Wednesday, July 29, 2009
View from Ferncroft. Whiteface is the rocky knob in the left background.
Yesterday I ran/fast hiked over Whiteface and Passaconaway by myself. I left Ferncroft and ran up the Blueberry Ledge Trail. This trail starts out with easy footing and a gradual grade for several miles and is very runnable. Then it gets serious. Just as the trail got steep, I came upon a trail crew putting in big stone steps. They had the trail all dug out for several hundred feet and had strung a rope along the way so hikers could haul themselves up over the loose dirt. They stood back to let me by and instructed, "use the rope." There was no graceful way of hauling my body up that steep incline over loose dirt and I think they thought it was entertaining. A little higher up there are steep smooth open rock faces that you have to claw your way over to reach the top of Whiteface. Over the years there have been various foot holds and ladders and rungs in place on these exposed slopes, but they have all been removed. I would never attempt this part of the trail if it was wet and I avoid descending on this trail in any conditions.
One of the exposed areas hikers have to climb
I met two women at the first good viewpoint after the dangerous part. They said it had taken them 5 hours to get up that far and they were afraid to go back down the same way. They were a little overweight and had struggled to get up the incline. I encouraged them to go with their instincts of not descend the same way they had come up. I pointed out that they could hike over Rollins and down Dicey's Mill, which was what I was doing, but I was also going to add an out and back to summit Passaconaway. They did not have a light and I didn't have one to loan them. It was only noon, but they were very slow and I doubt they made it down before dark. I did think about them a few times in the evening when I was back home. The trails they would be on are very sheltered and the weather was very mild so I think they probably made it down fine.
After a snack and a little breather on the Fake Whiteface summit with the views, I followed Rollins Trail over the real summit in the woods, then continued over to Passaconaway. Rollins is gentle and good for running. It follows the ridge between the two mountains. There was a lot of mud in there yesterday. At the next junction, I hiked over the Passaconaway Loop then descended On Dicey's Mill Trail. Dicey's Mill can be run almost the entire 3.8 mile length.
Mt Passaconaway as seen from Whiteface
This loop is about 12 miles (give or take) and has a surprising amount of trail that is good for running. If you try this loop, just be aware of the open difficult part near the top of Blueberry Ledge Trail and allow plenty of time to be slow and cautious there. Also, don't allow yourself to be lured onto the Tom Wiggins Trail that connects Blueberry Ledge trail to Dicey's Mill Trail. The trail sign warns "rocky and steep, not recommended." Just the sort of warning that tempts a person like me. I admit it, I took the bait once, never again!