October 12, 2014.
Every week it is always a fun challenge on determining where to hike. Sometimes I go a few weeks in the same spot then it is time to go explore something new. Today is a new day and the bigger challenge is how much can I squeeze into a day. I am heading to Shelburne NH where the Shelburne Trails Club has been reclaiming some old trails. It is going to take at least two attempts to tackle all the trails located off of North Road so I'll see how much I can get done today.
Parking along North Road and the day starts just after seven. Looks like a good day with a little nip in the air as the temps are in the high 20's to start. First trail of the day is Peabody Brook trail.
The trail follows Peabody Brook for a ways and climbs gently up to the ridge. About thirty minutes in and I spot an outcropping of ledge on my right. I don't know why but I made the decision to check it out. I had plenty of hiking to do today and diversions were not on the table but I felt drawn to go up. The embankment is steep and a few times I have to grab the trees to pull myself up.
Getting close to the top of the ledge and I see an opening.
And the risk and extra time was definitely worth it as I step onto the ledge and the fall colors are awesome in the early morning light.
That is the Moriahs across the way in the second photo. I suppose I could end the hike right here as this little spot pretty much makes the day. But back down I must go and very carefully I might add. A short distance up and a scheduled detour down a spur trail to see Giant Falls. I make it down to the bottom and I don't get the significance of this side trip.
But then I noticed the trail continued and just before reaching the real falls I noticed this little fluffy fella playing in the water. I swear this is not staged, just one of mother nature's little creations.
Further up it turns out are the "real" falls and it was a bit better. Although the water flow is severely diminished right now.
Back up to Peabody Brook Trail and I reach an opening in the trees and just beyond that a ladder on the trail. Right before reaching it I heard a noise in the scrub to my right and for a minute thought it might be a bear. Something was rustling around not far from me and I stood still trying to see what it was. finally I caught a quick glimpse of it and turns out it was a porcupine. Sorry no pictures as it was so quick and the growth was pretty thick.
The trail meanders along the brook again through this next section and along the way I spy an old painted over AT marker in a tree. I had seen one once before down by Lonesome Lake on Cascade Brook Trail but that one was wooden. Peabody Brook Trail was part of the AT at one time until it got rerouted back up onto the Mahoosuc Trail.
Through a boggy section and the next destination for the day is a new trail just recently opened leading to Bald Cap Peak ledges.
The trail comes onto an open ledge area and as I am looking around I notice this sign on a tree.
OK, I did not really cross the border but I find it humorous. It actually is the boundary line for the AT corridor. Some lucky people actually go through some pretty tough areas to mark this all out on both sides of the AT trail.
Down below this ledge and the views open up looking into Maine and across the way to the Moriahs and Northern Presis which are in the clouds. Down below are the two peaks I'll visit later in the day Mt Crag and Middle Mt. Over to my right is Mt Hayes which I was on two months when I met up with Peaches and Cream.
The colors would have definitely been much better if I had gotten up here during the early morning sun. At least I got the shots from the unmarked ledge down below earlier. Back out to Peabody Brook Trail and this section is loaded with bog bridges as I approach the junction with Dryad Fall Trail.
Making the left hand turn and the view of Dream Lake opens up. Just beyond is the junction with the AT, the Mahoosuc Trail.
My original plan was to head down the AT and then back to the ledge I was waiting for Peaches and Cream that day back in August. But with the winds and cooler temps I didn't feel like being up on this ridge for an extended period of time. Plus the mileage would have been almost six miles total to go out and back. Another day and most likely an overnighter as the Mahoosuc Trail is 26.6 miles long and I have only done three so far. Maine in itself is going to be a tough one to tackle logistically due to the distance and remoteness of the trails in the AMC White Mountain Guide. Anyways time to head back down via Dryad Fall Trail for the next side trip, Dryad Fall of course! In about forty-five minutes I am down to the spur trail that leads over to the fall which on a wetter time of the season would be wicked impressive. This fall is pretty large in overall height and the vantage point is only the tip of the iceberg as there is a bigger drop below me.
Just ten minutes down the trail and the next junction is Austin Brook Trail. I start heading down and then stop as I am making this whole hike up on the fly. I am already here so why not head up to Gentian Pond Shelter to finish this portion of the trail. I still have quite a few miles to go to finish but I do not feel like creating another side trip in my project so I turn around and head up for the 1.1 mile section of trail. Oh little did I know what awaited me. Austin Brook Trail is an old logging road for most of the way then it starts resembling more of a hiking trail.
A little further up it crosses next to an old abandoned beaver dam and then opens up into a swampy meadow. Good thing it has been dry lately or this area could be a wet problem.
On the other side of the bog is when I get my surprise. The trail turns up the side of the mountain ridge and is a steady steep climb all the way to Gentian Pond Shelter.
Of all the shelters I have been to so far this is one of the best in regards to location. How could you beat waking up next to a pond and the view from the open front.
The AT used to come right behind the shelter but at some point got relocated two tenths of a mile down the trail. So to complete Austin Brook Trail a quick down and back. A little after noontime and time to get going back down Austin Brook Trail which only takes thirty minutes. Down on the new section of trail and reaching the flats a look back at where I have spent the morning so far.
Motoring along and I pass by this little overgrown junction and think nothing of it as it is not on the trail map. It does say it is Gates Brook Trail but that is supposed to be off of North Road not up here, so confused I ignore it.
So I keep going straight on the trail/road until I reach the spot where the logging bridge has been removed over Austin Brook.
It is on the other side that I see the first people for the day and they are getting ready to hike somewhere. I continue down the road and after going quite a distance I just don't feel like this is the trail anymore so I turn around. I recross the brook and just beyond is where Austin Brook Trail heads into the woods. Somehow I missed this after the Gates Brook Trail sign.
This part is more like a regular trail and at the next junction with Yellow Trail I turn left to pick up this portion. Not far up and I reach another junction with an odd sign on a tree.
Seriously! A cable car? Toto I think we are in San Francisco. Curiosity again gets the better of me and I have to check this out. Now I am thinking this has something to do with lumbering and maybe it is an old relic left out here in the woods. Getting excited as I get farther up the trail and then I see it.
Just when you think you've seen it all...I can only assume it is there for when the brook is running high. But today it is not so I'll skip the ride and head back to the junction to finish this portion of the Yellow Trail. Crossing the brook and then the road that I was walking down inadvertently to continue on the Yellow Trail and this part of the trail is through some very recent logging activity.
The network of trails in this area are confusing with the logging and I am glad this is all I am doing for today. Back up to the junction with Austin Brook Trail and down to the trail head at North Road where a turnstile marks the entrance. Heading back up and a view to the next destination, Mt Crag.
Back at the junction with Yellow Trail and a left leads towards Mt Crag. About halfway up and I spot another oddity in the woods. Two moose huddled under a tree.
See I wasn't lying. The short climb up and a nice surprise for a little mountain. An open ledge with the same views I have been getting all day.
While looking at Madison from here I notice a flickering near the summit (it is the little white dot below Adams peak but on Madison) and it confuses the heck out of me. You can see it in the picture and even better when I zoomed it in Photoshop.
Zooming in on the next shot it is no longer there. Someone had to of had something on very reflective to get that in the image. And in looking at this next shot I noticed something over the left shoulder of Adams. When I zoomed in on it in Photoshop it is a plane or glider I caught in the photo.
To compound what it could have been I got the same reflection when taking a shot of Washington but that is the headlights of the vehicles coming down the Auto Road.
So that was my mystery and excitement on Mt Crag. Moving on I head down the other side of Mt Crag on the rest of the Yellow Trail and reach Gates Brook Trail. Back down for another time to the trail head that starts on North Road of course! Another turn around and back up all the way to the "end". End in quotes because the map does not show this trail continuing over to Austin Brook Trail. Out in the field I contemplate to go or not just in case. Without any info or this being on the map and it's getting late (almost four o'clock) I opt not to do it and head back the way I came down to the junction with Middle Mt Trail.
Reaching the summit of Middle Mt does not take long and at 4:30 I am standing on the ledgey peak. That boulder in the summit shot would come in handy in a little bit. From here I can see the ledges I was on hours ago on Bald Cap Peak.
The views are just as good here as they have been everywhere else. A look back up at the ridge I was on towards Gentian Pond with Black Mt in the back (located in Maine). Towards the southwest are Speckled Mt with East and West Royce, an area I have not done any of the 74.5 miles of trails.
Heading back to the summit boulder and I have to stand on it to get a shot at Washington with the setting sun.
Time to get moving as I head down the trail making my way back to Peabody Brook Trail. Unfortunately it does not go directly down as I would expect. Instead it heads towards a col between Middle Mt and Bald Cap Peak and then turns left towards Peabody Brook Trail. Before the turn the trail used to go straight and up to the ledges on Bald Cap. Not sure if the trail club is planning on re-opening this portion of the trail but I have seen a trail report by Steve Smith (coeditor of the guide book) of coming across bits of this trail on a bushwhack up to the ledges.
The trail goes through varied areas from the woods to recent logged areas to heading down an old logging road. It feels like it is never ending but in reality took forty minutes to get back to Peabody Brook Trail. From there a fairly short walk back out to the car. A great little area of trails and I can't wait to come back to hike the rest of the trails off of North Road (including 0.8 miles of the unmapped Gates Brook Trail!). On the way home I can never resist stopping on Route 115 and get a shot of Ole George. Today he had a frosty coating on this side of the mountain. I am jealous of the people who live here.
Final numbers: 19.2 miles, 10 hours and 30 minutes.
Redline Miles: 13.4, Total to Date: 630.0