EAST OF PASSACONAWAY: 4/10/14
A typical April scenario: with temps in the 20s overnight the deep snowpack would be set up in the woods for some good bushwhacking until late morning. Then the mercury would climb towards 50 degrees and the snow would start to get punky. My plan was to go about 2 1/2 miles in on the Oliverian Brook Trail and Passaconaway Cutoff and bushwhack to a favorite beaver bog with an impressive view of Mt. Passaconaway. Depending on what kind of snowshoe track I found on the trail, I would continue up Passaconaway Cutoff, a trail I maintain with friends through the AMC 4000-Footer Committee, to check for blowdowns, and then possibly visit either a slide or view ledge off the Square Ledge Trail for some vistas. It promised to be a bright sunny spring day, a fine time to be in the woods.
I was delighted to find a wide and well-packed snowshoe track on the Oliverian Brook Trail. I knew a few people had been through on Sunday, but didn't know what I would find after some rain and up-and-down temperature swings. The walking was easy with Microspikes on the hard-packed track.
A very short side trip for a view of Oilverian Brook.
There's still plenty of snow in the woods, even at this junction at only 1500 ft. We won't be scraping waterbars on this trail for a while.
A bridge monorail provided a test of balance and foot placement, especially on the way back in the afternoon with snowshoes on.
I put snowshoes on for the bushwhack to the beaver bog. At mid-morning I was hardly denting the snow.
This is my fifth or sixth visit to this place, but the massive view of Mt. Passaconaway always impresses me.
Summit detail on Passaconaway. The top of the 1938 slide can be seen on the left.
There was a bit of bare ground along the edge of the bog that faces south to the sun.
The snow on the bog (which has very little open water) was quite firm, even in the warming sun. I was able to amble around the bog and enjoy views of the other surrounding peaks. In this photo Nanamocomuck Peak displays the slide that I would visit later in the day.
A profile of Square Ledge (L) and Nanamocomuck Peak (R).
The great cliff face of Square Ledge drops off on the east. The summit of Square Ledge is the little nubble on the R.
From the south edge of the bog I could look up at Hedgehog Mountain (L) and the East Ledges (R).
A zoom on the East Ledges, which have a history of rock climbing going back to the late 1920s.
A beaver lodge in the middle of the bog.
After circling the bog, I picked a spot in the sun to admire Passacaonaway for a while.
A few sounds of spring enlivened the bog: a Brown Creeper's squeaky song, the chattering of a Red Squirrel, the cheerful call of a Black-Capped Chickadee.
I didn't want to linger too long, lest the snowpack in the woods soften to the point where I would be snowshoe-postholing. I had enough of that on my recent bushwhack off the Boulder Loop Trail. A parting shot from the little ridge above the bog.
A creative crossing was needed to get across the west branch of Oliverian Brook, using the remnants of a snow bridge.
Upstream, the brook was wide open.
A sunny hardwood corridor along the Passaconaway Cutoff.
This was my first time snowshoeing the length of this trail since adopting it in 2006. Higher up, where it sidehills along the slope of Square Ledge, the heavy snowpack on the uphill side had pushed numerous hobblebush and other branches into the raised trail corridor. It will be interesting to see how this looks when the snow melts.
Near the top of the trail I came upon a blowdown that required a duck-under. I realized that it looked familiar...
....having seen it last year without snow when it was an easy walk-under.
I cut a bunch of stubs off to make it easier to go under. I thought disposing of this spruce with my little Sven saw might be a bit much for me alone. I did prepare to give it a try on the way down in the afternoon - only to discover that the wing-nut had been pulled off the saw somewhere along the way by a branch, rendering it useless.
In summer this is a fairly large ledge step along the trail. Today it was an easy snow ramp.
From this spot there was a snowpack-enhanced view north to Hedgehog Mountain.
At the junction with Square Ledge Trail at the top of the Cutoff, the better snowshoe track led west towards the Nanamocomuck slide, so I headed that way.
Bright sun and birches near the site of a Conway Lumber Company logging camp in the early 1900s.
The Square Ledge Trail passes along the base of the slide at 2800 ft. In summer, I always scramble up a short way to a ledge seat for the view. There would be no seats to find today on this steep, smooth slope of hard-frozen snow.
I worked my way up through some scrub along the fringe of the slide.
I edged my way carefully out in my MSRs to get the great view north all the way out to a freshly whitened Mt. Washington.
A closer look at Washington, rising beyond Hedgehog Mountain and Mt. Tremont.
I had a glimpse of the bog I visited in the morning.
Zoom on the Wildcats and Carters.
Looking up at the shoulder of Mt. Passaconaway from the slide.
The snow was softening in the sun, which helped me decide not to continue on the steep climb to the top of Passaconaway. Instead, I headed back down the Square Ledge Trail to visit the view ledge near the summit of Square Ledge, one of the wildest spots in the Sandwich Range.
The track leading over to Square Ledge was much rougher, with many snowshoe postholes, making for some difficult 'shoeing on the steep pitches.
The trail makes a dramatic approach alongside one of the numerous rock faces on Square Ledge.
Looking back down the trail.
I first visited a small viewpoint on the north side of the trail, with a good look up towards the Nanamocomuck-Passaconaway col.
On the other side of the trail I kicked steps in soft snow on the side of a ledge face to reach an overgrown path that leads out to the main summit view ledge.
This path ends abruptly at a sheer drop, and the end is obscured by spruce branches - use caution!
It didn't look like anyone had been to the view ledge all winter.
It offers a view north to the Hancocks and Mt. Carrigain.
Close by to the south is the Wonalancet Hedgehog.
A bit more to the SE, Ossipee Lake is seen beyond the Paugus Pass area.
To the east, the dark mass of Mt. Paugus rises from the Oliverian Brook valley.
My favorite vista from the ledge is the reverential look up at Mt. Passaconaway, the parent peak of Square Ledge.
Typical wild terrain along the Square Ledge Trail.
A peek back at one of the rock faces of Square Ledge.
Descending along the upper Passaconaway Cutoff - great spring snowshoeing here!
The snow was getting mushy down in the lower elevation hardwoods, but the track remained intact as long as you stayed in the center. In sections alongside the brook the first signs of a monorail were developing, soon to be repeated on many other trails in the Whites. It was a great, full day snowshoe ramble east of Passaconaway, but I'm ready for some bare ground.