On July 2nd, with a forecast that seemed plenty good enough to commit to making the trip, I reached peak #27 out of 48 by summiting Mt. Whiteface in the Sandwich Range.
I primarily use Mountain-Forecast for deciding what to expect on the peak I'm planning on hiking. This site is updated constantly, as the weather in the mountains changes so frequently, and it provides valuable data such as wind speed, direction, temperature and forecasted weather at elevation. However, Mountain-Forecast does not supply relative humidity data, and of course there's no way for any site to predict how the bugs might be on any given day. I can confirm that both were as bad as anything I've ever experienced, in the White Mountains, or anywhere. I can also confirm that their forecast of 'CLEAR' by 8am through 5pm wasn't exactly accurate either.
Here's how clear it was upon starting my hike around 7:30am.
As for the bugs... this next photo is the exact spot that I made the decision to start up my Thermacell (which actually works quite well). The problem being, in order to get it started, it meant stopping to remove my pack, insert the cartridge and turn it on. In those 3-5 minutes of kneeling and being stationary, I was probably bitten a minimum of two dozen times. I now believe the holes in this tree are actually made by the mosquitoes in this area, and not birds.
I would be taking the Blueberry Ledge trail all the way to the summit. The trail is listed as one the additional, elective trails on the Terrifying 25 list. For the first three-plus miles, I really didn't understand why or how it could be on the list - maybe because of the mosquitoes? The trail looks like most other White Mountain trails. Roots, rocks, roots and rocks, more rocks, some steep, some not - nothing that really stood out to me as unique in any way.
Prior to reaching the lower ledges, which are very easy to negotiate, especially compared to the upper section, I reached a point that offered a small view through the trees. This was as 'clear' as it would be on this entire hike.
After seeing (or, not seeing) this view, and losing the constant bug battle, it became apparent that today's photo mission would need to shift from being one of sharing great views and vistas, to one of quickly snapping images of the details of the journey. This is not necessary a bad thing at all. These sort of days force me to enjoy the nuances of the trail, and other small details, that otherwise would be glossed over while seeking out the next best lookout. As for lookouts, the first large ledge and real viewpoint you come to offered me the best view I would have on the entire hike.
Those distant clouds, very quickly filled the area for the rest of the day. Shortly after leaving this spot, I could even see clouds slowly blowing through the trees on the wooded trail.
Soon enough, after hiking through some much more challenging stretches, I arrived at that the section that earns this trial its place on the Terrifying 25 list. While not for very long, and probably why it's only an elective trail and not one of the actual 25 required trails, the severe angle and sheer rock ledges and rock scrambles made this one of the hardest lengths of trail I've hiked to date. Photos will never do it justice, and stopping to take picture means more bites, but you can sort of get a sense from these pictures what you're in for if you choose this route.
Once you clear these sections, the route to the summit is relatively easy. Now... as for the summit. The actual summit cairn is NOT located near where my maps and GPS list the peak of this mountain. After walking in circles for close to 45 minutes searching for the summit marker, adding at least a mile to my total for the day, and a dozen or so more bites, I was able to find a spot with a cell signal and do a little research. Apparently others have had the same issue and the actual summit cairn is located further down the Rollins trail towards Mt. Passaconaway. A 3 hour drive (one way), about 8+ miles of round trip hiking, relentless mosquito insanity - all resulted in elation in reaching this little pile of white rocks.
A few images from the trail on the way back to the truck....
Just before arriving back to the parking lot, there's a short span of walking along the private dirt road. For most of that way, these butterflies were making short flights from sun to shade to the grass edges
Upon arriving back at the trailhead, and looking back to Mt. Whiteface, things were still very cloudy up there...
I've yet to reach one of these peaks without feeling as if I've earned it. Some peaks much more than others. I've also yet to have a hike where I didn't see at least one thing that stood out as unique for that particular hike.
Great views are not guaranteed nor even available on all 48 of these peaks. They are also not required in order for a hike to be considered 'great' or 'worth the effort'. For me at least, my hike to Mt. Whiteface yesterday confirms that reality. Now, back to scratching these bites!