Thursday, June 6, 2024

Benton Trail & Elbow Pond: 6/5/24

With potentially severe thunderstorms a possibility for the afternoon, I opted for a morning hike up the Tunnel Brook Trail and Benton Trail to the outlook into Little Tunnel Ravine. Allowing ample time to hang out at the outlook, this 5 1/2 mile round trip would get me back to the trailhead by noon. The walk along the decommissioned section of Tunnel Brook Road was pleasant in the morning sun.

Because of the 1.5 mile approach along Tunnel Brook Trail, the Benton Trail receives less use as a route to Mount Moosilauke than it did before Tropical Storm Irene devastated the lower part pf the road in 2011.

The Benton Trail ascends through hardwoods up to 2400 ft.

Above there it follows a nice footway through the conifers. This ancient trail, dating back to 1859, is perhaps my favorite route up Moosilauke. It is well-maintained by adopter Per Frost.

The ledgy trailside outlook, 1.3 miles and 1050 ft. up from Tunnel Brook Trail, peers north to the Kinsmans beyond a spur ridge of Mount Blue. Mount Cabot and the Pilot Range are visible in the distance, but were barely discernible this day in the haze.

Kinsman silhouettes zoomed.

Unique to this outlook is its angle on the deep, wild ravine of Little Tunnel Brook under the high, dark crest of Mount Blue. The roar of the big waterfall on Little Tunnel Brook, part of what were once called the "Nine Cascades," drifts up from below. Birds noted during my sojourn at the outlook included Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Dark-Eyed Junco, and Magnolia Warbler. 

A large slab on the opposite wall of the ravine marks the site of an old landslide.

A more open perspective on Little Tunnel Ravine from an off-trail vantage point.

Peaceful scene on Tunnel Brook at the Benton Trail crossing.

On the return along Tunnel Brook Trail, I paid a visit to the site of the Parker House, a small hotel that served guests in this remote location during the early 1900s. This old roadbed was once a crescent-shaped driveway that ran in front of the hotel.

Part of the foundation can still be seen on the west side of the driveway. The Parker House was opened in 1903 by Benton resident Lebina Parker along what was then a recently completed road connecting Wildwood and Glencliff via Tunnel Brook Notch. The three-story structure had accommodations for 40 guests, with rates of $2.00 per day and $8.00-$12.00 per week. Its brochure boasted of “a cozy parlor, and a wide piazza on three sides of the house, baths, hot and cold water, and toilet rooms.” Other amenities included croquet and tennis, daily mail and Boston newspapers, and fresh food from its own farm. The Parker House operated into the 1920s. The parcel was sold to the Forest Service in 1928, and the abandoned hotel was subsequently burned down.

No thunderstorms were materializing, so after lounging beside Tunnel Brook for a leisurely lunch, I drove up to Kinsman Notch for a quick visit to scenic Beaver Pond.

I then headed up Rt. 118 and drove most of the way in on the recently graded gravel road to Elbow Pond. There's still one rough spot near the end of the road, so I parked and walked the last 0.4 mile to the boat launch and camping area by the pond. Due to its remote location yet easy access, Elbow can be a bit of a party spot on weekends, but on this Wednesday afternoon there was no one around. It's a scenic area and a good spot for birding. In this view Mount Cushman rises to the SW.

I followed the unofficial and badly overgrown path that leads south along the shore of the pond's northern arm. There are frequent views westward across the water to the Blue Ridge of Mount Moosilauke, with Mount Waternomee in back on the right.

A stove left over from one of a number of private camps that were situated around the pond before the area was added to the National Forest in the 1970s.  Not quite yet an historic artifact.

I sat shoreside for a while on a ledge under the shade of a white pine. The dark strip to the right of the pine bough marks the track of an old slide on Mount Braley that has almost completely grown back to spruce. Only a couple of small gravelly patches remain on the slide, but they do provide a unique bird's eye view of Elbow Pond.

After getting a look across at the more remote, saucer-shaped south lobe of the pond, I headed for home mid-afternoon. As it turned out, the thunderstorms missed our area, but some other places in New Hampshire got hammered with rain, wind and hail.


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