Stud and wake up in our
cheap motel room air-conditioned palace in North Conway and go out for breakfast while 5e drives up from Boston. We all meet up at the Ferncroft Road trailhead in Wonalancet at the base of the Sandwich Range Wilderness on some land that is privately owned but welcomes hikers. Its very exciting to see 5e and we are pumped.
We fumble with our packs and tighten things and make our last little decisions before heading out into the heat wave. The Blueberry Ledge Trail is another nice gentle approach giving us time to catch up with 5e. We share adventure stories from the day before and other stories and just talk and talk our way up the trail until its too hot and too steep to talk and we focus on climbing.
We break often to drink and snack and I start to worry that my 2 liters of water is not enough. We are climbing higher and I am now down to 1 liter as we pass by a pile of water bottles that some other hikers have clearly stashed for later. I find myself fantasizing about stealing small undetectable sips from each of these stashed water bottles and I am shocked by my mind even entertaining this thought so I shake my head to snap out of it and pray we find water soon. Not 10 minutes later, we come across a trickle. We all fill up a liter, treating our liters with Aqaumira and letting the cold water run over our bandanas cooling ourselves off.
We continue climbing and soon we are at some incredibly steep ledges greeted by a well-intentioned guy who wants to give us the complete blow by blow of how to get up the ledges (even though we asked him nothing). I am grateful for the lack of views due to the hazy humidity and I watch Stud and then 5e climb up the impossible-looking rocks and wonder how the heck I will do it. I haven’t been this scared since Mount Mansfield. I feel too short to reach and I can’t see Stud and 5e around the giant house shaped boulder that is on front of me so I shout up to them just to make sure they are right there and of course they are and they try to explain where they put what foot where and I can’t really take it in so I just finally hurl myself up and clutch onto anything I can grab and make my way up. We then climb 2 more very steep and very large and ledges encouraging and supporting each other with each scary step until we reach the top of the ledges and lay down on the flat open rock to recover and chug water.
We haven’t even reached the summit of Mt. Whiteface yet and its getting late. I’m concerned about the time but we can’t move any faster in this heat and we absolutely have to take lots of breaks to stay hydrated. We finally reach the summit of a small cairn in the trees. We make our way across the Rollins Trail over the Mt. Passaconaway and its a lovely trail. We find the spur and head up eventually reaching the elusive summit, another tiny cairn in the trees and we plop down for an extended break. 5e offers us some electrolyte tablets that change everything. I had some that I left at the hotel room that I bought ages ago but never used and now I’m so happy to have a stash. Its 4:30 and we still have a 5 mile decent down Dicey’s Mill Trail. We are exhausted and so grateful to not be camping! haha!
The decent is long and we pause often and we drink about 4 liters when all is said and done. I enjoy watching the landscape change as we descend and eventually we pop out of the backyard of the hiker-friendly homeowners. It feels surreal to be in a wide open space and the light is amazing. We trek down the long driveway not 100% sure of where our cars are and we reach a gate with a sign that reads:
I find this sign really funny and we continue down a dirt road eventually finding our cars. It took us 10 hours to hike these rugged 12 miles in this heat and we are feeling it! We head up route 16 pulling over at Lake Chocorua for dip and the sun is setting over the lake and the water feels magnificent. I scrub the layers of dirt off my calves with my bandana and float and splash around until I feel myself cool down. We change into dry cotton and head north to our
cheap motel room air-conditioned palace for a quick pit stop before grabbing dinner. Its late by the time we get back and we again laugh about the thought of camping right now. We go over our route for tomorrow and crash.