WONALANCET RAMBLE: 6/9/16
On a cold, cloudy, windy, late fall-like day (and downright wintry at higher elevations), I enjoyed a leisurely loop hike on the wonderful network of trails maintained by the Wonalancet Out Door Club. The primary mission was to check a recent relocation on the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff. I nixed a plan to climb Mt. Whiteface from there as it would have been quite uncomfortable on the exposed upper ledges. Instead I pieced together a trek along nine different trails, most of which are lightly used and soft underfoot.
The WODC has traditionally used blue for its signs and blazes.
I paused to take in the classic view at the Ferncroft trailhead, with Mt. Whiteface looking rather uninviting.
Classic signs on an elder tree.
This trail, a lesser-used gem, is a longtime favorite of mine.
The lower part of the Cutoff follows the Wonalancet River.
Then it climbs up onto a slope and peers down into a ravine known as "The Gorge."
Passing through a stand of tall sugar maples.
Last year, at the Wilderness boundary, WODC volunteers laid out a long switchback to bypass a steep, eroding pitch on the trail.
Great walking on the relocated section, which makes the trail nearly 0.3 mile longer but more enjoyable.
A mossy ledge on the upper part of the Cutoff.
The uppermost of the Blueberry Ledges, where the Cutoff meets the Blueberry Ledge Trail.
There are limited views here, including Green Mountain and Ossipee Lake.
Mt. Shaw and Black Snout in the Ossipees.
Pale corydalis was in bloom at the ledges.
I took an extended lunch break here, waiting to see if the weather would improve enough to make it worthwhile to continue up Blueberry Ledge Trail to the great upper view ledges and the south summit. I didn't feel like making the climb only to be forced by the cold wind to retreat off the ledges without any time to enjoy the views, if there were any. After an hour, there was no sign of any clearing, so I decided to head down for some wandering on the lower Wonalancet paths.
Signs at the junction. From here I headed down on the Blueberry Ledge Trail.
The trail intermittently crosses ledges for the next 0.4 mile.
Good walking on the granite slabs.
A peek at Mt. Chocorua.
Next up was a short stint on the McCrillis Path.
This lovely moss-lined footway follows an ancient town road.
I soon turned left onto the Tilton Spring Path.
More good woods walking on a less-used path.
From the Tilton Spring Path I made a bushwhack south through open woods into the Tewksbury Brook Preserve, a 400-acre conservation parcel owned by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust. (Not to be confused with former major league pitcher and New Hampshire native Bob Tewksbury.)
The objective was a sizeable beaver wetland visible on Google Earth.
At this meadow I savored the day's one extended sunny break, along with a view of Mt. Whiteface.
The mountain's great south cliff was well-displayed.
Perhaps this is Tewksbury Brook.
A breached and bleached old beaver dam.
An overgrown old beaver lodge.
I returned to the trail and continued to Tilton Spring, which did not appear inviting.
I took the Pasture Path to the gentle ledgy summit of Mt. Katherine (1380 ft.), named for Wonalancet innkeeper and WODC founder Katherine Sleeper Walden. In the 1901 WODC guidebook is a picture showing this flat summit completely open with a panoramic view.
Mt. Katherine still offers a classic vista of Mt. Chocorua beyond the fields of Wonalancet.
A long south ridge extends out from Chocorua.
Another WODC trail offered a descent to the road.
Going in the uphill direction on the Red Path, a recent relocation ducks into the woods from a gravel road at this blazed telephone pole.
A field along the Red Path.
A short road walk along Rt. 113A led past the classic Wonalancet Union Chapel.
The chapel has an interesting history.
The Gordon Path starts up this picturesque private driveway. Several landowners in Wonalancet graciously allow trails on their property.
Farther along, the Gordon Path traverses a small hemlock ridge on a needle-cushioned footway. Very pleasant walking!
At the Ferncroft trailhead I made a short side trip on the Old Mast Road and Wonalancet Range Trail to pretty Spring Brook.
A chilly evening at the fields of Ferncroft. In the morning several Bobolinks were singing on the wing over the tall grass. It's no wonder many rate this as their favorite trailhead in the Whites.