June 6, 2015.
Another quick hike this week as I had to be home early to leave for western MA for graduation tomorrow. The Pooch is finally all done college! Finding something fairly close to home (which is becoming harder to find as I've done most of the close to home hikes) with somewhat short mileage and the missing pieces of a Black Mt Pond loop fit the criteria. A counterclockwise loop is the best approach as I hear Black Mt Pond Trail can be quite steep in places. So I'll first hit Guinea Pond Trail to Black Mt Pond Trail with a side trip to Mary Cary Falls then down Algonquin Trail and a roadwalk on Sandwich Notch Road back to the car. I did a piece of the Algonquin Trail a few years ago when I bushwhacked from Smarts Brook Trail just below Black Mt and Guinea Pond Trail is 100% complete but everything else will be new territory.
An early arrival at the trailhead and just after 6:05 I am on my way. Oddly there is one other vehicle at the parking spot at the corner of FS400 and Sandwich Notch Road. It's highly unlikely that they have beaten me to the trail so they are either fishing at Kiah Pond or camping out somewhere from the night before. Down the road I go crossing Beebe River and taking a left onto Guinea Pond Trail. The last time I was on this section of trail was back in December of 2012 and I remember how mushy it was back then. I can't even imagine how wet it might be at this time of year. Crossing under the power lines and the trail is a wide track as this once was a logging railroad bed for the Beebe River Railroad.
Shortly I came across this ferocious little Red Spotted Newt challenging me to pass him.
Up near the beaver swamped portion of Beebe River I came across these two old pipes crossing the trail. Not sure what their original purpose was as three is nothing noted in this area on the old maps. A few minutes up the trail and a new reroute since I was last up here due to some new flooding of the trail.
Curious as to how flooded the trail is I bypass the bypass and continue on the trail. Just before the bridge the trail is under water but staying to the left in the tall grass I stay relatively dry and make it to the bridge where it is just as flooded but again make it through and take a look back.
Reaching the spot where the new bypass trail meets the original route I see a herd path leading down to the edge of the swamp and I get the bonus for the day. On the drive up I saw four deer at separate times and a fox on Diamond Ledge Road. Down in the swamp is a cow moose and if I hadn't skipped the first bypass I would have never ended up here to see this. She's in the middle of the swamp and at first does not see me there.
As I am standing there taking pictures of here she finally raises her snout sniffing for me and notices that I am there and slowly turns away and walks off to the other end.
Back up to the trail and at the junction where the trail is diverted from the original flooded section a comparison of what it looked like two and a half years ago. I am tempted to head down to where the trail is flooded but I have to stay on track and keep the putzing to a minimum if I want to make it home on time.
Just past that junction is the beginning of Black Mt Pond Trail and I am trepidatious about what lays ahead. There are two crossings of Beebe River, this is the outlet of Guinea Pond, and I remember last time that it was flowing pretty good. Passing the sign marking the Sandwich Range Wilderness and I reach the first crossing with a huge sigh of relief. The river at this location is quite low and easily rock hoppable.
A herd path further up leads off to the right and I have to see where it leads. Turns out it ends up on another flooded section to the west of Guinea Pond. Back at the trail and it now parallels Beebe River, the portion that feeds Guinea Pond, for a bit before another crossing. Upstream there is another beaver swamp complete with an active dam.
The river is now on the left as I find how odd the differences a few feet and a beaver dam can make. Upstream it is your normal river yet downstream it is a large wetland.
The trail itself has been mild so far as it makes the gentle climb up to Black Mt Pond. There is the softly lulling sounds of the river beside me. I come across a large twin trunked maple tree standing beside the trail. How many years this has been standing here is a secret only it knows.
Two hours from starting and I reach the spur trail that leads left to Mary Cary Falls. It's a short distance down the trail to the falls and reaching the base it doesn't look that impressive. I scramble up to the base to get a better view from the side and I'm still not convinced this is all there is to see. Determined to find something with a little more wow factor I climb back down to cross over to the other side to start climbing. I reach the top of the first fall and a look down where the fall looks better from up here.
Turning around and the falls are definitely better from this vantage point dropping a good twenty-five to thirty feet. Back into the steep woods to climb further as there are more falls but smaller than the other two. Close to the top and another view down from where I came up.
Finally I reach the top of the falls and the much smaller Beebe River where it all begins. What started as not very impressive turned out to be better the more I climbed. I would not recommend this for anyone else as the side woods are very steep and footing is not all that great but I took my time and carefully picked my way up. From the bottom there is no way to get a view of the complete series of falls but climbing afforded me some good looks at all of the drops that make up Mary Cary Falls.
Crossing the stream and now the question was how to get back down back to the trail. There was no way I wanted to go back the way I came and this side of the falls was more precarious than the other side. Looking at my GPS and the trail was not far off to the right of the falls and the woods looked pretty open. There was also a faint herd path to follow some of the way. It only took a few minutes to cut across and then I spied the trail from above and made it down with no problems.
A quick trip down the trail to the junction with the spur trail and then a return to keep heading up the trail. Ten minutes later and another crossing of the very small Beebe River and not much further up the camping site next to Black Mt Pond. Passing through the area and I reach the ponds edge and find a spot to rest and take in the quiet beauty of this idyllic spot.
After twenty minutes it was time to leave this spot and make it up the steep part of Black Mt Pond Trail that heads up the left side of the knob seen in the above picture. After all I still had to make it back home by a certain time but I will be back to this secluded and quiet pond again. Back to the trail and meandering through the woods before passing by a wetland that feeds Black Mt Pond. After that the unrelenting climbing begins to reach the Algonquin Trail.
The climb up is scrambly and fun even if it seems to take forever. The terrain varies from ledgey climbs to steep woodsy trails. Occasionally the trail breaks out into the open giving you a brief view teases of things to come.
Reaching one viewpoint and Kiah Pond with Dinsmore Mt and the Squam Mts (which include Doublehead, Percival and Morgan Mts). Another view is down to Sandwich Notch and the cut in the trees from the power lines that runs across the forest land.
I continue heading up the trail as it repeatedly heads in and out of the woods braking out onto open ledges. The trail even comes with it's version of Polar Caves as it passes through one area of jumbled broken off granite boulders.
The climb continues with sometimes false hope that I am nearing the top. No matter how many times I have hiked I always fall for that trick. As soon as you can see blue skies behind the trees you think you are near the top only to get there and find out you have to keep going. Thankfully it was not much farther from this spot and in ten minutes or so I reach the junction with Algonquin Trail. It took an hour and twenty-five minutes to climb the 1.1 miles up this very steep but rewarding part of the trail. Of course stopping to take all the pictures did not help the time!
There was thoughts of heading up to Sandwich Dome because I have not had good luck up there with views the two times I was there. But remembering the last time I was on this section of Algonquin Trail and it's a ways away and there is not enough time to do an out and back. So heading down the trail and just past the junction and the views to the west open up. Welch and Dickey Mts are across the valley. Around the corner are North and South Hancock with North's Arrow Slide clearly visible.
Tecumseh is also visible marked by it's ski slopes on the lower portion. Beside it are all 4 peaks of Osceola of which only the two trailed ones I have visited.
But it is time to move along as I need to get down and maybe on the way a return trip to the trailless Mt Black seen down below. The trail is steep in this section but not as steep as coming up from Black Mt Pond.
There are only a few spots that require some care but I remember them from when I was on this section a couple of years ago and they were not too bad. Reaching the col and as I quickly move through I keep an eye out for where I dove into the woods that day to get to Mt Black. I didn't look hard but never find the spot and continue on as time is the driving factor now. Through the col and down towards where I came out of the woods when I bushwhacked up from Smarts Brook Trail. Taking a few pictures at spots that looked familiar and comparing the GPS tracks at home and I have a picture from the spot. One looking into the woods where I came out and the other a view just before I popped out onto the trail.
From here the Algonquin trail is great walk in the woods all the way down to Sandwich Notch Road taking less than an hour from my bushwhacking spot.
From here it's a mile and half walk back to where I parked. I am surprised as I am making my way back that this old road sees as much traffic as a dozen cars pass through on my thirty minute walk. Heading out I decide to head up the road towards Route 49 instead of back towards Sandwich. I find the house I spied from one of the ledges and the view back to where I was earlier are fantastic from this spot. I am envious of whomever owns this house.
Another great day in the woods and a new found spot, Black Mt Pond, for some solitude. Plus I made it back in plenty of time to head out to western MA for Pooch's big day.
Final numbers: 9.9 miles, 7 hours and 15 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.3, Total to Date: 806.9