We set out this morning with two goals in mind: bag the Hancocks (rocksnrolls’ idea) and hit the Arrow Slide (my idea, thanks Dr. Wu. At about 8:45 am, there was only one other group out on the trail, and we played leapfrog a bit til we hit the split in the Hancock Loop. The hiking up to that point was confusing, or maybe we were both still waking up. There were several stream crossings and seemingly innumerable herd paths that got us a bit lost fairly early on in the day. Luckily, we got back on track–thanks to the leapfroggers–and made it up to the good stuff.
The trails were very wet. So wet, in fact, that we initially missed the area leading to the base of the Arrow Slide. The AMC guide mentioned a dry, flat, gravel area just after the Loop path split to go to North Hancock that would lead us to the Slide. Well, the area was totally flooded, and we walked right past it. After walking up and up and up, I felt that we were probably nearing the top and figured we’d missed a turn. So rocksnrolls took a break and I quickly walked back down to the stream crossing to try and find the slide. I found some old campfire pits and cleared areas but no slide. The trees were dense and there were no viewpoints anywhere. Frustrated, I started heading back and met my hiking partner back at the stream. Two heads are better than one. We found the slide after following an overgrown watery pathway.
At first I was reminded of the hike up North Tripyramid but I soon realized this would be a bit trickier. Just like the lower trails were wet, the slide was soaked in places too. There were miniature, dripping waterfalls everywhere and there was lots of menacing-looking moss. Rocksnrolls was smart and stuck to the far edges near the trees where there was more soil and better grip. I looked at those nasty rocks and smiled big. Screw the water, I want to go that way, up all those fun rocks…
And so, slowly, we climbed. Occasionally we sent large chunks of loose rock careening wildly down the slide. Rule of thumb for slides: never hike directly behind anyone! So, we went our separate ways. Sometimes I got myself to a certain point, stopped, looked around, and thought how the %$@* can I go on from here?? The wet rocks made me very nervous. I can honestly say I was a little scared on this hike. Whoa, that’s never happened before! I just made sure I had a good grip with one hand and one foot before I moved anywhere. And I made it. We both did. In one piece, and no major injuries. Rock on.
Then we had to bushwhack back to the trail. I’d certainly never bushwhacked before so this just added to the adventure. Just after we started off through the trees (it smelled like Christmas in there) we spotted blue tape tied around a tree. We followed the blue tape “trail” back to the Loop trail (the whole time, hoping the trail didn’t lead to a psychopath’s mountain lair) and were then at the summit. And in this adventure I discovered a rule of thumb for bushwhacking: Wear long pants. Oh, and bring a machete
The group we passed earlier, with a million dogs, was hogging the view at North Hancock so we continued to the South peak. Compared to what we just accomplished, the rest of the hike was a breeze. There was a brief steep section coming down from South Hancock but it was nothing to write home about. Along the way we observed a spruce grouse and a garter snake. We also heard several chickadees, and possibly a chipmunk or two.
We completed our hike in about book time for the regular Hancocks Loop (which doesn’t include the Slide–booooring). Not bad, I think. The whole hike was gorgeous. There were lots of mushrooms and plants, as well as almost perpetual streamside views. At times, we were sick of all the water–at times, we were hiking right in it.
This is an amazing hike for those looking for a real adventure in the Whites. From reading other trip reports I guess it’s not nearly as tough when it’s dry. I’d definitely do this one again. And I hope I haven’t scared rocksnrolls from hiking with me. Who’s coming with me next time?