Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunrise hike to Welch-Dickey

hiking in the dark! 
Took a little tumble off the trip report wagon over the last few weeks despite some very noteworthy hikes.  It's time to get back on track, even if my brain is still slogging along at half power.  But this will be an easy one because it  can claim to be the subject of hundreds of pages by fellow northeast hikers' so I'll just write a quick summary (and lots of photos).

Hannah did me a solid yesterday by passing on some bigger plans to meet up with us at 4:00 in the morning to catch sunrise on this beautiful 4.5 mile loop.  It was only my second time beginning before sunrise and the first (and long awaited) visit to this pair of summits.  We went in the traditional direction, counter-clockwise, as soon as we hopped on the trail.  There was a teensy, rock hoppable water crossing at the beginning and the tranquil sound of running water accompanied us for awhile.  
Little brook crossing

Nearing the ledges!
My pictures came out pretty good (camera from my parents!) but the footing was even better - sometimes unobstructed dirt but often some easily maneuverable roots or small rocks.  I found the steepness to be easy, which is probably part of the reason the ledges that we arrived at after 1.3 miles are so popular as a big-view-for-little-effort hike.  The view totally gave me the warm and fuzzies and we hung around taking photos for a few minutes trying to capture the magic.

Being a very popular area that's also home to some very special and delicate plants,
there was a sign and timber trail barriers to herd folks on the right path.
Heart be still.... 

Between the ledges and Dickey summit (Welch's official summit was somewhere in there but I wasn't paying enough attention to recognize it) consisted of a blend of ledges, soft dirt, and quick (usually no hands) scrambles.  I absolutely love traversing smooth rock ledges and crushed rock, almost sand-like trails between gnarled krummholz so this was a very special treat.

The story is in the photos:

Windmills on the other side of Rt 93
She's so pose-a-bull
A steep but fun ledge we traversed

Along the way, we passed a few landmarks such as ledges where we could turn around and see where we'd begun and where we were heading.  All the while enjoying some gorgeous lighting!

Single file!
Basking in the morning light is nothing short of glorious!
Handsome Titus stealing the shot from this cool hole in the rock

Ty checked in from time to time!

A gorgeous viewpoint that has natural seating
and a great view of much of the loop
Lilo knew where we were headed 
We descended a stunning natural staircase to reach this uber cairn
As we descended Dickey, we reached a large rock pile at the bottom of the col.  From there to Dickey included a couple of tight squeezes and steep sections that were brief and fun.  Back up around the summit, we were treated to a few more ledges and views northward before heading into the trees for a bit.  Our last big treat was the open ledges of Dickey that sloped down into the land between the two peaks.
Testing out the GPS from my aunt and uncle!
Only a couple brief, challenging stretches like this one
Still happy!
Looking north - slightly to the right of center,
Cannon's sheer face is visible and Franconia ridge across the notch form it

The most treacherous 17 steps of the day.  Just kidding -
nothing special about this slope except I happened to take a very small fall!
No one else had an issue!

Final views of the day were from the exposed ledges on the way down Dickey

After that, the forest was more open and it was a gentle descent with good footing down to the bottom.  The dogs thoroughly enjoyed being screamed at by red squirrels and Hannah and I saw a big toad they missed barely off the trail.  There was one junction with another path towards the bottom that we kept left at.

All the dogs fared really well and had a great day.  In terms of overall challenge, I found this one to be pretty easy from a human standpoint and seeing Tango run ahead with his tail up gave me a lot of reassurance for suggesting it for dogs.  They were in their harnesses on a tip that some dogs need a boost or two (and Ty wore hers in order to be leashed til daybreak) but none of the four canines in the party needed assistance.Titus did really well while not causing any dangerous trip-ups for Hannah (being new, he is still attached to her!).  On that subject, there are lots of ledgy areas that will be slick and dangerous in wet weather
and for many of them, I couldn't really see a way to skirt around them.  Along with the gorgeous views come some steep drop offs, something I don't worry about with Ty and Tango but one may be cautions of with dogs newer to hiking or with less natural caution.  There wasn't too much water for them but, being that we started early, they didn't want or need much til the end.  We also encountered mostly dry trails and I only got my shoes wet in some mud by the only brook crossing.  I highly recommend visiting this loop early like we did.  It is very popular, for very good reason, and that's a big lot at the bottom to fill up for only 4.5 miles of trail so to enjoy the lovely trails and almost constant views they offer without interruption, choose an off hour.  Early morning and sunrise hikes will definitely be a bigger part of our future!

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