The past month here has been wicked busy, but there’s occasionally time for a weekend hike with Yvonne. This one was about two weeks ago, and I was too busy to write about it at the time, but now seems like as good a time as any. Sometimes, waking up at 4 AM to drive three hours for a hike on a day with guaranteed crappy hiking conditions turns out well after all.
Yvonne and I joined her friend, Kevin, and several of his buddies for this hike. Kevin had been the manager of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s August Camp, where both Yvonne and I had worked in years past, but he came to the camp after I was done with it. This was the first time I’d met him, or any of this group for that matter. (As an aside, I’d heard of Kevin before. He is a sort of White Mountains celebrity for being the owner and hiking companion of Brutus, a giant Newfie who was the first dog to complete all of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers in winter, and then again in a single winter. Brutus passed away last year, but he lives on as a legend of the Whites.)
We arrived at the Ferncroft Parking lot at the southern edge of the Sandwich Range by 7 AM, both of us groggy from the early wake up. The day seemed pretty poor for hiking. Thick fog rose off the melting snow, with the temperature already above freezing. We got out of the cars onto mud, got our things together, assembled the group, and hit the trail. I was down to my base layers before the end of the first mile. It was not a good day for long underwear.
The group was made up of about six guys, Yvonne, and me, but Yvonne and I were about thirty to forty years younger than the rest of the gang. You’d think this kind of thing would be kind of strange, but it happens pretty often for us. You see, being a lot older than someone definitely doesn’t make you any less of a badass hiker. Yvonne is in much better shape than me, but I’d say that all of the guys in the group put both of us to shame. That’s fine by me, though. The company was great.
As for the hiking, it was a long, arduous day, starting with the climb up to Mount Whiteface. The Blueberry Ledge Trail has some spectacular viewpoints that looked out to the Squam Range to the south, Mount Cardigan to the southwest, Sandwich Dome to the west, and Chocorua to the east. Basically, the entire southern end of the White Mountains. But what made the day really special was that it was the second time Yvonne and I had started a hike in nasty, foggy conditions only to pop up above the clouds for the whole day. In this case, the fog stopped right at the base of the Sandwich Range– the entire southern part of the state (and much of Maine) was clouded in for the whole day, while the White Mountains and further north were bright and sunny. Not to mention the balmy 50 degree high (even at 4200 feet elevation!).
The total hike was about twelve miles, with a walk along the Whiteface ridge to Mount Passaconaway, bagging two four-thousand footers for the day. The heat made for rotten snow, which made the going even tougher than normal. Add to that the climb up Passaconaway, a peak with a gorgeous view that I’d totally forgotten, and we arrived back at the cars just after full dark set in. Yvonne and I returned to Keene around 9 PM– a very full seventeen-hour day. I guess the early wake up and long drive in the fog was well worth the trouble. Maybe someday I’ll get used to that kind of day, but for now, I’m enjoying sleeping in a bit… until 6:30.