February 16, 2014.
Still easing myself back into hiking and today returning to the same location as last week to do the mountain next door to Hedgehog, Potash. Starting at the same location, Downes Brook Trail head parking lot. The temps are in the single digits and the wind is in the high teens. Sitting in the parking lot in the comfort of a warm vehicle and it is like taking that first leap into the pool. After eating my breakfast it is time to plunge into the cold and strap on my snowshoes and go for it.
Last week when I was up here the Mt Potash Trail was not broken out. Today it is packed and smooth sailing.
Heading up Downes Brook Trail until I reach the junction with Mt Potash Trail and a right turn onto it. A few minutes later and I am at the crossing of Downes Brook. Bad memories come back to me as I approached this crossing. In December of 2011 I came down Downes Brook Trail off of Whiteface late in the day and ten very swollen crossings later of Downes Brook I was defeated mentally by that trail. Today the crossing is just the way I like them, FROZEN!
There would be only one open section of water and the layers of snow and ice are quite evident, almost glacial like.
Shortly after crossing the brook the trail crosses a logging road that has been used recently.
The trail is very packed making for a firm base to snowshoe along. Moving along at an easy pace with my full backpack and I reach the first ledge outlook for the day. As usual Passaconaway dominates the views from this area.
Last weeks peak is across the way, Hedgehog.
From another vantage point on the ledge Bear Mt and the Moats to the east.
And of course the ever popular photographed Mt Chocorua.
Back into the woods and the trail skirts the summit on the eastern side all the way around to the southern face. Just below the summit another open ledge area and the best view of the abandoned Downes Brook Slide Trail. This slide occurred in the late 1800's and was in the AMC guide as late as 1946. Due to it's steepness and dangerously wet slabs of granite it has never been officially signed. That is until back in the 1990's some very intrepid person or persons changed all that, see article here.
Just beyond and the trail turns right and heads up to the summit of Potash.
Reaching the summit and now the full force of the wind coming in from the northwest can be felt. A quick summit shot.
The pano shot from the summit looking west to north with Whiteface on the left and Carrigain Notch on the right.
Did I forget to mention it's a bluebird sky day? If not for the piercing winds I would have spent much more time up here. So a few more quick pictures and time to head back down to the protection of the north and east face of Potash. A good view of the three Tripyramids and the Fool Killer from the summit. An odd name for a mountain, Fool Killer, but very appropriate after hearing the story. It seems back in the days before the current trails were created in order to get to Middle Tripyramid one had to bushwhack his way to it. Unfortunately for many trampers they found themselves on a peak just below Middle Tri, hence the name Fool Killer.
Off in the valley the winding Kancamagus Highway can be seen.
And the only time I have seen a signed survey marker on a summit. Usually they are bronze medallions cemented into the bedrock.
Back down the trail and one curious view I did not catch on the way up. A mountain off in the distance between the shoulder of Chocorua and South Moat, Pleasant Mt located in Maine.
All the way back down the way I came up and just before the logging road crossing I had noticed something on the way up. My original intent was to ignore it as I was coming back thru but I couldn't resist. Just shows the ignorance of people in the woods, bad enough we see it in suburbia.
Back at the parking lot and heading out to cross the Kancamagus Highway for a short hike. Directly opposite the trail parking lot is the Passaconaway Campground and a short 1.1 mile trail, Church Pond Loop. Not a loop anymore due to it being wet and boggy on the eastern portion so now it is a dead end out to Church Pond. Making my way to the trailhead through the unplowed campground and I soon reach it.
A short ways up and the trail reaches the first crossing of my old nemesis, Swift River. The picture tells it all.
There would be no crossing this stream. I went up and down the bank looking for a reasonable spot that was frozen over and had no luck. The closest was a small downed tree that ended in the middle of the brook but not knowing if it would hold me and seeing the water underneath it about three feet deep I retreated. Another day under warmer conditions, besides after that crossing there was one more, a branch of the Swift River. Swift River wins again!
Final numbers: 4.5 miles, 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Redline Miles: 1.9, Total to Date: 469.9