A DAY ON HEDGEHOG: 3/31/11
I climb Hedgehog Mountain, a little ledgy gem off the Kanc Highway, several times a year for trail work, usually with friends helping out. But I hadn't snowshoed the 5-mile loop over the UNH Trail in a few years. This is a great hike at any time of year; as a bonus, I would get to check my trail section for winter blowdowns. Also, I planned to throw in a new twist on Hedgehog with a couple of short bushwhacks.
There were no cars in the somewhat muddy parking lot when I started, and I didn't see another hiker all day. The hike starts out on the old grade of the Swift River logging railroad, under tall pines.
I like doing the loop clockwise, heading up to the scenic East Ledges first. New signs mark the turn off the railroad grade.
In another mile you cross tiny White Brook near its hardwood-ravine headwaters.
A snow-capped boulder beside the trail.
Fine spruce woods as you climb the northern slope of "Little Hedgehog," home of the East Ledges.
My best guess is bobcat.
At the R turn before the final climb to the East Ledges, there's a view out to Bear Mountain.
From here I snowshoed down over steep ledges and across through woods to a large, off-trail, north-facing slab, with a great view across the Albany Intervale to Mt. Tremont, Mt. Washington, Bartlett Haystack and Carter Dome.
A zoom on Mt. Washington between Tremont and Bartlett Haystack.
I returned to the trail and continued up to the East Ledges, where first there was a view east to the Moat Mountains.
The main East Ledges face south and drop nearly sheer for about 150 ft. The front part of the slab was bare, beckoning for a sit-down break. Views were excellent under a high gray cloud deck; the temperature was in the high 30s. This photo includes Square Ledge (center, in front) , the Wonalancet Hedgehog (center, in back) and Nanamocomuck Peak (on the R, with a slide). Mt. Shaw in the Ossipee Range can be seen peeking over on the L.
On the East Ledges, all eyes are drawn to the mighty form of Mt. Passaconaway, towering 1700 ft. higher.
The crags on the north slope of Passaconaway are the site of the mountain's fabulous north outlook, reached by a 0.3 mi. side path from the Walden Trail.
To the SE is darkly-wooded, humpy Mt. Paugus.
Down on the flats of the Oliverian Brook valley is a small beaver bog.
This makes an interesting remote bushwhack from the Passaconaway Cutoff; from the edge of the bog there's a striking view of Mt. Passaconaway.
There's also a closeup view of Hedgehog Mountain (L) and the East Ledges (R).
On that same bushwhack a couple of winters ago I continued across the valley to the lower slopes of Mt. Passaconaway, encountering a moose along the way, and found this unique profile of the East Ledges.
A granite throne at the brink of the East Ledges.
Haven't done the obligatory boot shot in a while.
Continuing along the UNH Trail loop, there is a "tightrope ledge" leading to the western outcropping of the East Ledges. Though there is a dropoff on the L, the trail shelf is flat; a bypass route can be made in back to the R if conditions look dicey at the edge.
From these ledges you can look west to West Sleeper and South Tripyramid...
...and up to the summit cliffs of Hedgehog.
Beyond these ledges the trail re-enters the woods. Here I dropped off to the south for an exploration along the base of the cliffs of the East Ledges. I had never looked up at them from below. After descending through some scrappy woods, I found more open going and easier grades. Despite the now-fortyish temperature and a mushy snow layer on top, the fairly deep snowpack remained solid underneath - good for bushwhacking.
It was fairly easy to forge a route along the base of the cliffs.
There are some impressive rock faces here, and they do attract occasional rock climbers who prefer solitary rockcraft in a remote setting. As described in Ed Webster's Rock Climbs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, these cliffs were first scaled in 1928 by a group of AMC rock climbers.
There are a number of routes described in Webster's guidebook. For Lord of the Rings fans, there is a feature called Helm's Deep Gully with a route named Treebeard. I'm not sure where the gully is, but there's got to be an Ent up there somewhere.
I made my way back across and up to the trail, and followed it around the southwest side of the mountain. This is a wild area of spruce and boulders.
The trail climbs to the summit by steep zigzags, passing several vistas such as this one of The Sleepers.
Just below the summit a ledge on the L looks over at the Tripyramids.
To the NW are Mts. Huntington, Hancock and Carrigain; new clearcuts fron the Kanc 7 project on the flank of Potash Mountain in the foreground.
At the summit ledge there's a good view east to Mt. Chocorua.
Looking down a slab and out to the eastern spurs of Passaconaway.
Halfway down the west side of the loop, I made the short side trip up to Allen's Ledge, with its wide view over the Albany Intervale. Just a bit over a mile from the trailhead, this is a nice objective for a short hike.
I removed three blowdowns along my trail section. This spiky one had several limbs frozen into the snow, a unique aspect of blowdown removal this time of year. After cutting these limbs, I wrestled the stubs out of the snow lest they become hazards for unwary snowshoers.
Below Allen's Ledge I dropped into a drainage below the trail, whose open woods had always looked inviting. Here there was a magnificent old sugar maple, with a thick moss-grown base.
Looking up gave me a different perspective on this perhaps century-old tree. And, indeed, I had enjoyed some new perspectives on a familiar, favorite mountain on this early spring outing.