Wednesday, June 26, 2024

West Ledges, North Kinsman: 6/25/24

A sunny day with temperatures rising into the 80s seemed like a good time to revisit a bushwhack I did almost exactly 25 years ago: across the sweeping western slope of North Kinsman to a great expanse of ledge high on a ridgecrest overlooking the deep ravine of Slide Brook.

I was surprised to see perhaps a dozen cars in the parking lot for Mount Kinsman Trail on a Tuesday. Then again, it was the first good hiking weather we'd had in a while.


Morning sun was dappling the pleasant first section of the trail, which was opened in 2009 from a new trailhead. Thanks go to the landowners who allow access on the first mile of the trail.

The old sugarhouse has been a trail landmark for many years.

This rock staircase was built by the Trailwrights a few years ago, working with trail adopter Bruce Richards, a stalwart member of that fine trail maintenance group.

One of several excellent waterbars placed by the USFS Pemi District trail crew.

A stout yellow birch overlooks another waterbar.

Mossy Falls Brook was running well.

The drainages all looked freshly cleaned, so I knew that Mount Kinsman Trail adopter Bruce Richards was somewhere up ahead. I caught up to Bruce (on the right) and his new co-adopter, Peter Thorne, not far above Mossy Falls Brook. Bruce's dedication to trail work is second to none. In addition to numerous work trips on his adopted trail, he joins many Trailwrights work days on other trails, and is volunteering on the Old Bridle Path reconstruction project. He also serves as the trail maintenance volunteer coordinator for the USFS Pemi Ranger District. (If you want to adopt a trail, contact Bruce at Thanks, Bruce and Peter!

If time permits while on a climb of the Kinsmans, a side trip to Bald Peak is well worthwhile. It also makes a fine destination on its own for a half-day hike.

At the junction I chatted with Mike and Katie Maciel and their friend Brady. The Kinsmans were two new peaks for Katie as she pursues her completion of the 4Ks. Mike, of Redline Guiding fame, has been up there once or twice. Brady is an AT thru-hike completer. He had not been to Bald Peak before, so he joined me for the side trip while Mike and Katie headed down.

View were hazy from Canadian wildfire smoke but still good from Bald Peak's expanse of ledge. The vista looking SW takes in Mount Moosilauke, Mount Clough and the Benton Range.

North Kinsman looms close by to the SE. I would soon be bushwhacking across that slope to the ridgecrest on the right.

Beyond the Bald Peak junction, Mount Kinsman Trail is nearly level for a bit, then climbs moderately with a few rough ledgy pitches.

A half mile or so above the junction, I headed into the woods where passage looked reasonable.

This whack was a little unusual in that the route was an ascending traverse across a long slope, rather than a straightforward climb up a ridge or valley. I checked my compass frequently.

This blocky boulder resides in one of several small streams that flow down the slope.

The woods were varied on this mile-long middle elevation traverse.


The forest was fairly open much of the way, but the footing was rough and uneven, with numerous rocks and holes seen and unseen. Careful attention to foot placement was needed, especially where the forest floor was masked by low growth.



Onward and upward.

Blowdowns often blocked the way.

Wild and wooly.

Good woods here.


Moose poop littered the forest floor. I saw plenty of moose postholes in the turf, too.

About three-quarters of the way across I ran into a band of awful woods, very dense and riddled with blowdown.


Some gymnastics accompanied by cussing got me through this area.

Thankfully, the final approach to the main expanse of ledge at 3400 ft. was through a wonderfully open boreal forest.

It took me 1 hour, 40 minutes to cover the mile from the trail to the ledges, compared to 1 hour, 18 minutes back in 1999. Chalk it up to aging and caution.

A destination well worth the trouble! The view looking west across the Easton valley, with Vermont's Signal Mountain Range on the horizon..

The northwestern view, with Burke and Umpire Mountains in the Northeast Kingdom on the far right.

Another angle.

I went across to a perch I remembered from my 1999 visit, peering down into the deep ravine of Slide Brook. There are many cascades down there, but they are difficult to access due to private land at the base of the mountain. Moosilauke, Clough and the Benton Range in the distance.


One of the highlights of the view is the massive close-up of South Kinsman, with the scars of two slides on the steep slope above Slide Brook. The long sinuous slide on the left fell at an unknown time and may have been "refreshed" in the October 1995 storm. The ledgy patches just to its right are the remnants of an old slide that dates back to the late 1800s. In August, 1877, AMC member Gaetano Lanza and a companion ascended South Kinsman from the west via Slide Brook and this slide on the south side of the ravine. Writing in Appalachia, Lanza noted the brook as “remarkable for its beauty; its bed being composed of immense ledges of granite, and containing a great number of picturesque cascades and basins.” About 1 ¾ miles from the road the pair came to “the foot of a short, but well-marked slide, coming from the right-hand ridge. There is a similar slide on the left-hand side also…it appears as if the earth and vegetation had slid down from the top, leaving bare a single convex rock sloping at nearly 35 degrees to the horizon; the rock, of course, is more or less in the form of ledges, but there are no signs of a gully or water-course in it.” Lanza noted that the slide was short - no more than a quarter-mile in length, requiring just 26 minutes to ascend - but steep enough that it was “necessary in some places to cling to the bushes on the side.” Above the slide they battled through “as bad scrubs, rotten and fallen timber and moss-covered rocks as one often meets with.” In 1878 this slide route up South Kinsman was repeated by a party of five that included AMC notables George A. Sargent, Marian Pychowska, Lucia Pychowska, Eugene B. Cook and Rev. Henry G. Spaulding.

In 2008, John "1HappyHiker" Compton and I made a long bushwhack up Slide Brook and climbed to the top of the prominent ledge seen in the photo above. From there we had a good view across the ravine to the west ledges of North Kinsman.

I spent nearly two hours lounging in the sun on the west ledges. A breeze kept the black flies at bay, most of the time.

Looking up the ridge to the uppermost of four sets of ledges.

Headwall of the Slide Brook ravine.

A hard place to leave.

Back through the thick stuff...

...and the good woods.

With the tricky footing, going down was no faster than going up.

But this summer journey will remain long in the memory.


Thursday, June 20, 2024

Pemi East Branch Loop: 6/19/24

On one of the hottest days of the season - with a high around 95 and the dew point in the oppressive 70s -  the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River was calling. I loaded up my pack with plenty of liquids and attached a pair of Crocs, thinking I might go up one side of the river and return down the other, with a ford in between.. The East Branch was at a mid-summer-like low flow of just 106 cfs. I also packed an umbrella, as there was a chance of thunderstorms in late afternoon. Objectives for the day included finding a possible riverside view of the Stinger Slide on the NW side of Mount Hancock, and, if weather and energy permitted, bushwhacking to a lower elevation slide patch in that vicinity for a view.

Even on the gentle Lincoln Woods Trail I was breaking a sweat quickly on this steamy morning.


The riverside view of Bondcliff and its southern spur (past the Osseo Trail junction) was much hazier than it had been two days earlier.

Looking up Franconia Brook to Mount Flume, from the footbridge.

Into the Pemi.

The 1.8 miles of railroad grade from the footbridge to the Camp 16 site was once part of the Wilderness Trail, and is now the lower section of the Bondcliff Trail.

I dropped down for a look at the river where the trail crosses "One Mile Brook."

Butterfly confab.

Bed frame at the site of J.E. Henry's Camp 15.

Nice hardwood glade approaching Camp 16.

A mossy logger's boot at Camp 16. As always, note that it is illegal to remove any such historic artifacts from the WMNF.

A crushed bucket.

A tree grew up through this bed frame.

The collapsing remains of the railroad trestle over Black Brook, which was built in 1906 and was in use until 1946.


The trestle from below. It is unsafe to go directly beneath the trestle.

Near the trestle I found my view of the Stinger Slide, presumably so named due to its long, narrow track that tapers to a point like a bee stinger. Here the river makes a bend in the direction of the NW spurs of Mount Hancock.

This slide is unusual in that it fell in the 1920s or 1930s, appearing prominently in a 1939 aerial photo, was mostly revegetated by the 1990s, then was scoured anew by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The wet lower slabs of the slide glisten in the sun.



I visited those lower slabs in 2022 and they are indeed wet and slick.

Tiger Swallowtail portrait.

After a long break on the edge of the river, I continued eastward on the section of the Wilderness Trail that was abandoned after the suspension footbridge over the East Branch was removed in 2009. Parts of the old trail/railroad grade are getting overgrown...

...while other sections are still quite clear.

I donned my Crocs and forded the river at the site of the old railroad trestle that crossed here, with its abutments still standing. The suspension footbridge was located just upstream. The water was a bit above knee deep where I went across. In moderate to high water this crossing would be dangerous.

Looking downstream from the crossing.

Since it was early in the afternoon, I decided to try the 3/4 mile bushwhack to a slide patch on the lower slope of Northwest Hancock. I had just done this a year and a half ago so the route was familiar. The woods are generally prickly but not overly thick.

The slide I was heading to and the Stinger Slide are both drained by this brook.

"Pick up sticks" forest.

Part of my route followed an old sidehill logging road. Lots of weaving through skinny tree trunks and projecting branches.

It took about an hour to reach the edge of the steep, gravelly slide patch. This marks the lower end of a slide that is very prominent in a 1939 aerial photo. It may have fallen during the November 1927 storm, or during another storm in the 1930s.

The north edge of the slide opens a view up into a wild ravine, topped by a spur peak of Northwest Hancock.

I cut across a revegetated part of the slide to get to the other side of the gravel patch.

Down-look from the south edge.

This is the spot I was seeking - a perch with a nice view out to the Franconia Range rising above the Lincoln Brook valley.

Mount Flume and Mount Liberty on the left, Little Haystack and Mount Lincoln on the right, with the south end of Owl's Head below.

Zoomed Flume and Liberty. It was neat to peer into the Liberty Bowl, where I had probed two days earlier.

Zoomed Little Haystack and Lincoln. I fashioned a seat under the shade of a white pine and spent more than an hour here. I even dozed off for a while.

The skies had been darkening, and around 3:00 I heard the first rumbles of thunder in the distance. Time to get back to the trail!

I packed up and headed back down through the woods. Thunder was now rumbling constantly, and gusts of wind swept through the woods. But I lucked out and the rain held off until a minute or two after I reached the Wilderness Trail.

The rain was fairly light until I reached this junction. Then came a downpour, and I waited it out for fifteen minutes under my umbrella. Thunder echoed across the Pemi, over and over.

The thunder rumbled all around for another hour as I hiked westward along the Pemi East Side Trail, but there was only one more downpour that necessitated a session under the umbrella.

A bit before 5:00 the thunder finally moved on, and I ventured out for a look at a rocky spot along the river.

With the low water the crossing of Cedar Brook was fairly easy.

I took a break in evening sun at a favorite off-trail spot along the river, with a nice view of Bondcliff and its south spur peak.

There are several nice pools along the next section of trail.

The trail comes into the open at this scenic spot.

I stopped at the lovely Ranger's Pool for a head dunk.

After passing the deserted Franconia Brook Tentsite, I came to this spot where high water has taken a gouge out of the East Side Trail, here a gravel road.

View across the river to Whaleback Mountain and Mount Flume.

West Bond, far off to the north.

Pleasant corridor on the East Side Trail.

I made a short side trip out to "The Beach," an open gravelly area with a view of Scar Ridge. The abandoned Pine Island Trail passed close by here.

Why the Pine Island Trail was abandoned for good.

The December 2023 storm caused severe erosion along a quarter-mile stretch of the East Side Trail, starting a bit more than a mile in from the trailhead. The lower mile of the trail was not damaged, providing easy walking to complete a varied and interesting loop.