Memorial Day Weekend Hiking

5/25/12 (Mount Waumbek)
Starr King Trail: 7.2 miles (2,650 elevation gain)

5/26/12 (Mount Carrigain & Moosilauke)
Sawyer River Road / Signal Ridge Trail: 14.0 miles (3,900 elevation gain)
Beaver Brook Trail: 7.6 miles (3,250 elevation gain)
Total Miles: 21.6 (7,150 elevation gain)

5/27/12 (Mount Carrigain - Still Water Junction - Shoal Pond - Ethan Pond Loop)
Sawyer River Road / Signal Ridge Trail: 7.0 miles
Desolation Trail: 1.9 miles
Carrigain Notch Trail: 0.8 miles
Shoal Pond Trail: 4.0 miles
Ethan Pond Trail: 4.6 miles
Total Miles: 18.3 miles (4,100 elevation gain)

Trip Report:
- Memorial Day weekend is pretty much the official start of summer tourist season in the notches of the White Mountains.  Knowing this I headed up early to beat the traffic and score a free camping spot for the weekend before heading over for a quick hike up Mount Waumbek after work.
-  There were six hikers finishing up as I started, I figured I'd be all alone on the mountain but there were a few other heading up even as I was descending.
- It was a nice stroll in the woods, the Starr King Trail is a very easy trail to hike.  Waumbek's summit is just a pile of rocks in the woods, there are some obstructed views from the Starr King summit area along the way but 99% of the hike is a quiet and scenic hike in the woods.
- After the hike I went over to my campsite and settled down for the night before getting up extra early to head over to Mount Carrigain and hopefully catch a 'clearing' of the weather while on the Signal Ridge.
- The Sawyer River Road is still closed so this adds an extra 4 miles to the hike (2 in / 2 out).  I Started hiking at 5:50 a.m. but was not alone, joining me on the first four miles of the hike were thousands of mosquito's, and I forgot my bug spray! It was brutal, I never experienced anything like that, I was brushing my arms continuously and it forced me to hike at a rapid pace until about a mile below the Signal Ridge when they suddenly stopped.
- The good news was the weather was cleaning up slowly and the clouds blew off as I made my way up to the observation tower.  Views were not that good, it was very foggy and hazy in the valley's and the higher elevation still had clouds.
- I took some blurry pictures and started heading down the trail, about a mile down I ran into the first of thirty-six hikers and three dogs I would see heading up Carrigain as I made my way back to the car, almost all of them including the dogs were having fun and running from bugs to catch a great day up on Carrigain! 
- I made it back to the car at 11a.m. and the weather was now perfect so I drove back up through Crawford Notch, then down through Franconia Notch and headed over to the Beaver Brook Trail to hike up a lot of hiker's personal favorite mountain, Mount Moosilauke! There was a method to my madness to heading up Moosilauke, which I'll get to a little later
- I had not been on the Beaver Brook Trail since 2007, and I didn't have a camera with my so the only thing I remembered was a very steep trail with rebar sticking out of rocks to help hikers along the way.
- The Beaver Brook Trail is a link along the Appalachian Trail, almost from the get-go it become excessively steep for about two miles as it ascends the left edge of beautiful cascades and waterfalls.  The footing is the equivalent to a trail heading up most paths in the northern Presidential Range.  Luckily the Dartmouth Outing Club takes magnificent care of all the trails on the 'Moose.'
- I was on the trail at 1p.m. and for this hike I was again going against hiker traffic with close to fifty people descending as I made my way up.
- After the first two miles of strait up the Beaver Brook trail becomes much easier after it passes by the Lean-to.  Eventually the trail pops out above treeline for the last quarter of a mile with huge cairns marking the way.
- There were about two dozen hikers on the summit lounging around, there was every kind of hiker you could imagine, young, old, dogs, families, college kids, high school kids, one crazy curly haired teenager hugging the bright orange summit sign, he really loved that sign!  I took about a thirty minute break and ate a bunch of food enjoying the tremendous views before heading back down the steep Beaver Brook trail and made it back to my car around 4:45p.m. completing my fourth round of the New Hampshire 48 - 4,000 foot mountains! First round took 21 years (Washington 88' - Carrigain 09') /  second round 20 years (Washington 91' - Carrigain 11') / third round 19 years (Washington 93' - Owl's Head 12') / fourth round 18 years (Washington 94 - Moosilauke 12')...I'm making progress!!!!
- After cleaning myself off just enough to not smell like a mud pit I headed into town for a quick bite and a cold drink before heading back to my base camp to rest up for a long hike deep into the middle of nowhere to explore the Pemigewasset Wilderness with Alton and Kat.
- Our goal for Sunday was to head up Mount Carrigain (with views this time for me) then drop down the Desolation Trail where we would hook onto the Carrigain Notch Trail over to Sillwater Junction, over the Shoal Pond Trail, and out the Ethan Pond Trail.
- The bugs were out again in full force but this time I had bug spray and basically showered myself in it to not get bit.  We made good time up to the summit where we relaxed and enjoyed the views from the observation tower and chatted with a guy who backpacked the previous two nights along the Carrigain Notch Trail.
- After we fueled up, we took in one final view of the White Mountains before dropping back into the woods down the very steep Desolation Trail.  The first mile is a narrow, rocky, root infested mess of a trail, the last mile is a nice soft logging road with some mud spots, if you look closely you can see an old wire (telephone wire?) on the right side of the trail.
- When we made it to the junction with the Carrigain Notch Trail we headed left 0.8 miles towards Stillwater Junction, this was the first time on this part of the trail us.  It is an amazing place to hike, the trail follows the Carrigain Branch along a pine needle covered path.  We stopped at a makeshift campsite on the bank of the river just above a pool of water and decided what the hell let's go for a swim!
- The water was freezing but extremely refreshing until my toes felt like ice cubes, which happened within seconds, it was a great spot for a dip in the water and with the warm temps we were warmed up in no time after getting back on the trail.
- The remnants of Hurricane Irene can still be seen along the banks of the river, downed trees, erosion, and when we reached Stillwater junction the cement/stone foundation from a logging trestle in the East Branch which I had recognized from so many photos had just fallen on it's side.  the Shoal Pond Trail starts here and water crossing was easy but the the trail is very poorly marked and it travels through a very narrow and overgrown area for a few hundred feet before joining old railroad and logging roads.
- The Shoal Pond Trail is very remote coming from this direction, there is an incredible swimming hole with a makeshift tentsite along the way, most of the trail is rotted wooden bog bridges, thick mud, a few water crossings that could be hellish after a big storm and almost all the trail is along an old railroad/logging corridor through the woods.
- There's a lot of moose activity through here but unfortunately once again we didn't see any moose.  We did see only one other hiker on the Shoal Pond Trail and then two guys fishing in Shoal Pond.  Once we reached the Ethan Pond Trail we started seeing more hikers, we even saw four people with mountain bikes, I have no idea what they were doing out there.
- We stopped at Ethan Pond for a break until the bugs caught up to us, there's nothing like relaxing and having a cookie then those little pesky bugs start hoovering all around and sticking to your arms, legs, face, etc., kind of ruins the cookie experience!
- The Ethan Pond Trail has hundreds of bog bridges along the way and is mostly flat until it sharply drops in elevation down to the Crawford Scenic Railroad and the parking lot.
- We made it back to the car around 4:30pm, It was a great hike in the Pemigewasset Wilderness and I am looking forward to heading back in there again to check out more of the old railroad beds.


 Starr King Trail
 Beaver Brook Cascades
 Kinsman and Franconia Ridge from Mount Moosilauke
 The Vose Spur and Mount Lowell
 Stillwater Junction
 Shoal Pond Trail
Shoal Pond Swimming Hole

8 comments:

  1. Pretty pics, can't wait to see the rest of them when they are uploaded!

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  2. Mike (OriginalWoody) WoodJune 2, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Hi Chris,

    Great Pics and Trail Report. Congrats on finishing your fourth round of the NH 48 4ks

    I was up on Zealand Mt on the 26th. here's a link to the pics http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3929968283186.2167390.1099099425&type=1&l=11edc1ae8a

    Mike

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    1. Hi Mike!

      Glad you liked the pics and report. Thanks for sending the link for your Zealand hike, the pics you took from the Zeacliff Outlook on the Twinway were excellent!

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  3. Great report, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks MArk, glasd you like the report!

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  4. Congrats on your 4th round of the 48! I'm only 10% through my first round! Anyway, I'm curious... where was your base camp?

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  5. Hey Scott, thanks!

    So for my base camp I'll head over Haystack Road (the road to the North Twin Trailhead) and try to grab one of the free camping spots or I head to Gale River Road. These are primitive sites so it's just a place to crash.

    If I need more amenities (shower, water, fire ring)I'll grab a spot at Lafayette Place ($25)

    If I'm further north I can crash at Camp Dodge for free when I do trail work, as part of the adopt-a-trail program they let me use their facility for free since my trail (Sphinx Trail) is in the vacinity.

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