Thursday, July 21, 2016


After having viewed the Pilot Range from Mt. Crescent and Mt. Jasper recently, it was time to spend a day up north wandering the wilds of The Kilkenny, trekking out to Rogers Ledge, one of the great remote viewing perches in the White Mountains.

On the way to the trailhead, I stopped for a look at the Devil's Slide rising above the Stark Covered Bridge.

 I also paid a quick visit to Christine Lake, with its watery view to South Percy Peak and Victor Head.

The beach (groomed every day) at the WMNF South Pond Recreation Area, where the gate is open 10 am-8 pm. No fee for day hikers. After hours, add a 1.1 mile up-and-down road walk each way.

There's magic in that name. One of my all-time favorite trails, home to some of the most beautiful woods in the Whites.

The first 0.2 mile of the trail is graded gravel and universally accessible.

 There are several views of Location Hill across the water.

At 0.7 mile I turned onto the Devil's Hopyard Trail. It had been quite a few years since I last visited this wild gorge.

The deceptively easy first part of the Devil's Hopyard Trail parallels Devil's Hopyard Stream.

The Hopyard is a wild tumble of slippery, mossy boulders enclosed by steep slopes and lofty rock walls.

A fractured rock face.

The trail through the Hopyard is slow going navigating the slick rocks, especially when damp in the morning. A junior version of Gorham's Ice Gulch. I had forgotten how strenuous this short little trail is.

A sheared-off rock wall near the end of the trail.

Just around the corner the trail ends under this impressive rock face.

Looking back from the trail's terminus.

"End of Trail" sign.

Back on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, which threads many attractive corridors through the forest.

Into the spruces.

Wild spruce woods cloak the northern slopes of Rogers Ledge. The trail boasts a real "out there" feeling. I saw no one beyond the Devil's Hopyard Trail, including a two-hour sojourn at the ledge.

Ferny birch glades are a trademark of the Kilkenny uplands, thanks to a huge 1903 forest fire..

 Fields of ferns.

Spacious woods.

A trail to savor. 

On the final approach to the summit.

The granite shelf at Rogers Ledge offers a sweeping view over the Kilkenny wilds. The Horn and The Bulge rise behind the long crest of Unknown Pond Ridge.

Looking west to the long chain of trailless peaks in the Pilot Range.

I went down on the west side to see the profile of "Rogers's dog," discovered by Cohos Trail founder Kim Nilsen. Can you see it?

The view east to the Mahoosuc Range beyond little Round Mountain.

A hazy view of the distant Presidentials.

The Crescent and Carter-Moriah Ranges sprawl beyond nearby Deer Ridge.

Looking down.

Tiny Kilback Pond nestles beneath the birch-clad slopes of Unknown Pond Ridge. The Kilkenny Ridge Trail passes by the pond.

Time passes quickly on this marvelous granite shelf.

This plaque was placed in 1965 after this peak was renamed, removing its former offensive name. The campaign to change the name was led by the Rt. Rev. Robert McConnell Hatch, an avid explorer of The Kilkenny.

 Forest Service benchmark on the true summit.

This post, placed in 1976, marks the Stark/Kilkenny town boundary.

Stark side.

Kilkenny side.

On the way back I bushwhacked through lonesome woods to a bog in the saddle between Rogers Ledge and Square Mountain.

A moose path led down to the edge of the bog.

I found a partial profile of the huge south-facing cliff on Square Mountain. A few years ago my friend John "1HappyHiker" Compton found an impressive full view of Square's cliff from another bog-meadow a short distance away. His report is here. I had hoped to visit that one too, but was running out of time to make it back before the South Pond gate closed.

Evening sun dapples the trail.

 An evening view of Long Mountain from the shore of South Pond.

Parting shot of Location Hill. I made it back to my car at 7:43, with a few minutes to spare before the gate closed.

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