East and West Royce

May 14, 2016.

Time to start chipping away at the Carter Region where I have just about 100 miles left to do. Mileage wise this is my highest region I have left to do. A big loop planned for today with a couple of side trails to mix in. The destination is Evans Notch, one of my favorite regions, but this time working on the west side of Route 113. Last year I concentrated on the other side to finish the Caribou-Speckled Region. Two imposing peaks are the main target, East and West Royce, as I make my way to Brickett Place to park.

It's not the early start I would have liked but it is a three hour drive to get here. After hitting the bathroom I got a taste of what the day was going to be like, buggy. Across the street is the trailhead for Royce Trail as it is nine o'clock when I pass by the sign. A short distance down the trail and the first crossing for the day across the Cold River is an easy rock hop. Parallelling the river the trail makes it's way gently through the woods.

 

Recrossing the Cold River and further up is a small picturesque waterfall. Another crossing this time the Mad River just above where it merges with the Cold River and then the trail begins the climb. A few more minutes later and a side trail off to the left leads down to a vantage point for Mad River Falls.

 

A pretty impressive waterfall but there is more to it than what is in the picture. Above hidden by the trees there is a big wall of water dropping. No time for exploring that today but it is definitely getting added to the list for future exploration. Back up to the trail and a peek at the headwall that makes up the Royce's through the trees.

 

To my left is the constant noise of the Mad River and it sounds like there are more cascades but it not close enough for a quick look. Occasionally the trail and river come together and a quick diversion when I can to view the sights and sounds. Soon enough I reach the junction with Laughing Lion Trail and skip it to continue on up the Royce Trail to the next junction. Here the trail changes dramatically and becomes wicked steep, rocky and rooty.

 

It is a time consuming climb up the short section of trail as I did not expect it to be this steep. Reaching the junction with the Royce Connector and I turn back around returning to the junction for the Laughing Lion Trail. It takes half the time to get back down as I make the left hand turn on to the oddly named trail. An easy trek at first leading down to an opening in the trees for an open shot down into the valley I came up through from Brickett Place.

 

Starting the steep descent and I hear the crashing ahead of me of two deer's taking off as I spooked them. To quick and far ahead for me to get a picture as they fly off through the woods. At the bottom of the descent I am back at the Cold River, a much smaller version here, where a yellow birch sits perched on a boulder guarding the crossing.

 

On the other side the trail disappears and it is hard to discern where it goes as I pan around looking for it. Straight ahead are some outcroppings and heading up this is the trail and then turns to the right to climb up the embankment where the trail ends at Route 113.

 

I head up Route 113 stopping at the sign for Evans Notch to take some pictures. I have had the headnet on all morning to keep the bugs out of the ears. As I stop here they are worse than on the trail so I don't linger long while I snap away. Looking south through the Notch the ledgey South Baldface is just visible in the background.

 

There is also a geo marker here and a memorial plaque. An explanation of who the plaque is for can be seen here. Just up the road and the next trail is on the left, East Royce Trail.

 

Across Evans Brook and I pause at the beginning of the climb to eat and have some water. The purple Trilliums are out and what was once a rarity for me to find are in abundance on this section of trail. Starting back up the trail and there is a nice cascade with the best vantage point just off the trail.

 

While the hike has been pleasurable up to this point it hasn't been one of my most productive so far. The timing has been slow and the pace lacking and just gets worse as I climb this steep short trail. The time seems to drag and the day is slipping away as I pick my up finally reaching the junction with Royce Connector in an hour. East Royce Trail continues on to the right and the steep climb just doesn't end.

 

A long forty-five minutes to go the short four tenths where the trail ends on an open ledge. It's 3:15 and after taking my pictures I plop down to regroup with some food and water. My view is fantastic with a slight breeze to keep the bugs away so I can relax in quiet.

 

Across the way is West Royce and even though it isn't it looks far away. Behind me I can see the trees are higher then the spot I am sitting on. Checking the guide book and sure enough this spot is not the high point for East Royce. I planned to do an out and back on Burnt Mill Brook Trail but knew deep down that would be impossible with the speed I have been hiking and the time of day. I still have a ton of miles to cover between here and getting back to where I parked and no way I have time to go tag a summit just for tagging sake. The heck with it I tell myself as I continue to enjoy the views from this vantage point. Over the shoulder of West Royce are Carter Dome, Hight and ole George.

 

Turning back around for another look at the wooded summit of East Royce and it keeps nagging at me being so close. NO...I am not going I say. I pack up and start to head back down and look back one last time. Damn it...I can't not go as I make my way down off the ledge and follow the herd path. SOB...I don't have time for this but the likelihood of my returning here is pretty slim so I make the hopefully short trip. Not sure where the high point is I get fooled a couple of times until I reach a large outcropping and no mistake this is it.

 

Satisfied, I should turn around and get the heck out of here but NOOOOO. The guidebook mentions some open ledges with more views so...I've come this far why stop now. I'm gonna pay for this later I just know it. The path becomes more grown in and less distinct the further I go. Ahead I spy an antenna and wonder what the heck! What is an antenna doing out here in the middle of nowhere. Don't remember reading about that anywhere. A short scramble and I am on the ledges and there is the mysterious antenna. Turns out it is a radio repeater for the Forest Service completely powered by a solar panel.

 

The views are more expansive here with not only Washington but the Mahoosucs are clearly visible. There is even a fantastic look at Haystack Mt and Haystack Notch where the Haystack Notch Trail leads through.

 

Down below me is the Wild River valley and a glimpse of the river at one of it's many bends.

 

Satisfied it is time to beat it back down to the junction with the Royce Connector and get back on track. The diversion was worth it but costly on the time as I reach the junction at 4:30. Four more hours of daylight left and about 7.5 miles to go. Too tight for my liking but nothing I can do about it but get moving. The Connector is a short jaunt and takes just a few minutes as I re-reach the junction with the Royce Trail where I was earlier this morning.

 

A right turn and somewhere along this trail is the border with NH and Maine. Not sure if there is a marker but I didn't even think about looking for it as I tried to keep moving. In the picture below the border is off to the right as I head up through the col between West and East Royce. It's five o'clock as I reach the junction with Burnt Mill Brook Trail where I pause for a second before starting the climb up West Royce.

 

The trail skirts up the side of West Royce switchbacking a few times making the climb less painful but it still takes forty-five minutes to reach the top.

 

On the other side I come across a first as I stop dead in my tracks. I have read about this and chuckle when I read the reports but now I am face to face with it. Right in front of me on the trail is a male spruce grouse and he is only ten feet away. I'm up two or three feet higher than he is as the trail dips down from where I am standing. I pull out the camera and as I do he starts walking towards me. Shit! In the brush I can hear some chicks chirping away so I know why he is here but could you get out of the way please! He keeps coming and I prepare for the retreat if he decides to attack. The ten feet dwindles down to five feet as I take the picture. Neither one of us backing down I look around for something to toss his way to shoo him away. There's a twig as I bend down to pick it up as I keep him in my view. Little bastard won't stop approaching so I throw the stick in his direction and he flaps up into the tree next to the trail.

 

Watching him the whole time I hastily scoot by praying he doesn't come down off his perch after me. Crisis averted I keep pushing as best as I can on this trail. At the high point for West Royce the Royce Trail ends and the Basin Rim Trail begins. Normally I would be in heaven on this type of trail as it runs along a ridge. But today with the time constraints and mileage I have done and still need to do it becomes an annoying trip as it dips and rises the whole length. This is one of my off days in regards to my usual hiking pace. I try to make the best of it as I make my way across. In the second picture the trail makes an abrupt left hand turn and I thought this was a side trail to a limited viewpoint. Getting a glimpse of Basin Pond I turn back up and where it looks like the trail should continue straight it does not. I retrace my steps thinking maybe I missed another turn and find nothing so I return back to the spot. Scanning around I try to figure out where the trail continues.

 

I head off to the right as that is the only logical and open path. A look back at the confusing spot. It turns out to be the right way but more time wasted and then the trail begins to drop off the ridge but on the opposite side that the trail should be leading me down. Did I miss something else? Fortunately I was on the right path and soon reach a great view down to where I need to finish this hike, Basin Pond.

 

Another ten minutes and I reach the Rim Junction where a collection of trails all converge. Making the right turn for the Basin Trail and I pause when I reach the face of a steep cliff wall. This doesn't look good as the trail is heading towards the steep dropoff. To make matters worse the black flies and mosquitos have returned. Ever since I reached East Royce they had disappeared and I was able to hike with out the headnet.

 

Donning it back on I slowly start my descent. It's 7:30 and I need to get out of this steep section before it gets dark. Last thing I want is to pull out the headlamp on this part of the trail. Between the steepness, the headnet and the leave duff it is a very slow descent. About halfway down I hear a voice behind me and it scares the crap out of me. I had not seen anyone all day and at this late hour figured I'd see no one. I turn and there is a guy and his dog right behind me. I pull aside to let him pass and soon he disappears ahead of me as I continue the slow descent. Finally I reach the flatter terrain and it is after eight when I reach the junction for Hermit Falls Loop. Too late in the waning light to even attempt redlining this piece of trail.

 

I make it to the other end of where Hermit Falls Loop is and just beyond I stop to dig out my headlamp. While rummaging through the backpack another guy sneaks up behind me before announcing his presence. WTF people! It's dark and I had my headlamp on...say something before you're on top of me. He's looking for the guy with his dog who passed me earlier. Saw him on the descent I tell him and he passed me. Haven't seen him since. I take off and beat it down the trail booking as fast as I can with the headlamp. Pausing only at the tricky spots to scan the woods for the turns. Reaching a water crossing I can't make out the rocks well enough to cross safely so I just plow through not caring about wet shoes at this point. Finally reaching the parking lot it is just a mile of road walking back to Brickett Place in the complete dark. It is just after nine when I reach the lot and I had intended to spend the night up here to do some trails tomorrow. But I was beat and the thought of sleeping in my own bed is too tempting so home it is and a long three hour drive. Tough day but an interesting area as the trails are a lot rougher than the trails on the other side of Route 113.


Final numbers: 15.1 miles, 12 hours and 5 minutes.

Redline Miles: 11.7, Total to Date: 1102.7