April 23, 2016.
Continuing with the stay low theme to avoid the snow and ice it is off to Stark, NH to do Rogers Ledge getting the northern section of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. I'll also throw in a side trip to the Devil's Hopyard which is similar to the Ice Gulch but on a smaller scale.
The road into South Pond Recreation Area is still gated as I take off a little before nine heading up the road. It's cool and overcast as I make my way along the entrance road that is high above the shore line. Down below are the cottages that line the northern shore of South Pond. It only takes twenty minutes to reach the campground and the quiet manicured shoreline.
At the southern end of the rec area is the northern terminus of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. It's a mild flat walk along the shore as I make my way to the junction with Devil's Hopyard Trail which is on the right. Heading up the trail and I recross the namesake stream and it dawns on me this wasn't probably the best idea to be doing this trail at this time of the year.
A short distance up the trail and I begin to see what I didn't want to see but I'm not going to let a little snow and ice stop me. It's scant at the beginning but the deeper in I get the more the snow and ice become prevalent. Normally this wouldn't bother me but the problem with this gorge is it is a rock boulder trail with the stream flowing somewhere underneath all the debris. With the snow cover there is no way of knowing where the holes are. So much for avoiding the ice and snow!
Each step is a slow process of testing the snow bridges and tamping them to compact the snow as much as possible to support my weight. It's a wicked tedious way of moving but I am in too deep to turn back. As beautiful as it is it is pretty dangerous as one wrong step and I could find the one deep hole waiting to swallow up my leg. Visions of snapping an ankle in here and not being to get out enter my head. The walls of the ravine are steep so no one would find me for a long time as there is no evidence of anyone else being in this precarious trail in a while.
A couple of times I step and the snow gives way as my leg drops a good three feet down before hitting something solid. The nerves are on the edge as I keep slowing down with each step. Deeper the snow gets and so does the danger as the boulders become larger and the drops higher. Where's the end...this trail is only 0.6 miles long and I've already been on this for an hour.
It is a different ecosystem in here but I am sweating like it was 80° out. I reach a wall of ice on one side of the ravine and there is more open areas making the travel too risky when I call it that I feel I've reached the end. I've been on this trail for 1:15 and I turn retracing my steps knowing that they are the safest spots to walk on. Miraculously it only takes 35 minutes to get back to Kilkenny Ridge Trail. A huge sigh as I make the right turn and continue on towards the long approach to Rogers Ledge.
The only major unbridged water crossing is Cold Stream where there is a picturesque cascading stream feeding into Cold Stream. An easy rock hop across and the trail slowly climbs up for a pretty walk through the barren woods where the sun is trying to break out.
A trip through some old and new growth of spruce and then an area where some damage has occurred in the not too distant past.
The terrain has been fairly good for the most part and then begins to change as smooth round boulders litter the trail. Just below North Peak there are some nice open woods as I think about heading up to the trailless peak. I have read on Steve Smith's blog that there are some views from a ledge and for now put it on the back burner.
Through an ice damaged section and then I am on top of Rogers Ledge. There is an opening ahead beyond the fire pit where the high spot is. A small open ledge that faces south and somewhat protected by the winds. In the distance is a good look at Carter Notch as I take my backpack and for the first time ever I lay down to enjoy the solitude and fall asleep.
It's a good hour before I wake up and poke around the area looking for more. I find another ledge on the western side and this is the actual Rogers Ledge complete with plaque. The plaque was placed here back in the early 60's commemorating the name change from Nigger Nose (don't ask) to Rogers Ledge. It is a steep drop as I peer down over the edge looking at the woods below.
Peering over to my left I can see the Mahoosucs lining the horizon beyond Rogers Ledge. The woods below look open as I try to figure out where the trail leads down below. I need to reach the junction with Mill Brook Trail to complete this section. It was just this past December that I was down at the junction and in the distance can see Kilback Pond. It is in the dark band top center of the below picture.
Time to get going as I make my way back towards the high spot and the trail leads down steeply just before it. Reaching the bottom the trail skirts around the base of the cliff and there is a crap (pun intended) load of moose poop down here.
Through a sprucey section as the trail leads away from Rogers Ledge and ends up in the open woods I could see from above. It is birch section of woods and most of the tops have been snapped off most likely from an ice storm. Looking back over my shoulder and I can see where I was standing not too long ago on top of the cliff.
Before the junction there is a short spur trail that leads to Rogers Ledge campsite. It is a bare bones tentsite but does come complete with a privy. Not a bad spot to take in a night someday. I can even see Rogers Ledge from the site through the leafless tree branches.
Back to the trail and a few minutes later I am back at the junction that I just visited four months ago. This time I take a few minutes to look for evidence of the continuation of Mill Brook Trail. It once ran all the way from York Pond Fish Hatchery to Millbrook Road. The section from here was closed due to beavers and logging. Poking around I find what looks like a trail corridor. Making my way forward and I quickly get confirmation as I spot an old yellow blaze on a tree.
Beyond the corridor is more defined. A short distance down and I am satisfied with what I have found and add it to "The List". Returning the way I came I make it back up to Rogers Ledge and the sun is now out and the clouds that blanketed the Presi's when I first arrived have lifted.
This is a great spot as I can see all six Presi's from this vantage point. A zoom on Adams and a pretty good look into King Ravine where I have some tramping to do as soon as the snow is gone on the north facing cirque.
Heading down the trail satisfied with what I have accomplished the thought pops back into my head of looking for the ledge on North Peak. I convince myself as I approach it that I don't have the time nor the energy to go poking around in the woods. Especially as I get glimpses of it through the trees. But as I get closer I keep looking for an easy way to go up it and if I see one I'll rethink it. Passing by the southern ridge, which might have been the best approach, I reach a spot where I am the closest to North Peak. Stopping and looking at the woods it doesn't look that bad so I head in following a game trail getting constant confirmation I am on the game trail as I follow the piles of moose droppings that act like rock cairns. I am basically heading due west and then I hit a wall, a rock wall that is.
Going left doesn't look like an option so I continue following the "trail" to the right and find a snaggled section between two cliff faces. It is a gnarly section with fallen trees but the only way up. I push my way through and up ducking under and clambering over the trees. To my right I spy a ledge that might be the ledge Steve Smith mentions and find a decent spot to head up and over to it.
Reaching the top and sure enough there are views from here with a good look at another ledgey outcropping, Square Mt. To my right there is even a look back at Rogers Ledge.
Me being me I have come this far I might as well go and find the high point while I am this close. However I should have gone back to the sag I was coming up as the trees were less thick in there. From this spot they were thick and seeing where I was stepping was not an option. I push through the thick scrub and see a better spot off to my right and push through to it. A turn back to the left to head towards the high spot and there is an opening in the trees and I find this.
The bones of a moose! Odd thing as the only thing here is the skull and the leg bones. The latter in two spots five or six feet apart. No rib cage or jaw bone. Just beyond and I find the high spot. This time I find the sag and head down it as it is definitely the easier path and the way the moose come up here. Coincidentally I make it back down and just shy of where I left the trail. An hour and a half later and I am back along the shoreline of South Pond for a beautiful shot of Location Hill on the opposite shore.
Looking southeast and I spy a sharp peak just poking out over the trees. Turns out it is Goose Eye Mt on the Mahoosuc Range. Back at the trailhead and I find the trail sign I didn't see on the way in. I missed it because it was behind a tree lying on the ground.
A great day even with the struggles through Devil's Hopyard. Complete solitude as I never saw a sole all day and capped off with an hour long nap on Rogers Ledge. Sad news when I got home and looked up the Devil's Hopyard and realized I was just short of the end. There is even a trail sign marking the end of the trail. Oh well it is a short distance up the trail and I don't mind going back for something so unusual as that. The interesting thing will be how close I was to the end when I do go back.
Final numbers: 13.4 miles, 10 hours and 10 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.1, Total to Date: 1087.4