Three day weekend, so I put on my puppy eyes and asked my wife if it was cool if I went out Monday, too. No problem. She's awesome. So after doing Vose Spur on Saturday, it was time for a nice trailed hike. I set the alarm to 5 AM, but woke up at 4:30, and got moving. It was going to be around 90 degrees today, and I wanted to be out early to spend some time with Neesh, as well as sit on the porch and barbecue. I pulled into Ferncroft at 7 AM, and it was completely empty. Cool.
Up the road, and I decided to take the Blueberry Ledge Trail all the way up, opting for the cutoff on the way down. I was pleased with the trail right away. Most popular 4k trails are eroded to crap, this one had nice footing.
As I passed the cutoff junction, soon after some relocations were clear, I can only assume to take it up on higher ground. It went through a blowdowny area, so frankly, it was a bit ugly, plus the trail kept going over a ton of little bumps repeatedly. To be fair, it looks really recent, so they may be in the middle of some work. The footing was nice and soft in any case!
Soon I was hitting some ledgey areas (Blueberry Ledge one would assume), which I love. It was a nice trip up to the upper cutoff junction.
Here I got a good glimpse in the distance, and the haze was worse than I thought. It was also getting warm already, and I had already switched to shorts. No bugs though! I was cranking it out, going a little less than 3 mph, shooting to be done in 4 hours. Not a race, just trying to be done early. The trail picked up some steepness, and I was now starting to feel the leftover effects of the steeps of Vose Spur. I took a break halfway up, then pressed on to reach the flat spot before the Tom Wiggin Trail, enjoying that immensely.
I got a glimpse of the summit ahead. Yoiks! Steep! At about 3500', the monorail appeared. Oh yeah, I had been wondering about that, but forgot about promptly given the warmth. I had lost a microspike on Saturday, so I was traction-less. Sigh. A little slipping here and there, but I was able to side step most of it where it appeared. Now, however, I was obsessed about how conditions would be on the ledges getting up. Still making good time at around 2.2 mph overall, I hit the first one which had some ice at the base, making it tricky to get a foothold to start going up.
The others (and I had no idea there were so many, leaving me to understand why Brian was laughing evilly at me when I mentioned this), were mostly as interesting. I started now to dread going down, which is always trickier. I contemplated going over the Rollins Trail to Passaconaway adding a number of miles in just to avoid this. Then I noticed what the trail goes over.
Bumpity bumpity bumpity. Screw that! At least I was getting some decent, albeit hazy, views on the way up. Chocorua looked particularly far away, even though it isn't, sitting here behind Hedgehog and Paugus.
One lovely little sluice gave me a lot of trouble. I was now slipping a lot and swearing at every one. There was next to nothing for good footing. Finally I could see the top ledges ahead. Thank God! I moved ahead, now having lost a lot of my previous speed to hit the summit. Solid monorail, more slipping all over the place. It was slow going and further than I thought. At least there was a spot on the trail that suddenly, and I mean within one foot of space, the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. A breeze with that cooled me down so nicely. Yeah, continue on the Rollins on this crap with no microspikes, sure.
Turning around, I spied a bump that seemed higher than the summit about 20 feet off trail. What the hell, I'll check it out. I'm not picky about these things, but the GPS seemed to indicate it was 4 feet higher, though given the errors involved in those things, it's tough to say. Back on the trail, I seemed to have finally found my feet, having a better time of it. Until I stepped on a rock, and what I knew must come happened. I fell on my ass. Grumble. Not ice, a flipping rock. Sigh. Back to it, I stopped at the ledges on the way back, and was treated to the same stupid view southward througout the Sandwich Range. The Ossipees and the lakes. Whoopty-doo. Sorry, that view just gets old and it's all the same after a while.
OK, time to crank it. Not. Actually, I had far less trouble getting down than I thought I would. It was slow, but relatively stress free. Cool! Now past the final ledge, I ran across a couple heading up, looking quite relaxed and experienced. These were the first people I had seen all day so far. We chatted a bit, and I pressed out, now starting to crank it out, but doubting the 4 hour goal. Coming down the steep section, a group of 3 college age kids were coming up, looking hot. The girl asked if I saw any bears. Puzzled at first thinking what a weird question, I recognized it finally as a new hiker concern. Been there, done that. I responded “no” which got a “GOOD!” in return. I don't think she was having a good time.
Now on easy ground, I was pressing ahead, getting downright burning hot as I hit the open hardwoods. No leaves and sun in your face was a curse of early spring heat. I headed off on the cutoff at the junction, and hit pretty much a drainage and a really steep spot that made me glad I did not come up this way. Another guy was coming up, I warned about the ice, but he had spikes. It was now 11:00 and getting very hot, I felt bad for anyone out there that late, especially with this dudes shaved head. Ouch.
At the bridge, I opted for the slightly shorter route on Dicey's Mills and got to the car at 11:30. OK, half hour off, but not bad for 8.6 miles (I had forgot about the 0.3 mile road walk each way!). Was home around 1:00 and plunked myself on the porch, despite the heat. Barbecue chicken was awesome.