Middle and North Tripyramid
The original plan was to do Whiteface and Passaconaway, but with Melissa's hesitation about the ledges and since we had showers all week and Saturday was slow to shape up, we decided to go with Plan B. The Tri's.
I forgot my camera, forgot to eat breakfast (I know, who does that??), forgot the pb & j and forgot my sunglasses. Otherwise I was ready to go! Thankfully there's a Dunkins on the way, I bummed some sunglasses, hit up the Irving in Ashland for snacks, and left someone else in charge of photos. Which was ok, since we didn't have a lot of views for the day.
We decided to do the loop from the Kanc, up Pine Bend Trail, over the summits, and back down Sabbaday Brook Trail. You always take a chance with a loop, since you didn't come up your exit route and don't really know what you?re getting yourself into for the hike out. And since it was a total of 11 miles (one of them on the road in the beginning, so it almost doesn?t count, as it only took 15 minutes to hoof it up the Kanc), we took a chance on it not being terrible for the last part of a long day. We might have slightly misjudged?
We were headed up the Pine Bend Tr by 9am. We loved the lower section of this trail. I feel like we got a great couple of miles in before we came to any kind of obstacles to tackle. We wished the whole trail was this way, but knew that we had to go up eventually. We started up what I call a wooded ravine, with a stream running down the middle, and lots of hard woods and birches stretching up the steep sides. We headed up into a stretch of large moss covered rocks and boulders. I'm glad it wasn't as wet as we had anticipated, everything seemed much dryer considering the week of showers. I can imagine moss covered rocks to be a challenge during a wet period. We made it up through this section, which went on for a while, with no problems. You had to think about your footing and where you wanted to go, enough that you we're sucking wind and wearing yourself out.
We crossed over the stream and headed into a series of switchbacks that were a different terrain now, some gravely sections with slick footing, and some rock scrambles. It started with some gentle sections though. Before long it seems, we were at the junction with the Scaur Ridge Tr. I'm not sure if it was before or after this junction that we could see a partial view of the North Slide through the trees! Exciting enough to want to try it, but my head was way smarted than that. We ran into the first of only a few hikers of the day, a woman on her own. She came up Scaur Ridge and said it was a great trail. Something to try at a later date perhaps.
We ran into a section of large boulders to scramble up and over, using our arms and very grateful for my long legs! There was a bit of ice and hard pack snow left in between the rocks, making it a slow go, as there were times that there seemed to be no where to get a good firm footing. It took us a good half hour to make it up a short section, but once we did the worst was over.
We met up with the junction for the North Slide, and met a couple of guys that had just made it up the slide. They said it was great fun, if not a little scary. You have to be fully committed to it, as you can't really go back down if you change your mind. We didn't do the side trip to the top of the slide (although still not sure which one of the slide it was to do this at). They were waiting for friends that we never ran into the rest of that day. The guys left us at the Summit of North Tri and they headed over to Middle. We took a break, had lunch, took in some views on one of the side view points just below the summit, and enjoyed some sun. It had been a pretty sheltered hike, but the temps were perfect and it was a nice sunny day.
We eventually left the summit and headed over the Middle Tri. The trail was great, nothing real technical or challenging. We met up with a couple in the short col between the summits, and they told us as much. They didn't lie. In no time we were over at Middle Tripramid. We took in some more views, ate some more snacks, and then headed out for our decent into the unknown on the Sabbaday Brook Tr. We had passed the junction for it on the way over to Middle Tri, and it looked ok from there. Ha.
We started down Sabbaday Brook trail and it started off very nice. But only for a few minutes. Then it dipped down considerably, and turned into a mish mash of obstacles and challenges that never seemed to end. It went on and on, trying to maneuver down long slabs of rocks that were slippery due to moss and just moisture, with no footings, and nothing on the edges to hold onto. We had some tough sections where I was sure I was going to slide and tumble down to the bottom of some of these sections (without the fearless ignorance of a 12 year old) and die. This went on for a while, and we finally seemed to be coming down out of the steeps.
Once we finally reached where the Sabbaday Brook meets the trail, it got a little wild. And by 'wild' I mean Sandwich Wilderness Area we don't do any trail maintenance wild. The trail was rough and hard to follow at times (just like the warning sign said). There were blow downs that we had to work around, as they don't get cleaned up in this area. There were several areas that looked like they could have been difficult if not impossible in high water. They were areas of trail, but would be full of water if it were a wet spring. We had to bushwhack some, just to try to get back to the trail along the brook. It was rocky, the footing not so great, but it seemed fairly level. This went on for a while, then the brook crossings started. At first, we were grateful that it wasn't during high water. But then it just got ridiculous as the trail crossed back and forth across the brook over and over. We would cross the brook, head down the trail 50 feet, and it would cross back over! Of course the crossing were all the kind that had stones to step on until the last 5 feet, then there would be a big gap where the water was deep and nothing to step on. At one crossing we gave up and took our boots off and went across barefoot. Yes, it was rather cold. But after miles and miles of hiking, it was kinda refreshing on the feet! We brushed off all the pine needles, put our boots back on, got back on the trial, turned the corner, and had to cross again!! We were losing our patience with the crossings at this point, and were ready to be out of the woods.
The map puts the distance from where the brook meets the trail to the falls at the end (almost) at 2.5 miles. This seemed like a really reasonable distance, and should have been a quick trip out. After a few more crossings (with much less concern for wet boots) and bushwhacking to avoid the crossing over and right back to the other side again, the trail continues on for what seems like forever, up away from the brook, and is just straight and flat. There were rocks here and there, and periodical dips through the wash coming off the high slope to our right. Flat and straight should have equaled great time on the way out, but it somehow took forever to get to the falls.
We finally made it to the falls, which were very well worth it! It was great that it was a quiet day and there was no one there. For the first time that day, I wished there were high water, as I bet it's pretty impressive then. It was still something to see, and I'll probably come back for a visit just to the falls themselves.
We hobbled our way back to the car and made it back by 7:45. Considering that we usually average a mile an hour on just about any hike, including breaks and lunch, we were right on target. We should have made better time on this one, since we had a good head start on the lower slopes going up, but we didn't really have the same advantage on the way out. If we had done an out and back hike on Pine Bend, I think we would have made great time and enjoyed the end of the hike a lot more.
Overall it was a great hike. I give Sabbaday Brook Tr two thumbs down for it's rough and tumble terrain. Just a little trail maintenance here would go a long way. Cleaning up the blow downs, a little repainting of the blazes in spots, working on some of the crossings and their ridiculous bushwhacks?.But I do understand why this is the way it is. For some I'm sure this trail is quite an adventure. And perhaps going up it wasn't as bad as coming down (although we did meet a couple at the trailhead that had done the loop in the opposite direction and did not seem to think it was any better on the way up). Either way, I'm really glad we did this hike, and on a nice spring day. This makes 28 and 29 for me (I think?). Will be rounding 30 pretty soon!