Thursday, May 9, 2019

Black Mountain Ledges Loop: 5/8/19

A trail-and-bushwhack loop from the Smarts Brook trailhead to off-trail view ledges on the lower Black Mountain (Sandwich Dome). A gorgeous spring day with lots to see: cascades, beaver meadows, hardwood expanses, wide vistas and a few early wildflowers. And not a speck of snow in sight.

On the way in I hiked over the Love Connection mountain bike trail, currently unofficial but soon to be brought into the WMNF trail system. It's a really nice trail, but hikers must be alert and prepared to yield to oncoming mountain bikers. Didn't see any bikers this day.

A spur path at the top of a nameless knoll leads to a nice view of Welch-Dickey and ridges of Mt. Tecumseh.

Welch-Dickey, zoomed.

Town boundary between Thornton and Sandwich, also between Grafton and Carroll Counties.

This slightly off-trail cascade on Smarts Brook was rocking.

This sled runner (a protected artifact) has long been on display near the site of a 1920s logging camp beside the Smarts Brook Trail.

Site of the logging camp.

Rusting remnant.

West end of the Smarts Brook beaver pond/meadow.

Beavers have temporarily abandoned the main pond, which has drained and dried. Black Mountain, my objective for the day, is seen on the left.

I left the trail and bushwhacked up a valley along a nameless tributary, passing by numerous attractive small cascades. The brook was in good flow after the previous day's rain.

More cascades.

The bottom of a pretty waterslide.

An entertaining route.

Approaching the largest cascade on the brook.

Side view.


Land of hardwood giants at the base of Black Mountain.

Hardwood heaven.

When a tree falls....

Bent but not broken.


Pileated Woodpecker art.

Headwall of the drainage.

View of Stinson Mountain from a little meadowy spot near the ridgecrest.

Picturesque drainage.

Up here, the trees have character.

A very steep conifer whack up to the view ledges.

Crystal-clear visibility, looking south to the Squam Range and the Campton Range. It was clear enough to see Mt. Monadnock on the horizon.

Looking across the big ledge to the east end of Sandwich Notch.

Nice perspective on the Campton Range. I could trace the route of my bushwhack loop there two days earlier.

The Weetamoos with Upper Hall Pond nestled at their base.

After some thick and prickly whacking I found a clifftop with an easterly view across lowlands of the Sandwich Range Wilderness to Mt. Israel and the Ossipee Range.

Nice expanse of wild country out there.

An ancient, wide-spreading spruce.

A weathered black cherry seen while bushwhacking down a spur ridge.

Ruffed Grouse, living up to its name.

The ridge is dotted with little meadows.

One meadow even has a view.

Dropping into a drainage with a fine stand of white ash.

Fresh moose scraping.

Last spring I searched unsuccessfully in this glade for Dutchman's Breeches, uncommon in the Whites, which prefers an "enriched" hardwood forest. This time I found a patch right in the brook that drains the mini-valley, with flower buds just forming.

I've never seen a burl quite like this.

Approaching an old beaver pond along the inlet brook.

Still some water left, not recommended for drinking.

After some searching, I found an unusual glade of white ash at the base of wooded cliffs, which I had stumbled on last spring. I had seen Dutchman's Breeches foliage here, but the flowers had gone by. Hoped to find some blooms this visit.

Red Trilliums were blooming.


One of the neatest wildflowers of the Northeastern woods.

The Dutchman's view of the glade.

High cascade dropping towards a beaver meadow.

Beaver meadow from above.

Ground-level view of the meadow, just inside the Wilderness boundary.

Along the return route, evening sun on Atwood Pond.

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