Ice Gulch and Mt Crescent

August 30, 2014.

A warm and sunny day so something I've been wanting to do for a while is the Ice Gulch up in Randolph. Mike was supposed to come with me as he had not hiked this yet. Unfortunately he opted to stay at home on this glorious Labor Day weekend and do some house chores. Soloing is OK because it gives me a chance to finish up some trails in that area plus add some mileage to the day.

Up way before the crack of dawn in order to maximize the daylight and I catch the sun rising up over Mt Jefferson as I am heading north on Route 3 through the town of Carroll.


Finding the trail head for the Ice Gulch on Randolph Hill Road and I am off on my way to one of NH's natural wonders. Passing by the red barn, which isn't so red anymore, and the trail enters the woods just beyond.


Passing by the many old logging paths and I am treated to some ripe and fresh blackberries.


Not much farther up and the main logging road for the area, Jimtown Logging Road, not sure of its purpose today but most likely a corridor for snowmobilers. Along side the road a little touch of fall colors.


Back to the Ice Gulch Path and some boulders make an appearance. Strays from the Ice Gulch itself I would assume.


Reaching the junction with Peboamauk Loop there is a tree with trail signs attached to it. The birch tree is unfortunately dead but amazingly has not changed in over a hundred years. It is described in the guide books as the "Marked Birch" and referenced as far back as the 1907 AMC Guide.


Down a steep embankment on the Peboamauk Loop and the falls are located a short distance away. Not the best of waterfalls but any cascade is better than none.


To the left of the falls and the obscure trail heads up a steep embankment parallelling the falls until it brings you to the top of where Moose Brook cascades over. Heading up the trail and it crosses the brook four times on the way to the junction with Ice Gulch Path. Taking a left onto the path to get the short piece between here and the Marked Birch. The out and back only takes thirty minutes and I see the first people of the day which surprised me as I thought this early not many people would be attempting this trail. At the base of the gulch and it is 8:40 and it looks like fun. All crumbly boulders and blue skies above.


The beginning is fun and scrambling up and over the boulders seems effortless. The two that were behind me are nowhere to be seen as I continue up the cragged gulch.


A half hour later and the terrain changes from being out in the open on exposed broken chunks of boulders to mossy boulders and woods slowly reclaiming the gulch.


Less than an hour into it and I finally find what the gulch is famous for, ICE! It is the end of August and there is still ice in the Gulch, simply amazing.

It is a tedious up through this area of the Gulch and seems to go on forever for a section that is only a mile long. The fun has worn off as the "trail" becomes mossier and slippery. There are some awkward maneuvers in a few spots as the boulders have some wide gaps and huge drop offs in spots. The pace slows down as I slowly pick my way through so as not to get injured.


Finally the trail turns to the left and starts climbing up a steep embankment and an hour and forty minutes from starting the Gulch I have arrived at the junction with Cook Path.


At the junction is a very distinct trail that leads off to the right as you come out of the ravine. It is the old abandoned trail through Hunters Pass. Depending on what old map you look at it is either Hunters Trail or Bog Dam Trail. In the 1969 AMC Guide Book it is known as Ice Gulch Trail and leads out to Bog Dam Road by the old Camp 19 logging camp. Put this trail on the bucket list for later.

Now heading down on Cook Path and it is a rather annoying trail. It is a series of ups and downs in the beginning and about halfway through it a view of Mt Crescent off to my right, my destination for later in the afternoon.

Crossing a series of old logging paths and the new rerouted section of Cook Path is horrible for Randolph Mountain Club standards. All their trails have been great until this section as it is nothing but uneven rocks and a pain to hike through.

I reach another old logging path and this one is overgrown with blackberry bushes. I stop to munch on a few and then just a few minutes down the trail I reach the junction with Boothman Spring Cutoff. Stopping to take my usual sign pictures and I catch something out of the corner of my to the left. It is dark about twenty to thirty feet away and I am thinking another moose sighting.

Being vewy vewy quiet (sorry Elmer) I watch it slowly wander away to the left and away from me.

As it breaks into a little opening between the trees I see what it is finally, BEAR! My first time seeing one in the White Mountains. I'm slowly making my way down the Boothman Spring Cutoff and then the icing on the cake. She crosses the trail in front of me and two little cubs are right behind her.


I have no idea why they have not gotten spooked at all because with the trail being rocky and my hiking poles clacking on the rocks while I hike they should have been able to hear or smell me coming up the trail. But the whole time they just sauntered along like I was never there. I slowly and quietly make my way back up to Cook Path and follow them as they head away from me getting the last shot before they take off for good. The camera was on the whole time but unfortunately fell asleep while I was walking up the trail and so the first "shot" was waking up the camera and the second was hurried and came out blurred. The bear had stopped behind a tree and poked her head around to look at me.

She is just to the right of center behind the two trees shaped into a V. Making my way up the trail and they disappeared into of all places the old logging path where I had stopped a few minutes ago to eat some blackberries. Beginning the month with my first on trail moose sighting and now ending the month with my first NH bear sighting is fantastic. Back to the junction and down Boothman Spring Cutoff to get the little section of trail that is now closed at Randolph Hill Road. So it is a short out and back to the spring and then time to head up the Mount Crescent Trail.


The "beginning" of the trail doesn't make sense as the AMC map shows it beginning where I am standing. But the trail sign has arrows pointing both ways and there is definitely a trail leading away down the hill. Have to figure it out later for now a trip up to Mt Crescent. The trail starts out moderately climbing and what was supposed to be four tenths of a mile to the next junction comes extremely quick adding to the confusion with the map. Hopefully this will work itself out before the day ends as I would hate to come back up here for a couple of missing pieces of trail. Twenty minutes from the junction with Boothman Spring Cutoff and I reach the split with Crescent Ridge Trail. Right or left? Which way to go first and I decide to head right on Crescent Ridge Trail for no specific reason. The trail skirts along the contour line of Mt Crescent and about halfway up I stop at a stream to refill my water. A year ago I wouldn't really think too much about filling up out of any brook. After doing part of the AT and it doesn't bother me at all to drink out of a brook (treated of course with my UV pen). After all it is much better tasting than city water. The trail changes dramatically as it gets steep making its way up to the ridge and reminds me off the trail leading up to Passaconaway. Arriving and I am treated to the views from the north outlook spot. A pano shot with Mt Pliny on the left all the way to Black Crescent to the right.

Off in the distance the windmill farm located just below Dixville Notch.


Back to the trail and heading down on the Mt Crescent Trail to the junction with Crescent Ridge Trail and then a return trip back up. Across the ridge and then a viewpoint looking to the south towards the northern Presis.

Off in the distance to the southwest are the Twins with Franconia Ridge in the background. To the southeast are the Imp and Carters.


The trip down and back up takes an hour and then a left turn for the one mile on the Crescent Ridge Trail to the next junction and piece of trail, Carlton Notch Trail. I had done this one mile section last November so it goes by quickly as it is basically a ridge walk heading downhill. A little over twenty minutes and another left turn onto new territory. The Carlton Notch Trail is a little steep at first and then starts to mellow out further down.


Just before reaching the next junction I spy a galvanized pipe laying on the ground to my left. Seems like an odd place for a piece of pipe and a few more feet down the trail and it kind of makes sense.


Just past the sign and the source, that's probably one body of water I would not drink from, a stagnant water hole/reservoir.

Just past the reservoir is the next junction with Castleview Loop. The original plan was to do an out and back on this trail based on the map. Up I go and being the end of a long day it is a tiring uphill climb. Part way up and I meet only the fifth person of the day and we stop to chat. Turns out he knows Mike and at one time was attempting the same list Mike just recently completed, the NH 3000 footers. Now he is redlining just like myself. Moving on and I reach the first of two viewpoints, Castleview Ledge. It is a good size ledge outcropping and I climb up on it. Unfortunately the views are getting grown in and there is a limited view towards the Castellated Ridge on Mt Jefferson. Believe it or not there is a trail that heads up that ridge and is on the to do list.


Next up the trail is Castleview Rock and the views from there are even more limited.


At the end of this trail and it meets up with Mt Crescent Trail and rather than go back down the Loop I decide to go back down Mt Crescent Trail and see where the rest of the trail goes beyond Boothman Spring Cutoff. Well curiosity paid off as this is part of the relocation to the new parking area off of Randolph Hill Road. It is just as bad as the relocated Cook Path as it is nothing but craggy rocks just waiting for a misstep and twisted ankle.


Reaching the new parking area and a quick trip up the Carlton Notch Trail to the junction with Castleview Loop and then back down for the last section of trail between Jimtown Logging Road and Randolph Hill Road. Thankfully this is all flat and the two mile road walk goes rather quickly. At the car and a shot of Madison and Adams just as when I did earlier this morning when I arrived.

Final numbers: 14.7 miles, 10 hours.

Redline Miles: 10.7, Total to Date: 565.8