To say that the weather hasn't been on our side lately would be a grievous understatement. You won't hear any complaints from me, as I think we've had a pretty unbelievable warm season here in New England. It was all bound to change. The leaves are now almost universally on the ground, the nights flirt with freezing, and the days have become noticeably shorter. I, for one, welcome this change with open arms. What I don't welcome is the waking up at "it's still going to be dark for hours", to get where I need to be for a hike. Sacrifices have been, and will continue to be made in this regard.
Hike #1: The Direttissma
Trails: The Direttissma, Glen Boulder Trail
Mileage/gain: 1.4 miles, 406' of gain
New redlining miles: 1
Waking up on Mike's couch, I felt like hell. I hadn't slept well at all, and my lungs were not happy with me for whatever reason. My only hope was that this wouldn't be a repeat of the sickness this past winter, which took my lung capacity for almost a month! We got breakfast at the Sunrise Shack and headed up to Pinkham, spotting a car for our first little hike of the day. The Direttissma has long been a thorn in my side, just sitting there, so accessible, yet not hiked. Now I had a reason to. Someone had described this trail to me as "pretty flat", what we found was not flat beyond the first 0.1 miles or so. The rains had swollen drainages, and they ran as a brook would, ephemeral waterfalls were everywhere. There were some steep sections, wet with rain and slick with leaves, especially on our descent to our spotted vehicle. Not a bad section of trail, and one I would gladly use again.
|Looking south down Pinkham Notch|
Hike #2: PRRT and some falls
Trails: Presidential Range Rail Trail, Brookbank
Mileage/gain: 5.4 miles, ~450' of gain
New redlining miles: 4.7
Shuttling up to the north of the notches, where we'd spend the rest of the day, we spotted Mike's truck at Randolph East, and headed over to Bowman. Long flats awaited us. In a fine drizzle we donned rain gear and started east. The former Boston and Maine Railroad grade, who's tracks and ties were removed in 1997, runs for 18 miles between Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge and Gorham. There are remnants of rail bridges, poles off in the woods that used to carry power and communication lines, occasionally topped with glass insulators, and long straight stretches. We planned a bit of a side trip up some trails out of Appalachia, but due to high water and my bringing the incorrect map (the one I brought had insufficient detail), we ended up just doing an up and back on Brookbank. Snyder Brook was running high, Gordon and Tama falls were fantastic, Salroc Fall (upper and lower) were less impressive due to down trees, and Mike spied another cascade above Tama Fall that was probably the best of them all. Back down, the flats continued all the way to Mike's truck, along with the drizzle.
|Presidential Range Rail Trail|
|An old glass insulator|
|Rain enhanced drainage|
|Unnamed cascade above Tama Fall|
Hike #3: More rails and some Cherry Ponds
Trails: Pondicherry Rail Trail, Waumbek Link, Shore Path, Little Cherry Pond Trail, Rampart Path
Mileage/gain: ~5.2 miles, ~100' of gain
New redlining miles: 1.8
Dropping Mike's truck at Bowman, we headed to Whitefield and the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge. The weather was decidedly worse than the last time I was here in May, and the clouds hung low, though the drizzle let up as we hiked. Here we encountered more flats, and more long (really long) straight sections of trail. Beavers have successfully flooded a section of the grade, there are plenty of herd paths and drag marks in the area as further evidence of their work, as if all the water wasn't enough. Mike managed to get across with dry feet, mine were already damp so I just walked through, We checked out the short paths around the main pond, then the Little Cherry Pond Trail (which is the only other trail in the area that counts for redlining, the rail trail being the other), before heading back the way we came. This was a MUCH better way to access this area than the last approach I took, which was via the Colonel Whipple Trail (a link in the Cohos Trail), a swampy mess masquerading as a trail. Don't let the Colonel Whipple Trail fool you like it did me!
|Pondicherry Rail Trail|
|Larches on the shore of Cherry Pond|
|Rail in the woods|
|Socked in ridgeline|
|Little Cherry Pond Trail|
|Little Cherry Pond|
|Supposedly active rails|
Hike #4: Mud Pond
Trail: Mud Pond Trail
Mileage/gain: 1.2 miles, ~70' of gain
New redlining miles: 0.6
This short trail was the surprise of the day. Not only was it flat, but the trail is also handicapped accessible, wide with a crushed gravel tread. The treat was the boardwalk that snakes (literally) through boggy woods, the last couple of tenths to the observation platform on the shore of the pond. It came complete with an open area in the railings, signed as a "wildlife crossing"! The drizzle even stopped completely for this hike, good stuff all around!
|Mud Pond Trail|
|Out to the deck|
Hike #5: Boundary Line
Trails: Boundary Line Trail, Jewell Trail
Mileage/gain: 1.2 miles, 124' of gain
New redlining miles: 0.8
Our final quarry of the day involved another car spot, so we went and retrieved Mike's truck. Up and over Jefferson Notch Road we drove, where we encountered thick fog at elevation, and fading light. We definitely cut it too close with this one, as it was fully dark by the time we got done. From what I did see of the trail, it seems very lightly used, very mossy, and in the dim and fog it was downright magical. The one crossing on the trail was running fast, I walked through, and Mike managed a running crossing, only getting slightly damp feet. Back at my car we retrieved Mike's truck, and headed into Gorham for our second trip to the Dynasty Buffet in as many weeks. It's like it's good or something.
|Blurry attempt to capture the low light scene|
All in all, another successful redlining day, ever closer to the goal!
New miles: 8.9