Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011.10.08 Mt Paugus - A Lonely Place

After being unable to hike for three weeks, I was itching to get out.  Though it was October 8 today, the weather was stellar.  The temps hit the mid-70's, even in the mountains.  

When selecting a hike for today we considered doing Mt. Chocorua again but Sue was adamant that she would rather hike something new.  Turning to our hiking guide books I stumbled on this loop hike late Friday night. We picked Mt Paugus as our hike without knowing anything about it, short of what we had read in our guides.  There was little information online from others who have hiked it. 

Saturday morning we arose later than we normally would on a hike day and we had not accomplished as much prep the night before as needed.  After all, it was Friday 'date night' and that became the priority.  Bottom line, we did not hit the trailhead until 10:30 AM.  We almost never start our hikes that late.

After a jaunt up Route 16 and then traveling on dirt roads for about 8-miles, we finally arrived at the trailhead parking area.  We expected peace and quite but oddly enough there were 20 cars in the lot and roadway and no less than six car loads had all arrived near the same time as us.  My first thought was 'oh no, we've picked a really popular trail.'  You see, given the option of a peaceful hike or one that seems like I-95 due to the hiker traffic, I prefer the former.  Turns out we had little to worry about.  All of the other groups were there to hike Chocorua using one of three choices available from this trailhead (Liberty, Brook or Bolles trails).  Ah hah!  That is why it was so busy in the parking lot.  Seeing that made me very pleased that we did not pick Chocorua today.  It would have been both busy on the trail and a mad house at the summit; though admittedly a beautiful mad house (is there such a thing?).

We instead were taking the Old Paugus Trail to Mt Paugus and for the next four hours we would not see a soul.  Nada, zippo, no one.  Okay, maybe this was too much the other extreme!  We finally ran into some humans when we saw a small group of three hikers as we neared the summit, a young couple not long after the top on our decent on the Lawrence Trail and one lone hiker going up the mountain very late in the afternoon on the Whitin Brook Trail.  Nine hours in the woods with pretty much no one but the two of us around.

By the way, one never reaches the actual summit of Mt Paugus on this hike.  The trail does come within about 3/10's of a mile and 100' of its summit elevation of 3,200'  I am not certain why but my guess is that the summit does not have any views.  It matters not, the ledges we did reach had some beautiful views.

Because this trail is not very popular, much of it is poorly marked and it is not maintained to the standards of other trails in Northern NH.  I have never spent more time climbing over and under blow downs as I did on this trail.  We also go lost - twice.  One time we spent about half an hour trying to find the trail.  Thank goodness we had the GPS.  This time that GPS, which I have a love/hate relationship with, saved the day as we had no idea where we had gone wrong.  After some time on a barely worn path - very close to bushwacking - the GPS made it clear we were on the wrong track.  We finally found our way only to get lost again 30 minutes later.  

Some of the route up was very rugged and steep.  The steepest grades approached 40%.  There were also a number of ledge scrambles required.

Another tidbit for you hikers.  Portions of this trail undulate more than most.  The total elevation gain per my GPS was 3,008' but, the actual elevation delta from the parking area to the uppermost ledges was only about 2,200 feet.  The remaining elevation gain was the result of all of the ups and downs adding up.

Don't consider the last two paragraphs as a reason not to try this hike.  I actually enjoyed the roughness and of course the peacefulness.  If I were hiking this trail in October again I would certainly get an earlier start.  We did not come out of the woods until 6:20 PM and it was pretty much dark.  Just a few minutes later and we would have been donning our headlamps. 

Let's move on to some photos.

This lollipop looking image was our route.  Lot's of intersecting trails...

Did Sue hike this trail barefooted?  Not really.  A mere 15-minutes into the hike we had a difficult water crossing (not really apparent from this photo).  We had gone up and down stream and could not find a good place to rock hop.  I had made it across barefooted in a another area with the deepest water being a little over mid-calf.  Sue was just not comfortable with the rapid flow of the water where I had crossed.  To make a long story short, she finally put her boots back on without her socks and crossed the river.  In two locations the depth was above her boot tops but she moved along and though her boots got wet they were not soaked.  And, having dry socks to put back on made it okay for the rest of the day.

An interesting rock formation.

This water crossing had an odd steel beam to help.

What is that odd growth on this tree?  Do trees get warts?

This was an amazing shear ledge that the trail followed for a time.  The face was nearly perfectly cut and exactly vertical.

This section of the trail at the top of a ridge had an amazing number of blow downs.  It was like hiking a maze.

This photo and the next few are of the views from the first of several open ledges we reached.

Sue found the 'golden mushroom'.  We are now rich and will soon be relocating to Beverly Hills.  Have you not heard the story of the golden mushroom?

Mt Chocorua, which I am told is about 2.7 miles away.

This was the second time we were lost.  Sue was reading the reference materials we had brought trying to figure out where we were.

Mt Paugus sits between Chocorua and Passaconaway.  I believe the tallest peak in this photo is Passaconaway.

Sue framed by some colorful foliage.

From whence we came.  If I have my orientation correct, we climbed up the right side in this photo and if you look closely near the very top you can see the ledges we were on hours earlier (not the obvious rock in this photo instead the ledges above it).  We then exited stage left and worked our way around the ravine.  This hike totaled exactly 9 miles so it was a long way around the ravine!

More blow downs on the way down.  Yes, the trail was directly ahead.  Geez!

I'll close this week with the elevation plot of our hike.


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