Monday, October 21, 2019

2019 White Mountain Crop Hunger Walk: Mount Chocorua Loop

On Sunday, October 20th five of us enjoyed a cool, cloudy fall day for the 31st annual White Mountain Crop Hunger Walk, a "hike for hunger" that benefits the programs of Church World Service. This year's participants included Thom Davis, Roger Doucette, Dennis Lynch, Mary Ann McGarry, and this correspondent. Our route was a loop over Mount Chocorua from the southwest via the Brook, Liberty, Piper, West Side, Brook, Bee Line and Bolles Trails. 

Since its inception in 1989 our walk has raised more than $85,000 for the anti-hunger programs of Church World Service, with more than $21,000 of that provided to local food pantries in the western White Mountains. We owe the success of our walk to the consistent generosity of our sponsors. The CROP Hunger Walk theme is “Ending hunger, one step at a time." This is the 50th Anniversary of Crop Hunger Walks!

To make a donation for our walk, visit, or mail a check made out to "Church World Service" to Steve Smith, PO Box 485, Lincoln, NH 03251. Thanks!

Setting off from the Paugus Road trailhead on the Brook Trail.

This scenic trail was cut in 1892 by local farmers to access the ledges of Mt. Chocorua for blueberry picking, avoiding the toll that was then being charged for use of the nearby Liberty Trail.

The trail meanders up the valley of Claybank Brook through beautiful open hemlock forest.

Still some late muted foliage in the hardwood forest.

At 1.8 miles the trail passes an attractive small cascade.

A leisurely hike.

Walking along Claybank Brook.

Crossing Claybank Brook. Here the real climbing begins - 1500+ ft. of elevation gain to the summit in 1.1 mile.

Steep and rocky.

First ledge, just below the Bee Line junction.

The upper part of the Brook Trail has a number of ledge scrambles.

The rock was slippery today, requiring careful attention to footing.

At about 2950 ft. the trail struggles up a large, steep broken ledge, perhaps the trickiest trail spot on the mountain due to its slick footing. Roger and Thom scaled it directly, while three of us used a bypass on the way up after experiencing potentially dangerous boot slippage.

Looking down the tricky ledge.

Easier ledges above.

A great west-facing view ledge beside the trail, with an excellent perspective on the Sandwich Range.

Many peaks to the north.

The Brook/Liberty Trail junction is important and well-marked.

Next to the junction, geology professor Thom points out a dark diabase dike that was intruded into the granite bedrock.

Heading up in the open.

Views for miles.

Summit ledges in sight ahead.

After tagging the summit amidst a small crowd, we repaired to quieter ledges on the south side.

Time for lunch and enjoying the views.


 To the east, looking down at Carter Ledge and the Chocorua River valley.

 To the SSW, the valley of Claybank Brook, which we had come up on the Brook Trail.

To the SW, the Bee Line Trail valley, our descent route.

A lone hiker gazes south at the Hammond Trail ridge and Silver, Ossipee and Chocorua Lakes (L to R).

Late color in the Chocorua River valley.

An obliging hiker took our traditional Crop Hunger Walk group photo, and also made a cash donation - thank you! .Left to right, Roger Doucette, Dennis Lynch, Steve Smith, Mary Ann McGarry and Thom Davis.

Mary Ann pauses on a rocky knoll as we head north on the Piper Trail for a loop around the summit.

On the Piper Trail. There were still quite a few people coming up mid-afternoon.

Neat side angle on the summit cone.

Tiny figures atop the peak.

We looped back along the base of the summit on the pleasant, lightly-used West Side Trail.

This short trail has a nice secluded feel.

A Sandwich Range vista along the way.

We each found a route to descend the big precarious ledge on the Brook Trail. My rear end was certainly put to good use.

The lowest part of this ledge was particularly slippery.

Cautiously descending the lower ledges.

Soft footing on the upper part of Bee Line Trail, a relocation made in the 1990s.

Looking up at the start of the abandoned upper section of the original Bee Line Trail, which ascended a steep, hazardous ledgy slide.

Down in the beautiful, secluded Bee Line valley.

The lower of two crossings of an unnamed tributary of Paugus Brook that drains the valley.

Thom points out feldspar weathering on a boulder, creating loose "rottenstone" (aka "grus") at its base.

Due to running well behind schedule, we ran out of time for a planned side trip north along the Bolles Trail to the site of Mudgett's Camp. But we did find these stove parts at the site of Mason's Camp. Both of these logging camps were associated with the large Paugus Mill operation in the early 1900s.

Strolling out along the Bolles Trail. Crop Hunger Walk #31 is in the books!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Owl's Head Cliffs: 10/15/19

On a glorious golden October day I joined Cath Goodwin and her amiable and energetic canine companion Hank for a hike into the Pemi Wilderness. After trekking in to Lincoln Brook, we navigated a steep bushwhack to the top of the cliffs on the SE spur of Owl's Head. The foliage, views and company were magnificent.

Cath and Hank stroll up the Lincoln Woods Trail, with no one else around post-Columbus Day.

Logging artifacts from the East Branch and Lincoln Railroad at the site of Camp 8. As a USFS trailside information sign notes, artifacts such as these are protected by law and should not be disturbed.

Long view north up the East Branch to Bondcliff and its southern spur peak.

Bed frames at the site of Camp 7.

Beside the outlet of Black Pond, a view of the sharp south peak of Owl's Head Mountain, the feature which gave the remote 4000-footer its name.  Our clifftop objective is seen lower down to the right.

Spiry reflection.

Peaceful morning at Black Pond.

 Bondcliff and its south ridge.

We headed north on the herd path known as the Black Pond "bushwhack," but partway along we lost it amidst the newly fallen leaf cover. So for us it really was a bushwhack, mostly through open hardwoods.

Cath admires an unusual quartet of beech trees.

Lincoln Brook.

Beautiful hardwood forest at the base of the south slope of Owl's Head.

Time for a snack break.

The golden forest.

A mini-tunnel.

This is bear country.

Fresh claw marks amidst the old scratches on this trunk.

October glory.

A long, steady climb up the slope.

Crossing the bed of the long spur line of the East Branch and Lincoln Railroad that curves around the south end of Owl's Head from Franconia Brook to Lincoln Brook, well up on the slope. A remarkable work of construction.

A bit of birch glade.

An interesting ledge formation.

Steep and rocky.

A ledge band high up on the slope.

The upper climb was amply steep.

Reaching the col behind the SE spur.

Hank leads the way towards the clifftop area. Upon our arrival, I was disappointed to find that an open ledge perch enjoyed on previous visits was now overgrown, with only tree-restricted views. 

Even though there was no open hangout spot anymore, careful exploration revealed some fine views, such as this spread of the Bond Range rising beyond the Franconia Brook valley. Also notable about this wild, lofty perch was the silence, save for the distant roar of the brooks far below in the surrounding valleys.

Zoom on a beaver pond beside the Franconia Brook Trail.

The trio of Bond peaks wrapping around the Hellgate Brook valley.

Further probing revealed a broad view south down the East Branch valley.

The Osceolas and the several summits of Scar Ridge.

 Expanding the view to include the Cedar Brook valley and the Hancocks on the left.

The sharp south peak (the "Owl's Head") looms close by to the NW.

Whaleback Mountain and Mt. Flume beyond the lower Lincoln Brook valley.


A profile showing the steepness of the south peak.

Looking across the lower Franconia Brook valley to Bondcliff, Mt. Carrigain and the Hancocks.

Carrigain and the Hancocks, with Mt. Anderson, Mt. Lowell and Vose Spur on the left.

Cliff face.

Raven's eye view.

Late afternoon light on the Bond Range.

The slides in the Redrock Brook cirques are well-displayed. South Twin is on the far left.

Descending through the gauzy hardwood forest.

An elbow tree.

Dreamy western Pemi whacking.

A small tributary of Lincoln Brook flows off the south slope.

A big chunk of stone hidden in the forest.

A large artifact along the Lincoln Brook Trail.

Franconia Brook, more a river than a brook. After a bit of studying, we were able to rock-hop it, thanks to a low water level. Most definitely to be avoided in high water.

Dusk view of the Owl's Head from a beaver wetland near Franconia Brook Trail.