Wednesday, October 7, 2015


After last week's Hellgate Brook/West Bond slide exploration, I was eager to return for some more wandering in the Franconia Brook valley, deep in the western Pemigewasset Wilderness. Today's plan was to do a bushwhack loop to visit the southern two of the four talus slopes that spot the eastern flank of Owl's Head Mountain.  I had been to one of these rock patches twice in the '90s; the other would be a new spot. Both promised great views across the valley to the Bond Range with some good foliage, hopefully, on the valley floor.

It was a brisk walk up the Lincoln Woods Trail, with quick stops at mile 1.7 for looks at West Bond...

...and Bondcliff.

More mountain views along the way...Mount Flume from the Franconia Brook bridge...

...and the southern end of Owl's Head from a beaver meadow beside the bypass section of Franconia Brook Trail, 4 miles in.

Stove pieces from J.E. Henry's Camp 9. I owe thanks to logging railroad enthusiasts Ray Caron and Beth Zimmer for beta on this; I had always assumed that the Camp 9 location had been submerged by beaver activity.

More remnants from the Camp 9 site.

I made a short side excursion to a beaver swamp along Camp 9 Brook, surrounded by tall white pines.

Red maple leaves carpeted this section of the Franconia Brook Trail, following the arrow-straight bed of J.E. Henry's early 1900s logging railroad.

Morning sun illuminated the foliage by this beaver pond at the base of the western spur of Bondcliff.

After crossing Hellgate Brook, I briefly poked around the site of Camp 10, finding this piping that was apparently part of a water system.

Another section of piping runs through a small drainage right across the trail.

I left the trail a half-mile north of Camp 10 and headed across to Franconia Brook. Near the stream I crossed what looked to be a railbed. A couple of weeks ago Beth Zimmer and Ray Caron walked/bushwhacked the entire route of the spur line that wrapped around the south side of Owl's Head, "inside" Franconia and Lincoln Brooks. To their surprise, on the upper east end the line continued some distance north of the Camp 10 site, which did not correspond to the logging railroad maps that have been published. They concluded that the spur line crossed Franconia Brook well north of Camp 10 and then looped back to join the main line. If this photo and the one below it are indeed depicting a railbed, it would substantiate their theory.

Franconia Brook is a big and beautiful backcountry stream.

Part of the Owl's Head ridge rises behind a display of foliage.

More foliage and Owl's Head.

Looking north, skies were cloudy and remained that way all day. From this spot I could see talus slope #2 on the flank of Owl's Head.

I used my crocs to cross the brook here, as there were not many good stepping stones.

A restful scene, looking back from the west bank.

I proceeded to bushwhack up the east slope of Owl's Head through mostly open hardwoods.

A beautiful glade as I approached the vicinity of talus slope #1 (the southernmost).

Gorgeous maple forest at 2600 ft.

After crossing a drainage I emerged in the sun on talus slope #1.

The view down the Franconia Brook valley was excellent, with the Hancocks, Hitchcocks and Osceolas in the distance.

I carefully made my way up and across the rocks - some of which were loose, others secure - to a perch with a magnificent vista across the valley to West Bond and Bondcliff.

A closer look at that storied duo in the heart of the Pemi.

This spot is well-placed for a fine view of Mount Guyot and the slide-scarred southern cirque at the head of Redrock Brook.

Looking back across the slope.

This century-old sled road was invaluable for the traverse northward across the slope to talus slope #2. Otherwise I would have been floundering through some steep and rough terrain.

I came out at the scrubby upper southern corner of the slope.

I picked my way down to the top of the main rock field, which had a completely open view across the valley.

A down-look to the Franconia Brook valley floor.

A commanding viewpoint, with a sweep all the way around to Scar Ridge. It was as great as I remembered from my previous visits.

West Bond, Bondcliff and Hancock.

The crags of Bondcliff rising above the twisting valley of Hellgate Brook.

A terrific profile of the Bond Range.

The blunt rounded humps of Galehead Mountain and Southwest Twin rise to the north. North and South Twin are also visible from here, but were smothered in cloud.

The upper half of the whack down from talus slope #2 was steep and rocky, then it segued into open hardwoods for the lower half.

Franconia Brook, well upstream from my earlier crossing.

A peek at the profile of the SE cliff of Owl's Head.

Redrock Brook, looking downstream from the trail crossing.

USGS benchmark on the bank of Redrock Brook.

The last rays of the sun light up the west spur of Bondcliff at the beaver pond just north of the Lincoln Brook Trail junction. Another great day in the Pemi!

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