Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Deer Hills and Blueberry Mountain 9/20/14

Working title: Just, one, more...

Peaks: Little Deer Hill (1080'), Big Deer Hill (1367'), Blueberry Mountain (1781')

Trails: Deer Hill Connector, Deer Hills Trail, Deer Hills Bypass, Frost Trail, Ledges Trail, Deer Hill Spring Spur, Leach Link Trail, White Cairn Trail, Blueberry Ridge Trail, Blueberry Mountain Loop, Stone House Trail, Rattlesnake Pool Spur, Shell Pond Trail, Shell Pond Loop Trail, roadwalks

Mileage/time: ~18.9 miles, ~4350' of gain, book time of 11:40, actual time of 8:13

New redlining miles: 13.3

As if seven days of hiking on this vacation wasn't enough, I added another day, and a few miles to the tally. The day turned out to be perfect for this kind of "low" elevation adventure, as I ended up below the cloud deck, and had views I'm sure the folks across the way on the Baldfaces didn't have. A leisurely start to the day, waking up at 6, I got myself up to the Baldface Circle Trail in decent time. It was a chilly morning, and I ended up staying in a winter base layer for the entire day! As a bunch of folks started to arrive, I turned my back on the crowds, and started down the Deer Hill Connector.

Coming alongside Charles Brook, flowing down from the Baldfaces, the trail pulls away and shortly comes to a dam on the Cold River. This is the crossing! The dam has many small spillways, and is bridged over the biggest gap, certainly one of the coolest water crossings I've come across. On the other side is a marker, denoting the Maine/New Hampshire border, the first time I've seen one of these too. Neat stuff all within half a mile of the trailhead!

Deer Hill Connector

Kick ass water crossing!

State line

Turning my attention to the trails, I soon ended up on Deer Hills Bypass (which is unsigned at this end, though incredibly obvious). Climbing mildly, then more steeply, I passed the junction with Ledges Trail, and made my way to the Frost Trail, which would take me up to Little Deer Hill. I'm sure the views from the top are pretty vast, but this day was ruled by cloud cover overhead, which shrouded the taller peaks nearby.

Deer Hills Bypass

Ascending alongside a stone wall

Dropping down the Ledges Trail (which isn't recommended for descent), I checked out both the bypass and direct route, before hitting the lower junction. Pretty sure I startled a bear (which startled me too!) on the direct route, near a natural overhang, I could smell it, though I never did catch sight of it. Climbing back up to the Frost Trail, I continued onward.

Yup, wouldn't want to descend it wet!

Ledges Trail before the split

View to the south from Ledges Trail

Near where I spooked a bear

Reaching the junction with the Deer Hills Trail, I headed down to the trailhead on Deer Hill Road. All spur trails were taken, though prior research had told me which ones I "needed" to do. The spur to the Deer Hill Spring was mandatory, though it was well worth the side trip, if just to see the water bubbling up in the pool.

Deer Hills Trail

Deer Hill Spring Spur

Deer Hill Spring

Deer Hills Trail

On my way down to the trailhead, I apparently startled a juvenile bear, who tore off up a tree, and cocked its head in my general direction. This is the third bear I've seen in the last several weeks. Back up to the junction with the Bypass, I headed for Big Deer Hill, running into the first other hiker of the day, just short of the summit. Some ledges just to the south of the high point provided some decent views, but the summit itself was in the trees.

Interesting...

Pleasant Mountain from near Big Deer Hill

Shell Pond from near Big Deer Hill

Following the trail over Little Deer Hill, it descended back to the junction with the Bypass, and I took a right onto Leach Link, which would take me out to Stone House Road. While the walking was mostly pleasant, along the Cold River, the trail climbed quite a bit above the river, before dropping slightly before it hit the road. About a mile of walking on the road brought me to the gate, at the end of the publicly accessible section of the road, and a short walk beyond had me at the White Cairn Trail.

Deer Hills Trail

Lichens

The Stone House Road end of Leach Link

The White Cairn Trail started off innocuously enough, running fairly level for a bit, before getting into a bit of a moderate grind upslope. Just as I started to run into people descending, I hit some very steep, very well constructed rock staircases. Beyond some nice view ledges, the trail enters the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, and climbs a bit more before dropping to meet Blueberry Ridge Trail, coming up from 113.

Else you have a quick stop...

Staircase

Up!


Looking into the Basin

I met up with a family of four just before the Outlook Loop over the summit of Blueberry, and they accompanied me on the loop, chatting and picking my brain about continuing their hike. It's great to see families out hiking! The views could have been better, but considering the lack of views from other peaks in the area, it was definitely a win.


Out to Shell Pond, the Deer Hills, and Pleasant Mountain

Wishing the family well, as they headed back down Blueberry Ridge, I continued on a few moments, before dropping down Stone House Trail. This was definitely the preferred descent route, pretty mellow for its entire length, besides, I'd rather be going up steep stuff than down it! Taking the spur trail for Rattlesnake Pool (marked only by a small white arrow sign), I was blown away. The water was a deep turquoise color, and the waterfall that emptied into it was scenic in its own right. I hung out here for a bit, trying to get a decent picture or two... well, you be the judge.

Stone House Trail

Rattlesnake Pool

Rattlesnake Pool

A short distance down the trail, another side path (not on the spreadsheet) led down to a bridge over Rattlesnake Gorge, a deep cut through the bedrock.

Rattlesnake Gorge

Back down to the road, I crossed it, as there was more new stuff to do. The Shell Pond Trail was interesting, as the sign at the trailhead directs you to use the "airstrip". Airstrip?! Indeed, there is an airstrip, and the trail does indeed follow it, before heading through a seemingly well manicured stand of trees. It then ducks into the woods, reaching the loop junction, and of course, I followed it out to its Deer Hill Road trailhead. Back to the loop, I stopped a while at a bench on a side path, looking out over the pond, only a little fall color starting to show.

It's an airstrip!



Shell Pond

The rest of the loop around the pond undulates on old roads for the most part, and I saw a very large fox off in a field, as I approached Stone House Road. It was definitely a wildlife viewing kind of day!

Shell Pond Loop

Another roadwalk, and the Leach Link again, had me back at the dam, and at my car in short order. The lot had emptied out some, but had obviously overflowed, as vehicles were parked out on the road. I was pretty famished, so I hopped in the car, and got some late lunch at the Stow Corner Store, never a disappointment.

Truth be told, this was exactly the kind of vacation I needed. Lots of hiking, and lots of new miles, now have me within spitting distance of 70% complete with the AMC White Mountain Guide!

Vacation totals:

Miles: 106
Elevation gain: 28,173'
Days: 8
New redlining miles: 81.3