The Nancy Pond Trail leading out of lower Crawford Notch ascends to one of the most interesting areas in the Whites - a high plateau cradled by peaks of the Nancy Range, harboring a large stand of old-growth spruce forest and two beautiful mountain ponds. Along the way the trail passes the lofty Nancy Cascades. My ultimate objective for a hike into this area was an exploration of the slides on the steep SW face of Mount Nancy. The eastern of these two slides is easily accessible from the unofficial path that ascends (steeply) to Nancy's 3926-ft. summit, one of New England's "Hundred Highest." I had visited that slide a couple of times on ascents of Mount Nancy, but had never been to the two-pronged slide 0.1 mile farther west.
A display on a kiosk near the trailhead notes that campfires are not allowed in the Nancy Brook Research Natural Area, shown in dark red.
The first 1.9 miles of the trail mostly follows various old logging roads.
The crossing of Nancy Brook at 1.6 miles was pretty easy with low water. Beyond the crossing the trail navigates through a jumble of boulders caused by storm washouts.
After the 1938 hurricane knocked down thousands of trees in the Nancy Brook valley, the Lucy family of Conway undertook a major salvage logging job. One of the most visible remnants of the mill site located here is this old brick furnace beside the trail. The '38 hurricane also shut down the Nancy Pond Trail, which had just been cut by the AMC. It wasn't reopened until 1960 by crews from Camp Pasquaney on Newfound Lake. The Pasquaney crews still maintain this trail.
A peek inside.
At 1.9 miles, shortly after passing the Lucy Mill site, the trail turns up onto a major relocation built by the Saco Ranger District trail crew to bypass washout from 2011's Tropical Storm Irene. This well-constructed section features numerous switchbacks and good footing.
Along this section I made a short, steep bushwhack up to the only open vestige of a Hurricane of 1938 landslide that obliterated part of the then recently-opened trail.
After a second crossing of Nancy Brook, the trail reaches the base of the Nancy Cascades, which are several hundred feet high. Only the lower drop is visible here, and it is impressive.
Above here the trail is very steep and rough as it ascends the slope adjacent to the cascades, with several switchbacks. After the first switchback it provides a view of the next level of the cascades.
This is a gnarly stretch, especially on the descent.
At the top of the cascades the trail abruptly eases off and winds up through a mossy, densely-grown virgin spruce forest. There's a sense of otherworldly remoteness on this high plateau, and this isolation probably saved these trees from the axe and crosscut saw in the early 1900s. The Forest Service established the 1,385-acre Nancy Brook Research Natural Area in 1991. It is one of the largest tracts of virgin spruce-fir forest in the Northeast.
After a long meander through spruce woods and wetlands, the trail runs alongside dark and mysterious Nancy Pond.
Numerous plank walkways installed by the Saco Ranger District crew ease passage through the wetland areas.
A view of Mount Anderson to the west.
Into the largest Wilderness in the Whites.
There's not much open water left in Little Norcross Pond.
Seven-acre Norcross Pond is the watery gem of this region.
From its east end the view includes Mount Bond, Mount Guyot, South Twin and North Twin.
A profile of Mount Anderson across the water.
The view is even better from the ledges below the pond's outlet.
A fine look into the rolling wildlands of the eastern Pemi, backed by the peaks of the Bond-Twin Range. Franconia Ridge peers over on the left.
Up behind this vantage point a natural ledge dam holds back the waters of Norcross Pond.
Looking SE down the length of the pond.
After an extended lunch break on the sunny ledges, I followed the first part of the unmarked but well-trodden path to Mount Nancy as it traverses an old logging road.
Where the path turns right for the steep ascent, the eastern of the two Mount Nancy slides is a short distance ahead. This spot offers a long view across the Pemi Wilderness to Mount Hancock, Northwest Hancock, Mount Flume and Mount Liberty.
This slide is a mix of gravel and loose rock, with a pitch of about 31 degrees.
A good view of Mount Anderson from the eastern slide. Note the tamaracks growing in the enter of the slide. In September, 1885, AMC explorers Eugene B. Cook and Hubbard Hunt made a two-day bushwhack excursion over Mts. Nancy, Anderson and Lowell. As reported by Cook in the March, 1886 Appalachia, while ascending Mt. Anderson, they obtained a good view back towards Mt. Nancy. “Two large recent slides and a smaller one deeply scarred the southwestern side of that mountain,” wrote Cook. It’s possible that these slides fell during the same storm on August 13, 1885 that triggered the North Slide and second South Slide on Mount Tripyramid. The two large slides are both visible in a 1939 aerial photo.
Side view of the eastern slide, with a touch of fall color.
Typical of the Nancy Range, the 0.1 mile bushwhack across the steep slope to the western slide was amply thick.
The eastern prong of the western slide is a blend of gravel and loose rock over ledge, at a much steeper angle. I deemed this pitch too sketchy to ascend and battled my way up through the dense woods beside it.
Later, at home, I measured this slope at 39 degrees on NH Granit.
Another gorgeous Pemi Wilderness vista.
This more westerly vantage adds Mount Carrigain and its "4266" spur to the view. With binoculars I could see hikers up in the observation tower.
A short, dense whack from the top of the eastern prong brought me to a spot above the western prong of this slide, which is composed of bare bedrock slabs.
I made my way down to the upper western corner of this huge slab, from which I could spot the western tip of Norcross Pond and the dark cut of Norcross Brook as it descends into the valley.
Mount Anderson looms large.
For the return trip to the eastern slide and the Mount Nancy path, I found and followed an old logging road, grown to prickly small conifers.
The road brought me to the top of the eastern slide, which I descended with care.
There was even a bit of dry slab to walk down.
Hung out for a few minutes before leaving the slides.
Last look into the Pemi from the Norcross Pond ledges.
Late afternoon at Norcross Pond. The quiet up here was astounding. I had this whole marvelous area to myself on this fine sunny day.
The trail below Nancy Pond is one of the "rootiest" in the Whites, which is much more noticeable on the descent.
Birch color at Nancy Cascades.