Whiteface (almost Passaconaway) Loop

Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain

 

This past Monday, I finally made it out to The Bowl Natural Research Area in Sandwich, NH, an old growth forest located towards the northern end of the Sandwich range.  The Bowl is more than 500 acres of untouched forest in a glacial cirque located east of Whiteface Mountain.

My trip started from the kiosk in the Ferncroft parking lot with a short walk up the dirt road where I crossed the bridge and followed the road to the Blueberry Ledge trailhead.  Fairly soon you come to the junction for the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff (bear left).   The Cutoff starts off as an easy grade with some rolling terrain and follows the Wonalancet River a short distance to a bridge that crosses the river and joins the Dicey’s Mill trail. If you continue on the Cutoff, it soon climbs a low ridge that looks down on the river as it veers away and heads towards steeper terrain.  Once you see the large boulder to your left, the grade gets steeper and you begin the first of a few steep sections that make up the most strenuous parts of this hike.  The nice part of this section is that after each pitch you get a breather on the short more moderate sections in between.   There are a number of spots where you get glimpse of some fines and before you know it, you’re standing on the summit of Whiteface with some fantastic views down into the bowl.  
Whiteface Summit
After a little lunch, some dry socks and GlacierGels  (my Limmers still need more breaking in), I headed out on the Rollins trail which follows the ridgeline of the cirque.   I was a bit surprised to find a fair amount of ice and snow still around.   I really enjoyed this section as the trail jumped from one side of the ridge looking down into the bowl and then jumped back over to the other side where you could see the Tripyramids.  At times, I could only see a very short distance down the trail and I was solo on this trip and I wasn’t making a lot of noise.  I saw lots of fresh moose sign and I began wondering how I would deal with an encounter in this very dense forest.  I never did see the animal fertilizing the trail.

 The view looking down through the bowl back towards the parking lot was satisfying.  I always love looking back at the ground I’ve covered so far that day.  It’s one of my favorite things about hiking.  It also gave me a good look at the distance I had to cover.

Looking down through The Bowl towards Ferncroft
Looking down through The Bowl towards Ferncroft

 By the time I reached the Dicey’s Mill trail junction, my feet were in rough shape and I bailed on my original plan to summit Passaconaway.
Dicey'S Mill Trail Junction
Dicey’S Mill Trail Junction

 The trail down from the ridge is a lot less steep than the climb up to Whiteface. Once you reach the river again things are pretty flat for the rest of the walk out.  I followed the Dicey’s Mill trail past the bridge over Wonalancet River that I passed on the way in. Less than a mile later I was back in the parking lot.  My GPS gave a distance of just over 11 miles round trip and about 3300 vertical feet of climb.  I was a little short of my planned route but that just means I’ll have to come back another day and summit Passaconaway.

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