Wednesday, February 29, 2012


On a gorgeous sunny afternoon Carol and I snowshoed up the recently-reopened southern section of the Greeley Ponds Trail, and partway up the Goodrich Rock Trail. We started at the large Livermore Rd. parking area, where this sign notes that Livermore Trail and Tripoli Rd. are free backcountry access trails, no Waterville Valley trail pass required.

The first 0.3 mi. was on the groomed Livermore Trail, leading to the Depot Camp clearing. The little ledgy nubble of The Scaur can be seen to the L of center, with Flume Peak to its R.

North Tripyramid from the Depot Camp clearing.

Greeley Ponds Trail was ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene, with the Mad River jumping its bank and flowing down part of the trail. The Forest Service has done some major restoration work, as indicated by these signs. The southern section, up to the Timber Camp Trail, has recently opened. The middle section of the trail remains closed.

Lots of destinations from this trail junction.

Carol inspects the damage from a major washout.

Several large drainage dips have been placed to prevent further erosion.

A snowshoe track parallels a trench.

These felled trees are part of the restoration effort.

A peaceful scene along the Mad River.

We turned L onto the Goodrich Rock Trail, one of the many wonderful short paths in the Waterville backcountry.

Carol took the lead, breaking trail up the steady grade of an old logging road. This was her first time on snowshoes since knee surgery almost exactly a year ago. She did great!

Not wanting to push too hard the first time out, Carol turned back partway up the trail. A job well done!

I continued another quarter mile up to the Davis Boulders, a neat collection of big glacial erratics named for their discoverer, J.W. Davis, a Watervillean of the late 1800s. The trail was originally laid out in the 1890s.

A peek through the trees at North Tripyramid, The Scaur and South Tripyramid.

This trail is quite entertaining, leading through the crevices of this split boulder.

A short snowshoe scramble led into the crevice.

Exiting around the corner.

More boulders rising amidst a fine hardwood forest.

A WVAIA arrow points the way.

A passage between two more big rocks.

The trail squeezes through this boulder cave. With snowshoes on, I opted for an alternate route around.

Perhaps the largest of the boulders, except for Goodrich Rock at trail's end, is this "ocean liner." I didn't go all the way to Goodrich Rock as Carol was waiting below on Greeley Ponds Trail, and in any case I don't like climbing the 20-ft. ladder to the top of the rock in the snow.

A dry seat for a quick bite to eat.

The winding track through the Davis Boulders.

On the way back along Greeley Ponds Trail, we made a short side excursion on the Scaur Trail to its crossing of the Mad River, where this scene awaited, looking upstream.

Mt. Osceola from the Depot Camp clearing.

On the Livermore Trail, at the end of a fine snowshoe hike.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Snowshoeing has been in short supply this winter, so before opening the store on Sunday I decided to take advantage of the fresh 5-6" of snow that fell Friday night and do a little 'shoeing at Lincoln Woods. I went up the less-used Pemi East Side Trail, which after a half-mile offered this view of the snow-covered East Branch of the Pemigewasset. This vista was expanded by Tropical Storm Irene.

I turned off onto the Pine Island Trail, parts of which were completely obliterated by Irene. The trail has been officially closed by the Forest Service since then, but still sees some use. It is intact for the first 0.25 mi. from its south end. My wife and I had adopted this trail in July, a month before Irene ravaged it. The Forest Service plans to relocate and reopen the trail this year, hopefully; it will be moved back into the woods farther from the river.

After crossing Pine Island Brook on a snow bridge, and a smaller open brook on snow-covered rocks, I followed a nice new snowshoe track through the pleasant open woods typical of the Pine Island Trail.

Here is where the trail comes to the first section that disappeared into the river; note the blaze on the tree on the right.

From this spot, there's a view eight miles up the valley to Southwest Twin (on the R); Galehead Mountain can be seen on the L.

By moving a few yards to the south, you can also see South Twin, still socked in at the top by a morning wisp of cloud.

On the way back, I had this view of Black Mountain (near Loon Mountain) from the Pemi East Side Trail. What a beautiful morning!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


One of the nicest half-day walks along the Kancamagus Highway is the trek into Champney and Pitcher Falls along the Champney Falls Trail and part of a loop path. The trail is easy to moderate, and the ice formations on Pitcher Falls are especially beautiful. Plus, there's a good chance you'll get to see some ice climbers in action.

Champney/Pitcher Falls has been a popular destination since the late 1800s, and in the 1870s geologist Joshua H. Huntington deemed Pitcher Falls "the most picturesque of the many falls and cascades around the mountains."

Surprisingly, there were only a half-dozen cars in the lot for this popular trail, even though it was a fine day during school vacation week. As expected, the trail was a smooth hard-packed sidewalk of snow, with the occasional icy patch, ideal for Microspikes.

After a half-mile through mostly hardwoods, the trail hops up onto a bank and ascends through hemlocks, then drops down near Champney Brook.

I always stop to admire this old yellow birch.

A trailside view of Champney Brook.

Nearing the falls loop path, I encountered the first of just a few hikers along the trail.

The loop path splits left at 1.4 mi. and 500 ft. in elevation above the trailhead.

In 0.2 mi. of down-and-up, I reached the base of Champney Falls, just a bulging ice flow in winter.

Just to the east is the beautiful flume into which a tributary brook drops over Pitcher Falls. And there was an ice climber scaling one of the pillars.

For someone who's never been on a climbing rope, it's always a treat to see a climber in action.

I went up the first pitch on the loop trail to a shelf atop the lower part of Champney Falls, and had a good view up to the frozen upper part of the waterfall. From here the loop path climbs very steeply alongside the falls, and though I've done it in winter it looked too icy for my liking this day. I did want to visit the top of Champney Falls, where there is a good viewpoint looking north, so I returned along the loop path to its lower junction with the main trail and headed up that way.

As you climb up the side of the valley, damage from the 1998 ice storm is still much in evidence.
This area was hit hard; a month after that storm my nephew Mike and I bushwhacked up the ridge west of Champney Brook and then descended along the trail. The trail part was actually harder due to the many trees fallen at crazy angles across the footway, necessitating awkward detours on the side slope.

At one point there is a view up to the ledgy knob that rises on the north side of the falls. This area is called "Hobbitland" by rock climbers. If you bushwhack to the top of that knob, you'll find some good views around the rim in various directions.

The upper falls loop junction, 1.7 mi. from the trailhead.

I dropped a short distance on the loop path to rocks and ledges above Champney Falls, including this neat overhang. Caution is advised in this area, as there are some steep dropoffs.

From rocks in the brookbed, I had a view of Owl Cliff and Mt. Tremont.

Looking up Champney Brook in the flat area above the top of the falls.

I carefully made my way on a mini-bushwhack to an open overhanging ledge, flat on top, on the east side of the brook. I stepped gingerly on the hard crust, which held my weight most of the time even without snowshoes. This spot grants a unique view north down the Champney Brook valley to distant peaks.

Hanock is on the far L, then the cliff-faced Captain can be seen below, and the mighty Mt. Carrigain. The top of Bondcliif can be glimpsed over the col to the L of Carrigain. Continuing to the R are Vose Spur, Owl Cliff with the tip of Mt. Lowell peeking over, Mt. Tremont, Mt. Nancy and Mt. Bemis.

This photo taken from the loop trail across the brook shows the view ledge, the one on the L.

On the way back down the Champney Falls Trail, a glimpse of Mt. Washington and Boott Spur through the branches.

Colorful Forest Service map at the trailhead. This hike is highly recommended, and the trip in to the lower end of Champney Falls is suitable for winter novices. Use caution if visiting the area at the upper end of the loop trail.