SQUARE LEDGE LOOP: 9/21/10
Today's hike combined a fall trail work trip to Passaconaway Cutoff, the adopted trail of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Committee, with a late afternoon loop over the wild little peak of Square Ledge.
At the Oliverian Brook trailhead off the Kanc Highway, the Forest Service had posted two new maps on the kiosk - one of the Oliverian Brook area in general, the other of the ongoing eastern part of the Kanc7 timber project.
The water level was down at the beaver pond 0.7 mile in on the Oliverian Brook Trail, making for drier footing.
Easy walking on the bed of the Oliverian branch of the old Swift River logging railroad (1906-1916).
I usually make a quick stop to see this streamside vignette, just off the trail about a mile in.
The junction where our trail work begins, 1.9 miles in. Today's tasks included cleaning the trail's 43 drainages with an adze hoe, removing four blowdowns, and doing some hobblebush brushing on the upper part of the trail. We adopted this trail through the joint AMC - WMNF Saco Ranger Didtrict Adopt-a-Trail program. There are still a number of fine trails in the Saco District that need adopters: contact Trails Manager Cristin Bailey at 603-447-5448, X112, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This hardwood corridor is one of my favorite stretches of the Cutoff.
A left turn near the west branch of Oliverian Brook marks about the halfway point of our 1.7 mile trail. A short path leads out to the brook, a welcome rest spot.
One of the more impressive boulders along the trail.
A ledge with a window view north to Hedgehog Mtn. is a landmark signifying that the top of the trail is only 0.2 mile farther.
A short downslope bushwhack near the top of the Cutoff netted me this intimate view of massive Mt. Passaconaway.
I finished my work around 3:00, and after a short rest headed left on the Square Ledge Trail, a sometimes wild and wooly route over this rugged little spur of Passaconaway.
The first part of the trail was pretty overgrown, but progress is being made - farther along I came to this section that had recently been brushed out by the Forest Service trail crew.
Sqaure Ledge abounds in cliffs and rock faces. The trail hugs the base of this one as it climbs to a point near the 2620-ft. summit.
Just before the trail reaches its high point, an unmarked side path leaves sharp R up a little ramp, turns L to scramble up a small rock face, and continues, thoroughly overgrown but well-trodden, to this whitish outcrop, a sunny and secluded spot. Visitors must use caution as the path ends abruptly at the edge of a dropoff.
It being late afternoon, the great closeup view of Mt. Passaconaway was backlit and shadowed.
The view to the N was clear, including the Hancocks, South Twin, Guyot, Zealand, The Captain, Carrigain, Vose Spur and Green's Cliff.
I made a short, thick and careful bushwhack down to a lower perch overlooking the broad upper valley of Oliverian Brook.
The flat-topped Wonalancet Hedgehog loomed across the western part of the valley.
A nice stretch of trail across the level crest of Square Ledge.
At the end of the little ridge, the trail descends to a sharp R turn where a side path leads a few yards to an outlook atop the main, E-facing cliff of Square Ledge. Mt. Paugus dominates the view across the Oliverian Brook valley.
Paugus can be seen from base to summit.
To the SSE is Paugus Pass with the hills of the Ossipee region beyond.
A short distance away is a crag at the very brink of the cliff, with a rather startling down-look. You definitely don't want to trip here! Needless to say, caution is advised. This spot should not be accessed during Peregrine Falcon nesting season, April 1-August 1.
This view taken from across the valley shows the size and sheerness of the Square Ledge cliff.
Looking down the Oliverian Brook valley to the Moat Range.
From the outlook atop the main cliff the Square Ledge Trail descends very steeply to the south, passing under high rock walls. Very wild terrain out here.
There's one small ledge scramble partway down.
A rugged and rocky section of the trail.
At the bottom of the steep pitch the trail eases off and traverses to a junction with the Square Ledge Branch Trail. Into the 1960s the description in the AMC White Mountain Guide mentioned ruined lumber camps in this vicinity. In a quick search of this area, I found no obvious camp clearing but did stumble upon a few pieces of ironware, including what may have been part of a sled runner.
After crossing Square Ledge Brook, which drains the basin between Square Ledge, Nanamocomuck Peak and the Wonalancet Hedgehog, I turned L on the Square Ledge Branch Trail.
This moderately descending trail has some of the best footing of any path in the White Mountains.
One of a pair of large hemlocks near the bottom of the Branch Trail.
Turning left on the Oliverian Brook Trail, I hustled down through the beautiful, remote-feeling middle section of the valley, one of my favorite areas in the Sandwich Range Wilderness. The light was getting too dim for pictures, but I did manage one of this peaceful scene along Oliverian Brook.
I did the last 1.4 miles by headlamp, and was thankful that no rutting bull moose appeared in the light beam, blocking the trail ahead of me!