by Randy Pierce
Prior to this year’s hiking schedule, my collective knowledge of Whiteface and Passaconaway could fit into a single sentence – likely spelled incorrectly! One of the aspects of this quest in which I delight is the historical explorations for each hike. I was amazed at the incredible tale of Passaconaway and the rich historical depth missing from my school education. He was a great chief who united the disease/plague depleted tribes to ‘wage peace’ upon the European settlements throughout the 1600s. He (potentially) lived to a venerable 120 years of age and interestingly relevant to the timing is that a great cirque upon the mountain was not forested, such that trees of more than 400 years still live, thereby providing a living connection from his time to our own!
On June 18, 2011, we set upon the slopes of Whiteface with the chance to congratulate an inspiring hiker (Congratulations Pat!) who would finish his 48 with these last two mountains. He was by himself, and while we shared the trail for a time to allow him to marvel at Quinn’s work, it highlighted for me the shared journey of so many in these mountains. We reached the Blueberry ledges many had warned me would be challenging. Rain had held off long enough for us to pass sections that might otherwise have been too much for us when wet and slippery. We were afforded some incredible views of the Ossipee Ring Dike Complex, the entirety of a majestic lakes region, the “Bruschi” Belknaps, as well as both the Tripyramids and Chicorua’s magnificence. There is good reason Chicorua is the most photographed mountain in the entire world!
Whiteface achieved, our group of Kyle, Aimee, Tracy, Quinn and I came together such as these experiences allow. The thunderstorm rolled through without rain slowing our pace, though it did blessedly eradicate the presence of black flies. Still, the saddle, as most seem, was long and slow getting us to our campsite near 6:00 p.m. We setup our tents and decided we could attempt (pack-free) a speedier push for the .7 miles of trail that would give us our second peak for the day. Kyle led me for speed, and our focus was as strong as it has ever been on a summit. When the one incredible view unfurled to display the Tripyramids, I realized that in roughly half an hour we’d come to 40 yards shy of the summit and barely realized the impressive work that entailed. The surprise celebration of success came quickly, even on the unremarkable actual summit. We descended before dark to dinner and a quiet camp in the woods below. This was our sixth summit of the young season, while the prior year’s start to 2020 Vision Quest had given us only five total successful summits. We were proud and admittedly a bit tired as meals gave way to stories, and soon to slumber and the sound of wind whispering to us of some secret messages of reflection.
Dicey Mill Trail led us out on Sunday, Father’s day. It was the gentlest of all the trails I’ve yet encountered and our speed was higher than normal. We arrived to the trailhead before many day hikers were setting out that morning. Each of us had many reasons for appreciating the benefit of an early retreat but I know that these summits will stay with me for a long time. I think the experiences I shared with the others will remain with me even longer, thanks to a small and strong team!