There is no getting around the blowdowns. Four hours into what is supposed to be a three-peak circuit in the Sandwich Wilderness, Janelle and I are faced with a seemingly impossible-to-solve puzzle. We are too far into the hike to turn around, especially since going back would require a steep decent in choppy conditions off the south end of Paugus cliff. But ahead of us the trail is destroyed.
Hurricane Sandy had swirled through two days earlier and the Old Paugus Trail is, in this section, gone; as though the hand of a giant had swished across the range, brushing over four and five-inch thick trees like toothpicks. I cannot not see the continuation of the trail on the other side of the enormous, perhaps valley-wide, blowdown.
“What do we do?” Janelle asks. I sense her frustration, and feel my own. It has already been a tiring hike. The day is raw and windy. Three summits is now out of the question, which puts our pre-Thanksgiving finish in danger.
But even more disturbing is the problem immediately facing us in the form of what appears to be the obliteration of the trail.
I slip off my pack and gulp down some water. Then, I push on the cluster of fallen trees in front of us, checking for give. There is none, which is good. It means the blowdown directly in front at least is fully down and won’t collapse on us.
“Take off your pack,” I say. “We have to create a path.”
The slope to our right is too steep to go down and back around and the up-slope to our left is too dangerous to attempt. So, the girl and I slowly begin snapping off branches on the trees in our path, trying to create a window among the trunks. That’s grueling work. After a while we have enough of an opening to slip through. We zig and zag in and out and under the trees, snapping branches in some places, crawling on our hands and knees in others, until an opening appears ahead.
After 30 minutes of work we step through onto the path and come face to face with another, bigger, section of blowdown. And beyond that, more.
“Well, at least if anybody hikes this after us, they’ll have an easier time,” Janelle says.
“Yup, let’s get to work.”
Mt. Paugus (11/3/12)
Height: 3,198 feet
Location: Sandwich. I-93 north to Exit 24 to Route 3 east to Route 113 east to Route 113A north to trailhead on left.
Our trailhead: Big Rock Cave Trail to Old Paugus Trail to Lawrence Trail to Cabin Trail, loop.
Distance: 8.4 miles.