Friday, January 22, 2010


The forecast called for sunny skies, and a friend had told me he had been on the Kinsman Pond Trail the previous week, so there would be an old snowshoe track underneath the snow that had fallen since then. John Compton and I figured we would trek up to Kinsman Pond, a gorgeous setting at any time of year, and then head up to North Kinsman for some views. As it turned out, the latter part of our plan was foiled by a frustratingly persistent cloudbank, but the pond provided - eventually - its own rewards.

We started off from the Basin parking area on I-93 and snowshoed up the Basin-Cascades Trail through a few inches of fresh snow, pausing often to admire the scenery along Cascade Brook.

Kinsman Falls was hidden under the ice. Just beyond here we crossed the brook and negotiated the trickiest part of this route to Kinsman Pond, a short stretch of the Basin-Cascades Trail that tightropes along a steep bank high above the brook. Careful foot placement is required in a couple of spots; caution needed if crusty or icy.

Rocky Glen Falls was buried in snow.

Just past these falls we snowshoed up through a small flume.

Turning right on the Cascade Brook Trail (part of the Appalachian Trail), we crossed a heavy-duty bridge built over Cascade Brook a few years ago in a cooperative effort by AMC and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

From the bridge Little Haystack was emerging from the clouds, promising a good viewing day. Hah!

After a half-mile on Cascade Brook Trail we turned left on Kinsman Pond Trail, negotiated a crossing of Cascade Brook, and headed up the valley. After a flat stretch, the trail climbed past a nice birch-glade spot.

Farther up we made a short diversion to a snowy ledge atop a cascade, with a view looking down the brook.

Tall spruces overlook the cascade.

We were now breaking trail through 8 to 10 inches of new snow. The snowshoeing was superb. The upper part of this trail is a miserable slippery brookbed rock-hop in summer, but in winter the rocks are covered and the mostly moderate grades makes this an excellent 'shoeing trail, more pleasant than the more popular Fishin' Jimmy Trail route to the Kinsmans.

There was an occasional short, steep pitch, but they don't last long on this trail.

Beautiful open conifers around 3400 feet.

From the Cascade Broook Trail up, there were numerous small conifers bent over the trail. Banging the snow off the branches (to avoid refreshing snow showers), then ducking under or pushing through the scrubby trees, combined with the trail-breaking, made for a slow trip up to the pond.

Rime-frosted trees lined the trail as we drew closer to the pond.

The Forest Protection Area sign assured us we were nearing our objective.

The final approach led through a tunnel of snow-crusted trees. The old snowshoe track disappeared in this wind-drifted area.

Seeking relief from the constant branch-banging and ducking, we dropped down to the south end of the pond. The fog was so thick we could not see more than a hundred feet. These ghost trees were only a few yards away.

We made our way along the east shore of the solidly-frozen pond.

At the north end we ducked back into the woods to the Kinsman Pond Shelter. This marvelously-built, partly-enclosed shelter was completed by the AMC crew in 2007. The last time I was on North Kinsman, in September 2007, I could hear the crew down below, working on the finishing touches.

It was cozy and pretty much snowless inside, a good place to relax and have a late lunch after our four-hour ascent.

We would periodically check outside to see if there was any sign of clearing. Not yet.

We made two forays over to Kinsman Junction while waiting for potential clearing.

We also went across the pond to the west side, at the base of the steep slope of North Kinsman.

An hour and a half later, still no sign of clearing, though there was an occasional fuzzy patch of blue overhead. Several times we considered continuing up to North Kinsman, but with the persistent fog it didn't seem worth the effort. Trip reports from other mountains this day talked of great undercast views from Flume, Moosilauke and other summits. Wonder if North Kinsman was just barely poking above?

Finally, a little before 4:00, there was some real sign of clearing at the pond. South Kinsman began to take shape, looking south down the pond.

And the rugged east face of North Kinsman loomed half-seen through the thinning veil.

Suddenly things came into focus - we could see the pond!

John headed down the pond for a better look.

Finally, the broad dome of South Kinsman was fully revealed.

And the snow-crusted cliffs of North Kinsman came out as well.

More views of South Kinsman. After our two-hour wait, these late afternoon vistas pleased us greatly.

The two Kinsmans together.

We lingered for a while, soaking in the views and snapping photos with benumbed fingers. Eventually we headed down to the south end of the pond, with a view back to the north.

From here North Kinsman towered close overhead.

We finally left the pond at 4:25, knowing we'd be doing much of the descent in the dark. We agreed it was worth it to see the pond and the Kinsmans finally revealed in their wintriest garb. After daylight faded, the light of a half-moon aided our descent. Out on the open brookbed crossings the moonlight was stunning. The stars of Orion sparkled clearly in the eastern sky. We didn't pull out our headlamps until we were halfway down the Basin-Cascades Trail - we wanted to be sure of our footing on the tricky sections along the high bank. Even though we never made it to North Kinsman, we were amply rewarded for today's efforts.


  1. What a beautiful secluded winter location! Looks like that view was well worth the wait, though the ghostly trees have their own special charm as well!

  2. Thanks, Chris - Kinsman Pond is one of the great winter spots. Definitely worth the wait. And you were in the clear the whole time across the valley on Flume!

  3. That bridge you are talking about had an ancestor that a friend and I were the last to see standing... It was washed out by a huge late winter rainstorm in the 1982 or so that created a huge iceflow behind it and flooded Cascade. Only problem is we had to cross it as the the ice flow pushed against the top rail and 2 feet of water went over the deck. Crossing it involved walking on the top handrails... Found out that it broke later that morning and parts of it were swept over Kinsman Falls.

  4. Roger,

    Thanks for reading! Funny you should mention the bridge washout - according to an internet trip report, the new bridge was washed out during a thaw and ice jam event in late March. Tough life for a bridge on Cascade Brook.