September 20, 2014.
Staying in the same area as I have the last two weeks, Sandwich Range, I'm heading right next door to do some trails around Mt Chocorua. All the way down the Kancamagus Highway on the eastern end to the Champney Falls parking lot. I have read great things about this trail so hopefully it lives up to it.
Another one of my early starts as I am on the trail just before sun up. That is why the first two pictures of the day are so dark and gloomy (and out of focus).
The bridge that used to go over Champney Brook was washed away back in March of 2013 due to an ice jam flow on the brook. But no worries today as the flow is wicked low and easily rock hoppable. Reaching the loop trail in fairly quick order and soon I am at the base of the falls. Unfortunately they are but a trickle with the low water and recent stretch of dry weather.
Not sure what is more impressive, the waterfalls on a good flowing day or the large slab of granite that broke away and slid down the ledge twenty feet at some time many eons ago.
To the left is a huge wall 20-30 feet tall. Curiosity gets the best of me so I make my way over. It is more impressive than Champney Falls as it is a flume feature with a wall of stone ledge on each side of me. Water is trickling down on one side which is Pitcher Falls.
And a video of Pitcher Falls.
That opening straight ahead gets the best of me also as I leave my poles behind and head towards it. The water coming off the cliff mists over me as I go by it and start the climb up. It is steep and footing is precarious with the loose soil. In a few spots I grab at roots and trees to pull up on and make it to the top.
I make my way over to the top of the falls and step out onto a smooth ledge where the brook that feeds Pitcher Falls spills on to.
I walk as close to the edge as I dare and take the picture above. I thought I had gone closer and taken a shot down but the pictures say otherwise. Rather than heading down the way I came I spy a herd path on the other side of the ledge and follow it. The mistake of leaving my poles down below as it is too steep to go back that way without them. The path leads back to Champney Brook but above the falls and I end up at the top of the headwall in the pano shot of Champney Falls.
Back down to retrieve my poles and then back up the loop trail. On a clearer day this would be a great spot for some limited views but today it is nothing but low clouds hanging over the Whites. The only consolation is the trees are starting to change bringing the onset of fall colors.
At the junction I head down Champney Falls Trail to get the small portion of trail between the two ends of the Loop Trail as I am not coming back this way. Making it and I turn around heading up the trail towards Chocorua. The trail is fairly mild heading up as it is a steady climb with nothing notably steep.
It isn't long before I reach the junction with The Cut Off Trail and head up that. This trail angles up the slope towards Middle Sister and the views are outstanding from the open ledge it breaks out on (sarcasm). As the other photo shows the clouds have settled in at this elevation and would stay that way for the day.
Breaking out onto the ridge at the junction with Middle Sister Trail and the winds are blowing pretty good up on the exposed slabs and the blanket of clouds make the ledges slippery. Picking my way across is slow as visibility is bad keeping a wary eye out for evidence of the trail.
It is a long ten minutes across this section until I reach the junction with Champney Falls Trail and make the short excursion down and then back up. This is the piece of trail between here and the Cutoff. Back at the top and the Piper Trail comes in from the left and I am back on familiar ground. Instead of continuing on the Piper Trail though I take the West Side Trail which skirts around the base of Chocorua. The trail is in the woods and the footing changes from a cross between roots and rocks. At one spot a clearing with views to the west.
I make it to the next junction with Liberty Trail and decide to not summit today as it is not worth it being socked in a cloud. My plan was to head down Brook Trail make my way over to Liberty Trail and back up to this junction then down via Bee Line Trail. A huge cairn marks the upper end of Brook Trail and next to it is a large basalt dike in the slab.
Brook Trail is slab after slab up here and with the moisture from the cloud makes footing precarious.
Slowly I make my way down and reach the junction with Bee Line Trail. Just below on the last slabby section, which is steep, I am about eight feet from the bottom when my feet lose their grip and I am quickly on my butt sliding down the wet slab.
That pretty much seals the deal for me. Time to adjust my plans and I have no desire to see the upper part of Brook Trail again today. So there would be no return by Liberty Trail. I'll get that trail at a later date when conditions are better. So instead I'll make it an out and back on Bee Line Trail. Below the slabs and back into the woods and the footing is a welcome relief with just a section of blowdowns to navigate through.
An hour after the fall and I reach the junction with Bickford Trail where I was a week ago. I take Bickford Trail over to Bolles Trail and head up to the junction with Bee Line Trail. Bee Line Trail is an easy walk in the woods with a by-pass section from some erosion. It takes about an hour to get back up with the junction of Brook Trail. I turn back around and head on back down and at the spot where the by-pass is curiosity gets the better of me and I have to check out why the trail was diverted.
Back at the Bolles Trail and I head north on new territory. The Bolles Trail is was once a road that went from Tamworth to Albany Intervale through the valley between Mt Paugus and Mt Chocorua. In 1891, naturalist Frank Bolles rediscovers the old road, after it was destroyed by a hurricane, known as the "Lost Trail" and today is named after him, Bolles Trail.
A little before reaching Paugus Brook and the first remnants of the logging days over 70 years ago. An old bucket hanging on from the effects of being in the weather and its partner a hoop.
Crossing over Paugus Brook and the all too familiar evidence of a logging camp long past its days. A clearing with brush and no trees.
Some thorough poking around and this is the mother load of artifacts. A few old bottles, old sled runners, hoops, wood stoves and tons of other miscellaneous lumbering trinkets.
Spending about twenty minutes poking around the old site and time to move on. Just five minutes up the trail and one of the most oddest things I have seen, a sandy brook bed devoid of water. Not sure of the story behind this but I can only assume it is either a spring runoff bed or overflow from some stream.
Following the trail through this area is a little challenging but accomplished. Between the dry brook bed and markers for a snowmobile trail staying on the trail is a bit difficult but the blazes are there if one looks for them. Just beyond the trail starts to climb up out of the valley. It is easy to follow the "Old Trail" as I imagine Frank Bolles looking for this path over a hundred years ago and re-opening it.
Reaching the height of land on the ridge that connects Paugus and Chocorua the descent includes twelve crossings of Twin Brook and various streams between here and Champney Falls Trail. There was only one of the crossings where I had a hard time finding the trail on the other side. Other than that every crossing was a non issue as they were all rock hoppable.
Finally I reach the junction with Champney Falls Trail and a short walk out to the parking lot. A grand day out in the woods only dampened by the clouds and the slippery ledges. There is plenty of more exploring to do in this area and I'll be back to finish this great spot.
Final numbers: 17.4 miles, 9 hours and 55 minutes.
Redline Miles: 9.3, Total to Date: 611.5