KILKENNY PONDS: 6/22/17
My brother Drew and I hiked the Unknown Pond Trail from Mill Brook Road to picturesque Unknown Pond, then bushwhacked from the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to a small pond informally known as Bishop's Pond. This had special relevance for my brother, as noted in the photo captions below.
This is the shorter route to Unknown Pond, from a quiet, remote trailhead accessed by a good gravel road.
The first mile is mellow through hardwood forest.
A little more than a mile in, the Unknown Pond Trail passes this post marking the Stark/Kilkenny town line and soon begins a steady climb.
A wet, ferny swale at the base of the climb.
The upper half of the trail passes through a gorgeous white birch forest that filled in after the big Kilkenny fire of 1903.
The birches go on and on - a vast gleaming glade.
The shore of Unknown Pond, with its watery vista to the shapely peak of The Horn, is one of the most peaceful places in the Whites. This spot is reached by a side path near the eastern of the two junctions of the Unknown Pond and Kilkenny Ridge Trails. Most of the shore is marked as Revegetation Areas due to impact from previous camping overuse. There is now an established tentsite area with five tent pads.
A zoom on The Horn. A White-Throated Sparrow sang frequently as we gazed at the view.
Drew relaxing on the shore. The only downside was the swarm of mosquitoes that descended whenever the nice breeze slackened.
Around the corner another side path leads to a different perspective on the pond and The Horn. Here we chatted with Nicole Tewksbury and Carol Gillen from Lincoln, who were day-hiking the pond and The Horn from their tentsite at Rogers Ledge Campsite.
Beautiful skies today.
We headed along the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to launch our bushwhack to Bishop's Pond.
At the sag between Unknown Pond and The Horn, we encountered a trail crew from the WMNF Androscoggin Ranger District. They were just finishing up a new set of bog bridges across this wet area.
The crew consisted of (L to R) Declan Scannell, Dan Annunziato, and David Cronin. In addition to building the bog bridges, they had cleared blowdowns, cleaned drainages and done some brushing on the hike in. Thanks for your great work!
Drew checks his GPS along the bushwhack.
In due time we arrived at Bishop's Pond, tucked into a little pocket at the base of The Horn.
As noted, this place has special significance for Drew, a retired Bishop from The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. One of the greatest enthusiasts of The Kilkenny was the Rt. Rev. Robert McConnell Hatch, an Episcopal 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, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 99, was a friend of Drew's. So it had special meaning to bring my brother, the bishop, to Bishop's Pond.
Birches and ferns behind the outlet to the pond. What a beautiful area!
Drew bushwhacks through a fern glade on the way back from Bishop's Pond.
Descending the Unknown Pond Trail through birches and ferns.