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.


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