A Prouty Prep Hike
Whiteface & Passaconaway
11.2 miles, 4,019 & 4,043 ft. respectively
Via Blueberry Ledge, Rollins and Dicey’s Mill Trails
February 23, 2013
For those of us in western New Hampshire, getting to the eastern 4,000 footers is nettlesome – requiring lots of driving over bad roads in winter. It is, however, well worth the effort. Whiteface and Passaconaway are the jewels of the Sandwich Range, and make for a splendid winter hike.
Passaconaway is named for an Indian Chief of the Pennacook Tribe in what is now Massachusetts, who lived and ruled during the period of the Pilgrim settlement – beginning in 1620. Passaconaway comes from the combined word Papoose Conewa, meaning Child of the Bear. Passaconaway was revered by Indians and white settlers alike, and was referred to in his later years as St. Aspenquid by the English. He is described as a giant, possessed of magical powers including the ability to make water burn, and spontaneously generate lightning – very cool. The mountain named after him comes complete with a small river named after his son, Wonalancet, and together with Whiteface forms a basin which includes a fair amount of old growth forest. This is a beautiful area, and is to the outdoor program at UNH what Moosilauke is to those of us at Dartmouth – the heart and soul of their outdoor program.
Passaconaway from Whiteface in 2008
Chief Passaconaway in a dour mood
I persuaded my Kilimanjaro climbing partner – Rick “Rambo” Morse to come along on the climb, despite a persistent light snow and low clouds.
Rick “Rambo” Morse on the way up Whiteface
Negotiating some steep ice near the summit of Whiteface
Wes near the Whiteface summit
Steep and icy near the summit of Whiteface
The summit of Whiteface was socked in clouds and deserted. We ate a quick lunch and headed over to Passaconaway via the Rollins Trail in the clouds and snow. I was reminded that the last time I ate lunch here there were naked women – probably wood nymphs – sunbathing on the warm rocks at the summit. I banished the memory and headed out – the harsh realities of chilly February stifling the wonderful recollections of a warm September.
The Rollins Trail is always long, but it has been blocked in areas by winter blow-downs and the going was slow. We saw some moose tracks and sign on the way over to Passaconaway, but not much else. The summit of Passaconaway is quite heavily forested, and with the storm afforded no views. We headed down the valley at flank speed – hopefully to get out before the storm socked us in.
On the way out I was reminded of the story of Passaconaway’s burial – he reputedly rode a sled pulled by a team of wolves to the top of Mt Washington (Agiocochook, or “Home of the Great Spirit”) where he spontaneously burst into flames and went to join the Great Spirit. It’s called going out in style.
Blow-downs on the Rollins Trail
The unremarkable summit of Passaconaway
The best view of the trip may be the little farm at the end of the trail, with Mt. Wonalancet in the background. This is a fun hike any time of year, but I recommend warm days when the wood nymphs are about.
End of the trail in September
Adios, from Mt. Passaconaway in February