Route: Champney Falls Tr - Champney Falls Cutoff - Middle Sister Tr - Piper Tr - Champney Falls Tr
Mileage: appx. 9 mi
Elevation gain: appx. 2500'
Happy September! I doubt we have many readers left after my gratuitous two month hiatus but thanks to those who are still around! We've been doing small hikes, lots of conditioning, and some training while not being on the computer very much, which I think is generally a good thing!
Out of the large handful of unfinished drafts in my queue, I've chosen Chocorua & the Sisters somewhat randomly as the review to restart the blog and what a great hike it was! Chocorua was our first White Mountains hike a few years ago and, as I'll probably talk about in my next piece about Caps Ridge, time and experience really can affect perception!
Ty and I started at 8:15AM; I was aiming to not be there so early that we'd be waking up the critters and definitely early enough to beat the masses, as it was a gorgeous day that begged for a crowd.
We walked over the trickling stream, passed two people heading back, and smiled knowing we wouldn't see anyone else for awhile. The path was somewhere between single file and carriage road in width and generally easy walking. We gained elevation smoothly and almost unnoticeably. When we reached the side path for Champney Falls, we opted to take it for the water access. The price we paid was a rougher trail than before. While Ty merely looked irritated, I had to stop often to appreciate the step work done by trail builders and maintainers. However, she did enjoy tiptoeing close to the water as it spilled over the falls as I waited.
|Left to the Falls, right up the main path. Decisions, decisions.|
Returning to the main trail, we enjoyed the still moderately easy (by ascent standards) and decent footing, albeit a tad rockier than below the falls. It eventually transitioned to more rocks than not and we encountered the switchbacks that I found so exhausting years ago. They're interesting switchbacks, being very narrow as shown a few photos below below.
|The progression towards rocky|
After powering up the mountain to keep to a time goal, we lost serious ground here. This trail is a gem hiding in plain sight! About halfway through the cutoff, we popped out on a little ledge with beautiful views and more blueberries than we could pick.
We finally decided to part with the blueberry bushes and walked the last few minutes up to Middle Sister Trail, another beaut!
At the summit of Middle Sister are some interesting structures that intrigued me and conjured mixed emotions for Ty.
From there we continued to the junction with Carter Ledge Trail. Along the way we encountered rougher sections, brief scrambles, and more gorgeous views. And yes, so many blueberries!
|Always taking in the views|
|I constantly feel judged as she sits atop a scramble and waits for me|
(Middle Sister Tr between Champney Falls Cutoff and Piper Tr):
We took Piper up to the summit. The summit cone is so much bigger and more exposed than I realized and we did quite a bit of walking up open ledges. Ty was strangely unsure that morning, I think due to the wind, but we powered through.
|About to break treeline|
|The yellow blazes were very helpful|
|The very last junction, perhaps 50 feet from the summit|
|Barely humoring me for a summit photo|
|View from the top (or a couple feet below it)|
I've learned to appreciate terrain so much more than I used to and I think that new perspective and many more hikes under my belt, made this trip so much more fun than the first time. Up to the falls is pretty easy to navigate with almost unwavering consistency. The switchbacks and rocky sections from there to the ledges are tricky, especially because they're usually damp. The ledges vary from waves of smooth rocks to somewhat steep and demanding of caution. As far as pups are concerned, there aren't many reliable water sources past the falls. Along the ledges, there are places keeping an extra eye on a green trail dog is essential for their safety and that of others but below the trees, the terrain is pretty straightforward for four-paw-drive. My final note is the seasonality of this choice in trails: holy crap busy in the summer, probably too icy in the shoulder seasons and overall way more interesting than I gave it credit for!