Thursday, July 11, 2013


On a humid and cloudy (what else this summer) day, Carol and I headed over to Crawford Notch for a hike up to Ethan Pond, one of the nicest backcountry spots in the Whites. Even on a murky day, it's a pretty place to sit for a spell. And if the 30% chance of showers materialized, we could hunker down in the Ethan Pond Shelter.

From the parking area on a spur road, the Ethan Pond Trail starts climbing right away, first crossing the Conway Scenic Railroad tracks.

The grade eases after a stiff half-mile, leading through a lush hardwood forest.

We passed by several northbound A.T. thru-hikers, including Ned from Wales, and also met Caleb, who had been caretaking at Ethan Pond and was headed next to work at Guyot Campsite, and then Thirteen Falls. As we approached the foggy junction with the Willey Range Trail, we were serenaded by dueling Winter Wrens.

After another climb, the Ethan Pond Trail levels off on the broad height-of-land between Mt. Willey and the trailless "Ethan Ridge" to the south.

It started raining lightly about ten minutes before we reached Ethan Pond, and we were greeted by more rain and fog at the shore. We sat for a few minutes under our umbrellas, listening to a whistling chorus of White-throated Sparrows. Then the light rain became a deluge, and a rumble of thunder sent us scurrying to the shelter up in the woods behind the pond. 

We spent the better part of an hour hanging out in the shelter while it poured outside. In perusing the logbook, we discovered that Caleb, the departing caretaker, was quite a banjo player, providing evening entertainment for thru-hikers.

When the rain let up, we headed back down to the foggy shore.

Ethan Pond is a remote and peaceful place. For quite a while we just sat on some rocks and listened to the birds. In addition to the White-throated Sparrows, songsters included Common Yellowthroat, Dark-eyed Junco, and Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

A closer look at a ledge-tipped ridge west of the pond. These off-trail crags offer sweeping views over the eastern Pemi Wilderness.

The sun made a rare and brief appearance, and Mt. Willey, which looms close behind the pond, almost broke free of the clouds.

Looking across at the cliff-faced western spur ridge of Mt. Willey.

Since we were between the departing and arriving thru-hikers and caretakers, we had the pond to ourselves - a rarity in summer.

I made friends with a White Admiral.

Heading back through the mossy spruce forest typical of the eastern Pemi plateau.

On the way down, I made a side trip on the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail to 100-ft. high Ripley Falls. With all the recent rain, it was in good flow.

I crossed the brook at the foot of the falls and climbed a narrow, rooty, and rather precarious section of trail to the top of the falls.

I dropped carefully down a ledge step to the ledges at the top of the falls. Caution is needed here, as the ledges near the brink are wet and slippery. There are some good flat ledges to relax on behind the top of the falls, with a view out to the south end of the Webster Cliffs.

There are smaller cascades upstream on Avalanche Brook behind the top of Ripley Falls.

I carefully made my way to the brink of the falls for a look down. Yikes!

I headed back down to the Ethan Pond trailhead, where Carol was reading a mystery novel. We drove up through the Notch, and I took one more short hike, on the delightful Saco Lake Trail across from the Highland Center.

The sun was out up here, and there was a refreshing breeze.

I made the short climb up to the ledgy viewpoint named "Idlewild" back in the days of the Crawford House. There's a railing here, as the ledge is sloping and could be slick when wet.

Looking down to the trail from Idlewild.

The view across Saco Lake to a socked-in Mount Tom. A nice way to cap off an interesting day in Crawford Notch.

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