Saturday, November 28, 2015


Carol and I spent the morning and early afternoon of Thanksgiving Day visiting some beautiful spots on the southeast side of the mountains while logging 11 geocaches. This brought Carol's total to the milestone of 900 caches found!

Our first stop was the recently opened trail system in the Albany Town Forest, where we found this view of the wide-open Swift River and South Moat Mountain.

This fine spot is only 0.2 mile from the trailhead parking area via the Crossover Trail.

We walked out and back along the western half of the Swift River Trail, enjoying more watery vistas.

New signage at a trail junction.

This map of trails in the town forest is on a kiosk at the trailhead, on the Kancamagus Highway about 0.7 mile west of the Saco Ranger Station.

Our next walk was a short one down a woods road to the shore of mostly undeveloped Whitton Pond in Albany, where we found this geocache.

Whitton Pond.

Our longest and best walk of the day was at the wonderful Frank Bolles Preserve, starting at the Hammond Trail trailhead on the south side of Mount Chocorua.

Nice signage provided by the Nature Conservancy and the Chocorua Lake Conservancy.

Descending off an esker (a narrow ridge deposited by glacial meltwater) en route to Heron Pond.

The lovely Heron Pond, also called Lonely Lake. It was the subject of a chapter in the 1893 book, At the North of Bearcamp Water, by the naturalist Frank Bolles. The low ridge of Bickford Heights can be seen in the back.

The water level in this glacial kettle pond fluctuates dramatically. Today it was very low....

...making it easy to explore along the exposed shoreline.

We used a temporary land bridge to access a geocache uniquely placed on what is usually a small island.

For the last geocache of the day, and Carol's 900th, we headed south along the Heron Pond Trail. These trails provide easy and exceptionally pleasant walking.

We headed down the Lake Trail with a new friend.

The milestone cache was near this giant white pine.

As reported by hiking columnist Ed Parsons in the Conway Daily Sun, this has been measured as the second tallest white pine in New Hampshire, 144 feet tall with a circumference of 165 inches at chest height.

The Lake Trail continues to a spot on the NW side of Chocorua Lake.

Looking south across the water.

On the way back I paid another quick visit to Heron Pond. From this spot I could see the southern spurs of Mount Chocorua; the summit was in the clouds.

Pine tree reflections.

Gnarled oaks along the shore. A special place.

Friday, November 27, 2015


After admiring the rocky summit of Mount Chocorua from several directions recently, it was time to go to the top and look in wonder at the view from that magnificent lofty perch. I decided to use the Liberty Trail for the ascent, as there are six geocaches and a puzzle geocache along the trail, and I hadn't been all the way up this route in a while. The Brook/Liberty or Bolles/Bee Line/Brook/Liberty loop options were appealing, but I figured there could be some dangerous icy sections on the steep upper ledge on the Brook Trail. So Liberty it was, up and back.

The first mile of the trail is mostly through a fine hardwood forest.

Impressive twin oaks beside the trail, the site of the first geocache.

Another big oak.

Good footing on this section.

I rummaged around and found this rusted shovel blade at the site of the old Halfway House by the crossing of Durrell Brook. Perhaps it was used by the stable hands who tended to horses here.

The crossing of Durrell Brook, a relatively small stream.

Mini-cascades farther up along Durrell Brook.

This well-constructed trail was once used as a bridle path to access the Peak House (1892-1915) below the summit.

One of the six geocaches I snagged on the way up.

Rock steps line a mucky stretch.

Higher up, the trail passes through tall Chocorua spruces.

Trail junction on the ridge.

A sunny section along the west side of the ridge.

An impressive look at the cone of Chocorua from ledges up to the right of the trail.

Flurries over the Sandwich Range.

The classic view of Jim Liberty Cabin, located at the site of the Peak House. Photos of the Peak House in the early 1900s show this area - burned in a fire about 1815 - as mostly bare rock. The trees have made a remarkable comeback in the last century.

A brief history of the cabin.

Interior view. There are nine bunks.

The cabin is securely anchored to the ledges. The Peak House, which was much more exposed, was blown off the mountainside in a 1915 storm.

Parts of the Liberty Trail along the upper ledges were blasted out to make the ascent easier for guests of the Peak House.

Ledges, ledges, and more ledges.

Steeply sloping slabs along the trail. The iron bar is probably a remnant of wooden walkways that once aided the ascent for hikers.

Looking down on the south peak, which the Liberty Trail crosses, with Chocorua, Silver and Ossipee Lakes beyond.

Peering down into the valleys of Claybank and Durrell Brooks.

Rugged terrain above the Liberty Trail, which hugs the south side of the cone.

An outstanding view ledge alongside the trail.

A basalt dike that intruded into the predominating granite, at the Liberty/Brook Trail junction.

Where the two major southwestern routes up the mountain meet.

In case you miss the sign...

Sun and clouds on the Sandwich Range.

Heading for the summit.

Steep and rocky, with a few ice flows adding to the fun.

The junction right below the summit.

The gully scramble that leads to the top.

A lone hiker and his friend hunker down under the summit. The breeze from the north was chilly!

The weathered summit benchmark.

Looking north to the Three Sisters, stormy in the distance.

The Chocorua River valley, Cow Rock, the Hammond Trail ridge, and the eastern lakes. Legend holds that the chief Chocorua leapt to his death from Cow Rock.

Carter Ledge and another angle on Cow Rock.

Alien landing #1.

Looking towards Carrigain.

A classic blustery November day.

Alien landing #2.

It's cold, it's late, time to head down!