Friday, September 2, 2011
NORTH COUNTRY TOUR: 8/24/11
Carol and I hadn't been up to the North Country of NH in a couple of years, time for a visit. With a drive that long, we try to make a full day of it!
We took Rt. 3 up to Colebrook, then headed off on Rt. 145, the hilly back road to Pittsburg. Along the way we stopped for a look at Beaver Brook Falls, which was beautiful even with low water flow.
Footpaths run up to the base of the falls on either side for a closer look.
We continued on to Pittsburg. turned R on Rt. 3, and drove up to the dam at the bottom of Second Connecticut Lake. Our main objective for the day was a hike on the new Falls in the River Trail, which was opened by the Cohos Trail Association just last year. This hike was highly recommended by our friends Joanne and Kevin Jones. The trailhead at the dam is well-marked, with plenty of room for parking.
This trail is a gem! It follows along the Connecticut River through nice conifer woods with a mostly smooth footbed and only a few steeper pitches and rough stretches. There are several spots where you can obtain good views of the river.
A typical section of the Falls in the River Trail.
This was my favorite spot on the trail, where the placid river is fringed with picturesque meadows and wetlands.
Several folks were fly-fishing at the edge of a backwater - a classic North Country scene.
At 1.4 mi. we arrived at the Falls in the River - a cascade and gorge with some great ledges to hang out on. This is a fine destination for a short hike, and could be combined with other short hikes in the Pittburg area such as Magalloway Mountain, Garfield Falls, and Second Connecticut Lake.
Looking downstream into the gorge.
The river gathers steam as it approaches the falls.
Carol headed back while I continued another 0.7 mi. south on the Falls in the River Trail, which runs along a ridge high above the river, passing the "King Pine" shown below, then comes back down next to it and eventually crosses Big Brook on a bridge and rises to meet the Moose Alley Trail. A R turn on Moose Alley leads to a trailhead on Rt. 3 in just 0.1 mi. This is a shorter approach to the falls, but the longer approach from Second Connecticut Lake is more scenic.
On the way back I found another gorgeous view of the river on a short side path.
From Second Connecticut Lake we drove up the remote Moose Alley stretch of Route 3 to the border crossing. The border station was under construction, but there was a marked area for parking on the R for hikers heading to Fourth Connecticut Lake.
I did this neat hike the last time we came to Pittsburg. Today I had other hike plans, so I only went up to check out the trailhead, which is across the road just past the border station.
On the way back south we stopped by the lovely, undeveloped Third Connecticut Lake, whose western and southern shores are part of a Natural Area owned by the State of NH.
Next stop, Dixville Notch! After a long drive down Rt. 3 and across Rt. 26, we arrived at the entrance to the Balsams Hotel.
Right by the entrance is the trailhead for the short, steep and scenic Sanguinary Ridge Trail. I hadn't been on this trail in a few years, and wanted to check its condition. Carol stayed at the car with a good book.
After 0.2 mi. on a steep, switchbacking climb, I emerged in the open amidst the weird landscape of Dixville Notch.
The crag known as Table Rock looms across the Notch.
Looking west out of the Notch to Lake Gloriette.
This spire is known as Index Rock.
The trail heads up a steep, open scree slope, over rock steps recently built by the North Woods Stewardship Center.
Looking back down at Index Rock.
Higher up I emerged on a perch where I could wave to Carol down below; our car is the one on the R.
This ledge is appropriately known as "Balsams View." The peak behind the hotel is Abeniki Mountain, which is accessible by one of the Balsams' own hiking paths.
I climbed up to the Cohos Trail junction at the height-of-land on Sanguniary Mountain and went another quarter-mile down Sanguinary Ridge Trail, but turned back before reaching the next outlook as the evening was getting on and I had two more short hikes to cover. The tricky spot shown below was near the bottom of the descent back to the car.
Next we drove through Dixville Notch and down to a wayside area at the east end, where the Huntington Cascade Trail begins, leading to the Three Brothers Trail and, eventually, Table Rock. I wanted to check out the trail along the cascades, as a hiker had taken a serious fall into the gorge early this summer, and a difficult technical rescue ensued.
An easy walk led to the lower cascade, obviously in low, pre-Irene flow.
The trail then climbs steeply parallel to the brook. It's hard to get a good look at the high, thin upper cascade, which falls into a very steep and deep gorge. The trail itself is not overly close to the edge save for one narrow spot, but there is very dangerous terrain close by. Caution is certainly advised in this section. I followed the trail up to where it crosses the brook above the cascades and becomes the Three Brothers Trail, then hustled back to the car. One more drive and short hike to go!
We drove across Rt. 26 to Errol, then north for 7 miles on Rt. 16 to this short graded, and wheelchair accessible trail on the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. Didn't even know this existed until I saw it on John "1HappyHiker" Compton's blog. I set off as dusk was drawing on. It was an easy, flat walk of just 0.3 mi.
At trail's end was a covered wildlife viewing platform.
Not much to see in near-darkness, but it was a very peaceful spot with an insect chorus chirping in the background. Would like to return here in daylight next time we're up this way. It was a long drive home to Lincoln in the dark. Curiously, in 280 miles of driving through the North Country, we saw nary a moose.