Friday, January 30, 2015


Today was a nice sunny, comfortable day for a favorite winter bushwhack to secluded Mud Pond, sequestered in spruce forest to the north of Mt. Pemigewasset. The day's itinerary also included visits to small cliffs on a spur of South Kinsman and the always enjoyable summit of Mt. Pemi itself. I was joined for most of the trip by new bushwhacking enthusiast Linda Moore.

Our approach was via the pleasant, well-maintained Mount Pemigewasset Trail from the Flume Visitor Center parking area. Not far up the trail we saw this recent excavation by a Pileated Woodpecker.

The big blizzard that hit the New England coast earlier in the week didn't drop much snow here, only a couple of inches at the lower elevations, then more as we got higher up on the trail. The trail-breaking was light with fluffy snow atop a solid old track.

Near the top of the ridge we headed north off the trail for our bushwhack to Mud Pond.

Once into the trackless woods the breaking was slow, heavy going in deep, soft, unconsolidated snow - quite a contrast to the firm conditions I'd enjoyed on a bushwhack near Mt. Moosilauke just three days earlier.

Snowshoe hare tracks. They manage to stay on top of the snow pretty well!

Most of the bushwhack to Mud Pond is through generally open woods, though things get thicker closer to the pond. The biggest challenge is finding the pond in the broad, flat saddle between a southeastern spur of South Kinsman and a nameless peak north of Mt. Pemigewasset, where all the terrain looks pretty much the same. I've been here a half-dozen times, but every trip includes a few moments of doubt and confusion.

This was Linda's third bushwhack in the last two weeks, including two with me and one with her husband, Greg. I think she's getting hooked!

After crossing over a height-of-land, we emerged at the southern end of Mud Pond.

Along the east edge of the boggy, snag-fringed pond there is a peek north at Cannon Mountain.

Adding a wild element to the scene is the trailless- steep-faced southeastern spur of South Kinsman. On two previous trips I've made a steep, strenuous bushwhack NW to ledges up there for a bird's eye view of the pond.

One of the main attractions of this remote pond is its unusual view of the high peaks of Franconia Ridge.

A happy bushwhacker!

Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln are an impressive duo from this angle.

With bright sun, temps in the twenties, and no wind, we were able to enjoy an extended break at this beautiful spot. One of my snowshoe bindings tore open during my last hike, so today I did a mix-and-match with functional 'shoes from two different pairs.

A neat ledge along the western shore.

After traversing to the north end of the pond, we headed back into the sun.

Ripples in the snow at the south end of the pond.

Heading back through the conifers south of the pond. From here Linda, who needed to hit the road south later in the afternoon, followed our tracks back out to the trailhead, while I peeled off to the west for a side trip to some lower cliffs on the South Kinsman spur, to the SW of the pond.

After slowly plowing across an extensive flat area, I climbed a slope in a flanking maneuver to get around to the top of the cliffs.

The first cliff was a steep snowy slab, the open part of which was not safely accessible.

I continued along a wooded shelf up to the top of slightly higher cliffs.

The upper cliffs were also treed-in at the top. Again, too tricky to go down to the open face with the slippery snow.

But by poking around, I did find some nice views, such as this look at Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume.

The most open view was SE to the Osceolas, Scar Ridge, Loon and Mt. Tecumseh with Mt. Pemigewasset in the foreground.

This is a unique backside perspective on Mt. Pemi.

Through the trees I could see a higher cliff well above, but getting up there in the deep soft snow would have required an epic effort. Not for today!

This part of my approach to the clifftop almost looked like a trail corridor.

There was a wild little ravine behind the cliffs.

An archway of sorts for my bushwhack route.

Open woods on the plateau below the cliffs.

I followed our tracks back to the trail and made the short climb to the summit of Mt. Pemigewasset, approaching the top late in the afternoon.

Looking south from the summit ledges.

Mount Moosilauke seen through the gap between Mt. Wolf and the Wolf Cub.

Looking over an expanse of wild country from the west ledges, just off trail but a bit precarious to access in winter.

The SE spur of South Kinsman, with the cliffs I visited shown by markers.

There are more ledges to explore up on that wild spur, but getting to them won't be easy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I wanted to get another snowshoe bushwhack in before the upcoming snowstorm ramped up the trail-breaking difficulty. Great firm conditions prevailed on a leisurely ramble to the Merrill Brook beaver ponds and 2397-ft. Bald Hill on the south ridge of Mt. Moosilauke. I had enjoyed this same snowshoe bushwhack last January. This quietly beautiful corner of the mountains has become a favorite in the last couple of years.

The road was well plowed and sanded up to parking spots at Breezy Point, which rivals Ferncroft in Wonalancet for the title of "most scenic trailhead in the Whites." From the open fields there's a view of Mt. Moosilauke's snowy crest peeking out between its South Peak (L) and East Peak (R).

Rambling across the fields, with Carr Mountain in the distance.

Breezy Point has a rich history, extending back to 1834 when Nathaniel Merrill built a farmhouse here. In 1860 the Merrill family converted the farmhouse to an inn known as Merrill’s Mountain Home, or Merrill’s Mountain House, holding about 35 guests. In 1877 the Breezy Point House, a larger inn accommodating 50 guests, was built downslope from Merrill’s. It was destroyed by fire in 1884, but in 1886 it was replaced by the 100-room Moosilauke Inn. In 1915 Merrill’s Mountain Home was itself a victim of fire, and in 1953 the Moosilauke Inn suffered the same fate after closing for the season. A smaller inn was constructed at the site, and was open into the 1980s. Breezy Point was also home to the nine-hole Moosilauke Golf Course.

From Breezy Point, I followed a familiar old logging road westward.

An interesting track pattern on the old road.

For a while I bushwhacked through open hardwoods parallel to the road. To my delight, I found superb snowshoeing conditions in the woods, with a couple inches of powder atop a solid base.

A bearing tree marking a former boundary of the White Mountain National Forest. The Forest Service acquired the Breezy Point tract from  private owners in 1995, with an assist from the Trust for Public Land.

Moose and mouse, side-by-side.

An old moss-coated antler.

After following a vague path from a turn in the logging road, I bushwhacked down to the chain of beaver bogs and ponds at the head of Merrill Brook.

It was fun wandering through these frozen wetlands.

An old beaver lodge and beaver dam at the largest and westernmost pond in the chain.

Looking across the pond at Chokecherry Hill.

The gentle climb up Bald Hill was wonderful - open woods, sunshine, and "wander at will" snow conditions. Winter whacking at is best.

I traversed a small ridgetop bog on the crest of Bald Hill.

Beech woods near the flat summit of Bald Hill.

On the northwest side of the summit is a natural meadow-like opening with a peek out to Vermont.

Then it was time to head down the broad west shoulder of Bald Hill through a magnificent open hardwood forest, reminiscent of bushwhacking in the Catskills.

This hardwood heaven is predominantly composed of maples.

The mysterious bent trees I first saw on a trip here last January. At that time I sent a similar picture to Dave Govatski, a retired forester from the WMNF and an expert on anything to do with the White Mountains. His reply was: "I suspect it was an ice storm that hit when the trees were just saplings. The tension and compression left them in a bent over position until the tree leader started to seek the sun. Then it grew up straight. Fascinating."

Farther down the shoulder I plunged into spruce forest speckled with snowy ledges. After an unsuccessful search for what I thought might be a new view ledge, I settled in for a lunch break on this ledge I had visited last year.

There's a nice view of the Killington Range on the horizon between Mt. Cube (L) and the low round dome of Sunday Mountain (R).

Smarts Mountain can be seen to the left of Cube.

I explored a couple of other random ledges, but no views were to be found here.

On the way back across I found a small opening with a peek at the snowy South Peak of Moosilauke.

I crossed a broad, gentle hardwood-cloaked drainage.

A twister of a tree (yellow birch).

Jeffers Mountain in the Benton Range glimpsed through the trees.

Climbing back up the west ridge of Bald Hill in late afternoon.

Icicles adorn a wooded ledge.

Storm clouds slowly moving in.

This little ledgy bump is the high point of Bald Hill.

Back down to the beaver pond.

Dusk at Breezy Point, looking across to Mount Kineo.

Kineo and Carr across the fields, wrapping a rewarding six-mile ramble.