Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Passaconaway on a Wet October Day

Our friends Bully & Blaze
Route: Dirt road, Dicey Mills Tr - Rollins Tr
Mileage: appx. 9 mi
Duration: 7 hours including breaks

On a gray autumn day, three women and most of their dogs met at Ferncroft parking lot to hike Whiteface.  Not a hike I thought I'd do again but the characteristics were just right.  Hannah, Amy, and I agreed on Whiteface for it's hiking appeal for Tango and Lilo, the opportunity to see the foliage, and its location away from the major leaf peeping routes (though 113 was simply gorgeous and bursting with color that day, 10/9/2016).  Amy and I met up the night before and camped in Tamworth as the forecast began to deteriorate overnight.  Nursing a cold and crinkling my nose at the drizzle that passed over us at 7:00AM, I admit to having doubts.  Thankfully, Hannah and Amy aren't babies like me and we proceeded to the trailhead.

One of the loveliest trailhead views I know of
Upon arrival, we decided to take Dicey Mills to Rollins in and out instead of the loop up Blueberry Ledge and down the former two, assuming the ledges above would be slick at best. To begin the hike, one must walk out of the parking lot and back to the road and take a right. A few fortunate souls live on the dirt road at least part of the year and it's a nice easy way to settle into a hike.  Past the gate that welcomes hikers while barring vehicles, we passed through a large meadow, then a smaller one before entering the woods, enjoying the soft dirt beneath our boots.

Audrey Dog!

Shortly after the bridge to the Tom Wiggins Trail, the ascent began, gently and with good footing.  I suppose I can say that about most of Dicey Mills Trail.  Some slightly steeper staircases here and there but a truly moderate trail in every sense, it was lovely and extra appreciated in light of my cold and the occasional gentle rain.  Even still, I increasingly found myself struggling as we neared the junction to head towards Whiteface.  I felt pretty guilty about it too since Ty was practical giddy (but well behaved!) and Tango was uncharacteristically gung-ho.  He probably felt the need to show off being the only guy and all!  He had a new chica to impress too; this was our long awaited first hike with Amy and her rescue chow mix Audrey.

four leggers... 

At the junction, Hannah referred to her map, which told us that Passaconaway was half the distance as Whiteface so again, we changed course.  Because, as experienced WMNF hikers have already realized, I forgot Dicey Mills doesn't meet up with Blueberry ledge on the southeast side of the summit but wraps around it.  A convenient mistake on my part, thankfully.

I don't recall much until next intersection at a sort-of left to reach the viewless summit of Passaconaway.  The trail became increasingly more challenging and included a few nice, brief scrambles that were doable in the rain.  One of them I recalled from when Linda and I hiked there in 2012 and had our first experience with boiler plate ice (and missing junctions!).

THIS is trouble! Ty was feeling very peppy having a
hiking partner who matches her pace.

It wasn't all rocks and boulders.
Scramble time!
Just as with the last time, the potential vista slightly before the summit was shrouded in thick clouds and we continued on.  The true summit is along one a of a couple small herd paths and is marked with a cairn... and maybe a wooden marker but I don't recall.

What a view!
3-way intersection with the herd path
We made our traditional photo attempts, celebrated another 4K, which we haven't accomplished much of lately, and decided to take the other side of the loop back down to Dicey's Mill, for no other reason than to mix things up.

It was rough but we were happy to be descending rather than ascending (like the handful of folks we passed).  Like the other side of the loop, there were a few steep sections where we held onto tree limbs or scooted down.  The day's biggest laugh came while I was squatting down to prepare to hop down a ledge.  Lilo is one of the most unique trail dogs we've met.  She's like a freight train: slow and steady and always moving forward.  So at that particular moment, I was blocking the path of said pibble train, who, without flinching stuffed her head under my armpit and continued onward. Between laughing and being forced forward, I almost tumbled down the rocks!

Above: going down a steep section,
below: looking up at the same section

The rocks I was nearly run over at!
(Just before the Walden Trail)

After that, the trail was curvy and mellow and we caught a couple of glimpses of orange hills through the wet trees.  Before long, we passed familiar intersections.  Along the last section of Dicey's Mills, the group began to spread out, as Ty, inspired in part by the buoyant and adventurous Audrey, began pushing the limits of her permitted distance from me while Lilo's steady pace lost some "oomph," as it was later discovered, from some minor pad abrasions.

By the meadows, we'd re-converged and walked down the road together, enjoying the quintessential "New England-ness" of it all.  The road walk and drive to and from the trailhead produced the most views of the foliage but there is certainly something to be said for hiking through the fall colors as well.

Waning but still mesmerizing color
 Aside from all the emotional highlights of Sunday's hike, it's a nice one to recommend for dogs.  The footing and grade are solid except for the summit loop, which offers reasonable challenges.  There is only one noted water crossing/water source; however, Hannah covered the same trails during a different hike in early July and recalled a handful of seasonal runoff streams.  The trailhead was nearly full and we saw enough people to not feel remote but it's a comparatively quiet hike.  For the humans, there aren't many opportunities for views but the hike itself is quite enjoyable and all the dogs seemed very happy with it, which, let's face it, is why we're here!


  1. LOLed all over again at you being in Lilo's way!

    IIRC, this hike was right before we got her thyroid results back. She's been much brighter in the last week -- led all the way around our Belknap loop! Not sure how much of that is attributable to the meds, but hopefully the trend will continue.

  2. That too! Dirty little secret... I wrote the post right after our hike but just added the photos last night :x I'm so glad the meds seem to be working!! Yay Lilo!