It was another gorgeous day in the mountains. I hiked the entire trip in just my wicking shirt. Unbelievable that I could do this in January! I even hiked most of the trip with no gloves on even though my hands are usually the first thing to get cold. I did slip them back on when we got back down into the shadows. This was Linda's second time out since discovering that she had fractured her sacrum back in August. She had done the Welch/Dickey Loop with friends last week while I was on Mount Washington. It was great to see her back on the trail! Where last week they were able to make the loop in microspikes, this week unconsolidated snow made it difficult to repeat this method. She didn't really want to wear them because of the extra strain on her back, but LInda slipped on her snowshoes and did very well despite the added effort. We met her friend Cindy on this hike. Hopefully we will all do many more together!
From the start Emma and Blue were raring to go! Mr. Blue did his usual bounding off trail after every forest scent he could smell, but soon found out that post-holing was not a lot of fun! Back on the trail he decided to withstand obeying his natural instincts and keep it simple by following the snowshoe track that Judy and I were grooming behind only one other hiker. It was hard to believe this was a day in January in the White Mountains! As we rose higher along the way and the views opened up a bit we could see the Tripyramids nearby to our west, the Hancocks to our northwest, Carrigain almost directly north, and the Crown Jewell of the White Mountains, Mount Washington, peeking out from behind Mount Tremont to our northeast. Beautiful!
We stopped for a snack at the summit and marveled at the mass of Mount Passaconaway just to our south. It seemed so close we could touch it! To the east of Passaconaway were Paugus and the white spire of Mount Chocorua which rose just above The Sisters to his north. The ledges of Hedgehog Mountain offered great views in every direction from different vantage points along the way. As we had a quick snack the sound of choppers to our north caught our attention and soon two Blackhawks appeared. They flew from north to south passing over Mount Chocorua. We were not sure if they were just flying maneuvers, or had been on a rescue mission.
After warming in the bright sun for awhile, we soon began the winding descent down into the forest and around the ledges that make up the southern and eastern flanks of Hedgehog Mountain. In the shade of the trees the snow kept its crunchy crust which once broken through became a loose sand consistency, but as we wound our way back up onto the sunny eastern ledges things changed. Here the snow was of a different consistency than the snow we had hiked through to this point. The sun had warmed the snow and it was now a more consistent texture with little crunch and easily consolidated, though not sticky. We stopped at the eastern ledges just before the trail drops back down into the trees on the north side of the mountain. We had lunch and basked in the warm sun and almost complete lack of wind which made it unnecessary to even pull on a jacket!
Again, it was a Bluebird Day, a Presi Day. We thought of how it would have been a great day to bag Washington or one of her northern neighbors, but those thoughts quickly passed. We were out to help a friend work her way back to hiking shape after a bad injury. We had a beautiful day in the woods, with great views, and that made the thought of missed opportunities seem selfish. Again, we were simply happy to be out in the mountains, enjoying the woods and bright sunshine. Life is good!