I’d like to be able to say, “Last Sunday we hiked Baldface Loop,” but it would be a lie.
Well, it wouldn’t be a complete lie. More like a not-quite-half truth.
Baldface Loop is a 9.8-mile roundtrip hike that includes summiting both North and South Baldface mountains. Neither mountain is a qualifier – both are just under 4,000 feet – but the trail is difficult and the views are spectacular. Especially at this time of year.
Denis and his daughter A, and my friend K and I started out at about 9:30 in the morning.
The trail starts at just a slight incline but gets increasingly steeper. After two and a half wooded miles, we reached the shelter and stopped for a well-earned snack.
Try not to be blinded by our over-exposed and ghostly white legs.
After a short rest, we hit the trail again.
Now that’s my idea of a well-marked trail. Why couldn’t we have had that on Chocorua?
A rock stair led us out of the woods and onto a series of open slabs. Then things got interesting.
The next half mile or so was slow going. Rock scramble after rock scramble had us climbing with hands, feet, knees and a few prayers. If I remember correctly, I even called for my mommy once.
It felt a little like Katahdin, but on a smaller scale.
We stopped for another break on the rocks of an alpine garden. It was the kind of place where you expect to see Heidi tripping along the path following several goats. We looked at our watches.
Those rock scrambles had taken a lot of time off the clock and a lot of wind out of our sails. We were still about a half mile from the top of North Baldface, the first summit.
It was decision time. It gets dark early these days and I hadn’t brought my headlamp (stupid, amateur mistake). I really didn’t want to be navigating down the rocks in the dark, or even through the wooded trail. We decided to admit that our goal for that day might have been a tad aggressive and turn around just shy of the summit.
But we took a few pictures first.
That peak to the right is South Baldface, the second summit. North Baldface is just out of sight to the left. The ridge above Denis is where we would have been ridge-running between the peaks. Just looking at the picture makes my soul ache to be up there.
The ridge of dark green running from the upper center of the picture out through the righthand side is, I believe, Bicknell Ridge Trail, where we would’ve come down the loop.
It’s pretty cool when you’re at a vantage point that allows you to see your full route at an almost bird’s-eye view.
On our way out, we stopped at the shelter again for a long lunch. Denis fired up the stove and made us soup. Nothing better than a hot lunch during a fall hike.
We also took a little side trail to visit a spot with the romantic name of Emerald Pool.
K’s daughter, Little K, jumped off this rock into the pool when she was at camp a couple of years ago. She was the only girl to do it at the time. Go Little K!
We marched out at 5:00.
So we didn’t summit our mountain. I can live with that. It gives us an excuse to go back sometime. We still hiked a respectable 6.4 miles (Den’s GPS read 7.1, but I’m going by the map) and we had a great day. Good company, a few laughs and I didn’t pee my pants on the rock scrambles.
What more can you ask for, really?