Thursday, May 24, 2012


Two days earlier stalwart volunteer Dave Stinson and I had done a spring trail work trip on the west part of the UNH Trail - a full day for Dave and a half day for me. We work on this trail section through the Adopt-a-Trail program of the WMNF Saco Ranger District. (There are still some trails available for adoption; contact Trails Manager Cristin Bailey at or 603-447-5448, x 112.) Due to other commitments that morning, I only had time to get a little ways above Allen's Ledge on the trail work trip.

For today's hike, I had a hankering to see the view from the East Ledges - one of my favorite vistas in all the Whites - on the eastern part of the  trail, and perhaps hike the entire 4.8-mile UNH Trail loop over Hedgehog Mountain.

At the bottom of the east side of the loop, Tropical Storm Irene deepened a washout along the trail. This summer the trail will be relocated to bypass this section.

Beautiful hardwood glade where the trail crosses the headwaters of White Brook.

Approaching the East Ledges, the trail switchbacks through a fine spruce forest.

Vista NE to Bear Mountain, Big Attitash Mountain and North Moat.

Arriving at the East Ledges, you're greeted with this classic view of Mt. Passaconaway.

The eastern spurs of Passaconaway, cloaked in spring greens: Square Ledge under Wonalancet Hedgehog, with Nanamocomuck Peak on the R. The other trail we work on, Passaconaway Cutoff, runs along the flank of Square Ledge.

The view over the broad wilderness valley of Oliverian Brook, with Paugus Pass at its head.

The broad wooded mass of Mt. Paugus.

The Three Sisters and Mt. Chocorua.

A shelf naturally carved out of the ledges.

Climber's anchor - rock climbers first explored the possibilities here back in 1928.

Peering down the slab.

Looking east across the face of the ledges.

After an hour and a half sojourn, I headed west from the main East Ledges. Here the trail tightropes along the brink of a cliff. Good flat footing makes it safe.

More great views from the western section of the East Ledges.

From here you can see the Sleepers and South Tripyramid to the west.

The cliff-faced summit of Hedgehog looms ahead. The trail circles way around to the west side to make the ascent.

On the SW flank of the mountain the trail passes through an interesting area of boulders and small cliffs.

Beautiful section of open spruce forest.

The trail makes a zig-zagging, ledgy climb - a fun section.

View over Oliverian Brook valley from a prow-shaped ledge at a turn in the trail.

Just below the summit, a ledge on the L of the trail offers a fine view of West Sleeper, the Tripyramids and the Fool Killer rising from the upper Sabbaday Brook valley. The middle of the Downes Brook valley is in the foreground. The dark, conical peak on the R has been informally dubbed "South Potash."

To the NW are Mt. Kancamagus, Potash Mountain, Mt. Huntington, the Hancocks and Mt. Carrigain.

The Sisters and Chocorua beyond the northern spurs of Paugus.

Another angle over Oliverian Brook, with the Ossipees on the horizon.

Descending from the summit of Hedgehog, a rain shower misted over the northern view towards Mt. Tremont and Mt. Washington.

A steady descent through the spruces. I skipped the side trip to Allen's Ledge since I had been there two days earlier.

One of the waterbars we cleaned on that previous trip.

New clearcut beside the lower part of the trail.

The famous double waterbar. We usually team up for this one.

Late afternoon light on the railroad grade section at the bottom of the trail, a relaxing end to a leisurely circuit over Hedgehog.

Friday, May 18, 2012


On a perfect spring day - sunny, cool, breezy, and virtually bugless -  dedicated volunteer trail maintainer Dave Stinson and I headed out for a day of work on the lower mile of the Passaconaway Cutoff. Dave has worked with me on several trails in the Adopt-a-Trail program for about 10 years. He is a Forest Service-certified crosscut sawyer and now helps teach workshops in that fine art. Along with several other volunteers, we maintain Passaconaway Cutoff - a key link in the interesting northern route to Mt. Passaconaway - on behalf of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club.

There was only one other vehicle in the lot when we set off on the Oliverian Brook Trail mid-morning.

There were quite a few painted trilliums on the lower part of the trail.

For a half-mile, Oliverian Brook Trail follows a spur line of the early 1900s Swift River logging railroad. Nice smooth walking.

Beavers have been very busy along the northern part of the railroad grade. The ponding and partial flooding of the trail is the most extensive I've seen here over the last few years. You can pick your way along the edge of the trail, but wet boots are a possibility.

Dave dug a little channel to try and drain some of the water off the trail.

Oliverian Brook was in good flow after several days of rain.

Entering the Wilderness at the 1.6 mile mark.

Crossing this side-sloping stream just past the Wilderness sign requires some fancy footwork.

Newer, mileage-less signs at the Oliverian/Cutoff junction.

A half-mile in, the Cutoff crosses the west branch of Oliverian Brook. This is never an easy crossing to make with dry boots, and on this day we waded it with Crocs.

Not far beyond the crossing the Cutoff leads through a nice hardwood forest. Today it was a tunnel of fresh spring greens - in the brilliant sunshine the scene was like an Impressionist painting.

Dave cleaning out one of the Cutoff waterbars. He uses a garden hoe, and I use a hazel hoe (also called a grub hoe), which has a broader, heavier blade and shorter, slightly curved handle. By bringing both tools we have more flexibility to deal with the vagaries of different size waterbars.

We cleaned drainages, took out a few blowdowns, and did some brushing up to the 0.9 mile mark of the trail, where it turns left and climbs away from the west branch of Oliverian Brook. A short overgrown path leads ahead here to a nice spot on the brook, where we always take a break when working on the Cutoff.

We checked out a nearby cascade.

We also scouted another 0.2 mile up the trail and found no blowdowns or brushing needs. We left the upper 0.6 mile of the Cutoff, which has many waterbars, to a crew of four (including Dave) led by Rick Neville, coming up two days later. A little ways up from the brook there's a peek back at Hedgehog Mountain.

The trail passes by this neat overhanging boulder.

Heading back down through the newly-leafed hardwoods.

Dave wading back across the west branch of Oliverian Brook.

Before heading out, we treated ourselves to a bushwhack to a beaver bog west of Oliverian Brook. The first part of the whack was through open hardwoods, though it got a little thicker beyond here.

I'd been to this bog a couple of times in winter, and, as I remembered, from its edge you have a majestic view of Mt. Passaconaway.

On the L, Passaconaway is flanked by Nanamocomuck Peak, the highest of the mountain's several southeastern spurs.

A small inlet brook flows into the bog. We didn't have time to explore the other side to see if there was an old beaver dam at the outlet.

A closer look at Nanamocomuck, scarred by a slide on its northern flank. The Square Ledge Trail skirts along the base of this slide.

Farther along the shore the sheer face of Square Ledge came into view to the L of Nanamocomuck. Unique views from this bog edge!

On the bushwhack back to the trail we stopped to admire this large hemlock. Once back on the trail, a mellow hour's walk brought us back to the car, ending a fine day on the northern flank of the Sandwich Range.