9/1-2/08 South Baldface Shelter
South Baldface 3570' and North Baldface 3610'
9.8 Miles 4000' Elevation gain
Kevin, Judy and Emma
Everyone has their own place in the mountains that holds special meaning to them. The quiet and solitude of Evans Notch is that place for me. For whatever reason, it does not have the draw to it that the other road accessible notches have. Maybe because there are no 4000 footers, maybe because there are no stores or restaurants, maybe because there are no tourist traps of any kind. People don't avoid Evans Notch, they just are not attracted to it, and that is just fine by me. This was our second trip there this year, the earlier being in May. Both times about the only people we ran into were the campground hosts, and then only briefly. To me, this is what I go to the mountains for. To "get away from it all". Somehow, I just can't seem to do that in Franconia or Pinkham Notch. The quiet and seclusion are what I seek, and that is what makes Evans Notch Kevin's Notch. While the peak-baggers are busy crowding the 4000 footers, the wife, dog and I are busy being our own crowd on some very beautiful and lesser trodden mountains. To think that there are no good reasons to visit this area because of the lack of aforementioned conveniences is just plain wrong thinking, but please, don't let me change your mind. Go to the other notches and enjoy yourselves, we are quite content to be here alone in Kevin's Notch. In May we did a sixteen mile loop from Wild River CG, (where we were the only campers), over the Moriahs and back to camp. We saw 4 people all day, and they were all on the short section of the AT that we traversed. This trip we arrived on Labor Day and found the parking area for the Baldface Circle Trail near full. As we loaded up and headed along the trail towards our destination of South Baldface Shelter, we greeted small groups of hikers on their way down off the mountains, heading back to their lives and jobs away from this idyllic paradise. It's always hard to make the climb loaded down with all the extra gear for an overnight, but the way is short, and despite the heat, there was a good breeze, so there was plenty of air and before too long, we found ourselves at the shelter. A quick check of the area produced a perfect tentsite about 25 yds. from the shelter, so, off the beaten trail, where we were less likely to be disturbed. A quick check of the register at the shelter showed that we had missed by a day a group of ROT'ers, several of whom we were aquaintences with, and others we would like to meet. With camp set up, we headed out to climb to the plateau above the shelter and ledges, just below the summit of South Baldface. This spot is truly one of my favorites in all of the White Mountains. On this day it was quite windswept and the sedge grass, now beginning to turn golden in the early fall, was blowing and shivering, reminiscent of the sedge above tree-line in the Presidentials. We sat here and watched the shadows grow long around us. After awhile, we made our way across the short distance to Baldface Knob, where the wind was not quite so busy. The late afternoon views and all-around feel to these places is something which must be experienced to be understood. A raven visited us and showed off his aerobatic skills against the stiff breeze. Alas, it was time to make our way down over the ledges before night fell and the going would be beyond what would be fun to experience. The wind blew a gale overnight and the rush of it overhead through the trees made sleep hard to come by. Towards dawn it began to subside somewhat, but now it was time to climb to the ledges just above the shelter, maybe 100 yds. to a point where the sunrise could be appreciated in full.
There is nothing quite like rising in the pre-dawn glow and taking a short climb to where you can sit and watch the world come to life as it changes from black and white to full color when the spinning planet lifts the sun up over it's horizon. There are few things better than to take this all in with a hot cup of tea, a wife, a dog and some biscuits to break the night's fast. The birds come to life and become our only companions as they join in the celebration of the new day. After this morning ritual we made our way back to camp to gather what we would need for the day before we made our way back up over the ledges to the beautiful plateau we had visited the day before. The wind had died down for the most part, and although the sun was playing hide and seek with a bank of clouds the day's warmth was beginning to become apparent. From the plateau we made our way along the Baldface Circle Trail towards the summit of South Baldface where we sat for a while, taking in the views and having a little more to eat before making the trek across the col between the summits of South and North Baldface.
As we descended from the southern summit the views to the southwest, west and north became increasingly magnificent. To the southwest lay Passaconaway and Whiteface, the Tripyramids, Tecumseh, the Osceolas, and Carrigain. To the west lay Montalban Ridge with Stairs Mountain, Mount Davis and Isolation, then rising up to Boott Spur and Mount Washington. Further north were the Wildcats and Carters, and to their north the Moriahs with the Mahoosucs beyond. Directly to our north were the Royce's and Evans Notch, Caribou and Speckled, and further to the east Blueberry Mountain. We had soon covered the distance between summits, winding our way through endless patches of Low Bush Blueberry and Mountain Cranberry, all still ripe and delicious.
On North Baldface we sat and ate some more while taking in the views that we had missed in the fog on our first trip here in June of '06. Eventually we had to drag ourselves away as the mid-day sun was becoming too warm for little black dogs. Rather than do the popular thing of completeing the loop around the Circle Trail, our plan was to return the way we had come so that we could retrieve that which we had left at our campsite and reluctantly make our way back down from this most beautiful place. As we made our way back across to the summit of South Baldface then began the descent from there we came across some folks gathering berries to bring to their mother who could no longer make the climb to pick them herself. The plan was to have her make pies, the thought of which made me salivate like Pavlov's dog. I was ahead of them, though, as I had already filled a container while we crossed between summits in the hope of making pancakes when we got home.
All too soon, we were back down at camp where we broke down and packed up our things to begin our trek back out of the woods. On the way out there is one of the nicest swimming holes one could hope to find in the mountains and we stopped to dunk ourselves before making the rest of the journey. Back at the car we loaded up and made the short drive to the Basin Campground where we set up camp again to spend the next part of our journey. It would be hard to beat what had transpired so far.