Thursday, July 30, 2015

MOUNT HALE: 7/28/15

On a warm, sunny day my brother Drew and I climbed the long-abandoned but well-used Firewarden's Trail to the summit of Mount Hale (4054 ft.). This is a scenic "back-door" approach to the nearly viewless summit, passing through seemingly endless glades of white birch that grew up after a massive 1903 forest fire. On the way down I veered off-trail to a ledge with a long view up the Little River valley.

We started off with a 0.8 mile stroll up the North Twin Trail on the bed of the Little River logging railroad, which operated in this valley for a few years in the 1890s.

At the first river crossing we continued on the heavily-used unofficial path that bypasses the first two crossings, enjoying some nice views of the Little River. After crossing a side stream we reached the point where you hop up onto the Firewarden's Trail..

I've been on the Firewarden's Trail several times over the years. It was once a tractor road that served the fire tower atop Mount Hale, at which time it was known as the Mount Hale Trail and was described in the AMC White Mountain Guide. The lower part leads through fine hardwood forest.

A beautiful, mellow woods climb.

Before long we began ascending through the birch glades for which the trail is locally famous. Years ago the abandoned trail was "rediscovered" by backcountry skiers, and has become fairly well-known among hikers as well.

This is one of the largest birch stands in the Whites.

After hiking the rough Hi-Cannon Trail to Cannon Mountain the day before, Drew was enjoying the mellow grade, good footing and gorgeous forest.

The birches extend to nearly 3600 ft. in elevation!

Then there is a quick transition to a high-elevation softwood forest of mainly balsam fir.

A corridor through the conifers.

One of the old poles that held up the warden's telephone line.

Old barrels rusting in the woods near the mountain's northern subsidiary summit.

Drew on his 30th NH 4000-foot summit!

The big summit cairn is known for its magnetic rocks, always fun to test with your compass.  The views are now almost completely gone on Hale's summit. If you stand atop the cairn you can barely see the tippy-tops of Mount Willey and the Twins. Under a broiling sun we searched in vain for a geocache located here.

The fire tower was built in 1928, abandoned in 1948, and dismantled in 1972.

A weather-beaten USGS reference mark.

On the way down I investigated this clearing off the trail, which looked like a possible old logging camp site.

A moose had bedded down here.

Drew waits beside a tall stand of hobblebush.

Drew then continued down while I birch-whacked up to a familiar ledge on the west ridge.

A fine perch!

The ledge offers an unusual view far up the remote Little River valley. A few years ago my bushwhacking friend John "1HappyHiker" Compton bushwhacked all the way up to the head of the valley and up to the ridge between Mount Guyot and South Twin. I've used this valley three times for winter ascents of Zealand Mountain. It's a marvelous area for whacking.

Mount Guyot at the head of the valley. Zealand Mountain on the left and spurs of the Twin Range on the right.

South and North Twin across the valley.

A nice spot to hang out in the sun for a few minutes.

Marvelous birch-and-fern glades behind the ledges.

Evening light on the lower Firewarden's Trail.

An upstream view of the Little River. It was a great day on the birch-wooded slopes of Mount Hale.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

MORNING RAMBLES, 7/23 & 7/24/15

On two mornings last week I enjoyed interesting morning hikes before opening the store.


A mellow 4-mile round trip off Tripoli Road leads to this small, shallow and secluded pond. For 0.8 mile the Little East Pond Trail follows the old grade of the Woodstock & Thornton Gore logging railroad. Good walking through hardwood and birch.

Little East Pond is tucked in under the wild, shaggy slopes of Scar Ridge. It doesn't look far up to the ridge from here, but it is a tough, scrappy bushwhack.

Ledges adorning the peak of Middle Scar Ridge.  I've been to the summit of Middle Scar twice, but not to these ledges. We were traversing the whole ridge both times and didn't have time for what looked like a steep and thick side trip. On a winter trip the snow was deep enough so we got the view down to the pond from the summit area. There's a good view ledge looking SE on the third knob heading towards East Scar. 

A short bushwhack led to a nice spot to relax and take in the scene at the pond.

A wonderfully gnarled old red maple.

The sun came out and brightened the view at one of my favorite White Mountain ponds.


The next morning I enjoyed a leisurely bushwhack partway up Stark Falls Brook in Kinsman Notch. The falls for which the brook was named is a lovely spot, not far from the road.

This brook is a long-running "cascade event," one coming soon after another. Neighboring Beaver Brook is steep and spectacular. Stark Falls Brook is mellow and mossy. They are equally beautiful.

An old mossy log in the streamside forest.

More cascades....

Much of the way I clambered up the rocky bed of the brook.

The "X" cascade.

With limited time, I turned around at this fine cascade and pool. Click here for an account of an exploration farther up the brook last summer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


With showers forecasted to move in mid to late afternoon, I opted for a leisurely shorter hike on the west slopes of North Kinsman, visiting two notable features - Kinsman Flume and Bald Peak - plus a couple of off-trail cascades.

This old sugarhouse is a familiar landmark 0.6 mile in on the Mount Kinsman Trail.

  Near the first brook crossing is the former site of Kinsman Cabin, built in 1937 to serve backcountry skiers and removed in the 1980s. From here the Kinsman Ski Trail ascended to Kinsman Ridge between the Middle and South Cannon Balls.

Some rock work can still be seen at the site.

I always stop to admire this massive old yellow birch beside the trail, a "warrior tree."

 The Mount Kinsman Trail is well-cared for by adopter Bruce Richards.

This lovely cascade spot along the trail was called "Mossy Falls Brook" in early AMC guidebooks.

Fine rock step work at the crossing of Flume Brook, placed during a multi-day project in September 2013 by the Trailwrights volunteer maintenance group. More rock steps are in the works, possibly later this summer.

A small sign marks the side path down to the Kinsman Flume.

The side trail provides a couple of glimpses down into the flume from the brink. Caution advised!

This was originally called Howland's Flume, after its discoverer, and was a popular natural attraction in the late 1800s. This stereoview by the Littleton (NH) View in the digital collection of the New York Public Library. Kris Pastoriza of Easton clued me in on the stereoview. She wrote much about the history of the Easton valley as part of the nomination for the Ham Branch watershed into the New Hampshire Rivers Management and Protection Program. An interesting article about the flume was published in 1880 in the White Mountain Echo, a popular tourist newspaper.

I reached the bottom of Kinsman Flume via a short but steep and thick bushwhack.

Looking down Flume Brook from the bottom of the flume.

The flume seen from the top, standing in the bed of Flume Brook.

New trail signs at the Bald Peak spur junction.

Passing through a stand of dead trees on the Bald Peak spur trail.

Ledgy walking.

North Kinsman looms above the expansive ledges of Bald Peak (2470 ft.), one of the best lower elevation destinations in the Whites.

Looking towards the Cannon Balls.

The south view to Mount Moosilauke, Mount Clough and the Benton Range.

The classic profile of Moosilauke seen from the north. Hazy sun and a pleasant breeze encouraged a long stay on the ledges.

On the way down I bushwhacked to some cascades along a brook above the Mount Kinsman Trail.

More cascades.

And another.

A nice place to relax for a few minutes.

A shallow pothole.

One of the biggest galls I've ever seen.

On a whim, I followed an unmarked mountain bike trail for part of the descent. This made many switchbacks and meanderings through open hemlock woods before crossing the lower Mount Kinsman Trail. I got out just before late day showers arrived, and dodged raindrops to grab a few geocaches along Rt. 116.