last weekened m & i decided to do something that we normally opt out on: a big hike in the midst of the new england summer.
it’s been hot and humid for a ridiculous number of days now and even as we get hit with massive rain storms that bring about flooding and roof leaks, the humidity does not cut. my body hates it, running is hard, i feel sluggish, and it’s not even pleasant to take a walk after dinner unless taking a shower that evening is on one’s to-do list.
despite this, there was a day in the forecast of late july that looked to be a bit more pleasant, especially if we were to go a bit north. so we got up early, departed from the lake at a cool 6:30am with some coffee in hand and made the drive up new hampshire’s two southernmost 4,000 footers.
while no hike up a mountain that summits above 4,000 feet is going to be easy, these two mountains are TOUGH. here’s a recap of our grand adventure!
we parked at the ferncroft parking area and set off toward the mountains, whiteface being our first peak for this day. we followed the blueberry ledge trail up the entire way. it was very steep at times, includes some sections of rock scrambling, a couple great views, a couple more frightening views, and sure does get your heart rate jumping as you make your final ascent. one fun thing to notice about this trail is that as you get higher in altitude, you actually see blueberries growing! they look a bit futuristic and nothing like a typical blueberry bush that comes to mind and they are the craziest color of blue. sadly i have very few photos from this hike as i was so sweaty i was fearful that i’d drop my phone in an instant other than when we were on a level surface and had been standing still for a couple of minutes.
at the top of whiteface we met a group of hikers that had been on this route a handful of times prior and they let us know that the trail connecting us to passaconaway was longer than you’d think, which is never what you hope to hear. they shared some jelly beans with us and we decided to set off quickly as we knew our day had just begun.
following the rollins trail off of the other side of whiteface’s summit, we meandered up and down and all around for a while as we trekked between mountains. this trail was fine, a bit wet in some areas, but nothing that felt too difficult. there is nothing much to look at here when it comes to views and it certainly does feel like you march on endlessly. when we did finally make it out we were so excited. we started up passaconaway and when we quickly reached the merge of the walden loop we ascended on the east side and knew would descend on the west side. this path was supposed to be short, just under a mile, but it was a hard as anything. long spans of rock ledges leading you straight up were really pushing me into some energy i didn’t know i had left. by this time of the day it was getting quite hot despite our location and i was moving rather slow. but m was good about it and didn’t get too far ahead of me so that we could summit this sucker together!
the summit of passaconaway leaves much to be desired. there is no wooden sign, no metal geo marker, and absolutely no view. you make it to the top, wander into a lightly wooded area, and there stands a little pile of rocks as your consolation for climbing all the way up there. we paused for a snack break and then began to make our way back down.
upon the junction of walden loop, we merged back onto the descending bit of rollins and eventually made our way onto the dicey mill trail. this trail has some rocks (nothing like the trails going up!), some streams, some switchbacks, and very few people that we saw. it took a while to make it down and once you do you are not necessarily out. you must walk through a meadow area, and strangely enough a small neighborhood, before reaching the area where you begin blueberry ledge.
this was my first big hike in my new hiking boots and some socks. i need to do a bit of research because either my boots are somehow too small or my socks were cheap as heck and i sadly came home with a few sizable blisters that hurt my feet for the better part of last week.
despite blisters and being so sweaty i refused to even high five m on the trail and not eating a proper lunch, i am super glad that we did this hike!
had i known how difficult these trails are, i’m not so sure it would have been something i selected on my own. but i am really proud to have conquered these two and relish the fact that i really never need to go back to them!
if you like to hike, enjoy a challenge, have plenty of water and time, and are in pretty good physical form, then i would recommend this hike. if you’re uncertain of your abilities, maybe wait this one out until you’ve got some more miles under your belt. our trail book lists this loop as being among the toughest in the white mountains and from my experiences, this seems like a fair statement.
total miles: 10.8
total time: 7 hours on the nose
total water: 3 liters/person
total blister count: 7
nh 4000 footers: 4/48