June 29, 2013.
A return to another peak, Sandwich Dome, and the only way to describe this hike is WET! The plan is to go up via the Bennett St Trail and if the now closed Gleason Trail, if I can find it, looks reasonable then descend via that. When I did the Flat Mt Pond loop back in December of last year I did look for the trail where it crosses Flat Mt Pond Trail and could only see the open side. If it's obvious on the upper part of Bennett St Trail then I might try to descend it.
Arriving at the trailhead and on trail just before 8 with my overnight pack fully loaded, for the weight not for an overnighter, everything is still wet and dripping from the rain the day before with well over in inch of it coming down. The beginning of the trail is a mild walk along an old logging road and reaching Jose Bridge there is no mistake of how much rain we got the day before. Pond Brook is swollen and raging and thank goodness I do not have to cross this brook at all.
A very short fifteen minutes later from the trailhead and I am at the Bennett St Trail, new territory for me. Heading up the trail parallels Pond Brook and the sound of the swift moving brook is soothing. I love the sounds of nature and even more so the solitude up in this area. Quickly I reach my first tributary crossing, one of many for the day and many is an understatement, going straight across is not the best option. I really like keeping the feet as dry as possible so with no rocks available for hopping at this spot I head upstream as down is pointless. I head a good hundred yards before finding a swampy marshy spot before the stream. Squishing through that section and I spy a spot that looks doable with a mini island being split between the overflowing stream. Crossing without incidence and making my way back to the trail and then down to where the trail meets the stream.
Heading on up the trail and damn there is another crossing, the theme for the day.
Passing the lower end of the open Gleason Trail and another crossing later I reach Great Falls. It is spectacular today with the volume of water flowing through this mini gorge-like spot.
Same shot using different exposures.
I made my way to the top of the fall and then a few minutes later the most challenging crossing of the day.
I tried to the left of that log and straight across to the right of the log but both ways were a no go. In the background in the upper right you can see Pond Brook roaring past and just past those three pine trees is a drop off into the brook. Didn't really want to go near that but...making my way towards the right of the picture on the banking I found the better spot of any to try crossing. The path led me just behind that huge bolder and I did make it slowly and safely across. A few more crossings and about a half hour later I make it to where Flat Mt Pond and Bennett St Trails intersect. Was here last December and I never saw this spot where the trails intersect but do remember the remnants of the railroad ties.
These tracks were last used in 1942. Crossing over Flat Mt Pond Trail and heading up Bennett St Trail rather steeply at first going through various areas that are somewhat grown in to microburst snapped trees.
The trail eventually turns right onto an old logging road and the grade eases through this section pretty much following the contour. It is through here that I start encountering deer scat, the most I have ever seen on a trail. Every fifteen to twenty yards there were droppings all the way up. The trail itself is an easy grade but with running water from the waterlogged forest. Staying dry is nearly impossible from the wet trail to the dripping trees and the thick humidity in the air. On up the trail still following the trail of scat and all of a sudden the path peters out into a wooded area. Oops, I do think I found the bedding area of the deer as the scat trail ran out here also. Back down the herd path and I missed a sharp left coming up. The upper end of this trail is more closed in and getting wetter as I move along brushing up against the wet shrubs. I pass the now closed upper end of Gleason Trail and put it in the back of my head for coming down. Further up I pass an unofficial "trail" that goes off to my right which leads up to the NE knob of Sandwich Dome. Sticking with the plan it wasn't too long before I reached the summit and this time I am thwarted from any views.
Lingering just long enough in the misty cloud to have some snacks and time to head back down. I take my time as everything is soaked from the previous days rain, the trail, rocks and roots. About halfway between the summit and the closed Gleason Trail, on a relatively easy grade it happens, down with a bang as my feet come out from underneath me. I land on my butt and somehow my right leg twists and the inside of my knee hits a rock. I sit there for a moment collecting myself and get up to see what I stepped on and camouflaged with the ground a root running parallel with the trail was my undoing. A wet root is just as slippery as black ice in the winter. Thankfully it was just a deep bone bruise and nothing more but the pain lasted for over a month. Stopping further down at the closed Gleason Trail and I contemplate should I take it or not. It has been only a year so hopefully easy enough to keep track of and worse case scenario I am going to intersect with Flat Mt Pond Trail no matter what.
The trail for the most part was pretty easy to follow and once again the deers seem to love this section of trail. I don't think this part of the trail will ever grow in as long as the deer continue to use it as their superhighway. A few spots were completely blocked by blowdowns but all were easily bypassed.
The only real questionable spot was right near where the tributary begins that the trail parallels. It is eroded and grown in this area and looks like the trail would head right towards the stream but in fact heads down. It only took an hour and twenty minutes to get down the closed Gleason Trail and popping out onto Flat Mt Pond Trail I now understand why I couldn't find the trail last December. It's like playing "Where's Waldo" with the trail.
Heading down the open part of Gleason Trail was a quick fifteen minutes before I was back at the junction with Bennett St Trail. A quick return back up To Flat Mt Pond Trail and now for my next agenda, the other portion of Guinea Pond Trail that I couldn't do, also back in December, due to Cold River having no safe crossing. Passing by the old Camp 8, from the logging days, and right by the trail some old debris and another stream crossing.
The crossings are never ending today! Thirty minutes on Flat Mt Pond Trail and I reach the Guinea Pond Trail and decide to drop my backpack for this out and back section. Heading down it seems relatively easy until I hit the water. This trail, the old railroad bed, is mostly flooded and any reasonable attempt at keeping dry is long gone. In fact the last section of Flat Mt Pond Trail between Gleason and here was also wet so the feet and socks were already feeling it. I make it to Cold River and turn back to return to my pack and then down to the car.
It takes about an hour to do the out and back and then another twentyish minutes to make it back to the car. Fun but wet day and , oh yeah, I had my first NPD (No People Day) in this area when I did the loop of Flat Mt Pond back in December and another one today. This might become one of my favorite areas to hike. In fact now that I look back on it all four of the five hikes; Flat Mt Pond, Israel, Black Mt and Sandwich Dome_II; have all been NPD's!
Final numbers: 12.2 miles, 8 hours and 10 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.7, Total to Date: 382.2