CEDAR BROOK LOOP: 10/27/12
Every fall since 1989, I have joined Mike Dickerman and several other friends for a hike in the White Mountains that raises money for the hunger-fighting programs of Church World Service. Unfortunately, Mike broke his big toe a couple of weeks before the hike and couldn't participate this year, though he was there in spirit.
The route for our 24th Annual CropWalk "Hike for Hunger" was a 12.5-mile loop through part of the Pemigewasset Wilderness on the Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Pemi East Side Trail and Pine Island Trail. The heart of this route is the long descent through the remote valley of Cedar Brook in between the northern slopes of Mt. Hancock and Mt. Hitchcock, as shown in the photo below taken from Bondcliff.
There are nearly 1,600 community CROPWALKs around the country, but as far as we know ours is the only one on that takes place on mountain trails. Over the years our generous sponsors have donated more than $58,000 to this worthy cause. Twenty-five percent of that has been distributed to the local Community Action Program food bank in Littleton.
The Church World Service CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) program began in 1947 and the first CROP Hunger Walk was held in 1969. Over the past three decades CROP Hunger Walks have raised around $300 million for CWS relief and development programs around the world and here at home. The CROP Walk theme is “Ending hunger, one step at a time.” For more information see www.churchworldservice.org.
This year's hikers included Thom Davis, Roger Doucette, Dennis Lynch, Candace Morrison, and this correspondent. After spotting vehicles at the Lincoln Woods parking area, we drove up the Kancamagus Highway to the Hancock trailhead just past the hairpin turn. Thom's vehicle was already there, as he had set out earlier to climb the Hancock peaks before joining us. It was a beautiful Indian Summer morning, and the temperature rose into the comfortable sixties during the day. We set off about 8:15 am on the Hancock Notch Trail, passing through this cautionary gate before crossing the Kanc at the hairpin turn.
In its first 1.5 mi. the Hancock Notch Trail mostly follows the grade of an 1890s J.E.Henry logging railroad.
Tropical Storm Irene opened up a bit of a view over the North Fork of the Hancock Branch, with part of Mt. Hitchcock looming above.
A ledgy stretch of the North Fork, where the Cedar Brook Trail formerly made its first crossing of this stream (now bypassed).
Roger admires some small cascades on the North Fork.
Irene wreaked some havoc on this section of trail between the first and second crossings of the North Fork.
After taking a break at the junction with Hancock Loop Trail, we continued N on the Cedar Brook Trail, which receives much less use from here on. We saw a couple of dozen hikers up to this point, and none for the rest of the day. The trail climbs to the saddle between Mt. Hancock and Mt. Hitchcock through some very wild spruce woods.
Taking a break at the height-of-land, where the trail enters the Pemigewasset Wilderness. (Photo by Dennis Lynch)
A boggy section as the trail crosses this flat divide.
At a crossing of the headwater stream of Cedar Brook, high up in the valley, Thom caught up to us following his Hancocks ascent.
Farther down the valley, the trail crosses Slide Brook, which drains from the big 1927 slide on the flank of North Hancock's north ridge. I had ascended this slide with several friends (including Mike and Roger) in 1995 en route to the peak of Northwest Hancock. There are good views from the slide, but we didn't really have time for that much of a side trip. Instead, we made a short, steep off-trail descent to an open gravel bank on the lower part of Slide Brook. I had visited this spot when I last did the Cedar Brook loop in 1998, and found an interesting view of Mt. Hitchcock and North Hitchcock.
Unfortunately, during the intervening years that view has been mostly obliterated by tree growth, so we didn't get much reward for our short side trip.
At the next brook crossing on the trail, we sought and found the site of Camp 24A, one of three logging camps operated by the Parker-Young Company when they logged the Cedar Brook valley from 1932-1945. There were quite a few artifacts to be found in the surrounding woods. (Readers should always note that it is illegal to remove such items from the WMNF; please leave them for others to find and enjoy.)
Dennis displays an interesting "what's it?" artifact.
At the actual site of the camp - a small, weedy clearing - Thom and Roger examine what might have been grating from a stove (?).
After a lunch break by Camp 24A, we continued down the valley, enjoying some great walking on a dry, leafy trailbed.
Part of a sled runner sticking up from the trail.
The trail emerged on a high, undercut bank overlooking Cedar Brook. There was some amazing damage from Irene here, both looking upstream...
...and downstream. The narrow trailbed itself has been partially undercut here. Trail adopters June Rogier and John Gutowski, who were out working their 5.5 mile (!) section just the day before, cut some saplings to widen the trail corridor in this potentially precarious spot. Thanks for all your good work on this long and remote trail, J & J!
Not far beyond here the trail turned onto the grade of the Cedar Brook spur of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad, and soon we arrived at the clearings that mark the site of Camp 24, the largest camp in this valley. Photos in Bill Gove's excellent book, J.E. Henry's Logging Railroads, show a long line of buildings along the tracks here.
There were artifacts galore at Camp 24.
Candace holds up some type of container, possibly for oil?
More "stuff" on the ground.
Roger displays an old bottle, perhaps once containing a patent medicine used by the Parker-Young loggers.
An old barrel in the middle of the camp clearing.
More items, which someone had put on display atop a mossy log.
After spending quite a while poking around Camp 24, we continued down the old railroad grade to the junction with the East Side Trail and Wilderness Trail. Thom took a side trip down the Wilderness Trail to check out the former site of the "Swinging Bridge." The rest of us took a long break here.
From the junction we could see Mt. Bond (on the R) through the trees.
After a while we headed down the East Side Trail, and followed a side path out to "Big Rock" on the East Branch of the Pemigewasset.
From this scenic spot there was a view downstream to Mt. Flume and Mt. Liberty (its top poking up on the R).
Thom, a geology professor at Bentley University, pointed out several different types of granite among the rocks strewn about the riverbed.
Roger, doing his best Spiderman imitation, scampered up the steep face of Big Rock.
We took our traditional CropWalk group photos here, this one looking upstream.
Back on the East Side Trail, we continued to the crossing of Cedar Brook, which was drastically rearranged by Irene.
The next section of trail is one of my favorites, with several beautiful ledgy spots along the East Branch.
We took another break at the Ranger's Pool, with a view downstream to Whaleback Mountain.
After passing through the gate at the Wilderness boundary, we shuffled along the gravel road through a noisy carpet of dried leaves, catching this view towards Mt. Flume from a high bank.
A mile and a half from the end, we turned onto the scenic Pine Island Trail, making a short side trip to view "The Beach" deposited by Tropical Storm Irene, with Scar Ridge in the distance. We made it out without resorting to headlamps, and enjoyed some cold beers, kindly provided by Candace, in the Lincoln Woods parking lot. Another great CropWalk in the books!