Sunday, March 22, 2015

Welcoming Spring on Imp Face

The original plan for today involved our foster pup Savannah on her first hike, another bipedal hiker, and the loop to Arethusa Falls (tallest waterfall in NH) and Frankenstein Cliffs to get some good mojo going for the new season.  Instead, Savannah went and found herself an incredible home!  Her family fell in love with her photo and wanted to meet her ASAP.  ULPR processed their application and the next morning, they drove over ten hours to come for her. 

The rest of the plan dissolved after that and I settled on Hedgehog due to forecasted snow.  I’m such a dork - I don’t sleep well the night before a hike and at 5:20 I was up and doing my final check of the weather.  They pushed the snow’s ETA back to the evening so I scrapped my Hedgehog plans for Imp Face in the Carter Range, excited for the up close-up views of the Presidential range, in the clouds or not.

Imp Face had darted across my radar before but I dismissed it once I read it described as steep with rough terrain.  Matching the hike to Tango’s lower energy level and stamina is crucial to him having a good time.  Today it is seemed like a great choice, covered in snow, still in the cooler weather (but mercifully warmer than it has been!), and perfect “winter” mileage for us. 

Signs of spring!

The Imp Trail is an almost-loop.  There is a very short (.2-.3 mile) road walk (plenty of shoulder space) between the northern and southern ends.  I think the best direction is clockwise, starting at the northern trailhead.  Imp Face is approximately 2.2 miles from that trailhead.  Then it is a gentle .9 miles to the North Carter Trail junction, where (for the loop) you turn back down the southern portion of the Imp Trail.  That way, if one chooses to shorten the hike, they get the payoff and then can simply turn around.  For me, the morale aspect is just as important.  I’d much rather hit the high point first.

The dogs were ecstatic to hit the trail.  It begins gently and we glimpsed running water for our first time this year.  Perhaps inspired by the impish outcropping for which the prominence earned its name, the trail is a funky one.  The grade varies frequently over its course.  After beginning gently and becoming more moderate, it kicks into steep mode, then gentle, steep, moderate…..  If I had better map-reading skills, I could provide more detail, but where the ascent truly begins, that all changes and it is mostly just steep with few reprieves.  Hiking poles would have been very helpful, had I the sense to bring them but I do not generally use them and it slipped my mind.  The dogs were generally far ahead of me and Tango required even fewer breaks than me, although he definitely tried to turn a few quick rub downs into full-on massage sessions!

Looking ahead to the destination

Ty beat me to the views
As I trudged upwards, knowing we were close, I looked up a straightaway to see gleaming sunlight and knew we were there.  I told the dogs to be careful (yes, we have conversations) and they proceeded ahead and were looking out at the expansive view when I arrived onto the small platform that is the Face.  Wow.  I must’ve said that word 20 times.  First off, the clouds weren’t as thick as anticipated (except around the cone, as usual!) and Mount Washington was stunning. I am always in awe of Presidentials, especially in the snow, when they are imposing in the most spectacular way.  I took a zillion pictures, none of which do them justice.  I tried to take our traditional “summit” photos but Ty felt like being a brat, looking miserable in all of them.  She has worked hard on managing her impatience when we stop but today was not a day of improvement.  Tango was much more cooperative so I snapped a few shots of him.  I waved goodbye and we disappeared back into the woods. 

Tango being an imp by mooning Mr. Washington

Ty on one of her uncooperative days.  Her trail manners, recall, and
practice with a new command were impeccable so I can't complain!

Up until that point, the trail was well broken out.  Continuing on from the Face, it was choppy in points but still broken out and a very gently grade to the North Carter Trail junction, where we had what is normally our “summit snack.”  The southern side of the trail is not in the greatest shape.  Some sections are mildly or severely postholed.
Quick tangent on snowshoes: Under the majority of circumstances where snow is beneath one’s feet, they are a must.  In fresh powder, they are needed for floatation.  Once the weather warms, the snow melts and, again, one sinks.  The deep footprints left behind (postholes), are nasty for other hikers to try to maneuver and even more challenging for dogs.  Please wear your snowshoes, or, if you’re unsure, ask for advice!
Remember your snowshoes or you'll get stink face from your fellow hikers!

They were full steam ahead, I was taking my time
staring at the sky - hence their dirty looks!
Thankfully, the dogs were in their usual “all business” mode, trotting downward and the sun was out so it was beautiful.  By the time we reached the car, clouds had taken over and I was stoked that our timing seemed to have been perfect.  The more cold weather hiking we do, the more I like it and the more bittersweet it feels to great spring.  Dogs had fun, I had fun, I’m tickled pink the weather gods were kind to us again, and apparently, we get to check another off of the 52 With a View list, so all in all, another great day in the Whites!

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