A mountain on The Kanc (Kancamagus Highway, aka Route 112 that stretches from Conway to Lincoln, New Hampshire) has been calling our names for some time. We’ve hiked neighboring Hedgehog Mountain on several occasions, but never Potash–until today, that is.
Well, actually, that’s not true. We last hiked Hedgehog in early fall and after finishing thought we’d attempt Potash since the trail leads from the same parking lot. That is, until we met Downes Brook, which is about 35 feet wide and my brain-over-matter would not allow me to make the crossing. Another couple had arrived at the brook moments before us, and while both our guys ventured across the rocks, she and I thought it best not to go forth. And so it was today, knowing how much rain we’ve had recently, that we decided to follow the recommendation in the AMC guide and instead park near a gated logging road about a half mile beyond the trailhead lot. After hiking up the logging road, the intersection with the hiking trail isn’t marked and is very subtle, but we were grateful for people who had gone before and left their marks on the snow. Suddenly, we were in the woods and as we paused to look through the trees, the colors afforded us reminded us of spring. As they should, for today felt like a spring day. Actually, too many days have felt like such lately, so when it does freeze every few days, our bodies go into shock.
That spring feeling was evidenced by the lack of snow on the trail and lack of ice on the rocks. What should have been . . . wasn’t.
Even the streams along the way flowed with vigor and no ice had formed. Oh, it probably had, but then melted.
The trail starts out rather tame, but soon becomes rocky with lots of intersecting roots seeking to trip hikers.
Until I looked at the map, I thought we’d reached the summit in good time, only to realize it was a false summit, as so often happens. And we were only at the halfway point.
This would have been a great place to eat lunch, if we hadn’t already done so before leaving the truck. We had visions of Orange KitKats dancing in our heads, but promised ourselves a summit treat and so we had to continue–but first, we waved to Hedgehog Mountain in the foreground.
This photo doesn’t do it justice, for the last section of trail to the summit gets quite steep following a series of already steep switchbacks, and then one has to scramble over granite slabs.
We met the wind at the summit and the swirls in the snow showed that’s always the case. It was time to celebrate with a KitKat or two. Oops. We searched through the backpack and came up empty. Somehow we’d left them in the truck.
One quick look at the Sandwich Wilderness and then it was time to head down so we could reach the truck before darkness set in.
The descent was slow going, but that worked for me. Picking the right spot to place a foot always takes time.
Because I was spending so much time looking down and hugging trees as well as kissing some rocks, I spotted Cladonia squamosa, or Dragon Horn lichen.
Squamosa means covered in scales, which is apropos. And the brown tips are the reproductive parts or apothecia.
I also found some ice I’d missed on the way up. While it made me happy, I still am dismayed by the current conditions.
Here’s another curious thing. We spotted numerous Red Squirrel caches and middens, mostly of spruce cones. And then I spied this Ruffed Grouse scat, indicating the bird had roosted in this spot not too long ago. But other than hearing a few nuthatches, wild critter sign was non-existent. I can walk into the woods behind our home and find much more than this–why is that?
I pondered that thought as we once again turned onto the logging road, and hoped that a mammal would surprise us as we walked, out, but because I was expecting such, it didn’t happen.
Ah well, it was okay. In the end, My Guy and I were delighted we’d enjoyed this First Day Substitute Mondate. First Day Substitute? Whoever heard of that? But I guess that’s what the Monday following a holiday is called.
Oh, and we did gobble up the KitKats when we reached the truck. They tasted extra special.