Monday, November 2, 2015


On a crisp and increasingly sunny fall day I enjoyed an an interesting 7-mile loop from the Champney Falls trailhead using the Bolles Trail and Champney Falls Trail with a mile-and-a-half bushwhack between that featured two great view ledges. Over the years I've found the Chocoura-Paugus area to be one of the most rewarding bushwhacking areas in the Whites, and today was no exception.

There is no longer a bridge over Twin Brook at the start of Champney Falls Trail, so I investigated the detour option using the highway bridge and an old woods road that leads to the trail on the east side of the brook.

Just beyond, I turned right on the Bolles Trail to begin the loop.

The Bolles Trail is named after the naturalist Frank Bolles, who frequented the Chocorua-Paugus area in the late 1800s and, with the help of some local Tamworth residents, reopened this historic route through the valleys between those two peaks in 1891, when he called it the "Lost Trail." A description of this undertaking is one of the chapters in his classic 1892 book, At the North of Bearcamp Water. Today it is a quiet and lovely trail, with only a fraction of the hiker traffic seen on the neighboring Champney Falls Trail.

This is the first of 10 brook crossings (9 of the main brook, one of a tributary) on this end of the Bolles Trail. There is one more double crossing that can be avoided by a herd path along the east bank. In normal water conditions most of these crossings are relatively easy.

One of many nice stream vignettes along the trail.

Some late beech color well up into the Twin Brook valley.

A beechwood corridor leads up to the nameless pass between Chocorua and Paugus.

A short bushwhack to an outcrop on the west side of the pass revealed a fine view of Mount Chocorua and the First and Middle Sisters. The next ledge objective is seen under the summit of Chocorua.

Zoom on Chocorua.

I took a break in the sun on this projecting perch.

Looking northeast down the Twin Brook valley to the Moat Range and Big Attitash Mountain.

A closer look at the Moats.

An over-the-treetops view of the Ossipee Range to the south.

Back down on the trail through the pass, I found the third of three geocaches placed on the north leg of the Bolles Trail. These aren't logged too frequently!

The trail through the pass. When Frank Bolles and friends came through in 1891, they found this broad saddle strewn with "tangled masses of wrecked forest," due to a severe hurricane. Through the pass they battled through the "harricane" damage, in local parlance. So perhaps this major gap in the Sandwich Range could unofficially be called "Harricane Pass."

Just to the east of the trail was this high swamp-meadow.

The bushwhack across the saddle was beset with numerous thickets of hobblebush, or "tangle-foot," as it was called by Bolles' companion, Nathaniel Berry. The photo below shows a welcome respite from the brushy cross-country travel.

I passed by this interesting boulder field.

After an hour I reached "Paugus View Ledge," one of my favorite spots in the mountains. This huge granite slab perched on a hanging spur of Chocorua offers an intimate view of the Paugus Brook valley and Mount Paugus. This was my ninth or tenth time here in the last two decades. On various previous trips I've brought several different friends and my wife, Carol, to this marvelous spot.

A western spur of Chocorua guards the other side of the valley.

Wild cliffs on a northern spur of Mount Paugus.

Mounts Hancock and Carrigain to the north.

Mount Passaconaway peers over to the right of Paugus.

What a ledge! This slab shows erosion channels similar to what our group saw on the Mount Paugus view ledge a week earlier.

On the other side of this spur there's a view into the hidden uppermost basin of Paugus Brook below First Sister and Chocorua.

The rocky dome of First Sister.

Heading up to the next view ledge, on a high NW shoulder of Chocorua, I stayed on the crest for a ways, but dense spruce prompted me to drop down the slope into hardwood forest.

Even the hardwoods were no picnic. I engaged in an extended wrestling match through this hobblebush haven.

Another welcome stretch of open woods. Nice feeling of remoteness back in here.

I caught a glimpse of the spruce-topped bluff where I was headed.

More hobblebush mixed into a birch forest.

A bit of scrubby scrambling lifted me to the flank of the view ledge.

And on to its top.

A jumble of peaks to the north.

As with many Chocorua viewspots, there is a wonderful vista of the wild peaks of the Sandwich Range to the west.

The 4000-footers of the Sandwich Range: Whiteface, Passaconaway and the Tripyramids.

After soaking in the views, I headed back into the woods and whacked along a broad ridge to the Champney Falls Trail at one of its switchbacks. I've traversed this ridge a number of times with deep snowpack, and it seemed a whole lot brushier from ground level.

An opening amidst the hobblebush.

A moose path meanders through fallen ferns.

On the way back down Champney Falls Trail, I took the steep but very scenic side loop past the falls, admiring this rock overhang near the top.

The upper part of Champney Falls.

The lower Champney Falls, in good flow after the previous day's rain.

One last cascade at the bottom, then it was time to hustle out and finish the loop before dark.