WACHIPAUKA POND & WYATT HILL: 1/6/11
As noted last spring on this blog, the section of the Appalachian Trail SW of Mt. Moosilauke has some very interesting features. The gem amidst this string of lower peaks is 22-acre Wachipauka Pond, nestled below the cliffs of Webster Slide Mountain. This is a great spot to visit in winter; when the pond is well-frozen there are dramatic views up to the ledgy face of Webster Slide.
Upon arriving at the northern trailhead for the Wachipauka Pond Trail on Rt. 25 near Glencliff, I was pleased to see that there was decent snow cover in the woods, unlike what I found on my hike two days earlier in Waterville Valley. I put my snowshoes a few yards in from the road.
A half-mile in, the trail makes a fairly steep climb up the side of Wyatt Hill. This stretch was bony, beating up my snowshoes a bit. Once the grade eased off, the snow cover improved.
Along the Wyatt Hill section of the trail, I bushwhacked down to the top of a crag on a northern spur.
Interesting views here, looking north to Mt. Clough (L) and Mt. Moosilauke (R, in the clouds) framing Tunnel Brook Notch.
This spot offers a great perspective on Moosilauke's Slide Brook ravine.
Looking to the east I could see the hamlet of Glencliff with Chokecherry Hill and Bald Hill beyond.
A closer look at Mt. Clough.
Just across Oliverian Notch was the great cliff of Owl's Head at the southern end of the Benton Range.
I returned to the trail and followed it up over its high point on the shoulder of Wyatt Hill, then an easy descent led towards the base of Webster Slide Mountain. Pretty good snowshoeing through here on an untracked trail.
I left the trail in a flat area and bushwhacked across towards the NE side of Wachipauka Pond.
I came out on the shore of the northern finger of the pond, with Webster Slide dominating the scene.
I wasn't sure about the ice on this boggy finger, so I ducked back into the woods, passing this moose scraping.
The ice was solid on the main body of the pond, though those first few steps out are always tentative early in the season. (I had some advance info on this, as Ed Hawkins' group had been out on the pond on Christmas Eve, and I'd also heard of folks skiing and skating on Squam Lake. But when in doubt, don't go out on the ice!) It had turned out to be a spectacular sunny, nearly windless day, much better than predicted. I put my pack down for a lunch seat on the snow-dusted surface of the pond.
After my break, I headed across the pond to a line of tracks (coyote?).
I followed these over to the little point where the side trail down from the AT reaches the pond. This big white pine has shaded many a thru-hiker stopping for a swim or a bivouac.
This is a beautiful, restful spot at any season, with Carr Mountain glimpsed on the horizon.
Next I took a leisurely tour along the west side of the pond, with a different angle on Webster Slide.
To the N was Blueberry Mountain in the Benton Range, with Jeffers Mountain peering over in back.
From one spot the cliffs of The Hogsback were visible.
From the SW corner of the pond I could see nearby Wyatt Hill and the snow-caked crest of Moosilauke.
A fine view of the Moose, with the South Peak prominent on the R.
Looking SW, back at the steep face of Mt. Mist.
At a peninsula on the SE side of the pond, I brushed off a stump seat and sat in the sun for a while.
I wanted to make a bushwhack loop back to the trail, visiting the beaver ponds seen in this photo taken from Webster Slide on a previous trek, and then climbing over the top of Wyatt Hill, seen to the L of the beaver ponds.
I headed into the woods behind the peninsula, soon skirting a swampy area where beavers had made a packed track that was just the right size for small snowshoes.
There was some messy going in here with lots of old blowdown and even a few early-season spruce traps.
Farther along the woods opened up.
I popped out at the N end of the beaver pond complex, which was pretty well buried in crunchy snow.
A few of the drifts were deep.
The shape of an old beaver dam could be seen under the snow; the crest of Mt. Mist is in the background.
I skirted along the E edge of the wetland. The snow was fairly firm and only once did I punch through into the muck.
The old workings of some ambitious beavers.
A stand of cattails at the S end of the pond complex.
A look back at the staring face of Webster Slide.
Leaving the ponds, I climbed into hardwoods on the flank of Wyatt Hill. Lots of oak in here.
The slope dipped briefly to an old woods road.
There were no views on this side of Wyatt Hill, though the pond and its adjacent mountains could be glimpsed through the trees.
The flat hardwood summit of 1841-ft. Wyatt Hill, my second visit here and first winter "ascent."
A gnarled guardian of the summit.
The descent northward to the trail led through more hardwoods, including this bear tree.
Getting near alpenglow time on Moosilauke - wish there had been a clear view.
On the way down the trail I made one more short whack to a rocky crag for a peek at Carr Mountain in the distance. What a gorgeous day this turned out to be!