I had a hell of a day this past Saturday participating in my Wilderness Navigation course final at Pawtuckaway State Park. The minute we stepped out of the rental bus, the black flies attacked us in huge swarms. Yes, it’s that time of year here in New Hampshire when the state bird, the black fly, makes its triumphant return. Our professor gave us our maps and starting location the night before, and the rest of the day was up to us. Myself and my other 3 team mates made great work of the course. We were the only team without bug nets so you know we kept moving to avoid the nasty onslaught of the flies. At days end, my team had bushwhacked around 14 miles through the State Park on our way to a first place finish with 19 points located. By the end of the day, my feet were soaked and blistered and I was zonked. So what best to do the day after a grueling work out? Go out for more…
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Waterville Valley, NH

Sarah and I parked at the Welch-Dickey Loop trailhead in Waterville Valley, NH. With our day packs filled with various goodies and drinks. I visited the woods for a bio-break and upon returning to the car Sarah pointed out the Bathroom in the parking lot… friggin great! Wishing I had seen it before I darted into the brush, we locked up the car and headed up the trail in a lush hardwood forest. Rivers and streams are running high in the north country and as we made our way to our first crossing, we made easy work of it having many large rocks to hop across.

One of the beauties of the White Mountain National Forest is its resiliency. As winter turns to spring, the snow up high melts ever so slowly, staggering the seasons at varying elevations. At our low elevations Spring is in full spring and full bloom. The poison ivy is sprouting up, leaves are popping out onto the trees, hobblebush is emerging from the duff as are the beautiful trilliums. We found this magnificent Painted Trillium and I couldn’t resist taking a picture.

We continued to wind our way up the rather mellow trail, making good time until it started to get ever so steeper. It wasn’t long before we emerged from the forest out onto rocky outcroppings which afforded us magnificent views of the Waterville Valley Area. We soon found ourselves scrambling up along very steep rock slab sections that lasted for 50-100 yards in length.

The wind lightly glanced across the summit cone of Mt. Welch. With temps near 60, I would be lying if I denied that the wind was a bit chilly. The effort of the climb continued to heat us up, keeping us warm and sweaty. The breeze chilled us just enough to make things comfortable. After topping out on the top of Mt. Welch, we ducked back down into the col which was full of thick evergreens and classic NH trails. As I head into Massanutten, I had to chuckle once more at the fact that people think rocky trails are indigenous to Massanutten. Well… once again, here is a look at our trails in New Hampshire.

We climbed our way to the top of Mount Dickey the second and final peak of this 4.5 mile loop. We once again scrambled up rocky sections of trail and slabs. We looked back and was treated to a view of our first summit.

We enjoyed our visit of Mount Dickey and once again enjoyed the views of the surrounding area. We could see snow gracing the top of Mount Moosilauke and the Franconia Ridge. We gazed into the Sandwich Range, saw the peaks of Tecumseh, Tripyramids, Whiteface, Sandwich Dome and Jennings. It was a glorious day as the overcast skies tickled the tops of the peaks and really created a stunning contrast between the earth and sky. From here, we made our way down the rocky mountain side, slipping back into another hardwood forest of Beech, Ash and Birch, and made our way back to the car.

Back at the car we agreed to head further into the Valley and check out some of the trails that we’ve always kind of wandered past on hikes previous. So we drove up the road and headed into deepest darkest Waterville and parked at the Livermore Road parking lot just past Waterville Valley Ski area up off of Tripoli Road. We made our packs a bit lighter, dumping off things we might not need and headed off into the woods and onto Livermore Road and the Greeley Pond Trail. These trails are flat and serve as logging/forest roads.. or at least they have at one time in our states past. Now, they serve as immaculate wide hiking trails that wind through the Valleys.

In the late 1800’s when hiking was first coming around as a recreational activity in our nations history, a man whose last name was Greeley had it in his head to create a network of hiking trails in Waterville Valley. This would become one of the first tourist destinations in our nation that offered hiking as a recreational activity. In fact, the network of trails that the Greeley party laid out, became our nations first ever hiking trails network. Now, over 100 years later, this network of trails is one of our states seldom used network while hikers seek the peaks of the 4000 Footer Club. I’ve always wanted to investigate some of these trails and today I’d get my chance.

We hiked in on the Greeley Ponds trail arriving at the Trail for The Scaur. We walked in on the trail to the banks of the Mad River where it was immediately evident that the river was much too high for us to cross. I was totally bummed so we made our way back to the Greeley Ponds trail and walked 40 yards in the other direction to where I remember seeing a downed tree spanning the river. Sarah immediately mentioned that the tree would be slippery, I had to see for myself. I took a large stick and rubbed it across the soaked log.. slippery it was.. and my idea to cross on this log was quickly vetoed. So we turned around and took out our map to decide what to do. Sarah wanted to see the Kettles, I didn’t want to walk all the way around to see them.. so I voted we go to Goodrich Rock to check out the view from there. I won and away we went.

The trail climbed almost immediately at a rather steady slope but we could easily see that we’d top out on a broad ridge ridge line that would give us some relief. As we made our way higher, up the slope Sarah stopped and looked up and I heard her say, “Is that a bird?.. wait.. a BAT?!” Sure enough, in broad daylight a tiny bat was flying over our heads munching on what little black flies have emerged in the valley. We continued to make our way up the trail arriving at the Davis Boulders. The trail blazers from years ago designed the trail to have it wind its way through and under the various huge boulders that rested here after the ice age. Check it out!

After the boulder field, it was evident that we were getting close to our destination. A well trodden trail was growing ever so smaller and less worn. Sarah had a low blood sugar and her energy level was zapped. We’d been walking almost non stop most of the day all ready so I suggested we take a short break. We rested and she sucked down some gatorade. After our break we continued on towards Goodrich Rock as I grew ever more excited about taking in the views to the south. And then… there it was. The rock. We climbed around the base and then the trail wound us towards the top. We turned a corner where a large wooden ladder was built from trees. And as I looked at it.. my blood pressure went through the roof. The ladder was broken and unclimbable! DAMN IT! We had walked all that way to be robbed of our view! I took a photo of the ladder and continued to sulk about it. As we made our way down and around the rock, I scoured the rock for any climbing routes I may take to the top.. yet… nothing. Crap!

So.. we turned around and headed back for the car. Our day had ended well as we had enjoyed an entire afternoon in the woods. We piled into the car and headed for the Common Man Restaurant in Ashland where we enjoyed a huge and delicious dinner. Perfect way to end the day.