February 8, 2014.
After a lengthy layoff it is time to get back into the woods. With the unusually cold weather and lack of snow, which leads to very icy trails, I was hoping for some decent conditions after this weeks snowstorm. It's been a little over two months since I was last out and today the plan is to go for a small getting back into it hike. An early morning drive up to the trailhead for Hedgehog Mt located just off the eastern portion of the Kancamagus Highway.
A frosty start to the morning as I arrive at the trailhead just before 7 and the temp is about 9°. The wind is blowing and with snowshoes and my full pack I am on the trail by 7:20. Quickly I am reminded how cold it is hiking in the winter. Thankfully the beginning of this hike is in the trees so I am protected from the wind as I make a left turn onto the UNH Trail, the one and only trail for the day.
The trail through the beginning section is flat and soon I reach the junction where the old east portion of the loop is now closed due to erosion. It's tempting to follow the closed trail but today is not the day. Today is more about getting back in shape for my upcoming AT adventure.
Further up the trail and the reward for starting early. Sunrise as viewed through a recently logged out section next to the trail.
Five minutes later and I reach the new junction with the relocated section of UNH trail. The new section is unbroken so I decide to head right on the broken out western portion. I figure it will be easier coming down the unbroken section of trail rather than going up it.
For the most part this trail is relatively mild in its steepness. A good trail choice after taking two months off. Soon I reach one of the steepest sections of the trail and unbeknownst (another one of those head down pushing up the steep section) to me at the time it is the spur trail heading up to Allen's Ledge. Hard to tell by the photo but that is a good thirty foot rise from where I am standing.
Having never been here and not sure where to go I shoot towards the left as it looks like the least resistance. Choosing my steps carefully going up the rock face and hoping the snow holds I make it out onto the ledge and the views are fantastic. This ledge is named for Jack Allen a trapper/hunter/guide who lived in the area back in the 1800's. A story about him can be found here excerpted from the book "Passaconaway in the White Mountains" by Charles Edward Beals published in 1916.
A pano shot from Allen's Ledge.
Heading back down off the ledge and I am tempted to head up to another outcropping that is located behind Allen's Ledge. Reaching the bottom and this time I head up the steep right side and with a little slipping from the snow not holding I make it up. The small reward for this outcropping is a view to my destination for the day, Hedgehog Mt.
Sliding down from the perch and I head back down the trail to the junction I missed on my way up. A left turn and on my way to the summit. Just before the high point and I am rewarded with semi-obscured views to the west of Potash and the Tripyramids.
To the north a great look at Carrigain Notch located behind Green's Cliff.
Further to the right of Carrigain are Owls Cliff with Mt Tremont directly behind it bringing back memories of last Junes' overnight outing.
Not far up the trail and after a couple of false bumps that I took for the high point of Hedgehog and I come across an erratic sitting to the right of the trail that is indeed the highest point.
Moving along and I reach the south facing ledge and a pano shot from Chocorua to Passaconaway.
Spending a few minutes on this sunny ledge out of the wind and I quickly get warmed up. When it is time to move on finding the trail is a bit of a challenge as no one had continued on from this point. Poking around and I can't seem to find the trail or any blazes. After running out of options I head across the ledge and finally find the trail that ducks into the woods.
Across another ledge area and again a challenge to find the trail but eventually I make my way into the woods heading along the correct path. The snow is not deep nor consolidated so making my way down from the ledges is cumbersome. It is no different than hiking in the non-snow months as every rock and root threatens to roll my ankles. It is made worse, however, by the eight inch blanket of powdery snow. This is one of the reasons I have not hiked in the last two months, the lack of snow. The trail winds itself around the summit with some great reveals of its granite face.
Breaking the trail along this area is not bad as it is all powder and about thirty-five minutes later I reach the sunny eastern facing ledges that are also protected from the winds.
The 4043 foot Passaconaway dominates the view from this ledge. Chocorua and its rocky cone is also impressive from here.
Looking back and the summit of Hedgehog can be seen from this vantage point.
Finding the trail is another challenge. I can only assume there are blazes on the ledges but obviously they are hidden beneath the snow. Doing a little searching and I end up going with my gut and find the trail as it follows along a cliff edge with a thirty foot drop. Coming out onto another ledge and a clear shot of all three Moats is the reward.
A final goodbye to Chocorua and all the times I have taken photos of this peak I have yet to see anyone on it.
Exiting off the ledges for good and one last search for the trail and I am back into the woods for the remainder of the hike.
Not far from the logged out area in the beginning I reach the point where the trail has been rerouted and it is blocked with trees and signage explaining the closure. Turning onto the new trail and drat if it doesn't skirt uphill to connect up with the other section. Pretty sneaky of the trail builders to throw that curveball into the mix. Anyways skirting above the logged out section and back on the existing trail and an uneventful trip back to the trail head. A relatively short hike compared to what I usually do but a good getting back into it after two plus months away from hiking. A bonus for the day is I saw absolutely no one on the trails today!
Final numbers: 4.7 miles, 4 hours and 10 minutes.
Redline Miles: 4.6, Total to Date: 468