Up Wonalancet & Back Again
The little corner of road known as Wonalancet used to be called Birch Intervale. But in the early 20th century, they got a post office – and people kept mixing it up with another scrap of land called Intervale, which is just past North Conway. So they changed the name to Wonalancet. And the bumpy green thing at the end of Ferncroft Road ended up getting called Mt. Wonalancet. At 2772 feet high, it's a fairly short, but tough climb, and a good bit of classic Sandwich Range adventure.
It's accessible off the Old Mast Road trail. This logging road leads to the network of trails climbing Mts. Passaconaway and Paugus, as well as Wonalancet. Wilder and I raced past the brook, up the beautiful switchbacks, climbing into a mass of boulders and birch leaves and spruce and pockets of sunshine on a summer morning. Wilder unleashed all his energy into massive Tiggerish springs onto boulders and over fallen logs.
Once we entered the Sandwich Range Wilderness, things got steep. The rock staircase climb began. A few times it was so steep I wasn't sure if Wilder would be able to get up – let alone come back down. I had him on our long running leash, tied to my waist. I led him across the least steep sections, but often he'd just hop up three feet onto the rock above us and look at me like, “What? Get up here, you lazy bum.” A few times his puppy paws would slip on the granite slabs, but he never lost balance. He's not ready for Wildcat D or Tuckerman Ravine yet, but he's got a knack for this kind of climbing. Must be the mountain goat in his bloodline.
We got up to a beautiful slab lookout and had a nice sit. It was overcast where we were, just a few patters of rain floating around, and we could see Squam Lake out in the distance, some sun breaking through, shining on the water.
As soon as we re-entered the woods, I just knew we were near the summit area, but there was no cairn to mark the location. Just trees. So we just walked until we went back down. When I felt satisfied, we returned to an area with two big rocks. Wilder seemed a little tired, but some treats perked him right up!
Then we began the return descent. He was gung-ho all the way down, diving off the rocks he had bounced up. I had to grab some trees to make sure he didn't take me with him. But he was real good about listening to me. I'm just not convinced letting him off leash right now is a good idea when there were ledges around every bend. This was a teamwork exercise, building trust with him and learning how he thinks and acts in this environment. We are training for the big mountains – which are coming soon, Wild One. Real soon. A few switchbacks near the summit had steep drop-offs and the last thing I need is Wilder taking a tumble. He's a tough dog, though. And a great hiking companion.
After we navigated the boulders, which were a mild challenge for the four-legger, we ran all the way back to the river, hardly stopping. Wilder has a way of finishing fast. But I think he just really wanted to take a dip in the Wonalancet River. I let him plop himself in belly-first and drink up. We raced down Old Mast Road and I yelled “Air dry!” for no reason other than it was fun.
We were back in the car and on with our day before the sun hit the hill. It was a wild ride up Wonalancet and back again.