On Saturday, 10/24/2015, Rich and I headed up to the Kanc to bushwhack our way to the West Peak (3,774′) on Scar Ridge. The last 2 weekends had been great hikes and we wanted to keep the momentum going and do a little bushwhacking.
I loaded up the new pack, and picked Rich up in Methuen and started up Rt. 93. There was still plenty of color in the trees, not just on the ride but up in the mountains, too.
We parked near the real estate office at Loon Resort, and headed over toward the Octagon Lodge. After a nice steady rest step session to the North Peak summit of Loon, we took a break at the top of the quad and got some really great views of the Bonds, Flume, Liberty, Little Haystack and Lincoln, the Hancocks, and Carrigain. It was an especially fine angle to see the Bonds from – Bondcliff’s south side gives no impression of the great cliffs and ridge line up there – always nice to see things from a different perspective.
After changing into bushwhacking gear (older pieces we didn’t mind potentially being destroyed), we walked a few yards down the Upper Boss walking trail and found the herd path at the boundary signs. The herd path was not hard to follow, and it was very mellow and scenic, with lots of moss and that nice “people don’t come out here often” feel. We followed that for a half mile and then went off the right side of the path, into the woods.
This was Rich’s first bushwhack, and a few minutes in he wondered aloud if we should go back to the herd path and try somewhere else to start the whack. We both laughed when I said this was pretty standard stuff we were pushing, scraping and swearing our way through.
I will say, although it’s best to always treat any log or fallen tree like it’s rotten on any bushwhack, definitely don’t forget to do that here. It really was all rotten. Even the trees that are still vertical are likely just waiting for you to use them as a hold and fall effortlessly to the ground – or more likely fall 45 degrees and get caught up in the mess of branches, forcing you to use energy to duck under it to keep going.
Not far from the herd path, we were lucky enough to be able to see the large, flat summit area of Scar Ridge, so I set my compass to a new course, favoring it over the very slightly different one we had worked out with the map. We continued from there on an even 150 degrees.
Rich captured this in a relatively wide open area of the bushwhack, just as an old tree disintegrated into my left ear (24 hours later some of it is still in there):
Thankfully, from Loon and the herd path, there isn’t too much of a drop before you start climbing up to the Scar. A nice thing about bushwhacks is you’re usually moving so slowly (we averaged about .25 miles per hour in the woods) you barely notice the climb, but the descents, at least for me, are brutal.
After about an hour and a half, the trees thinned out ahead of us to cloudy sky, and we trended gently to the left, up the ridge. It was nice to have visual confirmation on some progress. Not long after that, we found some very short sections of herd path here and there, saw a few pieces of pink surveyor’s tape, and got that “near the summit” feeling. There is a large network of herd paths very close to the summit, due to people approaching from different angles and then wandering around searching for the high point.
We decided to stay on our compass heading and just as I stopped to say I think we might have passed it, Rich pointed out that I was standing under the summit sign and register. This was a huge relief, as we were approaching our turn around time of 3:00 pm and were going to stick to it, as the weather was generally worsening and we expected the whack out to take longer than it did to get in.
Summit attained, we stayed for 15 minutes or so, signing the register and reading through the entries. I recognized quite a few names – AMC friends and people I’ve met on the trails.
I sort of blanked on the register signing, and put in a pretty lame entry. I’ll have to head back up sometime in winter with something profound to write.
As predicted, the journey back to the herd trail was slow and tedious, with a fair amount of the bushes whacking back at us. Don’t forget your eye protection!
Just as we both approached mental breakdown, I stepped out onto the herd path, not 50 feet from where we left it. Pretty good! Although we ended in the same spot as we started, we did not take the same route that we went up (unfortunately). We were going through very long stretches of really, really thick stuff, definitely worse than the way up. Our route up may have been 20 feet to the left of us during our descent for all we know.
After the bushwhack, the herd path felt like a highway, and the slopes on Loon felt like traveling at light speed. We got to the car just as we would have been turning on our headlamps if we were still on the trail, dumped out and shook off what we could of the twigs, leaves, needles, dirt and rotten wood, and headed home.
There’s something especially nice about going to a mountain you haven’t been to before and working really hard for the summit. For a good portion of the whack, we really weren’t sure and were even doubting that we’d find the top. That always makes it sweeter when it happens, too.