Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Not So Sweet Bushwhack...Sugarloaf 3/1/14

This is the second winter in a row now that getting out hiking has been a problem. This winter has been even tougher. There has been many contributing factors. Family and heath issues have been a fair part of the problem. But I've had plenty of chances and the #1 problem has become laziness. Coupled finally with, a good 3 decades of day-tripping to the White Mtns for various reasons, I've grown very tired of the minimum 4 hour R.T. drive for one day. It's come down to a literal mental battle with myself every Friday weather or I'm going to head out, and what the heck am I going to do. It sounds like this should be the least of someones problem but after a 10 years now of almost never missing a weekend, the thought of slowly becoming aging coach potato is weighing heavy on my mind.

This past Friday night was no different. I did at least (slap myself)...thanks, I needed that 8), and pack a bag to head out in the morning. Where I was headed to, I had no idea. I did at least have a good half dozen ideas that I could go though while driving up. And to keep me placed firmly in  this rut I'm in, of coarse I chose the wrong one.

While on 93, and seeing pretty decent skies, I decided I'd finally do the bushwhack up Sugarloaf (Benton) then hike to Black since it ended up raining my only other time there. I got the Chippewa Trail parking around 7:30 and was on trail 15 minutes later.
 The Chippewa Train Maintained by my friend and hiking buddy, Mike Saltmarsh

As I made the turn south, I could see my first target. Sugarloaf Mtn

I wasn't sure where I wanted to start the bushwhack because when tested the snow in the woods near the parking area, I found it fairly deep there with 0 consolidation. So I decided to stay on trail for about a half mile to get some of the elevation gain done on trail.

It didn't end up being all that much gain, I believe I started just under 1300', and started the whack just over 1400'. I went in here. Sugarlorf, clearly visible.

It's tough to see in this photo but it was a moose super highway in there. I was sure I'd spot one today but did not. 
Tracks in all directions.

The woods were pretty decent.

But this is was I was dealing with, on every single step.

These open glades were stepper than they look. Every step I went in up to my knees. With the steep grade and deep snow, and the ice base-layer, it was like being on a treadmill. More often than not, I was stuck in place trying to move forward. I lost count of the times I said, "just turn around". Of coarse, I didn't.

Finally I thought I could see the summit at the top of these glades. Indicated by the sign of more spruce.

Nope, these glades which were steep in there own right, crested revealing the even steeper summit cone. :(
Having been a month since my last hike I was thoroughly wiped out already. Now I heading into even steeper, somewhat pencil woods. I thought this was going to have to be it for me. But while testing the waters so to speak I found to pluses to these woods. 1, the snow was about half the depth here. 2, there were plenty of trees to grab for assistance. Then finally a light at the end of the tunnel. I could see open ledge.

The first ledge I came to face north towards Black Mtn.

From there, I headed to the southern side to this but of ledge. With it's views.
Cardigan the tallest peak on the left.
Smarts, Cube, & Piermont tallest on left here.

Then the next towards the S.E.
Moosilauke, The Hogsback, & Jeffers

Then the last, and enough for me, a N.E. view.
North. Cabot & Waumbek on the distance horizon.
Cannon, The Kinsmans, with Franconia Ridge in the back.
Pano from that spot.

I was pretty disappointed overall in my views because this flat light makes for horrible photos, IMO. And I'd seen blue skies come and go in this, what seemed to be, endless journey to the summit. So after about 20 minutes of photographs, I headed down. I thought the descent, at least, would be easier. Not so much. 

Spotted this guy busy looking for a meal. Not sure of the type of woodpecker he was.

I diverted off my ascent tracks thinking following some drainage might have a bit solider, frozen ground and ran into this. The picture doesn't show it well, But there are a few dozen trees down here. Micro burst perhaps. Some above, and some beneath the snow. Navigating through them was a major pain in the A$$.

Finally did make it back to the trail. 

Believe it or not, I still headed up trail towards Black after all that. But that lasted all of about 5 minutes before I turned around. I did however, decide to check out the Lime Kilns.

The smaller and older kilns.
The large kiln. I'm there for scale.

You read about the history of these kilns HERE .

Time to get out of here. :)


To some up this trip: Don't pick a 2+ mile R.T.  steep bushwhack in deep, unconsolidated snow as you first hike in a month. And now I have 2 peaks on that ridge I need to return to on a much nicer day. Sugarloaf, and The Hogsback which I did about a year ago with the same weather conditions. Lastly, I should have gone with one of the trailed hikes I had in mind
 The tracks

The numbers. Note the stopped time. Much of which is me leaning on a tree questioning my sanity. :-)


  1. Joe, perhaps one of the many reasons that I enjoy your postings so much is because I can relate to so much of what you write about. For example, it's easy for me to relate to doing a trek such as the one you did to Sugarloaf. Folks like us oftentimes just keep going when many folks would turn around! :-) And, although you personally were somewhat disappointed in your photos, they presented some awesome views and showed that you were amply rewarded you for your efforts.

    And regarding that "laziness" thing you mentioned. I don't believe for a minute that you're a lazy person. Perhaps you're just questioning what is the most efficient use of your time as it relates to hiking. Without question, hiking here in the Whites is terrific. But, as you likely already know, one doesn't have to spend hours traveling to the Whites in order to have a satisfying hiking experience. Everyone is different, but I can get great pleasure from smaller hikes close to home. It still gets me out into the woods, plus I still have time left over in the day to do other things that I also enjoy.


  2. Thanks for those kind comments John. But I still have to wonder if it's maybe the smart ones who turn around. ;-)

  3. Glad to hear someone from Massachusetts finally acknowledge the weariness of driving to NH week after week, year after year. I always wonder how you guys do it!!! Even living in the Lakes Region I get tired of driving to the Whites and have scaled back to keep my sanity, or switch it up with other pursuits. Maybe you'll convince Becky that living up north may be the ticket as part of a retirement. Cheap living and lots of places to hike with less driving, how can you go wrong!!!! Think of all the hours you've spent in the car driving and all that gas money saved Joe!!!

    Hiking Lady

  4. " Maybe you'll convince Becky that living up north may be the ticket as part of a retirement."

    That's the retirement plan H.L. Thanks for your comments.