Chocorua via Piper, Liberty, and Weetamoo | 7/25/23
At about 6:30 am, I awoke from the deepest sleep I’d ever had in a tent. It was the sort of sleep you wonder where you are when you wake up. Soon, Liz poked her head in to see if I’d risen, and I started to smell the bacon and eggs Nick was cooking on the Flash. Slowly, I got myself together and poured an ominous combination of too much water, expired oatmeal, chocolate, and a Perfect Bar (the name is an oxymoron). It was disgusting.
Despite this, I was super hyped for our day. The third trip to Chocorua this year is the longest loop yet! Yippee! No lack of caffeine or excess gross oatmeal was going to diminish that.
I drove the three of us over to the Piper Trailhead and we moved quickly until just about the Weetamoo intersection, where the gain intensifies. Keeping straight up Piper was remarkably steady, especially compared to Carter Ledge Trail. Once the gain starts, the trail construction and switchbacks make the approach pretty doable. We opted to side-trip to Camp Penacook, a 3-walled shelter maintained by the Forest Service. The shelter was very Long Trail in construction, simple and sturdy. There was a privy on site as well as two tent platforms. There was also an attractive east-facing view straight out of the camp! Unfortunately, the climb up to the camp is pretty real. However, it’s not long, so it’s still worth the visit just to cross another shelter off the “seen it” list. Plus, if you’re tracing, you have to do it so… get to it!
After Penacook Camp, we gained another 600 feet to the familiar ridge, then immediately dipped onto Westside Trail. Westside is the bad weather bypass and of course a grab for tracers. The trail was hard to lose but could use a fresh blazing as well as a brush soon. That quick half mile dumped us out at the familiar intersection of Brook and Liberty. We climbed another 300 feet over 0.2 miles to the summit of Chocorua, which was busy but not overwhelmingly so. After touching the true summit, we sat down “at the beach,” aka a tiny puddle with nice rock furniture while we looked down at the surrounding lakes.
We got going back down the steep scrambles not too long after, I found the jaunt off the summit to be much easier than it was for me last summer. I took my trekking poles back out as soon as I was back on Liberty and soon found myself chucking them down the trail as I maneuvered the handful of steep slabs on Liberty. Thankfully, these sections were far shorter-lived than the neighboring Brook Trail’s slab. By the time we hit the Jim Liberty Cabin, a gorgeous 4-walled (and doored!) structure, the steep elevation drops were pretty much over. Unfortunately, I could not check the Jim Liberty Spring off my spreadsheet because I completely forgot about it. Thankfully I have one more hike in this area where I’ll pass it!
Even though we didn’t search for water in the spring, we did need it. We walked from Jim Liberty to about ¾ of the way down Weetamoo nearly dry. I was imagining the sound of water as my skin got hotter, from both sunburn and humidity. Thankfully, Weetamoo Trail wasn’t anything complex and had some pleasant switchbacks. There was bountiful evidence of horse travel, from waste to dirt postholes. Somebody reported four horses on the trail about a week ago- so it was not my imagination! **
After filtering water from a tributary to the Chocorua River, we were in the home stretch. The river crossing didn’t necessitate taking shoes off, but we were desperate to cool off and did the whole shoes-off arrangement to accommodate. Soon, we met the junction with Piper Trail and quickly walked to the sound of sirens out to the TH, signaling the proximity of the road and a minor car accident that had just occurred by the campground.
Even in the heat, the 9 miles and just under 3000 feet of gain were a blast. I’ve enjoyed making the most out of this area in the last year, so far having accumulated three epics in the Mount Chocorua Scenic Area. Just one more to go…
2 REAL FROGS (not toads)
** After I published this, I got word of these riders being rescued: see more here