About a month ago, Drea & I took Syd on her first mountain hike. A month later, and I had finally convinced the boys that this was something for them to try.
So, as part of our camping getaway to Waterville, I had decided to take them on the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail. I had never hiked it, but it is “the single-most “suggested” family hike in the White Mountains.” So, I made sure to introduce them properly. They all brought their own backpacks, and they carried their own water, snacks, sandwiches, and sweatshirts.
It was a gorgeous morning, in the low 70’s, when arrived at the trail head around 10:30 am. We started the loop as the trail name suggests and headed towards Welch Mountain first. As soon as it started, the kids all had to do their first stream crossing. They got very excited to hop the rocks across the stream. The trail was well manicured, with many waterbars, and rocks/trees placed as stairs up the moderate slope. It was certainly a far cry from the weathered conditions of the Sandwich Mountain Trail.
I was really uncertain as to how Brady was going to do on this hike. He is only 5, and I was daring to take him on a 4.4 mile hike. Now, he had done a 3.5 mile hike with me when we camped in Burlingame, at the beginning of the summer. But, walking along a flat trail is completely different than taking him up a mountain, even if it is relatively small mountain. His pace was certainly slow. But, after all, he does have tiny legs! But, he wasn’t complaining. And, more importantly, he was having fun!
I had misread the guide, and a sign posted as we came upon our first overlook. It is a large rocky ledge, that has islands of low vegetation that they are trying to protect. The sign urged you to stay on the rock & trails on the way to the Welch summit. So, when we arrived, I mistakenly told the kids that it was the first summit. Oops. They knew they were going to get to two summits. This would come into play later.
At any rate, we took a break, had a snack and took a bunch of photos. The view was really nice, with Sandwich Mountain directly in front of us, Waterville Valley up the road, and the NH hills stretching towards the south. Beautiful spot.
We then started the next leg of the hike. The first portion had been in the woods, rock covered and rooted. The second portion was made up of long sections of granite which would frequently cause you to walk on all fours. It was fun, but certainly more challenging & steeper than the first section. And, it was wearing on the kids. They were getting tired. And, by the time we reached the summit… they were dragging!
As I started looking around, I began to laugh. I had made a mistake. The previous outlook we had, was not a summit at all. This was the summit of Welch Mountain. Dickey’s summit was a short distance away. It was so clear. It was a few hundred yards downhill & then another few hundred yards back up to the summit of Dickey. Oops!
But, Zack was incredulous. He kept trying to tell me that I told them we were only going to the tops of two mountains. In his mind, this was the second & he had no interest in going to a third. It took quite a bit of convincing to let him know that I had made a mistake.
We stayed there for a while recovering, eating sandwiches, and enjoying the views. For a mountain dwarfed by it’s neighbors, (Sandwich 3980′, Techumseh 4000+’) the summit of Welch Mountain (2605′) has a impressive 360˙ views.
Once I convinced the kids that it was time to move on to the next summit, I was met with a little trepidation as the first few steps off the summit of Welch are a bit steep. It took the kids a few steps to realize that they weren’t going to fall off the rocks, and then they realized that going down the trail can be quite a bit of fun. Z started to charge ahead, while Syd took her time, and I hung back with Brady.
There was a large Cairn marking the division between Welch & Dickey mountains, and the ascent started immediately after passing it. It was a moderate ascent with a couple of challenging sections where you’d have to pull yourself up on rocks. But, it was short. Zack got a blast of energy just before the summit and began to charge ahead again, eager to get back to the descent. As a result, we kind of blew over Dickey’s summit. Syd & I had noticed a ridge line of cairns looking towards Mount Techumseh, but could not see a direct way to get there. And, the kids weren’t really interested in extra bush-whacking, they only had thoughts of heading down. So, I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time… I’m curious about that.
The top third of the descent from Dickey was on large sections of granite with cairns marking the way. I was somewhat surprised at how exposed we were to the sun & for how long. The kids legs were showing the signs of being tired as each of them took a turn with a fall here and there. Thankfully, Syd was the only one to fall on the granite ledge, and she bounced off just fine. The boys didn’t really start getting tripped up until we were back in the woods. They each slipped on loose gravel or tripped over the occasional root. But, no fall was serious.
I started bribing Brady with a victory ice cream cone once we completed the hike, if he would complete it without whining. The bribe worked. Before we knew it, we were back at the trail head. And, I was one proud Dad that my boys completed their first mountain hike & that we all completed it together.
The most important thing is that they all had fun. They enjoyed it & actually want to do it again in the future. They all thought the views were cool. I can’t wait to drag their butts back out there!
- Date: 8/26/11
- Elevation: 2734
- Elev Gain: 1600
- Mileage: 4.4
- Trails: Welch-Dickey Loop Trail
- Time: 5 hours
- Companion(s): The Kidlets