Wednesday, September 21, 2016


On another fine sunny day I hiked from the Kanc Highway up to Hancock Notch - the broad gap between Mt. Hancock and Mt. Huntington - via the Sawyer River and Hancock Notch Trails. I wanted to check out the Tropical Storm Irene damage at the Sawyer River crossings, and also the brushing situation on the notoriously overgrown section of Hancock Notch Trail east of the Notch. Between the efforts of the Saco Ranger District trail crew and dedicated volunteers, the trail is now well-brushed all the way to the Notch. It's a fine walk, rough near the top, through some really wild country. Along the way I enjoyed some unique views from a favorite off-trail beaver pond.

Near the start the Sawyer River Trail passes this fine ledgy cascade and pool on the Swift River.

Low water at the Swift River crossing. This can be a tough one.

Fall is on the way!

Snowmobile bridge over Meadow Brook.

Bog along Meadow Brook.

Easy walking along the grade of the old Sawyer River Railroad.

Lots of wetlands through here.

Beaver pond reached by a short bushwhack off Sawyer River Trail, looking across to an eastern spur ridge of Mt. Huntington.


Beyond the wetlands, the trail traverses a beautiful stretch of woodlands.

Trail junction at a spot called Hayshed Field.

The Sawyer River, looking downstream.

Looking upstream to Mt. Carrigain.

Another nice spot along the river, just off this first pleasant section of Hancock Notch Trail.

Nice easy walkin'.

Part one of the two-part initial crossing of the river.

Nice color looking downstream.

Sand and stony rubble left by Irene between the two parts of this crossing.

Looking downstream from the second part of the crossing. This area was rearranged by Irene.

Recent brushing work by volunteers Bill Tarkulich and James Murray has resulted in a clear corridor. Thank you!

Major Irene damage at the second crossing of Sawyer River on Hancock Notch Trail, by the confluence with the river's south branch.

On the far side the trail scrambles up a steep slope of gravel and rock, as shown under the "V."

Washed-out bank.

Looking down from the high bank at the trail crossing.

As it climbs for a quarter mile along the major south branch of the river, the trail crosses several jumbles of Irene debris. The destruction along this remote tributary is amazing.

The trail crosses several of these rubbly areas.


No issues where the trail crosses the south branch.

A beaver meadow beside the trail.

The lovely beaver pond that I bushwhacked to. I'd been here several times before, but probably not for 15 or 20 years.

View of "Juno Peak" and South Hancock.

Closer look.

From the south end of the pond, I enjoyed a unique view of South Hancock (on the left) and the mountain's lofty east ridge.

The east ridge is notable for the two glacial cirques on its south side.

Two more beaver ponds are hidden away on the floor of the eastern cirque, far from any trail.

The wild hump of Juno Peak, which forms the north side of Hancock Notch.

Since the trail was in such good shape, I decided to continue up to Hancock Notch. This is the third crossing of the Sawyer River.

Wild spruce woods heading up towards Hancock Notch.

The trail is rough as it ascends to the top of the Notch.

A glimpse of the talus on Mt. Huntington from the east end of the Notch.

Farther along, a peek at the Huntington talus from a spot just off-trail.

Endless spruce woods line the broad floor of the Notch and the valleys on either side.

Hancock Notch sitting rock.

Deep, wild country.

Great brushing work by the Saco Ranger District trail crew, creating a nice clear passage. They spent five days up here. What a change! When my good friend Mike Dickerman checked this trail for the guidebook five years ago, he couldn't even see his feet through the encroaching branches.

Evening light on the trailside beaver meadow.

Golden light and storm destruction on the south branch.

Dusk at a beaver swamp along the Sawyer River Trail.


  1. Oh, those photos of South Hancock and the southern cirques are stunning! The "Osceola bug" bit me a few weeks ago, but I want to visit Hancock again, now! Thanks, Steve!

    1. Hi Dennis - I thought of you when admiring that view, figured you would like that angle!