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  • Writer's pictureIzzy Risitano

Hedgehog, Middle Mountain, and Peaked Mountain | 2/5/22

This weekend, I spent a while parsing through the note in my phone listing all the hikes that make sense for winter according to tracing spurs and whatnot. Many of them were good hikes for less frequent hikers, in the sense that they were moderate miles towards great views, but I kept encountering a water-crossing problem. With a larger than usual crew of both my parents and Liz, I was careful to find hikes with almost no water as per my mom’s ask. Shaw and Potash both got booted, but the neighboring Hedgehog seemed extra promising, boasting no water crossings and lots of views. Plus, Liz needed redemption on this little peak after doing it on dead legs 2 winters ago.

Me & my lovely parents on Allen's Ledge!

I woke up desperate to see a text to push back the start time as I’d attended a “fake wedding” pretty late the night before, but the silly thought got crushed as I saw my folks moving north on Find My Friends. I gathered my mismatched pile of jackets, water bottles, and bars and moved to the dorm parking lot where I double-checked I’d packed everything else into my 65 Liter pack days before. As I ventured south from Lyndon, I was shocked to see the skies opening up, already promising to disobey the heavy overcast in the forecast.

I didn’t wait long in the fully plowed lot before the trio showed up, and we got casually suited up before heading up the UNH Trail counterclockwise. In a huge difference from my last few hikes, the trail was hard-packed and would’ve been much harder in snowshoes due to the crunchy snow, so I was pretty happy to be in my Hill sounds. The stem of the loop was almost flat and by the time we got to the junction, I found the trail gained gradually as a whole but picked up in grade after the stunning Allen’s Ledge, which provided great views out to the Moats and Chocorua.

General UNH Trail snowpack

Beyond Allen’s, we had one more ledge and as we got steps from the top, experienced some softer snow from snow drifts but it was nothing worthy of snowshoes. The top was a bit more exposed to the wind so we opted to keep moving and take a longer stop at the East Ledges, which was a great perspective to point out my hike to Square Ledge and Passaconaway this past fall. More than anything, this hike was incredible just because you got to see how massive Mount Passaconaway is.

Was I kidding...? Huge mountain!

Coming down was just as consistently packed as the way up, but a tad less interesting as the South Ledges was the last chance to see anything. At no need for speed and plenty of breaks to take it all in, we had a moving time of 2:45 and a total distance of 4.87 miles with 1,298 vertical gain.

After parting ways with my family and Liz, I had to turn down lunch plans to finish the Green Hills, which I had technically attempted 3 times but always had to turn back due to time constraints. Over the spring/summer, I had already done Black Cap the long way, Artist Falls, and Pudding Pond. All I had left was Peaked and Middle, which given the hike statistics, I did not expect to be so legit.

I stalled in my car until about 2 pm and then got going up the wide start that I’ve now walked 5 times towards the kiosk. I took a left and as I walked flat for a considerable distance while listening to a TED Deep Time Walk, I realized the reported 1,700 ascent was going to feel like a lot more than I had anticipated… about half of the miles are flat. Middle Mountain Trail was quick at 0.6 miles, but I gained fairly steadily until reaching an icy section that my microspikes simply would not grip.

Not the kind of ice that makes a satisfying stick noise

After two days of record-breaking cold, the ice just wasn’t sticky enough to make it happen comfortably for me, so I had to get a bit daring with a pack throw and a trekking pole crawl to get more points of contact out of myself. I will say it's really not that bad, but I just really hate feeling unstable. Beyond that quirky bit, I quickly got up to the connector spur and gained less aggressively toward the summit, which was a bit restricted but gorgeous in the evening light. In seeing this evening light, I opted to hustle over to Peaked Mountain, which was windier but much more open and granted excellent views into town and over towards the ranges across the North Conway valley.

Middle Mountain, near summit

Peaked Mountain summit

Coming down from peaked was less enjoyable than the prior section, as the snow was softer from drifts, but with some strong efforts to not twist my ankle, it wasn’t so bad. I was surprised to find the final connector, over to Black Cap Connector (how many damn connectors did they need!), broken out and hit the tiny and seemingly pointless connector before doubling back to finish the Peaked Mountain Trail. Back on familiar terrain, I was less worried about darkness but still got to my car just as the sun was officially setting.

Walking back on Black Cap Connector as the sun fades

Though I didn’t expect it, I covered 10 miles and about 3000 vertical gain between the two hikes, not bad for what was supposed to be a leisure day! But, to be honest, I think the real leisure was the brisket grilled cheese I got at Red Fox with Ryan afterwards... 10/10 recommend.

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