Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thornton Gore History Hike

Walked a couple miles up Tripoli Road, then bushwhacked another couple of miles along the historic Thornton Gore Road, up on the slope north of Tripoli Road. Visited the sites of six farmsteads from the Thornton Gore hill farm community, which was in existence from 1804 to 1900 and peaked in the mid-1800s. The Gore area encompassed 2,600 acres and included 22 hill farm sites. By 1850, 1,100 acres had been cleared for crops, orchards or pasture. Major products included potatoes, wool, maple sugar and butter. In the 1890s the NH Land Company bought most of the farm sites up for timberland, and the area was heavily logged by the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad from 1909-1914. Please note that all artifacts are protected by law and should not be disturbed. For a summary of the history of Thornton Gore, visit

Walking Tripoli is pleasant when there is no traffic.

The bed of Thornton Gore Road is still obvious after a century of abandonment, but it is a bushwhack in many places due to blowdowns, beech saplings, mucky spots and brushy logging cuts.

Some sections are more open.

These stone steps lead up from the road to the Peter Merrill homestead, probably built in the 1850s.

Cellar hole of the Peter Merrill farmstead, one of several Merrill properties along this section of the road. Most of the information on these farmsteads comes from a very detailed Registration Form for the National Register of Historic Places, prepared by Justine B. Gengras in 1988. Currently Thornton Gore is not listed on the Register.

This stone reads "DIV LINE" and presumably was a boundary marker.

Just around the corner is the John Merrill farmstead site. He was the patriarch of the Merrill family, buying this land in 1805. It was inherited and farmed by his son Joshua. The aforementioned Peter Merrill was another son of John Merrill.

The outline of a barn foundation.

A rusted mowing machine rests beside the road.

A tin of lard compound from N.K. Fairbank & Co.

Stone walls are ubiquitous along the Thornton Gore Road.

This wall is now partly submerged.

A nice open stretch of the road.

The David Merrill site is on a spur road to the north.

This stone well still holds water.

The cellar hole at the Joseph Wilcomb homestead.

This well is very deep!

The Wilcomb site is on a farm road that parallels Thornton Gore Road.

This is one of two cellar holes at the extensive Edmund Merrill farmstead,originally occpupied by his father, Daniel. In 1877, two AMC explorers, F. W. Clarke and Gaetano Lanza, left their horse and buggy here - it was then the last occupied residence along the road - and proceeded on foot to climb Scar Ridge via a then-prominent slide on its south slope. (For more on this trip,

The documentation suggests that these bricks may be the remains of a hearth for a blacksmith forge.

This is a photo of the abandoned Edmund Merrill farmhouse in the early 1900s. It was called the "Hurricane House" because it had been twisted by the force of high winds. This photo and several others appear in a chapter on Thornton Gore in the book "Walks & Climbs in the White Mountains," written by Karl Pomeroy Harrington, one of the principal AMC trail-builders of the early 1900s:

 I continued another half-mile on the road, following the footsteps of Clarke and Lanza, gaining a glimpse of Scar Ridge long the way.

Beyond Mack Brook, the last farmstead in the valley, the McDermid site, was abandoned after 1860. In the 1930s, the Tripoli CCC camp was built over the site. This is one of the foundations from the CCC camp, which is now a major car camping location.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Dickey Notch Ramble: 4/23/20

Low-elevation bushwhacking featuring open hardwoods and good views up on Cone Mountain.

Scene on the floor of Dickey Notch.

Encrusted boulder.

Big slab.


Approaching a ridgecrest.

Monolith in the forest.

Steep climb.

Northward panorama of snow-tipped peaks.

 Scar Ridge.

Franconia Range.

 Dickey and Welch.

 Sprawling Sandwich Dome.

 Summit ledge and cairn on Cone Mountain.

Old slides on Scar Ridge. Two in the Mack Brook drainage on the left, probably from the 1950s. One remaining open patch in the drainage of Little East Pond Brook on the right. This slide was ascended by two AMC explorers in 1877, who gave the mountain its name. It is almost entirely revegetated today.

Looks like a good owl nesting tree.

Bear tree.

Evening light in the hardwoods.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Spring Scenes

In April, south-facing and snow-free is a good place to be. Stay safe!

Carol and I did a five-mile loop on hiking trails and unofficial mountain bike trails in the Smarts Brook area. This gnarled old yellow birch overlooks a tiny tributary stream.

Shaggy bark on a red (?) maple.

Nice woods walking.

Black Mountain in the distance.

Local resident.

Cascade on Smarts Brook.

Another trek took me on a 7-mile lollipop loop through Dickey Notch and over Fisher Mountain. The beaver ponds in Dickey Notch have seen some recent activity.

Beavers at work.

Beautiful hardwood stand in Dickey Notch.

A pool in the forest.

The Brown Ash Swamp Mountain Bike Trail, aka Dickey Notch Trail. In the 1930s and early 1940s there was a maintained hiking trail through the notch.

From the far end of Dickey Notch, I bushwhacked up the Shattuck Brook valley. For a time I believe I was following the ghost of the old WMNF Shattuck Brook Trail, which led partway up the valley and was abandoned in the 1940s.

Shattuck Brook, well up into the valley.

Hardwoods on the south slope of Fisher Mountain.

Open forest.

Wander at will.

Carpeted with club moss.

Many interesting rocks seen along the way.


Rock shelves.

I bushwhacked to a couple of view ledges around the flat, scrubby summit, stepping carefully to minimize trampling of lichens. A Turkey Vulture was soaring over Tecumseh.


Sandwich Dome and the back side of Dickey Mountain.

Haselton Brook valley and the many southern spurs of Mt. Tecumseh. In the late 1800s this was called the "Elkins Fisher," after the Elkins Farm at its base, to distinguish it from "Middle Fisher" (now called Hogback Mountain) and "Fisher Mountain," which is now a nameless SW spur of Green Mountain. An early ascent of today's Fisher was made by guidebook Moses Sweetser around 1875: "The Fisher-Mt route is entered directly from the Elkins farm by crossing long upland pastures and traversing a belt of tangled forest. Then the tourist attacks the bare white ledges of Fisher Mt., whose summit is reached after an hour's breathless clambering. Pleasant views are opened in the S. and W., and in advance is the white crest of Tecumseh."

Still some snow on the Franconias. In 1877, AMC member F.W. Clarke (who gave the three Fisher names noted above) and companions ascended all the Fisher peaks and other spurs of Tecumseh with aneroid and mercurial barometers. Fisher Mountain was measured at 2621 ft., only 12 ft. higher than the elevation shown on the current USGS map.

I descended via the sparsely-marked unofficial path, which as someone wrote, is not for the faint of heart. Here it passes over the "fissure on Fisher."

Were this an official trail, it could be a candidate for the Terrifying 25 list.

This huge slab would be dangerous if wet or icy. Good grip when dry.

Looking back up.

Close-up of Dickey.

Vivid skies.