September 13, 2014.
Trying to get in as many miles as I can before the weather changes, icy trails and shorter days, I ran through several options and decided to head back to the area I was in last weekend. This time getting a bunch of trails on the eastern side of Whitin Ridge. A cold and early start as the temp is 41° and it is 6:30 when my boots hit the trail.
First trail of the day is Bickford Trail which is just up the road on Route 113A from where I was last week. It is a gentle grade up and the crisp morning air feels good in the dimly lit forest.
Very shortly and I spy the familiar red sign of Coca Cola on a building up ahead and boy would that be refreshing. But alas it was not to be. Turns out it was a sign on the side of someone's camp garage that the trail goes through.
Further up and the trail ahead opens up again and this time it is the backyard of a house that allows access to the White Mountain Forest. Skirting the edge of the property and it is back into the woods and the boundary signs are right ahead.
Plateauing at the high point and the trail heads down passing many erratics along the way.
Some are huge boulders while others are slowly crumbling away as is evidenced by the rotten granite. Mt Paugus is supposed to be renowned for this type of granite. This one is almost completely crumbled into bits of stone.
As I am heading down I remind myself that at the end of the day I am going to have to come back up this way to get back to the road. Seeing as I have about seventeen miles to cover today I know this last up at the end is going to be a pain. Less than an hour from starting and I reach the first junction of the day just west of Whitin Brook with Old Paugus Trail.
I stop to take off my long sleeve shirt even though the temps are not warming up I am and feel more comfortable in just a short sleeve and shorts. Turning left and I head up the gradual grade of Old Paugus Trail where just beyond the junction is the boundary for the Sandwich Wilderness. The trail is wide and fairly easy with the looks of an old logging road. The trip goes by quickly and soon I cross Whiten Brook on one of the most unusual "bridges" I have come across.
Not sure what its original intended use was for but it works. Up the corridor I continue and I make it to the junction I was at last week and repeat the short section of Old Paugus Trail between Whitin Brook Trail and Big Rock Cave Trail. It is a steep climb up to the first plateau and mellows out for a bit. Soon it reaches a steep and bouldery gully.
The climb up is fun and shortly I reach a point where the trail does not continue up this gully but instead veers off to the right.
Ahead is a huge wall of granite that the trail skirts beside, reminiscent of the wall on Square Ledge.
Up and around this gigantic block and the trail continues up and ahead I can see daylight through the trees. Getting closer and I can make out the cause for the daylight as I am at the spot where Hurricane Sandy came through back in late October of 2012.
The trees are down everywhere making it look like the old kids game of Pick up Sticks. Amazingly the trail has been cleared with the exceptions of some duck unders.
A short video of the blowdown area.
From here the trail skirts a contour line and eventually there are breaks in the trees to the east towards Mt Chocorua. No matter what angle that rocky cone always looks intimidating to me.
Further along and I reach the junction with the Bee Line Trail, my exit trail after doing an out and back first. Reaching a ledge and to the SW is Kearsarge and Cardigan ,a mountain I still have not done but that is because it is not part of the redlining.
Continuing on and I reach a 90° turn in the trail with a very distinct spur heading off to the right. Turns out this leads to the Old Shag Camp where a shelter once stood until the state declared this a wilderness area.
NH for some reason does not allow any manmade structures in designated wilderness areas. Something I do not understand because while I was hiking the AT in the south their wilderness areas did have manmade structures. But I digress, poking around the site and I find a trail that is heading off towards the north summit of Mt Paugus and figure what the heck.
This path skirts an old bog area and about halfway to the summit disappears in a blowdown section.
I farted around for about 15-20 minutes looking for the trail but never find it. Not trusting my GPS and unable to see the summit through the trees I decide to stick with the plan and that is redlining, not picking up a 3000' foot summit for another list I am not sure I will do, (sorry Mike). Back to the old shelter site and I pick up my poles and head back to the trail. Not long after and a short scrambly section and I pop out onto the slabby south knob of Mt Paugus.
Across the way is a large boulder cracked apart into 5 or 6 pieces.
Down the slab is an open area with unobstructed views out to Whiteface and Passaconaway.
Looking NW and I can see Flume and part of Franconia Ridge. Lincoln's distinctive eastern slide is visible also.
The slab is slowly crumbling away as is evidenced by the holes and broken missing pieces.
Back up to the top and onto the section of Lawrence Trail that I am missing between here and the junction with Cabin Trail. But first a scouting mission as I can see the north summit and across the slab what looks like a trail. I go and look and definitely has some promise but remind myself that is not the objective and it is supposed to rain sometime today so move on I must. It is only 3/10ths of a mile to the wooded summit but a nasty 3/10ths and I really do not have the time. So down I go on the Lawrence Trail and the first part is pretty mild. I had read that this trail is quite steep and has been rerouted in sections with switchbacks due to erosion and the steepness. I make my way to the first switchback and thank the trail maintainers for putting these in. I can see the old trail that is now brushed in and it is indeed steep.
Also on this side of the mountain the trail is mostly rotten granite so I can understand the erosion issue. Soon the trail starts skirting underneath the Overhang and what a sight that must be but it is invisible from the trail. Along this section there are boulders everywhere that must have broken off from the cliff eons ago.
A short but unrelenting climb up and I am at the junction and Lawrence Trail is checked off. Taking a few minutes breather and back down the trail and make my way around underneath the Overhang. Sure wish that was cleared out so it is visible from the trail. Then the climb back up to Paugus with a fairly good shot of the crumbling cliffs through the trees.
A shot of an eroding granite boulder and a section at one of the switchback turns.
Looking at the GPS just below the summit and I notice the shortest distance to the north peak is coming up. I keep an eye out for any evidence of a herd path heading over from this direction but see none. As I cross a small stream I make note that this might be the easiest way but file it away for another day. So tempting being so close but I have my agenda. Back at the summit and I keep pushing knowing that the rain is supposed to come sometime this afternoon. I missed a view spur just after the summit that would have given me a clear shot of Chocorua. Some sections are a little cumbersome heading down but manageable. Soon I re-arrive at the junction with Bee Line Trail and start heading down. It is a steep section of trail but in relatively good shape and actually gets rid of a lot of the elevation in short order.
The trail mellows out and it does not take long to get to the bottom at the junction with Bolles Trail. This must be an old logging road as it is wide and flat. Turns out that this used to be a road connecting Tamworth with Albany Intervale and was re-discovered by Frank Bolles back in 1892. The going is very quick and I arrive at the southern end of the Bee Line Cutoff.
A quick trip up and then a return on this trail and now just a walk out to the parking lot for Liberty and Brook Trails. Passing the junction for the return and I notice the sign makes mention of Paugus Mills and I missed it somehow. Going too fast on Bolles Trail because I also missed the other junction with Bickford Trail. It is too late to turn around and try to figure where the old site was but it would have been nice to see the remnants of the old sawdust pile, an odd feature in itself. Down the trail to the lot and then back up to the junction where Brook Trail and Bolles Trail split. Staying to the right to get a short section of Brook Trail and the first part is an old logging road eventually turning right into the woods.
Making my way up and I reach a section where I lost the trail while listening to some music and fiddling with my earbuds, the right one decided to quit. Wandering around looking for a blaze or any evidence of the trail and I find nothing. Because I really wasn't paying attention I get turned around end up heading out the way I came in. A hundred yards into it before I realize what is going on and turn around to find where I made my mistake. The trail veers off to the left and I veered to the right.
Back on track and I make it to the junction with the north terminus of Bickford Trail. Down the embankment and across the brook and quickly pop back onto Bolles Trail ten minutes later. Across the way is an old five gallon can left over from Paugus Mills.
So glad I missed this junction the first time especially since the sign for it is facing the opposite direction of which I was hiking. I look up the trail to my right and see something in the woods. I get excited as I make my way over and through the brush. Sure enough it is the sawdust pile, twenty feet wide and who knows how deep. Not sure when this was left here but there is no vegetation growing on it at all. A little research on this vague mill suggests in was in the early 1900's.
I find a piece of heavy steel not quite flat and there is an old stove pipe elbow also. Back to the trail and at the crossing with Whitin Brook there is a large steel tube or pipe. Not sure what part of the milling process this would be from or where the rest of it would be but it is possible it might be from the boiler.
I poke around the brook bank and a find a few more items in the stream. A couple of bricks, some piping and a rod with threads on both ends. I make my way upstream towards the sawdust pile and find the remnants of what appears to be the old dam.
After twenty minutes of poking around I am pleased with my discoveries and time for the last two miles out. Surprisingly it only takes forty-five minutes to get back tot the car. Even with the uphill from the brook to the high point goes by relatively easy and quick. About a mile before the end and I can hear the rain starting but thanks to the canopy cover of the trees I never get wet and make it back to the road nice and dry. Another great day in the overcast Sandwich Wilderness and a few more trails knocked off.
Final numbers: 17.1 miles, 11.4 hours and X minutes.
Redline Miles: 589.5, Total to Date: 40.9