June 14, 2015.
Finally a hiking day with no constraints. After the last couple of hikes were I had to be home in time for different reasons it's nice not having to worry about the time. I have had this hike in the back of my mind for quite some time but always put it off for logistical reasons. The loop portion of it is certainly doable but there is this one trail that is sort of the monkey wrench in the whole endeavor, Tom Wiggin Trail. It is a "steep, rough, lightly used trail, cut by Thomas Wiggin in 1895 and nicknamed the "Fire Escape" to quote the AMC Guide. The good thing is it is only 1.1 miles in length so not wanting to leave this trail undone and out in the middle of nowhere I'm going for it. Since McCrillis Trail and Path are in the same vicinity I'll be parking at the Flat Mt Pond Trail head and roadwalk between the two to complete the loop.
Reaching Whiteface Intervale just before 6:30 and I can't resist driving past the trailhead lot to get a picture in the early morning sun of the objective for the day, Mt Whiteface.
There are a couple of cars in the parking lot when I pull in but I think it is safe to assume they are from yesterday and spending the night up at the Flat Mt Pond Shelter. Last time I was on this trail was back in December of 2012 when I did a big loop up to Flat Mt Pond. That day it was kind of a gray day and obviously the trees were bare. Today the skies look like they are going to clear and the trees have all there green.
This part of the trail is flat and takes no time to reach the semi-secluded bench next to the beaver pond. The view is a little better than the last time as Sandwich Dome is much clearer sitting behind Flat Mt(South). There are two Flat Mts with one on each side of Flat Mt Pond hence the South.
A short video of the beaver pond with the morning peepers and birds in the background.
Up the trail/road and where the trail splits off to the right I make a mental note to someday come back and explore where the road to the left goes. Up the trail and at the small clearing where the view is to Mt Whiteface it is much better this time around.
Past the spot where I wiped out on the black ice and I am at the crossing for Whiteface River where a bridge once stood. The water level is about an inch or two lower today and the crossing is much easier without the ice covered rocks.
Across the river and the trail turns left but looking to my right and there is a faint trail coming up (it looks like it may be the old Flat Mt Pond Trail that paralleled the river instead of crossing it) and I add that to my to do list I have started for when I finish my redlining list. Just a short ways up and the McCrillis Trail bears to the right climbing a steep bank up and out of the river ravine. Up on top of the banking and there is a clearing off to the left and heading over it is an odd space as there is absolutely no growth in this spot.
I can find nothing on the maps that might indicate anything being here at one time. Guess it will have to be one of life's little mysteries. The trail is pretty mild through this area and twenty minutes later I come across a huge triple trunked maple tree. I can wrap my arms around it five times which is about 25-30 feet in diameter.
Finally the trail begins the steep ascent as I pass through an area that is rejuvenating from a blowdown in recent years. Just beyond this spot and there is a more current blowdown patch in an evergreen section.
Passing by a large erratic beside the trail and a few minutes later I make it to the first outlook for the day. On the ledges there are views to the west towards Sandwich Dome and south to Red Hill.
Ten minutes later and another ledgey spot where across the way are the Ossipee Mts. Andy and Nancy are over there doing a hike today. A bit further and a look at Whiteface and it's impressive cliff face not far away.
The trail continues the climb up as the blowdown areas keep coming. I wonder if this was the same storm that did quite a bit of damage on the Kate Sleeper Trail back when Hurricane Sandy came through in 2012.
Out of the woods, so to speak, for good and McCrillis Trail now meanders over ledges for the final stretch to Whiteface's cliffy south summit. The skies are blue if not looking towards the south where the sun tracks. Within a few minutes I am at the end of McCrillis Trail and oddly enough have the cliff face to myself.
A few pictures at this spot. To the east are Chocorua, Paugus and Wonalancet Hedgehog from back to front. Swinging around to my left and over the trees is the massive Passaconaway which I have yet to do in the non-winter. It has been two years since I have been up there. Then again it has been three and half since I have been here on Whiteface.
Time for a break and some food before moving on. For a good twenty minutes I have the place to myself until I start hearing voices from down below. I decide to make a quick trip over to the true summit of Whiteface while I am up here. What I didn't remember was the down (where there is a view of the wooded summit of Whiteface) and up between the cliff and the junction with Kate Sleeper Trail where Camp Shehadi once stood.
Continuing up the Rollins Trail and soon I reach the little bump in the woods that marks the summit of Mt Whiteface.
Back down to the junction and I see the first person of the day as he has come up the same way I did via McCrillis Trail. At the junction with Kate Sleeper Trail I head down it since I didn't do my homework before coming up here. I was curious as to what the two campsites, Shehadi and Heermance, look like since the shelters were removed well over ten years ago. This was one of my whims as I was hiking up here and as usual my GPS (gotta love DeLorme, a Maine based company for their inaccuracies) showed Heermance just a short distance down the Kate Sleeper Trail. I went down the trail a bit and didn't see any evidence of where a shelter might be. Back up to the junction and I kind of knew this was the spot of where Camp Shehadi once was as it is good size clearing. A comparison photo of Camp Shehadi can be seen here. Scroll to page 5 and the rocks on the left, especially the one behind the tree, are the same as in my picture. Heading back towards the cliff and there is a spot on the left just before the trail junction with Blueberry Ledge Trail that looked like it might have been where Camp Heermance was.
Time to head down the Blueberry Ledge Trail and see what all the talk is about with the ledges. There is supposed to be one questionable spot and I am curious to see it as I have never seen pictures of it. Just a few minutes down the trail and there is an open ledge with some fantastic views into The Bowl. An area that has purportedly never been logged which makes it an old growth forest used for research.
To the left of Passaconaway in the back Mt Washington is surprisingly not in the clouds. Across the way and a couple of stick figures (the little bump on the left is the highpoint) can be seen on Chocorua's summit.
Down the trail and I spy the cliff face off to my right and make my way through the scrub for a side view with Sandwich Dome in the background. Below Sandwich is the mile long Flat Mt Pond.
Time to get moving as I am anxious to get to the ledges in question and very soon it does not disappoint. One drop after another and each time I ask myself is this the one.
Or is it this one.
Finally I reach the one that is definitely the one. There are holes in the ledge face that once held iron rungs I suppose. It is steep and smooth and the only way down is to butt slide.
After the steep ledge the trail mellows out in the woods and fifteen minutes later I reach a spot where the trail goes three ways. Two of the trails are to my left almost parallel to each other and a third goes straight ahead into the brush. There is no sign here but I am pretty sure this is the junction for Tom Wiggin Trail which should be the one on the far right. The one next to it has to be the continuation of Blueberry Ledge Trail and who knows where the trail/herd path goes.
Time to see what the Tom Wiggin Trail is all about as I start down the trail. The upper portion isn't that bad and through the trees Passaconaway looms. Reaching a brook about halfway down where the trail turns right and I stop for a drink and a refill with my new Sawyer water bottle with a built in filter. It's great as all I have to do is dip and then sip. No batteries to worry about and no purification tablets to wait for. Refreshed I head on down where the trail angles down along the contour somewhat steep in places but nothing too dangerous.
Reaching the Wonalancet River and thankfully it is not flowing high as I hop my way across the rocks. Less than an hour from starting down and I reach the end of Tom Wiggin Trail at the junction with Dicey's Mill Trail. The sign warns of the trail but all in all I didn't think it was that bad.
Back up the trail and another water break at the river and a fresh refill. Pushing all the way up and I make it back to Blueberry Ledge Trail in just over an hour. The trail is much easier through here as I make my way down to the ledges where Blueberry Ledge Cutoff Trail intersects. This is the trail I came up when I did a bunch of trails in this area back in February of 2014.
A look at the same spot from both hikes.
From here on down it is familiar territory as I make my way to the next junction and the last trail of the trail, McCrillis Path. This was once an old road between Wonalancet and Whiteface Intervale. Recently a portion of it was closed by a landowner and the WODC has rerouted a portion of it to reopen the trail. Reaching the trail and it is a very sharp right hand turn. The initial part of the trail climbs moderately to the height of land and then levels out for an easy walk.
Unfortunately I had forgotten about this reroute probably due to just wanting to get out of the woods at this point. I'm motoring along thankful for this flat trail to exit on when I reach a spot where limbs are laid across the trail. CRAP! Memory kicks in and I look around as there is no arrow and no blazes for where the trail goes. Looking around and I make out a faint trail to my right and start up it going quite a ways before I see any blazing. Not sure I like this reroute as it is an up and down twisting trail. I find it a bit selfish that someone would close down a portion of trail especially one of historic nature. A hint of what he/she did can be found here on page 3.
I make it to the top of a clearing with some very limited views. Beyond the trail reaches the Captain Neal Brook which is the only feature along this trail that makes up for the rest of it. It is a narrow gorge at this point of the brook and hard to tell how impressive it is from the pictures.
Here the trail makes a sharp right and ends up on an old logging road exiting out onto a gravel driveway. It is a relatively short walk from here back to the parking lot.
A pretty great day on a hike I was a little apprehensive about and considering the popularity of the Blueberry Ledge Trail and Whiteface from the Ferncroft parking lot I saw very few people all day. I missed a few things I should have looked for but then again it just gives me an excuse to return another day.
Final numbers: 13.9 miles, 9 hours and 55 minutes.
Redline Miles: 9, Total to Date: 815.9