February 16, 2013.
A return to Ferncroft to revisit Wonalancet Hedgehog Mt, this time heading up from the east side. I am the first car in the lot which is unusual for this time in the morning, about 8:10.
Heading up the Old Mast Road Trail with the snowshoes on at about 8:20. Quickly reaching Spring Brook and the trail to the left that leads up to Wonalancet is untouched since the last snowstorm. Quite a difference from a few weeks ago when I came down that trail and there were bare spots on the lower section of trail. Old Mast Road Trail is well packed out but the temps are just warm enough that without the snowshoes every step sinks in an inch or two. Crossing Spring Brook and this trail is a nice walk in the woods and all is quiet. Quickly reaching the junction with Kelley Trail, my return trail, I continue on. The trail changes from evergreen to open hardwoods and if the sun was out there would be some great shadows from the bare trees.
My obligatory sky shot, clouded.
Then stopping for a break I look around and notice something I've been looking for quite some time, a 360° tree!
How cool is that? Coming up a small rise a little further in and I get a peek of my destination, Wonalancet Hedgehog, through the trees.
Doesn't look so bad from this angle. A few minutes later and I reach the Four-way Junction. Straight ahead is Square Ledge Trail, unbroken and I had thoughts of continuing up that trail after coming back down. To the right is Lawrence Trail, broken out and my way over to Kelley Trail. And to the left, Walden Trail, my unbroken path to Wonalancet Hedgehog. It takes a few minutes to figure out where the trail goes with no discernible path and quickly it turns steep, real steep.
The snow is not the heavy packed snow we are accustomed to so every step is difficult in the deep powder. The snowshoes do not grip like I would like and on the steep section it is extremely difficult. If it's this tough going up then coming down is going to be bad also. What's even more unsettling is that I've already been on the other side of the mountain and that section is probably worse so it looks like I will be returning this way. A couple of sections it is grabbing anything I can to pull myself up and one spot I actually dug my hand into the snow looking for some solid snow underneath and prayed it held as I pulled myself up. It is a slow slog and then I reach a roadblock.
Hard to tell in that picture but that is about a 12-15 foot height difference from where I am standing. Did I mention ICY? There is ledge underneath that snow and ice in between the ledge and snow. I tried making it up just to slide back to the bottom. There is nothing for hand holds and there is only one option, no not turning around. The right of that ledge, which you can see in the picture is a exposed rock ledge about 10 feet high and 20-30 feet long. I figure I can hike along the base of this and then come back around to the trail. Slowly picking my way through the trees and untouched snow I get to the other end of the ledge and up and on top of it. Five more minutes of whacking through the woods and I come back onto the trail. The only thing that bugs me is I didn't take the trail and I am trying to redline the White Mountains. I'll come back through using the trail on the return and evaluate the lop of the ledge when I get there. I know it seems small and petty but that's just the way I am. Remember back on Labor Day when I hit up Tecumseh for 1/10th of a mile? Well I am not doing that again so somehow I will find a safe way down. After reaching the knob and then going down into a sag I inadvertently come out on a dead end that is a viewpoint towards the east. Mt Paugus with Chocorua behind it can be seen.
Going back I see where I missed the trail and turn right onto it. Up to the summit of Wonalancet Hedgehog and just before there is side path on the left to another viewpoint.
A panorama looking south.
Back up the trail and for the second time in two weeks I am at the glacial erratic on the summit of Wonalancet Hedgehog.
Looking down Walden Trail, the way I came two weeks ago, and that is unbroken so it solidifies that I am returning the way I came. 7/10 of a mile on the trail I came up versus 2.8 miles on unbroken trails is a no-brainer.
Returning the way I came and I reach the spot where I bushwhacked through the woods and without even thinking about it I pass by it. I make it to the top of the ledge and slowly make it over to my right and to the last tree and stare down at where I have to go. Two options, try and walk down or get on my butt and go. Butt sledding it would be as it seemed the most practical and safest way down.
A little ways down and the spot I dug in a handhold, the same choice.
What took me an hour and a half to get up took only forty-five minutes to get down. Back at the Four-way Junction and time to head out on Lawrence Trail to Kelley Trail. It is just a ten minute hike over and the trail is somewhat broken out. At the next junction with Kelley the Oliverian Brook Trail leaves left, another trail I had planned on taking to complete my loop and that was also unbroken. That would have made for a long 2.7 miles breaking trail the whole way, another time and another day. Heading down Kelley Trail, which by the way is a glacial ravine, is an easy down hill trek out.
On the way down I decide at the end to take Gordon Path to make up for missing some miles due to the unbroken trails. Coming up and out of the ravine and I enter an area of hardwoods and I like the airiness feeling without the leaves on the trees. The trail crosses Cold Brook a few times and then through an area with some more glacial erratics. One spot I can hear a cascade off to my left and leave the trail in search of it.
Returning back to the car and I drop off my back pack for the 1.2 mile Gordon Path and then the road walk back. Following the wide road, not really a path, for a little ways and it turns into the woods on the right on a bit narrower but still wide road/trail. Continuing up and I miss the trail when it diverges right into the woods. Not to be a total loss I continue up to an open area and get a shot of Wonalancet.
Heading back and I find the spot where I should have turned into the woods and this is now more of a trail.
Reaching a secluded little spot with a bench to sit and reflect and then make my way to the road for the return walk back.
Back at Ferncroft and I get a view of where I've been today.
I didn't take all the trails I had originally set out to do but it's OK because I like this area and look forward to returning many times to redline all the trails that are located here.
Final numbers: 8.2 miles, 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Redline Miles: 6.8, Total to Date: 322.6