My last foray to the Hancocks was back in March and it was very snowy. We spent the whole trip battling through the tops of trees that are otherwise above you when you’re hiking during the summer. Seeing the blazes on the trees, most of them overhead today, which were at knee or boot level in March, reenforced exactly how much snow builds up out there.
Today, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and my legs felt well-recovered from May’s racing shenanigans. Today was also my first biggish day running in the mountains this year and I think I chose the perfect trail. The first 3.5 miles have very little elevation change and aren’t completely choked with rocks and roots; a rarity for the White Mountains. So you can really rip through the first section or, as I did, take it easy and warm up before hitting the steep push to the summit of South Hancock.
I passed several hikers on the way out and then a few more in the saddle between South and North Hancock. I had my mind on a sub-2 hour loop to try to beat Alan’s time but I knew it might be a pipe dream. It took 45 minutes to get to the North-South split and I knew I wasn’t going fast enough. My leisurely run out to this point had dashed the idea of a fast loop. At least I could enjoy the day a bit instead of trying to push the pace.
Going up South Hancock was as steep as I remembered it but it went by quickly. The ridge over to North Hancock was breezy and delightful. I hit the overlooks at both South and North Hancock and took in the views for a little bit. Coming down North was a pain, as are most descents in the Whites, but it too passed quickly. After getting back to the mellower trail I opened things up and started pushing the pace on the way back to the car. Running felt great. Passing a bunch of hikers felt great, too.
Overall my loop around the Hancocks only took 2:20; which isn’t amazing but I think it’s respectable. The parking lot at this point was crowded and a woman pulled up to me at my car. She asked me if I was leaving soon and “if it was much of a hike.”
I asked her, “A hike to where?”
“Wherever this is. I’m just looking for a spot to hike.”
I told her it was about a 9 mile loop to the Hancocks but the first few miles were mellow and a nice little jaunt if she wasn’t into a big day. She grimaced and drove off. I’m not sure what she expected but it was entertaining for me.