December 1, 2012.
It is supposed to be an overcast day so I picked a trail with very limited views and no peaks. Flat Mountain Pond seemed like a good candidate which would provide some good mileage and shelter from the elements. The trailhead is located in Sandwich with most of the trail located within the Sandwich Range Wilderness.
The eastern trailhead is located just off Route 113A and pulling into the lot I am the only one there. A few minutes later and I am on trail a little after 7:30 and heading down a wide logging road. It is not long before I come across a pond with the grandest designs to prevent beavers from blocking the culvert that crosses the road. Unfortunately the beavers are smarter than the humans and just built their dam a little ways in front of it.
A little pass the dam and there is a side trail to the edge of the pond with a bench to sit and reflect on what is probably a great view, but not today. As I was leaving to head back to the road something caught my eye and to my left is a tree with a sign tacked to it. "Shush! The fairies are sleeping" must be an interesting story behind this.
Not much further and the trail diverges into the woods leaving the logging road behind. This section pops out onto another old logging road and quickly takes another right finally becoming a true trail. A short ways up and I get the only view shot of the day of Mt Whiteface in the clouds.
Coming down the trail just before the first crossing of Whiteface River I hit a patch of black ice ingeniously hidden by the light layer of snow and down I go on my butt, argh the first wipe out of the season. Coming up to the river and, hey, there is no bridge where there used to be one.
Upstream there is no crossing and downstream I find nothing. Returning back to where the bridge used to be I head up from it a little bit and find enough rocks that looks doable. The one thing that makes me nervous about these crossings is the black ice on the rocks that you can not see but sure as heck feel as soon as you step on it. First I look around for a stick to use for balance as I left my poles in the car as sometimes I like hiking without them on the easier hikes. Recalling the dunking I took last year when doing Middle Tripyramid I cautiously pick my way across. Passing the junction with McCrillis Trail and I move along and the variation in trail is refreshing to see and experience.
Several more sketchy crossings of the river and two hours from starting and I reach the edge of the Flat Mountain Pond which is a mile long. At one point the trail is like night and day changing from a open normal trail to a bouldery mess of a trail. Both pictures were taken from the same spot just turning 180°.
A few minutes later there is a gigantic boulder on the edge of the pond. On a good day you can see Whiteface from it.
The trail is a hard to follow track through this area as it goes up and down through the boulders jogging left then right until I eventually lose it and follow a trail which led down to the pond. I came across this little spot in doing so.
Heading back up to where I headed left to the pond I finally find faint traces of what looks like a trail and successfully make it to the end of the pond to the four-way sign post. First path is to my left and heads to the edge of the pond looking down the length of it.
Heading back to the junction I take the trail that is to my left and it takes me to the Flat Mountain Pond Shelter which comes complete with a fry pan! The streaks in the pic is from the snow falling at that moment.
Back again to the sign and turning left again it is time to head down as this spot is the halfway point of the trail. Passing the hairpin turn, which really did not feel like a hairpin to me, I cross a major tributary that comes off Sandwich Dome and feeds Pond Brook. This part takes a good dip into a ravine and comes up onto where the railroad ties are still visible from the old Beebe River Railroad. Looking at the link in the upper right corner is Flat Mt and the trail follows the old bed including the hairpin turn. The picture I took with the ties still exposed is right after crossing where the "Curved Trestle" is noted.
Shortly after this crossing is supposed to be the junction with Bennett Street Trail but I guess I was oblivious to it because the next sign I saw was for Gleason Trail quite a ways down the trail. I'll be back someday to do Gleason and Bennett so I'll figure it out then as to where I missed it. Continuing down and I make it to the junction with Guinea Pond Trail and turn left staying on Flat Mountain Pond Trail. Coming down the steep section and at a water bar I step into a pile of leaves and start sliding and end up on my butt for the second time of the day. Up I get and on I go passing the other end of Bennett Street Trail and then Jose's Bridge. It's noted on the AMC maps but nowhere that I have found is the story behind the name. Best I could come up with is this article, read the "Obituary for a Hiking Trail". I'm assuming the bridge was named after the woman mentioned in the article, Alice Jose.
Finally reaching the west end of the trail and it is now time for the ever fun loving road walk back to the car. Passing two trucks on the way out which were probably hunters and then over the bridge that crosses Pond Brook (the brook is more like a river, wonder what the criteria is for a brook/river) and I come across the only interesting feature along the road.
A fairly quick 40 minutes later and I am back at the car and it is time to head south. Two accomplishments today were achieved, the first is I went over 500 miles total for hiking. The biggie is I finally achieved my NPD (No People Day), not a single sole on trail all day! A really good hike in an interesting area and I will be returning soon to pick up the other trails.
Final numbers: 13.2 miles, 5 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 10.3, Total to Date: 247.6