May 21, 2016.
Church Pond Trail
A good day to put together a bunch of little hikes off of the Kancamagus Highway. There are a handful of them and this would finish the loose ends. First up is the Church Pond Trail which at one time was a loop and is no longer due to some flooding. I made an attempt at this back in the winter of 2014 after hiking Potash across the street but got turned back at the Swift River crossing. Today I have come prepared with my latest weapon, the waders.
Parking at the Passaconaway Campground where the trailhead is located and just down the trail is the dreaded Swift River crossing. But no worries for me as I slip on my waders over my boots and pants. The river doesn't look all that deep nor "swift". As I make my way across the water level slowly rises up to my knees and the current pulls at my legs trying to push me downstream as I take each step.
On the other side is a gravel and stone banking and crossing number one is done. Into the woods for a short distance and then another crossing on a very shallow and almost still split section of the Swift River. It's deep enough to warrant the waders again and once on the other side it's back into the woods for the rest of the trip. Passing by a junction where the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail joins in from the right the trail is a flat and speedy walk through the woods. Further up the first bog bridges make an appearance and they appear to be pretty new which is a welcome relief.
I had heard this trail was pretty wet and mucky and seeing the new bog bridges gives me comfort as hopefully my shoes will still dry. I have a lot planned for today and would hate to start the day with wet muddy boots. At the second junction the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail now takes off to the left as Church Pond Trail continues straight ahead. A few steps beyond the junction and it must be my lucky day as there is a shiny object on the trail...a dime. Of course I picked it up! Another minute up the trail and recently replaced bog bridges carry me through the worst section of the trail.
Walking through the wet bog and I get a peek of Greens Cliff off to my left. Reaching the end of the bog bridges and the trail steps back into the woods for the brief climb to the end where a red pine forest awaits.
A path leads down to the shoreline of Church Pond where it is a peaceful little spot. Across the pond are the silhouettes of West Sleeper, North Tripyramid and Scaur Peak.
A quick return trip as I opted not to attempt the abandoned section of the loop. There were quite a few paths leading off the main trail and I wasn't sure which one was the correct one. Besides if it is as bad as I have read about this isn't the best time to attempt it. Better off in the winter when the bog is frozen.
Sawyer Pond Trail
While in the area I figured I better officially do the river crossing to complete the Sawyer Pond Trail. I was on the other side back in June of 2013 and never crossed the river that day. It may seem trivial but in order for me to say I redlined all the trails I have to redline all of the trail.
So without much fanfare I made the quick five minute trip from the parking lot to the other side of Swift River and back.
The sandy spot on the right in the above picture is where I had my dinner that night before heading back up the trail a little bit to spend the night. Here the river is much deeper and the current stronger as I made my way across and the water made it up to mid thigh. A look back as I reached the other side and the view from three years ago. A different look as the sun was setting that day while I ate my meal.
Rail and River Trail
Just down the road is the site of the Russell-Colbath homestead and the Rail and River Trail. A very short hike with tons of info about the area back in the early days.
Along the approach path are the beginning of the info boards explaining the history of the area leading up to the first settler of this homestead site, Austin George.
The path approaches a recently built barn that has nothing to do with the original site. The original barn sat on the other side of the house but is long gone. There are a plethora of info boards as I approach the house and can viewed in the pictures section. I find history of the White Mountains to be fascinating and this short little hike was perfect for feeding that hunger.
To the right of the house is the beginning of the Rail and River Trail. A few more info boards are placed along the way explaining the logging history of the area. A fascinating one is placed near a tall white pine and it must have been a sight to see the original trees that once grew here. The one by the sign is a dwarf in comparison to its ancestors.
Approaching the Swift River and a railroad trestle once crossed here. I didn't see any evidence but then again the banks of the river have eroded and getting too close to the edge was uncomfortable.
Returning back to the parking lot and I decided to do the short jaunt on the connecting path to Jigger Johnson Campground. While it is not part of my redlining I did notice another info board at the far end on my drive in and being a sucker for history figured why not. Besides what is wrong with some more walking in the woods?
Rocky Gorge and Lovequist Loop
A few minutes down the road and I'm at Rocky Gorge. Lived here all my life and never noticed this before, for that matter never heard of it. I blame Pops for that!
The approach trail brings me down to the Swift River (seeing a theme here) where you can walk over to the gorge on the exposed slabs.
So if this has been a popular destination since the Civil War how come I am just getting here? Anyways, they say a picture is worth a thousand words then what is a video worth?
Crossing the bridge and there is view to the other side of a hidden gem. One of the largest and strangest potholes I have seen to date. Usually they are carved into the bottom of the slab but this one is in the sidewall of the gorge. A short distance up the trail and a short spur leads down to Falls Pond where on a normal day might be a quiet spot. Today there are quite a few fishermen and the tourist people milling about.
A quick shot and back up to the trail where the Lovequist Loop begins. I head clockwise as a noisy group is heading out in the opposite direction. The trail climbs high above the pond and around the perimeter.
Dropping back down on the opposite shoreline and I get a pano shot of the whole pond from this vantage point.
Making my way around this short loop and back at the path leading to the parking lot a parting short looking west up the river to the Three Sisters on Chocorua, a perspective I have never seen before.
Boulder Loop Trail
And a few more minutes down the Kanc and a left turn onto Dugway Road where just past the covered bridge is the lot for Boulder Loop Trail.
Across the street is the trailhead and just past the sign is an interesting rock with three steps.
Before reaching the split for the trail are lots of themed rocks for the trail.
At the split I stay with the clockwise direction and here I meet this ferocious creature off to my left.
He/she is gathering leaves which is something I have never seen before. Continuing up the trail and the climb brings me to a huge granite cliff face. The usual question arises as I get closer, which way does the trail go, up and over or around. Thankfully the trail leads off to the right and climbs beside it.
Further up and the trail becomes a little obscured as there looks like a path leading off to the right. I follow it for a bit until I reach a spot where I am convinced this is not the correct way. Above me is a cliff with a large slab looking like it could slide off at a moments notice. Must be a climbers path because it was pretty distinct and down trodden. The trail winds its way around climbing up to a viewpoint. The numbered sign posts I have been seeing along the way (one can be seen in the photo below) dot the trail and I had no idea what they where for. A quick search and I turned up some info on them and they were once part of a interpretive brochure that no longer exists. The same goes for the numbered posts as I don't recall seeing anymore beyond this point. The info on the boards can be found here midway down the page.
From the ledges there are small peeks of some of the surrounding peaks poking out above the hills. One had me as to what it was until I zoomed in on it. Oh Yeah, I recognize that granite knob, Chocorua!
A great view from up here of the Swift River Valley as I look to the east. Up the trail a short ways there is another path that leads out onto some more ledges. This time it is a look at a real gnarly cliff face across the way.
Up some more and the trail comes around the back side where there is an official view spur trail leading a couple of tenths out onto the cliff face I was just looking at. At the first opening there is a grand look west up the Swift River Valley to Whiteface, Passaconaway, the Sleepers and Tripyramids.
At another opening a look back at the ledge I was standing on a few minutes ago when I saw these cliffs I am now traversing. At the end of the spur trail are the backside of Middle and South Moat.
Back to the trail and the steep descent down into the valley. Down where the trail makes a turn I see an opening not far through the trees.
Taking the bait I head over and oddly it is a well maintained logging road/forest road. Looking at the maps it appears to be FR602 and parallels Big Brook. Oddly it does not show on Google Earth considering the wide open cut at this turn. This time of year is probably one of the best times as the trees are a bright green with the years new foliage popping out.
The trip down the trail continues first crossing a small stream and then back into the boulder fields where the jumbled rocks make a natural cave. Pass some more of nature's piles of rocks and this would be a better place to explore when the leaves are down as I am sure there are plenty more hidden in the woods.
Soon enough I am back at the loop split and then the trailhead. I have just enough time to squeeze one last hike out of the day.
Mineral Site Trail and Thompson Falls
Continuing up Dugway Road and I make my way to FR380 where the Mineral Site Trail begins.
The pack stays behind just like it has been all day except for Church Pond Trail. I thought about leaving the poles also but figured it was better to have them than not. I need to motor along in order to get out before dark as I left the headlamp behind also. The trail is flat in the beginning as I move along at a good clip. This trail also doubles as a biking trail as there a few junctions along the way as I stop at each one to ensure I am on the right path. The trail makes a small dip at one spot where there is a dry brook bed and I make note to come back someday to follow it and see why it is no longer flowing.
Passing another junction and a few minutes more and I reach the mineral site where it is legal to dig primarily for smoky quartz. The light is waning and I do not make the time to poke around nor does mineral collecting interest me. Moving on the trail starts the descent down to FR379 and thankfully switchbacks along the way. Adds mileage to the hike but will make it easier on the return trip.
Towards the end I can see the road through the trees but the trail does not make the short approach. Instead it turns south and parallels the road for a ways before finally making the turn to end at the forest road.
A right turn onto the forest road and a short walk down to the junction for Thompson Falls Trail which is on the left. A short trail that starts out flat and then begins the climb up to the falls where down below is Moat Brook.
I keep an eye out for the falls as I did not read the trail description so not sure it is a spur path or right next to the trail. Soon enough I get my answer as off to the right is the familiar sound of falling water. A small drop but none the less a cool site to see. Up top the brook is a slab that leads the water over the top into a mini looking gorge.
It's 7:15 and time to finish up this trail and beat it out of here before the dawn of darkness comes. Up ahead the trail returns to FR379 and looking back there is no sign leading you into the woods for this trail. Glad I went right and not left or I would have missed this entrance on the way. No worries I would have turned around at the junction for Red Ridge Trail (where I was just three weeks ago) which is up ahead about a mile but would have cost me a lot of time. Back down FR379 and a return the way I came in along the Mineral Site Trail. I motor up through the switchbacks dreading the uphill but it goes by fairly quick and once I reach the mineral site it is an easy out. Keeping up the pace and I make it back right at 8:00 and before the light begins to creep out of the woods. A pretty good day as I banged out six short trails that have been hanging around for a long time.
Final numbers: 12.3 miles, 5 hours and 55 minutes.
Redline Miles: 7.8, Total to Date: 1110.5