Bushwhack to West Baldface Mountain

Yours truly on West Baldface’s ridge with Chandler and North Doublehead Mountains behind me in the distance.
Yours truly on West Baldface’s ridge with Chandler and North Doublehead Mountains behind me in the distance.

Amy Patenaude

by Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

We are not made of sugar. If we were made of sugar we would have melted and washed downstream of the East Branch of the Saco River.
We pitched our tents in a light sprinkle. We set up a tarp and put the lawn chairs beneath it. Becca boiled water on her Jetboil stove to cook us Mac & Cheese for supper. I used my golf umbrella to protect the small fire I was tending in the rock campfire ring. The umbrella’s acquired smoky smell will remind me of camping for years to come.
By the time we hit the hay for the night, sprinkles had turned into rain and alternated between hard rain and harder rain.

Camping in the rain is challenging.
Camping in the rain is challenging.

All night the rain pounded against the tarp of my small tent and it was loud. I didn’t sleep much because I was continuously startled awake when the rain changed from soft sprinkles to an outright deluge. But at least I stayed dry.
Becca’s new big tent had a small puddle because she had left the window flap open yet she stayed dry. She said she slept well. I don’t think her big tent was as noisy as mine—my head was much nearer to the roof than hers.
By morning the rain had stopped and spots of blue sky appeared between the clouds. The Jetboil stove quickly boiled water for coffee (I brought a French press) and for instant oatmeal that we topped with fresh picked blueberries.
We folded up our wet tents and tarp. I used my shovel and stirred water into the center of the fire ring. Even after rain, always be responsible and make sure a fire is completely out. We packed up everything and left the campsite cleaner than we found it.
From Bartlett we drove up the Slippery Brook Road to the end of East Branch Road. These roads were reopened last summer after being closed after Hurricane Irene’s severe damage. After extensive repairs these gravel roads are now in good condition.
As we readied for our hike and bushwhack we talked about how our cars would smell inside after sitting in the sun all day with all our wet gear baking inside.

We Bushwhacked through large fern and birch glades on our way to West Baldface.  Many moose make their home here.
We Bushwhacked through large fern and birch glades on our way to West Baldface. Many moose make their home here.
Yours truly kicking the bucket I found just off the East Branch Trail!
Yours truly kicking the bucket I found just off the East Branch Trail!

The East Branch Trail begins as part of an old railroad bed and its northern terminus intersects with the Wild River Trail near Ketchum Pond. The trail is nice and follows the east bank of the East Branch of the Saco River. The river was more like a small brook today even with the previous night’s rain—it’s been a dry summer.
We hiked up the trail, still well blazed by the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation’s blue diamonds that were placed there 30 years ago, about three miles to where an old grown-in logging road crosses the trail. We turned east down the old road and continued towards our goal of bushwhacking to the top of West Baldface.
The logging road is being reclaimed by the forest. We followed the animal’s herd path down between head high brush and new trees that were wet and scrubbed us like a car wash. We got soaked in just a matter of minutes but the walking was easy. We crossed a number of small brooks and then the road headed up hill. When the road began to turn away from our desired direction we took aim and left it and began bushwhacking up.
At first the forest was thick and then it quickly opened up leading us across old log landings and widely spread out trees. We crossed through large areas of fern and birch glades. Moose beds and other moose sign surrounded us.
As we neared the mountain’s ridge the terrain got much steeper and Baldfaces began to appear—wide open ledgy, rock faces. We stayed on their wooded edges since the sun had not come out well enough to dry them to make them less slippery.

Becca Munroe enjoying an early lunch on the summit ridge of West Baldface, elevation 2,941 feet. North and South Baldface Mountains can be seen in the distance. The trail-less peak is reached only by bushwhacking to its summit. West Baldface is included in the New Hampshire Highest 200 list.
Becca Munroe enjoying an early lunch on the summit ridge of West Baldface, elevation 2,941 feet. North and South Baldface Mountains can be seen in the distance. The trail-less peak is reached only by bushwhacking to its summit. West Baldface is included in the New Hampshire Highest 200 list.

On West Baldface’s elevation 2,941’ summit it is possible to take in a grand panoramic vista but by moving around on its ridge. The peak is east of Black Mountain and the Wildcats and West of North Baldface. On most maps it is an unnamed bump yet its elevation is often noted.
But the sun had not burned off the low lying clouds and we couldn’t see as far as we hoped. But we did like very much of what could see–nearby North and South Baldface, Black, Chandler and North Doublehead looked splendid to us. The clouds moved and the sun shifted in and out and the ledgy open summit was a nice place to eat an early lunch.
We returned nearly the same way following the opposite end of the compass needle back to the old logging road. Through the wet ferns we went and now my feet squished inside my boots and I imagined Becca’s were too. Once back on the old logging road time and miles went by quickly.
Our day’s adventure was just under ten miles and we didn’t see another soul the entire outing. Our cars were hot inside and smelled of roasted wet tent. I am glad car windows roll down. Have fun.

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.