Friday, January 27, 2012


This day was one of the picks of the winter: sunny, 30s, with light winds. A fine day to head in to an old favorite, the Greeley Ponds in Mad River Notch between East Osceola and Mt. Kancamagus.

There were a half-dozen cars in the small parking lot when I set out late morning, but most of those folks must have been doing the Osceolas, as I saw only one group of four on my trek to the ponds.

Normal for this winter, the trail was a packed sidewalk, ideal for Microspikes. It makes for a more pleasant hike than the muddy, rocky, rooty footing found on parts of this trail in summer.

Some nice old hardwoods on the final approach to the height of land in Mad River Notch.

The trail junction in the notch.

The peakbagger's pathway towards East Osceola. The majority of the boot traffic had headed this way.

Midday sun floods the woods at the height-of-land.

Cool fortress rock beside the trail.

A single log foot bridge spans the infant Mad River. Hard to imagine that just a few miles south, down towards Waterville Valley, this stream devastated a long section of the Greeley Ponds Trail, which remains closed and will require major reconstruction/relocation before it reopens.

The trail hugs a high bank above the west shore of Upper Greeley Pond.

First view of the pond through a gap in the trees.

From the SW corner of Upper Pond, near the outlet, there's a neat view up to the ice-draped ledges on the western knob of Mt. Kancamagus.

The best view at Upper Pond is found along an overgrown side path that leads left from here and crosses the outlet brook. Surprisingly, no one had headed this way recently.

From an opening on the SE shore there's an impressive look at the long line of cliffs fronting a northern arm of East Osceola. Peregrine falcons sometimes nest here.

Looking north down the pond, the rock-faced western spur of Mt. Huntington peers over the trees. Although I've crossed the ice on Upper Greeley many times in the past, I stayed off it today with a recent rain/thaw event in the back of my mind.

I especially like the view up towards the top of East Osceola. The two slides on the L are sometimes descended by hardcore backcountry skiers. The small slide patch that the Mt. Osceola Trail crosses high up on the mountain is on the R, directly above the prominent snowy ledge.

Here is the view back down to the ponds and notch from that slide patch.

Returning to the main trail, I continued down to Lower Greeley Pond, an easy half-mile of gentle descent. Along the way you pass this brook, the runout from one of the East Osceola slides.

Tracks leading off through the woods - coyote?

My favorite spot in Mad River Notch is the viewpoint on the NW shore of Lower Greeley Pond. This pond is more open and expansive than Upper Greeley, and is very shallow with suspect hollow ice at its north end. The K1 Cliff, named by early 1900s Waterville hikers, is located on this southern spur of Mt. Kancamagus, where it drops off on the R. For a few years there was a primitive path up to the cliff. A few years ago I tried to get down to the cliff from the top of the ridge, but the terrain was too steep and rough on snowshoes.

I did, however, get a good view up to the K1 Cliff from a remarkable ledge that juts above the trees on the flank of the mountain.

Another look at the western knob of Mt. Kancamagus from the shore of Lower Greeley.

This was called the K2 cliff by the Watervillians, and for a few years there was also a rough path up there. Must have been quite the rugged route!

The skeletons of ghost-trees rise from the bog at the north end of Lower Greeley.

I continued down to the viewpoint at the SW corner of Lower Greeley, where a long view north up the pond places Mad River Notch in profile.

I had lugged my snowshoes, and put them on for a while, skirting around the shore.

Heading back up the trail between the ponds.

A great gnarled old yellow birch crown. There are some old trees in this inner sanctum. When a logging railroad was planned through the notch in the 1920s, the Society for the Protection of NH Forests spearheaded a campaign to protect the area, and it was acquired by the Forest Service in 1928, with a 770-acre tract around the Greeley Ponds set aside as a permanent scenic reserve. Today the area is known as the Greeley Ponds Scenic Area, and it is a place I like to return to often, winter and summer.

Friday, January 20, 2012


A gorgeous winter day, sunny, twentyish, and light winds. A good day for a short hike up to the first open ledge on the south shoulder of Welch Mountain near Waterville Valley.

I was surprised to find an empty (and well-sanded) parking lot on such a nice day.

A familiar trail sign.

The brook crossing a short way in on the Welch side of the loop was fairly well-frozen.

The trail was a sidewalk of crusty snow - perfect for Microspiking.

This was the only nasty ice flow on the way up to the ledge. Thought there'd be more of this.

A trailside look at the nameless brook that drains the Dickey-Welch bowl.

Neat boulder beside the trail.

Where the trail makes a right turn at about 0.9 mi., the cliffs on the SW ridge of Dickey can be seen up through the trees.

Tread lightly on the ledges.

The final approach to the big flat ledge at 1.3 miles.

Major revegetation efforts have been ongoing up here.

The revegetation areas are well-delineated.

Looking back to the Dickey SW cliffs. The Dickey side of the loop runs along their top edge.

For a short hike with an 800-ft. climb, this ledge on the south shoulder of Welch rewards with fine views, especially looking up the Mad River valley to the Tripyramids, with Scaur Peak on the L and the Sleepers on the R.

A closer look at the Tripyramids and West Sleeper, with the long ridge of Snows Mountain below. You get a good angle on the Tripyramid South Slides from here.

Looking up at Dickey (L) and Welch (R).

The big snowy slabs of Dickey.

The steep, ledgy south face of Welch.

The huge spread of Sandwich Mountain seen across the Mad River valley, with Acteon Ridge below in front.

Sharp Jennings Peak and the summit of Sandwich. Ledgy Sachem Peak is below the summit.

The two Black Mountains - the massive shoulder on the L is the Black Mountain traversed by the Algonquin Trail, with many great views. The lower peak to the R is also called Black Mountain and has a good view ledge accessible by a fairly short bushwhack. The Algonquin Trail comes up into the col between them. The dark ledge-spotted hump in front is Bald Knob at the lower end of Acteon Ridge.

Rocks and oaks along the trail just beyond the Welch ledge.

The flat expanse at the brink of the ledge. With bright sun and little wind, I was able to spend an hour up here, part of the time chatting with a local couple who were the only other hikers I encountered.

Afternoon light in the hemlocks on the way down. This short hike is highly recommended in winter, and has no steep and potentially tricky sections like those found on the upper cone of Welch.