Sandwich Wilderness, What’s Not to Love? – Mt. Whiteface (NH)

 

All spring I waited in anticipation for summer to start. This would be the season to complete many White Mountain adventures. Why then, am I finding it so difficult to hike in the summer? Anton and I woke up at 5:30am on a Sunday to get to the Ferncroft Trail Head by 9am. Let me preface this entire hike by saying how much I love the Sandwich Wilderness Range. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before, but wow! I never realized this gem of a region existed before my hikes began. It is wild, rugged, and only a couple hours from home. I used to be all about those Presidentials, not anymore!

En route to the trail head we saw a black bear cross run across the road. Sadly he was too quick for a picture, but I loved watching him waddle along. Black bears are second only in cuteness factor to our cat Martine. She may not be an adventure cat, but she is a cutie.

I digress… The moment we got out of the car the sweat started. It was so humid, and the air was heavy in my lungs. I knew it would be a struggle from that moment on. Within ten minutes every inch of my body was pouring sweat. It was 75 degrees, but felt like 90. The trail was not strenuous, on the contrary I found it quite pleasant. There was a lack of rocks to make my knees happy on the way down. And what else do you find on the Blueberry Ledge Trail in mid-July? Why, blueberries of course! We snacked as we hiked on through the old growth forest.  Our first view was hazy. In the distance we could see Squam Lake and some very ominous clouds. Last time we saw those it was on Mt. Jefferson…uh oh. We checked the weather and all seemed well. To be safe I checked three additional weather sources. If we got caught on Whiteface in a thunderstorm it wouldn’t be as big of a deal, the mountain isn’t exposed like Jefferson. Still, we proceeded cautiously.

The Blueberry Ledge trail is on the Terrifying 25 list. To this day I have done a total of nine of those trails, and mostly this year. I was wondering why it was on the Terrifying 25, it really doesn’t deserve that status. Then I found out exactly why. Right at the top there are some gnarly boulders and steep faces. Thunder rumbled in the distance and a chill went up my spine. Anton checked the View Ranger app on his smartwatch. Almost there, we were so close that the excitement of seeing the summit took precedence over the dark skies just 20 miles away. My mind reverted back to that day on Jefferson with Brianna. I felt tears in my eyes, ‘Please not again, don’t let this be how all of my summer hikes are,’ I thought to myself. I sucked it up and kept going, what if it didn’t rain? I would have so many regrets about not making it to the summit. If you don’t take chances, then why do you go on living? Life is chance from the moment we are born till our deaths.

With the steep faces and boulders we climbed over came the most beautiful views. I couldn’t stop staring out at the valley below. With every risk there is a reward.

We came across another couple on their way down when View Ranger was telling us that we were less than 0.2 of a mile away. They told us news which broke my heart. The actual summit was still 1/2 a mile away and no more than a cairn in the woods. I was utterly defeated. I remembered seeing photos in my Mt. Whiteface research online of a gorgeous summit view. I was sure that they must have been the New Hampshire Whiteface as well. I’ve been to the top of Whiteface in New York, I knew the difference. Then I remembered South Kinsman, there too a group of hikers told my mother and I that the “true summit” was over a mile further than what my app said, they were wrong about that, and they went over to another peak which was smaller than South Kinsman. I checked View Ranger and Gaia GPS on my phone. Both placed us almost directly at the summit. Google Maps also agreed. Sometimes it is better to go with your gut, and I was going with mine. This was the summit for sure, Anton wanted to believe the couple we passed, but when he checked our surroundings and View Ranger he too was sure.

The big question was, where did those people think the summit was? I looked further down the trail which connected to Passaconaway, the Rollins Trail. There was a knob further out, maybe 1/2 a mile away, that was it. They walked right past the Whiteface Summit and all its beauty for a view-less knob. I laughed a little to myself. This is yet another reason why I love technology on the trail. No, you shouldn’t be texting your friends or on social media a lot, it’s best to disconnect except for maybe a quick photo to share with friends. You should use GPS when necessary, and take lots of pictures! Why carry a phone, GPS, and camera when you can have it all in one?

As we ate lunch I felt a few of the dreaded rain drops. It was time to scarf down our food and go! The rumbling thunder sounded closer than ever and I got down into that old growth forest as quickly as humanly possible. It never rained, in fact the sun came out. Oh New England weather, we have such a love-hate relationship. Hiking with this kind of fear saddens me. In the winter if I fall down, it is on soft snow and I wear traction to prevent falling. Thunderstorms aren’t a thing in the winter. I could get caught in a snowstorm, but that’s why I don’t go hiking if they’re predicting snowy weather. Summer weather in the Whites is so unpredictable. Best of all? Going downhill on snow doesn’t hurt my knees/ankles. Most of the way down is spent sliding. For obvious reasons this is impossible in the summer, it takes the fun out of hiking for me.

As for Whiteface? I loved it, sticky sweat and all. Great views, beautiful forests, a touch of pure adventure, and a yummy snack! Who says you can’t have it all? Anton and I smiled as we made it back to Ferncroft, another mountain checked off both our 4,000 footers lists.

Trail Tips: If you’re hiking in this area in the summer go to Sandwich Creamery for ice cream or cheese. Believe me, you won’t regret a single one of those 500 calorie scoops. This isn’t a hiking tip, but I feel that you need to know about it.

My sincere apologies for posting hikes 3.5 weeks after completion. Things have been a bit nuts with the move, longer commute, and getting into the new job! I cannot wait till August is over.