September 8, 2012.
Part 1. Today is "Flags on the 48" day where a dedicated bunch of people bring the US flag up to each of the 48 4000 footers and fly it for a few hours in commemoration of 9/11. In order to stay away from the crowds I chose hiking in the Waterville Valley area to fill in some holes on my red-lining list. The first hike is up to Little East Pond and the second is to hike as many trails in the Waterville Valley area as time and weather allot.
When I did the Osceolas last year I hiked the entire length of East Pond Trail and now I am returning to get the Little East Pond Trail and the East Pond Loop sections. About ten minutes after starting up I reach the Little East Pond Trail and turn left onto an eerily looking trail.
The first part of the trail is an old railroad bed and makes for a nice leisurely walk through the woods where there is lots of evidence of logging throughout the years. It is a quiet and peaceful walk in the early morning hours and the lack of bugs makes it even more enjoyable. Along this section there are quite a few old logging paths that intersect with the hiking trail on the way out before the sharp right hand turn.
After taking the hard right turn on the trail there were a few spots where the trail is getting overgrown and almost disappears. About half way up I could see an unusual opening through the trees and the curiosity got the better of me as to what it was. It was just a strange place for there to be open space. Walking through the brush and then all of a sudden the whole area is wide open from some recent selective logging, I would guess within the last year or two.
Back to the trail and a little after an hour from starting I am at Little East Pond. It is a very wet area and quite difficult to get a good view of the whole pond between the thick woods surrounding it and the beavers have done a good job of spreading the pond out. it is a very quiet and peaceful area and on a sunny day the views can only be imagined. History also states that this pond was once mined for Diatomaceous Earth (the white very fine powder that I use to use in my pool filter) back in the day. Another word for it is "tripolite" hence the source for the naming of Tripoli Road.
A few minutes later and it is time to head on down via East Pond Loop Trail to return to East Pond Trail. Another pleasant hike rolling up and down along the trail in the woods. Sometimes it is much nicer to be in the woods all day and to not get above tree line. Especially a day like today with the clouds being so low there would have been nothing to see anyways. It does not take long to make it down the trail (less than an hour) and I arrive at East Pond. Another marvelously quiet place to enjoy the solitude.
It is time to head back to the car and move onto the second part of my hike today. A quick 30 minutes later and I am back and see the first signs of people at the trailhead. Throw the backpack in the back of the car and off to Waterville Valley via Tripoli Road.
Final numbers: 5 miles, 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Part 2. A short drive down Tripoli Road into the village and I park at the old Snows Mountain Ski Area to start up Cascade Path. The goal is to hike as much of this area in the most economical way, the plan, well there wasn't one. So heading up Cascade Path made the most since and just wing it from that point on. Passing Boulder Path and then reaching Elephant Rock Trail it was time to make a decision on which way to go and how best to do the task at hand. Out comes the trail map and I make my decision to head up Elephant Rock Trail and very quickly come to see where this trail gets its name.
Continuing up the trail and it reaches the open area of the old ski trail just below the top of the ski lift that still operates for the mountain bikers. Up the ski trail and just behind the lift house the trail ducks back into the woods and it is now Greeley Ledge Trail. The trail heads down into a valley and passes some exposed ledges which gives its name to this trail.
At the end of this trail it is time for another decision, to go left onto Snows Mountain Trail or right. Either way I will have to repeat some part of what I have already done to accomplish more trails. So what makes the most sense to me is to go right and head down the trail towards the parking lot and then a road walk to the southern end of Snows Mountain Trail. Down the trail which is another great walk in the woods until it comes out onto the ski trails lower down. Walking under the ski lift to the parking lot and then a walk down Boulder Path Road turning left onto Snows Mountain Road. Walking up the road and watching the GPS for the trailhead there is no sign of it where it should be. I continue up the road and after finding nothing I head back down to an opening that is not the trailhead but as close to it as I can find. It turns out to be a wide path that must be for cross country skiing in the winter. Heading along it in hopes that it intersects the trail but I know deep down it is not right as I pass behind a housing development. Off I duck into the woods bearing straight for where the trail should be and shortly I finally come upon it. Not wanting to miss a small section of trail for my red-lining I head down the trail to see where it truly begins. Lo and behold it comes right out into someone's backyard. Checking the guide book when I get home and sure enough I was supposed to head up this person's driveway to get to the trail, who would have knew. Anyways, back up the trail and it is so unlike other trails to the 48's. Nice woods, nice footing and the whole day to myself.
There is also one of natures little wonders.
And to top it all off I solved one of mankind's little mysteries, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Walking along the trail and somewhere a couple of hundred yards away I heard the loud snap marking the beginning of a tree coming down followed by the crashing of the branches and then the thud as it hit the ground. So the answer to the age old question is yes. Continuing on, the trail finally starts the accent up the mountain and the trail begins to narrow and the first signs of moose.
As I continue heading up there are more and more droppings over this stretch of trail. Over a half mile section I counted at least 23 piles of moose droppings and the more I saw the more excited I got in hopes of finally seeing a moose on the trail. Reaching the first viewpoint on this trail and I stop for lunch while sitting on the ledge looking at Welch and Dickey Mountain, two other peaks on my list.
Onwards I go and reaching the next spur trail for more views at the height of land. Along the way even more moose droppings, he's got to be here somewhere. At the viewpoint I can see more peaks that I need to climb for my red-lining, Sandwich Dome, Jennings Peak and Noon Peak.
Returning back down the spur and onto the northern section of Snows Mountain Trail and again there are more droppings. Where is this moose? He obviously likes it up here and walks the trail quite a bit to have this many droppings. Unfortunately I never see nor hear any sign of him. As I am heading down this is definitely solitude out here, sections of the trail just disappear in the undergrowth and I have to stop often to look around for signs of the trail.
Eventually I make it back down to the intersection with Greeley Ledge Trail and head back over it and Elephant Rock Trail to get back to Cascade Path. Turning right onto Cascade Path and I head towards the Cascades as the skies begin to threaten rain. Reaching the bottom of the Cascades and it is a cool little area. There is a series of about six cascades as you head up to the end of the trail.
Now for the interesting part of the hike. Last year when I was in this area I did North Tripyramid and we had a lot of rain at that time. When I visited the Norway Rapids at that time there was no way to cross it because of the volume of water in the stream. Hopefully it would be different today so that I could get across this time. Heading towards the rapids I can hear the stream and then I get to see it and a wave of relief comes across me as this time I can cross.
A shot of last year and a shot of this year, note the yellow arrow on the rock in both pictures.
Much tamer and lower water level than last year. Onwards to Livermore Trail and the rain begins. It is actually refreshing and I quickly make it to to Boulder Path and another shot of the huge boulder.
It's down to the home stretch now and a brisk walk on Boulder Path and back to Cascade Path and back at the car. What a great day over some excellent trails and in some awesome woods.
Final numbers: 10.4 miles, 6 hours.