MindFire Press

Hedgehog Mountain

Maine Hiker's Journal

Season 2 (2014) 

Chapter 13: Hedgehog Mountain


In an earlier chapter of Maine Hiker’s Journal—A Hiking Guru, I talked about an episode of Windows to the Wild that featured Tom Ryan, the author of the New York Times best-selling book, Following Atticus, who hiked to the summit of all of the 48 mountains of New Hampshire over 4,000 feet in elevation with his friend Atticus the dog. In that episode, Tom mentioned that his favorite hike was to the ledges and summit of Hedgehog Mountain. At an elevation of 2,500 hundred feet with a manageable elevation gain of 1350 feet from the trailhead off the Kancamagus Highway, this 4.8 mile loop hike to the summit by means of the spectacular east ledges seemed challenging but doable, a fitting test for my growing endurance (or so I thought).

So, on a perfect day in late June, I headed north towards Pleasant Mountain, continuing on to Conway, New Hampshire, where I took NH 112, the Kancagumus Highway, west to the Downes Brook Trail parking lot across the street from the White Mountain National Forest’s Passaconaway Campground. The UNH Trail starts easily and then climbs steadily at a moderate grade. After walking a little more than half of the 2 miles to the east ledges, I was feeling great and really enjoying my hike. Then a poorly marked trail sign sent me in the wrong direction on what turned out to be about a mile and one-half detour downhill and then steeply uphill back to a spot just above the point where I made the wrong turn. I learned later that this same fate had befallen several other hikers who, like me, completed their day’s hiking much more tired and much later than they had imagined when they started. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the east ledges, from which the views were as spectacular as I expected them to be. In retrospect, I should have assessed the situation and turned back, but I did not want to go another 1.5 miles out of my way on the hike back, and I did not want to miss the views along the southern ledges (which did not disappoint) and from the summit of the mountain as well (which turned out to not be very impressive for the effort required to get to the top). So, I pushed on.

After walking 4.4 miles to get to the summit, instead of 2.9 miles, I was exhausted, and I still had another 2 miles to go down the much steeper slopes of the trail on the western side of the mountain. At this point, if I could have stopped, I would have. I was exhausted. My previous longest hike was the 5.4 miles I walked up the Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail and down the South Ridge Trail the previous year, and I had nothing left in the tank at the end of that adventure. Fortunately for me, a number of other hikers took it upon themselves to see to it that I made it down off the mountain safely, which I did with their help and encouragement. I will always remember their kindness and concern for my well-being.

While the views from the eastern ledges of Hedgehog Mountain were special, as advertised, I am not likely to return to New Hampshire unless I am certain that the trails I want to hike are as well marked as those that I have hiked in Maine. [In any event, check out the photos in the slideshow below to enjoy the wonderful views from the eastern and southern ledges of this Hedgehog Mountain trail. To move from one slide to the next, just click the directional arrow on the side of the picture.]
After spending a very month of July otherwise engaged, I returned to hiking in August, with my sights set on summiting Pleasant Mountain via the Ledges Trail. What a great hike this turned out to be, more than making up for the bad taste left by Hedgehog Mountain. Come walk with me in the next chapter of Maine Hiker’s Journal as I experience another wonderful day of hiking in the Maine woods and for my effort experience “A Presidential View.”

Click A Presidential View to read the next chapter.

Click Maine Hiker's Journal to return to the home page of the journal.

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