Our friends Bully & Blaze
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|
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.
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.|
|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|