A Wizard, a Gorilla, and Rainbow Poops- a family hike along the Baldface Trail


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Early Bird

Active member
Jan 18, 2007
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Hollis, Conway
We've had plans to hike the Baldfaces originally for my birthday/ Father's Day weekend for months. When the weekend arrived (along with enviously beautiful weather) deadlines at work postposted our trip. The only make-up weekend in sight was this one. We had hoped for good weather all week. So despite the 32% chance of rain in the afternoon and overnight and the pictures of lightning on accuweather.com we went for it. The plan was totally fluid. Hike to the shelter, checkout the peak of S. Baldface and return to the shelter, visit Baldface Knob, camp somewhere between the two peaks, anything between 5 and 10 miles over two days. Hiking with a 4 year old we really have to keep things open. She had previously hiked Welch-Dickey, but we knew this would be a greater challenge.

After spending a night in N. Conway, Gig, Maxine and I arrived at the trailhead on 113 in N. Chatham ready to go at 10:00. The first section of this trail is open and well traveled. We reached the first intersection, .7 miles from the start quickly which was encouraging. This is the junction for the Emerald Pool which seemed a popular spot even on this cloudy day with temps in the 60's. We took a snack break once we hit the water. It was a little green where the moss grew over underwater rocks. While there we looked around for the Wizard of Oz a bit. The Emerald Pool had to be part of the wizard's land in Oz, right? On our way back to the Baldface Cirlce Trail we saw other hikers coming from farther down. I saw that the yellow blazes continued, remembered the pictures I'd seen of the pool and cascade, and realized we hadn't actually reached the Emerald Pool. We could try again on the way out tomorrow.

The remaining 1.8 miles of trail to the Baldface Shelter were easy, a gradual incline, all marked well. Snails were the excitement along the path. We arrived at the shelter at 1:00 just missing the rain. It took 3 hours to go 2.5 miles including the Emerald Pool breaks plus one or two other breaks along the trail. Pretty average for Maxine. It was time for lunch and time for her nap.

Gig and I stayed busy exploring the herd path from the shelter to some ledges 100' away one at a time while Maxine slept. I birdwatched. He dozed off. Some nice day hikers came by sharing dried mango. We shared our map and sent them up to the ledges possibly to South Baldface or to Baldface Knob. One hiker seemed tired, but he commented that if the 4 year old could do it, it would make him look bad not to keep going. So off they went. We could hear them the whole time they were gone, over an hour. It sounded like they just hung out at the first ledges. They returned telling us it was slippery. One had Chuck Taylors for footwear, the others boots or trail runners. We took it in step, but when Maxine woke up it was either kill 5 hours at the shelter or hike up a way- long or short and turn back if needed. She was rearing to go, despite the spitting rain. On went our rain jackets and pack covers and her little rain pants. They don't make pack covers the size of her mini pack (that I've found) so I wrapped hers up in her "Staying Found" workshop-recommended trash bag and secured it with a bungie cord, always in my emergency kit. Perfect.

Once we got to the first ledges where the day hikers hung out, we saw how slippery it actually was. Very. But things were drying out. I could walk well with my grippy shoes and hiking poles. Maxine was happy to crawl- slow and low we tell her- and Gig was managing also. Some of the ledges were pretty high, pull yourself up high, boost the kid up high, or pick her right up and pass her off high. After a couple of those, we knew we didn't really want to go back down the same way. The plan of going out and back to the summit or knob was lost. Truthfully, with imminent rain, I had a motherly worry about our limited options and unwillingness to turn back. Would the campsites we expected to find (thanks to Views friends) be suitable if there was overnight rain? Would the rain include thunderstorms? Would we be on these ledges if and when the storm arrived? A man coming down saved my nerves. He said he'd been on these trails often and offered advice. The summits were blustery, but there was one suitable sheltered camping spot along Baldface Knob Trail. Magnificent! Thank you!! .7 miles to the side trail. We could do that.

Well the .7 miles took an hour and a half on those sometimes slick ledges. Natures Playground, there was plenty more climbing, crawling and sliding to where we wanted to be. In one spot Gig's Zrest pads rubbed against rocks making a growling sort of sound. "What was that?", we asked to entertain our child.
"I don't know, she said with wonder."
"I thought I heard an animal," Gig said.
"Was it a gorilla?" So we went with that. There was a runaway gorilla on the ledges. Through caves and around corners, the gorilla hunt was on.

There was at least one time when I thought this isn't really a good idea, but we didn't want to go back the way we'd come. I put on my brave face, insisted on holding hands, her between us at all times, and encouraged as much crawling as she liked. The rain had stopped, but who knew if it would start anew. Gorilla hunt lasted until the trail leveled off. We were above tree line and there was utter amazement in the beauty of it. The joy of hearing over and over, "I love this. I always wanted to be higher than the trees. Mommy, we're higher than the trees right? Wow! Look at that field. Look at those blue mountains behind the other blue mountains. This is so beautiful, Mom." We were on safer ground following sentinels of cairns to the Baldface Knob Trail.

It wasn't hard to find our camping spot for the night. Tent up and ready, I set about rehydrating and heating our veggies and mac and cheese. Gig and Maxine explored the campsite finding plenty of moose poops. Gig tried to tell her they were unicorn poops, but she was on to him.
"No, Dad. Unicorn poops are rainbow and when you touch them they clean your hands."

Gig loves the backcountry stealth camping. We carried our own water from home to here, 100oz each, plus Maxine carried her own 16oz. I had a filter and never used it. (There is no water between the shelter and Baldface Knob, but plenty on the Slippery Brook Trail we took down in the morning.) It was a different, wholesome, pioneer day, one room home kind of fun, when the rain did start again. Three of us in a two person tent. We played cards- Old Maid, with the joker, Go Fish. We played Name That Tune on the harmonica or made up songs, drew pictures and wrote about our day. When night fell and it was time to sleep there was total silence in the night- no crickets, no birds, no wind or human sound. Nothing. It did rain overnight on and off. Gig isn't sure whether he heard or dreamt he heard coyotes.

In the morning, all the birds were singing in the four o'clock hour, and I drifted in and out of sleep enjoying it. Both Gig and I were awakened about 5:30 by an owl or fox sound. Maxine was up at 6:30, and the rain stopped by 7:30 am. I cooked breakfast, and we lingered until 9:00 before moving on. This is a place to revisit on a better weather day for sure. The sunsets and sunrises are surely majestic. This weekend we had neither. Baldface Knob was misty, mystic.

The trail was slick and slow after the top until we reached the junction of Slippery Brook Trail. From here on out it was real easy walking, and we were back to averaging our 1 mph pace, breaks included thanks to the slugs. The 100 plus slugs each of which had to be stopped for, looked at, touched. Slugs... Black flies were biting, but not terribly bad. Nothing a little DEET-free bug spray couldn't handle.

We did hit Emerald Pool properly on the way out. Another must revisit destination for a warmer day. The water was cold, instantly frozen toes like an ice cream headache cold. Dad jumped in until he got used to it. Maxine laughed at frozen Daddy, and I took the role of photographer. After swimming, the hike out was again quick, motivated by ice cream promised before lunch. Stow Corner Store has awesome food and delicious ice cream. We went with S'mores flavor ice cream having carried home the marshmallows that weren't eaten as is or in cocoa. (There was no campfire this trip.)

I'd been told half a dozen times I had to hike this beautiful trail, and it was certainly worth it. This is one to save again for a sunny day. In a couple of years with a little bit older kid we'll head up again, and around sticking to the Baldface Circle or Bicknell Ridge Trails and watching the sky colors change for us- night and morning.

Pictures here: https://plus.google.com/photos/108487129044550594384/albums/5892834734728937313/5892835911459329570?banner=pwa&authkey=CNr9j6r8mP_6QQ&pid=5892835911459329570&oid=108487129044550594384
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