Wednesday, July 27, 2016


One of the blessings of living in the mountains is the chance to get out for short rewarding hikes before or after work. In the past week I've enjoyed three rambles in the cool of the morning, within a short drive of home.


I bushwhacked off Falling Waters Trail a little ways up Walker Brook, which drains the western slopes of Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln, then worked my way downstream past a series of nice cascades.

The highest cascade I went to.

Broad sheets of granite, very slippery.

A two-step cascade.

A series of shelves.

A granite boulevard through the forest.

A fine cascade, should be impressive in high water.

Rolling and tumbling.


The waterfalls along the Falling Waters Trail along Dry Brook were touted in late 1800s guidebooks, but they were called Walker's Falls because what is now called Dry Brook was then known as Walker Brook. At some point the Walker name was transferred to the next brook to the north, which has its own set of cascades. In those earlier days access to the waterfalls was via logging road and rough bushwhack. Today's Falling Waters Trail was laid out in 1958 by noted trail-builder Clyde Smith, and was completed with volunteer labor.

Stairs Falls, which was once called Lower Walker's Falls. In his 1898 Guide Book to the Franconia Notch and the Pemigewasset Valley, Frank O. Carpenter described it as "a series of step-like cascades over sheets of granite." In Part 2 of Charles H. Hitchcock's Geology of New Hampshire (1877), this is presumably what was called "Walker's Staircase."

Swiftwater Falls, described by Carpenter as "a fall fifty feet high over blocks of granite."

Cloudland Falls was looking good after the previous night's heavy thunderstorms.

Carpenter called this the "splendid upper falls where the water makes a clear leap of sixty feet." Charles H. Hitchcock called it "Apron Falls."

It was going to be a busy day on Franconia Ridge. Coming down from Cloudland Falls I passed at least 150 upbound hikers, maybe more.


This small, shallow secluded pond resides on a high shelf in the southern shadow of Scar Ridge. One of my favorite ponds in the Whites, it has a wild aura and is far less visited than its easterly neighbor, East Pond. The 2-mile hike to the pond on the East Pond Trail and Little East Pond Trail is pleasant with mostly very good footing.

The scene was a bit on the dark side when I arrived at the south shore around 9:00 am. The water level was down, making it easy to get out to the edge for a view of the Scar Ridge peaks.

This gnarled old red maple guards the shore just to the west of the outlook spot.

There were several clusters of what I believe is Pale St. John's Wort in bloom along the shore.

The sun burned through and brightened the pond and ridge. The main (west) summit of Scar Ridge is on the left, Middle Scar Ridge on the right. Middle Scar and its southern cliffy ledges look temptingly close from here, but reports indicate that blowdown and dense conifer scrub guarantee a miserable ascent. Mike Dickerman and I used this route back in 1987 and it was difficult then. It sounds like it's even worse now.

I spent a quiet 50 minutes at the pond, taking in the serenity and listening to some of the last birdsong of the summer (White-throated Sparrow, Magnolia Warbler, Winter Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, Dark-eyed Junco). To my surprise, a Belted Kingfisher landed on a snag along the north shore. I assumed this very shallow pond was essentially fishless, but the Kingfisher dove with a splash and came up with a morsel.

Pleasant walking on the grade of the Woodstock & Thornton Gore logging railroad, which operated from 1909 to 1914. It's a wonderful mellow hike whether you do the 4-mile round trip to Little East Pond, or the full five mile loop that also includes East Pond.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


After having viewed the Pilot Range from Mt. Crescent and Mt. Jasper recently, it was time to spend a day up north wandering the wilds of The Kilkenny, trekking out to Rogers Ledge, one of the great remote viewing perches in the White Mountains.

On the way to the trailhead, I stopped for a look at the Devil's Slide rising above the Stark Covered Bridge.

 I also paid a quick visit to Christine Lake, with its watery view to South Percy Peak and Victor Head.

The beach (groomed every day) at the WMNF South Pond Recreation Area, where the gate is open 10 am-8 pm. No fee for day hikers. After hours, add a 1.1 mile up-and-down road walk each way.

There's magic in that name. One of my all-time favorite trails, home to some of the most beautiful woods in the Whites.

The first 0.2 mile of the trail is graded gravel and universally accessible.

 There are several views of Location Hill across the water.

At 0.7 mile I turned onto the Devil's Hopyard Trail. It had been quite a few years since I last visited this wild gorge.

The deceptively easy first part of the Devil's Hopyard Trail parallels Devil's Hopyard Stream.

The Hopyard is a wild tumble of slippery, mossy boulders enclosed by steep slopes and lofty rock walls.

A fractured rock face.

The trail through the Hopyard is slow going navigating the slick rocks, especially when damp in the morning. A junior version of Gorham's Ice Gulch. I had forgotten how strenuous this short little trail is.

A sheared-off rock wall near the end of the trail.

Just around the corner the trail ends under this impressive rock face.

Looking back from the trail's terminus.

"End of Trail" sign.

Back on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, which threads many attractive corridors through the forest.

Into the spruces.

Wild spruce woods cloak the northern slopes of Rogers Ledge. The trail boasts a real "out there" feeling. I saw no one beyond the Devil's Hopyard Trail, including a two-hour sojourn at the ledge.

Ferny birch glades are a trademark of the Kilkenny uplands, thanks to a huge 1903 forest fire..

 Fields of ferns.

Spacious woods.

A trail to savor. 

On the final approach to the summit.

The granite shelf at Rogers Ledge offers a sweeping view over the Kilkenny wilds. The Horn and The Bulge rise behind the long crest of Unknown Pond Ridge.

Looking west to the long chain of trailless peaks in the Pilot Range.

I went down on the west side to see the profile of "Rogers's dog," discovered by Cohos Trail founder Kim Nilsen. Can you see it?

The view east to the Mahoosuc Range beyond little Round Mountain.

A hazy view of the distant Presidentials.

The Crescent and Carter-Moriah Ranges sprawl beyond nearby Deer Ridge.

Looking down.

Tiny Kilback Pond nestles beneath the birch-clad slopes of Unknown Pond Ridge. The Kilkenny Ridge Trail passes by the pond.

Time passes quickly on this marvelous granite shelf.

This plaque was placed in 1965 after this peak was renamed, removing its former offensive name. The campaign to change the name was led by the Rt. Rev. Robert McConnell Hatch, an avid explorer of The Kilkenny.

 Forest Service benchmark on the true summit.

This post, placed in 1976, marks the Stark/Kilkenny town boundary.

Stark side.

Kilkenny side.

On the way back I bushwhacked through lonesome woods to a bog in the saddle between Rogers Ledge and Square Mountain.

A moose path led down to the edge of the bog.

I found a partial profile of the huge south-facing cliff on Square Mountain. A few years ago my friend John "1HappyHiker" Compton found an impressive full view of Square's cliff from another bog-meadow a short distance away. His report is here. I had hoped to visit that one too, but was running out of time to make it back before the South Pond gate closed.

Evening sun dapples the trail.

 An evening view of Long Mountain from the shore of South Pond.

Parting shot of Location Hill. I made it back to my car at 7:43, with a few minutes to spare before the gate closed.