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by Mike Dickerman
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Steven D. Smith photo The highlight of any visit to secluded Black Pond in Lincoln is the distant view north toward the remote peaks of the Bond Range in the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

In the heat of summer when a hard climb up to a mountaintop vista is about as appealing as an ice cream sandwich in mid-January, I often find myself forgoing the grunts and groans of a stiff uphill climb in favor of something simpler and less strenuous. Fortunately, the White Mountains offer a variety of trails and footpaths that easily accommodate such desires.

As the available mountain-less trail options are far too numerous to cover in the space allotted here, perhaps it would be best if I narrowed down the choices to one specific category, namely ponds and lakes situated within the White Mountains. Of these there is certainly no shortage, as is well demonstrated in Steven D. Smith’s fine hiking guide, Ponds and Lakes of the White Mountains, which features descriptions to 68 trips throughout the region. Granted some of the hikes described in the guidebook are anything but simple walks in the woods— like the trek to Lakes of the Clouds near Mount Washington’s summit, or remote Harrington Pond at the southeast base of Mount Kinsman near Franconia Notch— but many are very appropriate for these dog days of summer. So let’s take a quick peek at some of my personal favorites located mainly in the central or western White Mountains.

I’ll start the mountain ponds tour close to home, in the Franconia Notch-Mount Moosilauke region, where trampers can choose between some of the busiest ponds in the area, or some of the least visited. Certainly the most popular destination pond in these parts is Lonesome Lake, the 14-acre tarn nestled amongst the spruce, firs, and tamarack at the southeast base of Cannon Mountain. Lonesome Lake (a bit of a misnomer since a hiker is rarely alone on the way to, from, or at the lake) has been attracting hikers to its shores for more than a century and with good reason. From its southern shores (just a few yards down from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Lonesome Lake Hut), hikers are treated to an awe-inspiring view towards Mount Lafayette and the peaks of Franconia Ridge, plus a unique vantage of the ledgy southern buttress of Cannon Mountain. Lonesome Lake is accessed by trail from Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch State Park. From the floor of the Notch it’s a 1000-foot, 1.6-mile climb, but as the grade is easy to moderate all the way up, even hikers who have trouble handling the summer heat should find the walk up quite tolerable.

Two slightly easier ponds to reach in this area are Elbow Pond in Woodstock and the Tunnel Brook Ponds in Benton. Elbow Pond, which is actually two ponds separated by a narrow, bushy peninsula, is not a well-known hiking destination, but fishing enthusiasts have visited this 56-acre tarn for many years. Up until a decade or so ago, the pond was accessible only by foot or four-wheel drive vehicles. Now you can actually drive your car to within 0.4 miles of its shores via a refurbished dirt road (FR 156) found on the east side of Route 118, 2.5 miles from Route 112 (Lost River Road).

The Tunnel Brook Ponds, reached by trail from the end of Tunnel Brook Road in Easton, are a string of eight beaver ponds stretching for three-quarters of a mile in the slide-scarred notch between Mts. Moosilauke and Clough in the southwestern Whites. Several of the northernmost of these ponds offer excellent trailside views up to Clough, while the southernmost (and largest) pond, known as Mud Pond, rests at the base western base of Moosilauke. As it is an easy 2.2-mile walk to Mud Pond, with just 400-feet of vertical climbing, the hike into Tunnel Brook is ideal for those lazy, hazy days of August or the crisp, clear afternoons of September.

Moving more to the east, into the central White Mountains, two pond walks which I always enjoy undertaking are those to the Sawyer Ponds in Livermore or Black Pond in Lincoln. The Sawyer Ponds, a mile-and-a-half away from the terminus of Sawyer River Road in the abandoned logging community of Livermore, are nestled at the foot of Mount Tremont and Owl’s Cliff, two steep-sided mountains close by to the east. The main pond, some 47 acres in size, is a favorite of backcountry campers, who are frequently found occupying either its shoreline lean-to or one of its five tent platforms. To avoid the crowds, it’s probably best to hike into Sawyer Pond mid-week, or perhaps in the off-season. Little Sawyer Pond, about one-quarter the size of the main pond, lies on a plateau north of Sawyer Pond and is reached via a well-worn herd path leading away from the main pond from behind the lean-to. It’s an easy 1.7-mile walk into Sawyer Pond from Sawyer River Road. Add 0.2 miles for the round-trip walk to little Sawyer Pond.

Black Pond, meanwhile, is a tiny, four-acre pond set amidst the tranquil forests at the southern fringe of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Despite its proximity to the bustling Lincoln Woods Trail and the well-traveled Kancamagus Highway, Black Pond has a distinctly remote feel to it and receives far less visitors than nearby Franconia Falls. The primary reward of the 3.4-mile, one-way hike into Black Pond is the view north into the Pemi Wilderness and up to the remote Bond Range, with the summits of West Bond and Bondcliff the main attractions. To reach Black Pond, follow the Lincoln Woods Trail 2.6 miles from the parking lot off the Kanc Highway to a trail junction on the left. Here, follow the Black Pond Trail 0.8 miles to the pond. Previously published.

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or co-author of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

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by Mike Dickerman

For more than 100 years now, New Hampshire hiking enthusiasts have been turning to the AMC White Mountain Guide for the most complete and up-to-date information on the region’s vast network of mountain footpaths. The current edition of the guide— the 28th— covers more than 1400 miles of trails and includes descriptions for over 500 different trails. Its physical size alone, being more than 600 pages long, is a tell-tale sign that creating a new updated edition every four or five years is a monumental undertaking, one which is already underway.

Steve Smith of Lincoln, co-editor of the two most recent editions of the AMC Guide (published in 2003 and 2007) and author of several other popular regional hiking guidebooks, said last week that he has already begun field work for the next guide, which will be published in 2012, and that by next year at this time the 29th edition of the venerable “hiker’s bible” to the Whites will be well on its way toward completion.

“Between now and then a lot of trails will have to be checked, and there will be a lot of communication between myself and the many trail maintaining organizations that are active here in the Whites,” said Smith, who also owns and operates the Mountain Wanderer Map and Book Store in Lincoln. “To the average person, it probably seems like overkill that we come out with a new edition every four of five years, but it’s really amazing how many little things can change over time.”

Given the magnitude of the White Mountain trail system, and the very nature of the region, change is inevitable. According to Smith, updating the trail guide every couple of years is a necessity, not a luxury, ‘because you don’t want people to be surprised” when they get out on the trail. Naturally-occurring events such as ice and wind storms, landslides, and ongoing beaver activity can radically alter the landscape and adversely impact hiking trails. Trail relocations are also an ongoing fact of life in the mountains, as are the building of new trails and paths, and the closing of others. Logging activity is another contributing factor when it comes to impacting the mountain trails.

When Smith takes one of his frequent trips into the woods to check out an existing footpath, one of his main objectives is to “compare the description in the guide with the actual experience on the ground.” It helps, too, he says, to look at things differently than he normally would, especially when he’s on a trail that he may have hiked many times before. “Sometimes I try and take a fresh perspective…and pretend that it’s the first time I’ve ever hiked the trail.” When you do that, you see things differently, he said, and that can lead to a very different description than what appeared in the guide previously.

While many of the region’s major trails— like the Crawford Path, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, or the Mount Willard Trail—admittedly see little change from one edition of the guide to the next, there are a like number of lesser used paths that require frequent field checking. Because these paths get little use, and are frequently difficult to follow in places, it’s absolutely essential that the guidebook description be as accurate as humanly possible for it may very well mean the difference between someone staying on the trail, and someone losing their way. That, says Smith, is where updating the guide regularly can make a difference.

In the course of prepping the next edition of the AMC Guide, Smith said he will consult frequently with groups and organizations such as the Randolph Mountain Club, the Chatham Trails Association, the Wonalancet Outdoor Club, the Dartmouth Outing Club, and the U.S. Forest Service, to see what trail projects they’ve been working on or what projects may be on the near horizon.

He’ll also gladly accept input from the hiking public at large, and will frequently visit internet sites where hiking and hiking trails are the primary interest or focus. “The World Wide Web has certainly been a big help in recent years as there are several excellent bulletin boards where hikers post comments on their experiences and on the condition of the trails,” noted Smith. “I probably rely more on these reports than any other single source.”

Smith said he already knows there will be some changes to trail descriptions in the next guide. As an example, he said a Forest Service trail into remote Albany Notch in the Speckled Mountain region near the Maine-New Hampshire border is slated to be closed due to heavy beaver activity. “The Forest Service has thrown up the white flag in that instance,” quipped Smith. And just recently, Smith said he discovered a relocated section of trail in the Green Hills Preserve near North Conway that he had not previously known about. “There will be more surprises along the way, I’m sure, because there’s always something going on out there.”

With the removal last fall of the old suspension bridge deep in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, lack of a safe place to now cross the East Branch of the Pemi, and some impending name changes to the paths affected by the bridge removal, several trail write-ups for that part of the White Mountain National Forest will also have to be severely altered in the next guide.

Because of the already lengthy nature of the AMC Guide, Smith said there’s not a lot of room to expand or add much new interpretive stuff, but subtle additions such as noting a view or making mention of a particularly nice stand of trees are certainly possibilities.
Previously published.
Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

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by Mike Dickerman
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Mike Dickerman photo The one labeled “Summit Stone Work” depicts some of the intricate stone work found at the height-of-land (1,800 ft. elevation) of the Cobble Hill Trail between the wooded peaks of Cobble Hill and Moody Ledge.

After more than a quarter century of hiking in the western White Mountains, it’s not too often that I find myself tramping on unfamiliar terrain as I’ve pretty much covered all the trails that appear on modern day hiking maps. That being said, recently I found myself hoofing it up a trail that has long been on my radar screen, but one that for some reason I’d successfully managed to skip over time after time in favor of more promising peaks and paths.

The Cobble Hill Trail in Landaff, accessed off Route 112 near the Woodsville Reservoir on the Wild Ammonoosuc River, will never be a magnet for serious hikers because there’s no real reward at the end and no spectacular mountain vistas anywhere along its 2.1-mile course. Truth be told, it’s not really even a hiking path but rather an old woods road that ultimately connects the south end of rural Landaff with its interior sections. The trail does warrant an entry in the venerable AMC White Mountain Guide, and has been included in every edition of the “hiker’s bible” since the early 1960s, but it’s basically an unknown quantity to most trampers, the exception probably being local residents.

Much to my delight, my recent morning walk up Cobble Hill Trail proved far more satisfactory than anticipated as I was captivated throughout the two-and-a-half-hour round-trip journey by the surrounding woods, the mostly gentle grade of the trail, and the numerous remnants left behind from former residents of this isolated pocket on the western fringe of the Whites. What the hike lacked in views and rewards was more than made up for in the overall “walking through the woods” experience that too often is overlooked when one’s primary focus is on the goal and not necessarily the journey.

As far as I’m concerned, the Cobble Hill Trail has all the elements required of a relaxing woods walk. These include the sound of rushing water nearby, a mature mixed forest to walk through, gentle to moderate grades that barely induce one to sweat, and bountiful trailside curiosities. Given that this trail is little used by visitors to the White Mountain National Forest, especially during midweek periods in the off season, the trail also offers up a sense of isolation and serenity that is hard, if not impossible, to obtain on the more frequently used footpaths in this region.

For much of Cobble Hill Trail’s two-mile course, hikers are within sight or sound of Dearth Brook, a pleasant little stream that emanates from the high country between little known Cobble Hill and Moody Ledge to the west. A picturesque cascade along the brook just a hundred yards from the start of the trail (which is actually Forest Road 310) greets hikers almost immediately as you begin ascending the gravel road. Since it had rained the previous day and evening, there was a more-than-ample flow of water, allowing for a quite spectacular scene at the base of the cascade.

As the road climbs and then steers left, the stream mirrors the road’s course, only now it is well below the grade of the trail. As the trail gradually levels out, the road and stream do eventually meet again, at a bridged crossing a little more than a mile from the start. Up to this point, the stream and path have been constant partners and the pleasing sound of the rushing water added to the soothing mix of bird songs and wavering treetops swaying back and forth in a light overhead breeze.

At about the same point that the stream and trail part, local history enters the picture as the footpath is lined for much of its last mile with aging stone walls constructed well over a century ago when hill farms dotted the rough and tumble landscape of South Landaff. Initially there’s a single stone wall spotted in the woods on the right (or east) side of the trail. But eventually walls of fieldstone often coated with a thick layer of spongy, dark green moss line both sides of the trail. And one can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for the farmers of four or five generations past to be working these steep and rugged slopes in an environment already greatly challenged by northern New England’s weather extremes. At more than one point along Cobble Hill Trail you also come across well-manipulated piles of stone that at one time probably served as building foundations.

There is nothing especially thrilling about the end of this mountain trail. It officially ends at the height-of-land between wooded Cobble Hill and Moody Ledge, near a well-marked WMNF boundary, while the old road actually continues north another couple miles into Landaff. You know you’ve reached the official end of the Forest Service portion of the trail, however, when you emerge into a small open area where several slabs of open rock allow for a comfortable resting spot. In the nearby woods to the east more impressive stone work is found just a few yards off the trail, though it’s hard to get a good photograph due to encroaching forest growth.

For me, retracing my steps back to Route 112 was sheer delight as I stopped every few minutes to grab extra shots with my digital camera, or to further investigate things seen on my way up the trail. The only disappointments of the day were the fact that the hike was over so quickly, and the realization that I’d waited far too long to visit this unique, hidden locale that’s practically in my own backyard.


Previously published.


Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

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by Mike Dickerman
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Mike Dickerman photo One can see up close the rough nature of the boulder-strewn Dilly Trail.

Steep trails are not uncommon here in the White Mountains. Footpaths up many of the region’s higher summits have good long stretches of stiff, take-your-breath-away climbing. A few prime examples that quickly come to mind are the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail on the western slope of Mount Washington, the Twinway between Galehead Hut and the summit of North Twin, and the southern approach to Mount Willey in Crawford Notch via the Willey Range Trail.

These rough and tumble trails are not relegated solely to the 4000-foot peaks of the region, however, as many hikers can attest. And this is something I can personally avow following a fun and adventurous climb recently in the vicinity of Kinsman Notch.

My objective on this warm and sunny day was a high cliff overlooking the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest’s Lost River Reservation. This narrow ledge, perched high above the Lost River complex of buildings and parking lots, is reached by way of the Dilly Trail, which climbs a respectable 700 feet in a just under a half mile. As signs at the base of the trail warn, this is not a footpath for the casual walker and should only be tackled by persons in good physical condition and with appropriate footwear.

Having climbed this trail just once before, that being some 20 years ago when my body was a bit leaner and my muscles and bones two decades younger, I remembered the trail as being steep, but not outlandishly so. That perspective has changed somewhat now that my middle age body has been put to the test of a follow-up ascent.

Leaving the Lost River parking lot at its northeast end just opposite a gazebo, the Dilly Trail (or Dilly Cliff Trail as it is also known) starts off innocently enough on mostly flat terrain. Just a few yards into the hike, the Society-maintained Kinsman Notch Trail— a self-guided, half-hour long nature walk— departs on the left. The main trail continues straight ahead and soon after crossing a small stream the climbing begins in earnest with the blue-blazed trail going over, through and around one large boulder after another. This, in fact, is not so much a walking path as an uphill obstacle/gymnastics course. If you are not pulling yourself up over one boulder, you are gingerly stepping from one exposed tree root to another, ever aware that your foot could easily slip. In places it took me two or three minutes to figure out how I was going to safely navigate my way through the maze of rocks and roots.

I can assure you that you use every muscle in your body as you carefully ascend some of the trickier spots along its course. This trail is the definition of hand-over-foot hiking, and while it was a lot of fun and managed to bring out a little of the kid still left in me, it’s obvious this trail is not for the faint of heart and that unless one is prepared for the many obstacles and hardships thrown in one’s way, it’s probably best to avoid this particular mountain-climbing route.

As I was in no rush to make the climb, it probably took me 40 to 45 minutes to reach the short side path that leads right to the cliff top view over the Lost River complex and the broad Lost River valley. Here I stopped and admired the view for perhaps 15 minutes, then had to make the call as to whether I would return by the same route, or continue along the Dilly Trail another 0.1 mile to its junction with the Kinsman Ridge Trail, which I would then follow south for 0.7 mile back to Route 112 at the height-of-land in Kinsman Notch.

This was pretty much a no-brainer as I was not keen on trying to make my way back down what seemed an impossibly steep (and probably dangerous) descent route. Considering the Kinsman Ridge Trail (KRT) was just a short walk further, with maybe another 150 feet of vertical climbing, this seemed by far to be the safer and smarter alternative.

Unfortunately, not all is as it seems sometimes in the mountains, and that was the case with the Dilly Trail extension, which has seen little maintenance over the years and apparently even littler actual foot traffic. With blazes now practically non-existent, and a treadway that has all but disappeared in the mountaintop growth, following the Dilly Trail to its junction with the Kinsman Ridge Trail was difficult and near impossible at best. At one point I actually lost the trail and spent close to fifteen minutes wandering around in the woods before finally regaining the path less than a hundred yards from its junction with the KRT. Curious to see where I’d made my mistake, I then followed the path back toward the outlook and eventually found the spot where I’d temporarily lost my way. Even then, staring ahead at where I now knew the trail went, it was obvious that the trail itself was not obvious, and that unless appropriate action is taken soon, others who try and follow this section of the path will most certainly meet up with the same problems I encountered.

Once on Kinsman Ridge, I proceeded north a short distance and stepped off trail briefly to check out a partial east-facing viewpoint that my longtime hiking cohort Steve Smith had mentioned to me the previous day. Reversing direction, I then proceeded south on the trail, which at this point is also link in the Appalachian Trail, and 30 minutes later I was back down to the highway, none the worse for wear despite the short but rigorous climb, a few dozen bug bites, and a severely sweat-soaked t-shirt.

(Previously published)

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

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by Mike Dickerman

Trail-related morsels picked up while planning the season’s first major excursion into mountain country…

To the delight of many (including yours truly) and undoubtedly the dismay of others, the U. S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) has voted not to officially change the name of one of the peaks of our own Presidential Range.

Earlier this month, the federal agency decided not to approve a proposal that would have changed the name of 5,533-foot Mount Clay to that of Mount Reagan, in honor of Ronald Reagan, our nation’s 40th President. In an 11-0 vote, with one additional abstention, the BGN decided to retain the name that was bestowed on the peak more than 160 years ago, citing continued use of the older name in recent years and the board’s general reluctance to alter historic names. The peak is named for Henry Clay (1777-1852), a southern statesman and orator from Kentucky who went on to serve as U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives and Secretary of State.

The effort to rename the peak after President Reagan dates back to 2003, when the Republican-controlled New Hampshire General Court passed legislation approving the name switch. The name change was part of a nationwide effort under way at that time to name one prominent place in each state after Reagan. Despite passage of the state law, however, there has been virtually no usage of the name “Mount Reagan” to refer to the summit, which lies just north of Mount Washington. In fact, the altered name appears on no current hiking maps, and does not even show on the official state highway map, which still identifies the summit as Mount Clay.

According to Lou Yost, Executive Secretary of BGN’s Domestic Names Committee, the board’s May 13 vote on the proposed name change “was no reflection on President Reagan, it is just that the board does not like changing names.” He noted that over the last couple of months the board accepted public comment on the proposal and most of it— including about 160 emails— was against changing the name.

My guess is that we haven’t heard the last of this issue just yet as I’m sure there are already people out there planning a challenge to the BGN’s ruling…

This past winter may have been a relatively mild one here in the mountains, but Old Man Winter still left his unmistakable mark on certain parts of the region, such as the Bretton Woods-Zealand Valley area. I few recent trips up to the Cog Railway base area and a drive along the recently opened Zealand Road revealed that both locales were hard hit with wind, snow and ice damage over the past six months. The most impressive damage can be seen along portions of the Cog Base Road and along just about the entire length of the Mount Clinton Road, which connects the Base Road with the top of Crawford Notch.

To be truthful, I’m surprised they are even letting motor vehicles navigate the Mount Clinton Road as dozens of trees have either fallen across the paved roadway or are leaning precariously over the travel portions of the road. From what I’ve been told, snowmobile clubs working this past winter are responsible for what little clearing of debris has been undertaken along the road and in some places the passageways they cut through the downed trees seemed no wider than a sled or two. The heaviest damage is on the portion of the road between the Base Road and the parking lot for Edmands Path to Mount Eisenhower…

Like many hikers I’m not a big fan of ticks, so it was a little disconcerting to me recently when I undertook a brief off-trail excursion into a Forest Service wildlife opening and found myself almost instantly covered with the blood-sucking varmints. In just a five-minute period, more than a dozen ticks managed to attach themselves to my wool hiking socks. Fortunately I was smart enough to check my clothes as soon as I got back on the trail and I managed to dislodge all but one of them before resuming my hike. Later in the day, long after I’d finished my woods walk and replaced my hiking socks and boots with a fresh pair of cotton socks and sneakers, I fleshed out one last tick who was still clinging to the outside of one of my boots. For those keeping score, the total tick count for the day was an impressive 15…

To all you holiday weekend hikers headed into the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area, don’t forget that the suspension bridge across the East Branch of the Pemi a little more than a half-mile beyond the Bondcliff Trail no longer exists, and that the section of the Wilderness Trail between the Bondcliff Trail and the bridge is now officially closed. Removal of the 50-year-old span last fall effectively eliminated the popular 11-mile loop hike that formerly began and ended at the Lincoln Wood Visitor center off the Kancamagus Highway in Lincoln. This loop allowed hikers to walk up one side of the river and return via the opposite side utilizing the Lincoln Woods, Wilderness Cedar Brook, and East Side Trails. Technically, of course, it’s still possible to make the loop, but the crossing of the East Branch at the site of the former suspension bridge has to be considered unsafe at best and in times of high water flow would probably be near suicidal. In other words, play it safe and don’t try crossing the East Branch.

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

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by Mike Dickerman
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Mike Dickerman photo The Kinsman Ridge Trail, besides serving as a link in the Appalachian Trail, runs nearly 17 miles from Kinsman Notch to Franconia Notch and boasts one of the toughest miles of the AT in New Hampshire, that being the steep climb up South Kinsman from the south.

Once upon a time, when I was younger, thinner, and substantially more ambitious, I would spend night after night poring over maps as I planned my next overnight backpacking trip. In those days of yore, when lugging around a 35- to 40-pound pack didn’t seeming anywhere near as daunting as it does today, I’d routinely take off on multi-day excursions to destinations in the White, Green and Adirondack Mountains of the Northeast. Many of these adventures found me tramping along Vermont’s 260-mile Long Trail or some northern New England section of the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail. Other times I’d incorporate some peakbagging into my itinerary, especially when I was in hot pursuit of the New England 4000-Footer list.

While my backpacking days are now but a distant memory, I still love talking to hikers about trips they’ve either just completed or are about to undertake. I’m amazed, in fact, at how many queries I receive on the subject, especially when visiting my longtime hiking cohort Steve Smith at his Mountain Wanderer Map and Book Store in Lincoln, or when I meet up with my nephew, a U. S. Forest Service backcountry ranger who spends most of his time patrolling the inner recesses of the Pemigewasset Wilderness in the White Mountain National Forest.

Certainly there is no shortage of options when it comes to White Mountain backpacking. With the AT weaving its way across the region, and hundreds of miles of other trails within a 90-minute drive of anywhere in the Whites, the choices seem limitless to the uninitiated.

Just to give you an idea of some of the more popular long distance hikes in the wilds of northern New Hampshire, what follows is a brief listing and description of a few of the more inviting treks available to White Mountain backpackers:

Pemi Horseshoe: Considered perhaps the most rewarding multi-day trek in New England, this classic route circumnavigates the heart of the Pemigewasset Wilderness by way of the Twin-Bond, Garfield, and Franconia Ranges. This 31.5-mile loop begins and ends at the Lincoln Woods Trail off the Kancamagus Highway and features visits to eight 4000-foot summits. Several others are also easily accessible via short side trails. Highlights include the summit vistas from Bondcliff, Mt. Bond, South Twin, Mt. Garfield, and Mt. Lafayette.

This hike is best done over four days and three nights, with layovers at Guyot, Garfield, and Liberty Spring campsites. You can do this trek in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. If you go clockwise, which is the way I recommend, you’ll start off on the Lincoln Woods Trail and then steer left onto the Osseo Trail for the stiff climb up to Mount Flume. You then head north on the Franconia Ridge Trail until reaching the open summit of Lafayette. The Garfield Ridge Trail then leads you over Mt. Garfield and continues on toward the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Galehead Hut. From Galehead, follow the Twinway to its intersection with the Bondcliff Trail near Mount Guyot, then take the Bondcliff Trail all the way down into the East Branch valley, where you’ll turn right onto the Wilderness Trail and in five or so miles be back at the Kanc.

Kinsman Ridge Traverse: Appalachian Trail hikers know all too well the not-so-niceties of the Kinsman Ridge Trail, which runs nearly 17 miles from Kinsman Notch (Route 112) north to Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch. On the map, this trail doesn’t appear anywhere near as difficult as it really is, especially along its southern reaches. But a full-length traverse of Kinsman Ridge features an endless series of tiring ups and downs, with the ascent of 4,358-foot South Kinsman from the south probably the most treacherous and steepest. The final attack on Cannon’s summit cone from Coppermine Col is nothing to laugh at either, especially if you’ve been on the trail for several days and have lost some of your earlier vim and vigor. Shelters at Eliza Brook and Kinsman Pond provide overnight accommodations for backpackers. There are also several tent platforms at Kinsman Pond.

Wildcats-Carters Traverse: Situated as they are directly east of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range on the opposite side of Pinkham Notch, the peaks along Wildcat Ridge and the Carter Range offer up some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in New Hampshire. The rewards are hard earned, however, as anyone who has backpacked the length of the connecting ridges can attest. Trampers going south-to-north are immediately faced with the difficult scramble from Route 16 up to Wildcat Ridge. This is one mean ascent, even for someone lugging a simple daypack. The ridge walk over the various summits of Wildcat is pleasant enough, but the sharp descent down to Carter Notch, and the equally sharp climb from the Notch up to Carter Dome, is enough to test the hardiest of hikers.

In the course of this 18.7-mile journey, hikers pass over six 4000-foot summits, with Carter Dome and its spur peak, Mt. Hight, probably the best of the bunch. The view west towards Mt. Washington and its many glacial cirques is among the finest in the Whites.

AMC’s Carter Notch Hut and Imp Shelter are situated approximately 7.5 miles apart and allow for a comfortable three-day, two-night traverse of the ridge.

Kilkenny Ridge Traverse: If you’re looking for a true wilderness experience on your White Mountain backpacking tour, then this is the trip for you. An end-to-end traverse of this outpost ridge in the northern reaches of the White Mountains covers more than 24 miles and includes ascents of Mts. Cabot and Waumbek (both 4000-footers), plus numerous other peaks such as Mt. Starr King, the multi-summits of Mt. Weeks, and Terrace Mountain.

The Kilkenny Ridge traverse begins on Route 2 in Jefferson on the Starr King Trail and terminates 24.2 miles north at the South Pond Recreation Area off Route 110 in Stark. From the summit of Waumbek north, the Kilkenny Ridge Trail runs the final 20.6 miles. Highlights of the trek include the substantial views from Mt. Cabot, Rogers Ledge and The Horn, and the likelihood that you’ll see few hikers other those converging on the two 4000-foot peaks along the way.

The only overnight facility available to hikers is the old Firewarden’s Cabin near the summit of Mt. Cabot. The cabin is situated approximately 10 miles from South Pond and 14 miles from Route 2. (Previous published)

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton, N.H.

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by Mike Dickerman
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Mike Dickerman photo This is the former Ammonosuc Ranger District building in Bethlehem, which has been abandoned by the Forest Service and the property has pretty much been completely neglected.

In case you were wondering… The Appalachian Mountain Club is planning a major reconstruction of one of its famed mountain huts later this year. Madison Spring Hut, situated in the col between the northern Presidential Range peaks of Mounts Madison and Adams, will undergo extensive renovations this fall and next spring. Work at the hut, which first opened in 1888, will commence after Labor Day weekend and will continue this year as long as the weather allows. Work crews will return to the site in the spring and if all goes as planned the hut will re-open next June at its usual time.

According to AMC’s Paul Cunha, the hut project is designed to make the structure a more energy efficient and environmentally sensitive hut. “At the same time, we hope to improve the guest experience by providing more leg room and elbow room in key areas and by reducing the height of the bunkroom bunks.”

This marks the first major overhaul of Madison Spring Hut since a devastating fire on Oct. 7, 1940, destroyed the existing hut there. The replacement hut was opened the following summer and has undergone only occasional minor improvements over the ensuing seventy years…

In other news from the AMC, the Boston-based club has recently released the Mahoosucs Map & Guide, which highlights outdoor recreation opportunities in the wild and rugged Mahoosuc Mountain region straddling the border of Maine and New Hampshire. This often overlooked sector of the White Mountains offers a wide variety of four-season recreation opportunities and the new AMC map and guide features more than thirty of the best hiking, paddling, biking, and cross-country skiing opportunities for all abilities.

The detailed, hill-shaded map provides complete coverage of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, the local segment of the Appalachian Trail, and the new 39-mile Grafton Loop Trail, as well as local campsites, picnic areas, put-ins for paddling, and boat ramps.

The map and guide is a collaborative effort of the Mahoosuc Initiative, which aims to address the ecological and economic needs of the region through land conservation, community development, and economic development. The Mahoosuc Initiative is supported by local conservation and community organizations, as well as regional and national conservation groups.

“One goal in publishing the Mahoosucs Map & Guide is to let people know that this region is a great place to visit, whether for a day or for a week, with lots of options for getting outdoors,” said Bryan Wentzell, AMC’s Maine Policy Manager. “We hope local retailers, innkeepers, and proprietors of other establishments will see the Mahoosucs Map & Guide as a tool to encourage their customers to extend their stay, or make plans for a return trip.”

The map and guide is available at local retailers and wherever books are sold, or directly from the AMC at www.outdoors.org/amcstore or by calling 800-262-4455. The retail price of the map and guide is $6.95…

Another publication certain to be of interest to area mountain enthusiast is a new hiker’s guide and map to the bedrock geology of Mount Washington and The Presidential Range. Authored by J. Dykstra Eusden, Professor of Geology at Bates College in Maine, The Presidential Range: Its Geologic History and Plate Tectonics describes the bedrock geology and plat tectonic history of the Presidentials with color illustrations and a writing style that make this information accessible to all who have an interest in New England’s highest mountain range.

Accompanying the book is a great new full-color geologic map of the Presidentials which shows the bedrock geology and highlights locations where hikers may view key exposures of bedrock while out and about on the trail.

The book and map have been published by The Durand Press of Lyme, New Hampshire, and copies are available in area book stores, directly from the publisher, or from the Littleton-based book distributor, Bondcliff Books (http://www.bondcliffbooks.com)

Bondcliff Books, meanwhile, has just released a new history of logging railroads in the northern White Mountains and beyond. Logging Railroads of New Hampshire’s North Country by well-known forest historian Bill Gove of Williamstown, Vermont, chronicles the colorful and often perilous history of more than a half dozen logging railroad lines worked the woods of northern New Hampshire between 1870 and 1920. Besides featuring chapters on the Wild River Railroad, the Johns River Railroad, and Kilkenny Lumber Company Railroad, among others, the books contains close to 150 vintage photographs, plus more than a dozen original maps and drawn and compiled by the author…

It’s a shame that since the closing of the former Ammonoosuc Ranger District station on Trudeau Road in Bethlehem, no one has bothered to maintain the property. During a recent drive-by of the old Ammo headquarters I was dismayed to see that the U. S. Forest Service has allowed the once attractive property to take on all the characteristics of an unwanted and abandoned piece of real estate. With the front lawn unmowed, winter tree damage left as is, and virtually no upkeep whatsoever in evidence, it’s hard to believe anyone will want to take this property if and when the government decides to sell it or give it away…

Finally, White Mountain National Forest officials have announced that Resolution Shelter along the historic Davis Path near Crawford Notch has been closed “due to safety concerns associated with the deteriorating condition of the shelter.” Since this structure is within the Presidential-Dry River Wilderness Area, don’t expect the Forest Service to replace this facility. Instead, it will be dismantled and backpackers will be forced to make alternate overnight camping plans. The shelter is located approximately 3.7 miles from the Davis Path trailhead off U.S. Route 302, not far from the summit of Mount Resolution and Stairs Mountain.

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

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