Every year a bunch of my male friends and I make it out on a weekend hike during Columbus Day Weekend. Usually this takes place in the White Mountains, and this year was no exception. We were blessed with extraordinary foliage, cold but pleasant temps and ample amounts of whiskey. Surprisingly our group of 9 the first night, and 5 the second night was not too difficult to manage.
We started on Friday, October 15 at our friend Justin’s house near Sandwich, NH. It was great being near the trailhead so we could get an early start the next day. And that we did…around 1:00 pm! Oh well, nothing changes. Heading out on the Dicey’s Mill trail, we walked through beautiful birch, beech and maple trees (among others) until we stopped for a nice lunch of wine, cured meats and fancy cheeses. This is hiking in style! We reached Camp Rich at at bit over 3,000 feet. We found a beautiful little grove in the woods, set up our camp and went to the summit of Mt. Passaconaway. We had a beautiful view of the fall forest in it’s late fall majesty while we watched the last bit of sunlight hit the peaks and tops of the trees.
Nighttime was spent drinking whiskey. We were bemoaning the fact that we had only brought a fifth with us, clearly not enough fuel for nine dudes. Then out of nowhere our buddy pulled an unopened handle of Johnny Walker out of his pack! Thanks for carrying that bud. The rest of the night was spent chatting by the campfire and doing cool long exposures with our headlamps.
The next morning we woke up to another beautiful day. We followed a typical sub-treeline New England ridgeline along the Rollins Trail to the top of Mt. Whiteface. The summit is nothing to right home about, but about a 1/4 mile beyond a beautiful view to the south of Lake Willoughby and Squam Lake are visible. Another great lunch spot. A few of us decided to head about another 1/4 mile down the Blueberry Ledge trail to a beautiful view north to Mt. Washington and the Presidentials. The peak of the mountain was covered in snow. For a skier like me, that was the best sight of the trip. Winter is on it’s way.
We headed back down the McCrillis trail, which loses elevation quickly. A knee-buster for sure, but still pleasant with more foliage at which to gawk. When we reached the Flat Mountain Pond Trail, a few folks had to head back out of the woods. Five of us continued on along a slightly inclining trail along the beautiful Whiteface River. We reached Flat Mtn. Pond shelter just around sunset. Nobody was there so we took over the shelter. The stars were out in full force that night, and I even did a little timelapse. With no more alcohol left, we retired early.
Awaking the next morning, the sun shone brilliantly on the western bank of Flat Mountain pond. This time of year it could easily be snowing or raining 33 degree miserableness. Instead, we enjoyed a wonderful walk down the remainder of the Flat Mountain Pond Trail, a converted rail trail. Usually I like going up and down, but it was a nice break to be able to just walk and enjoy the scenery instead of focusing on our feet. The final walk out the Bennett St. Trail passed a number of beautiful cascades and small waterfalls. We finished just around noon, and before completely heading our separate ways, grabbed a lunch and a few beers in Holderness.
The Sandwich Range is becoming one of my favorite parts of the White Mountains. It really divides the mountains in the north from the much mellower terrain near the lakes. Most importantly, there are far fewer people hiking there than in the more well-known region of the whites. If you’re reading, thanks guys for another great hike. Looking forward to Boys Hike 2011!