailhead, but we all were surprised that the State of New Hampshire and the town of Tamworth had somehow lengthened the same roads by several miles since the morning. We chatted a bit more, what I consider to be four good friends saying their goodbyes for now. We will undoubtedly get together again, and share another day of adventure and many, many laughs. Thanks guys for another fantastic day.