Tuesday, August 14, 2012
CHURCH POND: 8/7/12
On a beautiful cool, sunny morning, my brother Drew and I took the short, easy and very scenic walk into Church Pond on the north side of the Kancamagus Highway. For several reasons, this trail is lightly traveled: the trailhead is hidden away in the Passaconaway Campground; the Swift River must be forded at the start of the trail; and the footing approaching the pond is very muddy.
We parked at the trailhead (room for two cars), put on our water shoes, and waded the river and a second, smaller branch stream a little farther along. Then we reached the former loop junction, where the signs were still in place. The eastern loop of the Church Pond Trail is no longer maintained by the Forest Service due to extremely boggy terrain. The west part of the loop remains open.
The next section of trail is a needle-carpeted stroll under tall pines.
The last few tenths of a mile approaching the pond leads through an extensive swampy area. The bog bridges that were placed here some years ago are largely rotted away, with numerous protruding metal spikes waiting to trip the unwary. Because of the dry summer, the footing wasn't too wet through here on this day.
Green's Cliff looms to the northwest. In his 1916 regional classic, Passaconaway in the White Mountains, Charles Edward Beals, Jr. admired Green's Cliff as "a truly magnificent and imposing rampart." Beals devoted an entire chapter to Church Pond and its trailless neighbor, Little Church Pond, which were then known as the Deer Ponds.
Drew making his way through the swamp on the final approach to the pond. This is a great birding area in early summer, but the mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with.
The official trail now ends atop a gravelly hillock covered with red pines, known simply as "The Knoll," overlooking Church Pond.
A couple of side paths lead steeply down to shoreline openings with beautiful mountain vistas. This view looks SW to the Fool Killer, North Tripyramid and Scaur Peak.
Looking south towards the Sabbaday Brook valley with the Sleepers at its head and Potash Mountain on the left.
A closer look at the Sleepers.
Next we followed the abandoned eastern loop along high ground to the east, and dropped down on a faint path to a premier sitting rock on the eastern finger of the pond. This view looks west towards the main part of the pond with Sugar Hill beyond.
Good view from the rock north towards Mt. Tremont and Owl's Cliff.
Owl's Cliff has some impressive rock faces. For an account of an exploration of these, click here.
Watching some Belted Kingfishers patrolling this end of the pond.
Summertime, and the livin' is easy...
Back at the shore below The Knoll, a vista of Passaconaway and Potash.
Church Pond has some of the best mountain views of any water body in the Whites.
In the gravelly clearing atop The Knoll.
Lots of nice easy walking on the Church Pond Trail.
Looking east along the Swift River.
Wading the river to return to the trailhead after a great morning walk.
(This post is a little late in coming because our main computer, which has our photo files, was unavailable for a few days due to a construction project.)