Friday, November 6, 2009
KILKENNY BIRCH RAMBLE: 11/4/09
After last week's relaxing trek to "Unknown Ledge," the sweet solitude and gleaming birch glades of The Kilkenny lured John Compton and me back for an encore journey. This time we would explore the other side of the Unknown Pond Brook valley, visiting three small ponds and a nameless set of cliffs on the SE ridge of The Horn.
We hiked partway up the Unknown Pond Trail from York Pond Road, following the cheerful tumblings of Unknown Pond Brook.
In one spot numerous birch trunks had toppled across the brook - felled by the 1998 ice storm?
The first trail crossing of the brook.
We whacked up to a newly recreated beaver pond, with an inviting shoreline lit up in the sun.
John checks out the zig-zag beaver dam.
We passed by the lodge, but didn't knock to see if anyone was home.
A view of Unknown Pond Ridge from the west side of the pond.
John, blazed in orange (muzzleloader season was on), admires the Kilkenny scenery.
A well-worn beaver trail led us up and over to a higher pond.
Another beauty with an open shoreline.
Those busy beavers had almost felled this good-sized birch.
This pond extended a ways to the south.
Then we set off on our whack up the ridge to the cliffs, through birches...
...and more birches...
...and......a definite trend here, thanks to the 30,000-acre fire in 1903 that ended the intensive logging era in The Kilkenny. Such beauty sprung from widespread devastation.
Can't really call this bushwhacking. In summer, though, the ferns would be waist or even chest-high.
Long corridors looking across the slope.
Eventually the bluff that held our cliffs could be seen rising ahead.
The approach required a flanking action to the right.
Climbing steeply up to the blufftop, we enjoyed a Mahoosucs view through the trees.
To our surprise, the approach to the clifftop didn't become gnarly until the last few yards. From last week's ledge, and from the road this morning, we had spotted a jutting ledge here and had hoped for at least a small open perch. Our alleged viewspot turned out to be a separate rock tower, a gendarme that had split off from the main cliff.
So we had to work hard for our views, picking them up in segments from openings between the trees. From this spot we looked out at the Moriahs beyond Black Crescent Mountain and the Upper Ammonoosuc lowlands. The water on the left is the pond at Godfrey Dam. In the foreground is the ridge we ascended.
The main and middle summits of Unknown Pond Ridge, seen across the Unknown Pond Brook valley.
The middle and south peaks of Unknown Pond Ridge; Baldpate and Old Speck in the distance.
We pushed through clinging spruces to glean this vista of North Weeks and the shrouded, rime-frosted Presidentials.
Leaving the bluff, we headed north across the birch-clad slope....
...and eventually came to a small pond, unnamed on maps, at the foot of The Horn.
In AMC White Mountain Guides from the 1970s, this pond was mentioned as part of a bushwhack route to the then-trailless Horn. The guide gave the local name as "Bishop's Pond."
One of the greatest enthusiasts of The Kilkenny was the Rt. Rev. Robert McConnell Hatch, an Epsicopal Bishop from Connecticut and later Massachusetts, who roamed this area frequently with his friend Jack Farr. For the December 1956 issue of Appalachia, Bishop Hatch wrote a lyrical essay, "A Lean-To in the Mountains," about an exploration he and his friend made in search of a small, remote pond at the base of a ledge-capped peak. When they at last reached their objective, they "stood motionless and gazed at the pond. For a long time neither of us could speak, and when we finally did it was in a whisper. Never in our lives had we been in a place of such wild and breath-taking beauty."
In his honor, the tiny tarn was unofficially named the "Bishop's Pond." Bishop Hatch, by all accounts a beloved figure, passed away last summer at the age of 99.
Sunlit rocks on the northeast shore beckoned for a late lunch break.
The sun was just over the shoulder of The Horn; only when a cloud rolled in could we see the view of the peak looming above the pond.
In mid-afternoon we took our leave of this magical place and followed the little outlet brook down through the birches.
Eventually we came out by one of the beaver ponds on the floor of the valley - the first pond we had visited in the morning.
Back on the Unknown Pond Trail, we made a short detour to look at a cascade on Unknown Pond Brook.
At the crossing of the tributary brook, there was another small waterfall.
Then we walked the two miles back out on the trail, concluding another entrancing day in The Kilkenny.