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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States

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04 December 2011

Mt. Jasper and Pine Mountain: Trails of Two Cities (Berlin & Gorham, NH)

It's not always possible, but given the choice, I'd rather fail at an attempt of doing something new rather than succeed in repeating something I've already done.  My friend Marty was kind enough to accommodate my craving for doing new things by hiking to Mt. Jasper from Berlin, NH, followed by a hike later in the day to Pine Mountain from Gorham, NH.  Having never hiked to Mt. Jasper, this was a completely new experience.   And although I had previously hiked to Pine Mountain, it was a new experience to launch the trek from the trailhead at the end of Promenade Street in downtown Gorham.

Part 1: Mt. Jasper

My curiosity regarding Mt. Jasper was piqued after reading about the trail work done in 2011 by young workers in the Jobs After Graduation (JAG) program.  Trail experts from AMC's Camp Dodge provided leadership and tools to assist the program participants with the rock staircases, improved drainage, and treadway definition on a mile-plus segment of trail leading to the ledges atop Mt. Jasper.  This hiking trail is accessed from the Berlin High School's parking lot at the end of Madison Avenue.  The blue-blazed trail is on the right immediately after entering the corridor for the snowmobile trail at the north end of the athletic field.

Upon reading some history about the Berlin, NH area, I learned that the Androscoggin River back in the day, was a massive highway for the Abenaki Indians.  Mt. Jasper is a rich source of rhyolite which is a material that the Indians used as a substitute for flint in making tools and weapons.  Evidence suggests that at least every few years and perhaps every season, the Abenaki would stop at Mt. Jasper to gather a supply of rhyolite.

And so, with that brief introduction, here are some details and photos about our trek to Mt. Jasper on 03-December.  First of all, it must be stated that the hike to the ledges is extremely short, and very easy.  Within 20 minutes of leaving the trailhead, we were standing atop the ledges!!

Speaking of the trailhead, you can see the ledges on Mt. Jasper as you begin your hike.  The photo below shows the current-day view from the trailhead and it is juxtaposed with a similar photo taken (not by me) about 40 years ago.  (Click HERE to link to the website location for the old photo.)

Regarding the views from the ledges on Mt. Jasper, as would be expected, there are views of downtown Berlin (as seen in the next photo).

Besides the cityscape views, there are other vistas which are very nice.  One vista that I found particularly impressive was the extensive lineup of mountains in northern New Hampshire that can be seen from this location.  This lineup is shown in the next photo.  A portion of the Weeks Range is on the left and the twin-humped Percy Peaks is on the right.

Another impressive view is seen looking eastward toward the Mahoosucs where Goose Eye Mountain is a very prominent feature (seen just beneath the small image of a hawk flying overhead).  Just as a reminder, any photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.

The next photo also shows a portion of the Mahoosucs (far right background), along with a portion Mt. Jasper's attractive ledge in the foreground.

Part 2: Pine Mountain

Invariably, there is some new tidbit of information that is learned from every new hiking adventure.  Here is what I learned as a result of this particular quest.  While hiking the Pine Mountain Trail, Marty and I noticed sporadic white blazes on trees along the trail.  They were faded, and there weren't many, but there were enough for us to take notice.   We even joked about someone getting mixed-up and using the wrong paint color for blazing the trail.

After our hike, I read in AMC's White Mountain Guide that the Appalachian Trail (AT) once followed the same general corridor as the current-day Pine Mountain Trail, and thus I presume that this might explain the white blazes!  I also did some snooping around on the Internet and came up with an article in the Conway Daily Sun that was written by Ed Parsons.

In this article Ed also mentions that the AT once followed the corridor of the current-day Pine Mountain Trail.  As I understand it, when the AT followed this corridor, the Pine Link Trail did not terminate at Dolly Copp Road (as it does today).  It continued northeasterly over Pine Mountain and down to the village of Gorham.  The lower section of the former corridor of the Pine Link Trail is now known as the Pine Mountain Trail.

Shown below are a few snapshots that were taken during our hike.

View of Carter Range as seen from Chapel Rock

View of Chapel Rock and surrounding area (from spur path off the  Pine Mountain Trail)

View of Carter Range as seen from the South Cliffs area of Pine Mountain

View of communication towers atop Pine Mountain (If you use your cell phone when hiking in this area of the White Mountains, chances are good that your signal passes through here!)

Trailhead Sign at the end of Promenade Street in Gorham (We squeezed every ounce of sunlight out of the day, and it was nearly dark by the time we arrived back at the car.)

To sum it up, I can think of little else to say other than something new often equals something good!  Not only was it fun to experience the thrill of two new hiking adventures, but it was equally fun to learn new information about the areas where we hiked.

02 December 2011

An Odd Couple: Thompson Falls and Lila's Ledge

My recent 10-day trip away from home caused me to get behind on a number of things.  Finally, by late morning on 01-December,  I was caught up enough to go for a short hike.  Well, actually I did an "odd-couple" of hikes.  These two hikes were odd only in the sense that the pairing of Thompson Falls and Lila's Ledge is a somewhat unusual combination, or some might even say bizzare!  Both of these hikes were launched from the parking lot at the Wildcat Mountain ski area.

Thompson Falls was my first destination.  I'd never hiked to this particular location.  Perhaps I'm just easily impressed, but I thought the waterfalls/cascades at this location were impressive.   A few snapshots are shown below.

Following my mini-trek to Thompson Falls (1.4 miles round-trip), I embarked on my second hike.  I walked to the south end of the parking lot for the Wildcat Mountain ski area and then crossed Route 16 where I began my trek to Lila's Ledge from the Crew Cut trailhead.  I had been to Lila's Ledge on a previous occasion, but used a different approach route.  Oddly enough, the round-trip distance for this hike was the same as for Thompson Falls, i.e. 1.4 miles!

A few snapshots taken from Lila's Ledge are shown below.

Wildcat Mountain ski area on the first day of December 2011 (no skiing today!!)

Mt Washington (just left of center) flanked by Tuckerman Ravine and Huntington Ravine

To sum it up, admittedly this pair of hikes was a rather "odd couple",  and the overall hiking distance was, shall we say, "short".  But despite all that, these hikes were still satisfying and they provided an enjoyable few hours in the woods.

29 November 2011

Thanksgiving Journey 2011

After nearly 2,300 miles of highway travel over a 10 day period (November 19-28), my wife and I are back home in New Hampshire.  The purpose of this epic journey was to visit family and friends in the States of Kentucky, North Carolina and Delaware.   We explored the possibility of flying to these locations.  However, driving became the preferred option after considering the multiple flight changes involved in getting to our particular destinations.

Although we encountered some rain-free weather during our road trip, the photo below is fairly representative of weather conditions for a large chunk of our travels.  However, the rainy conditions were fine.  If it had been snow or ice, THEN it would have been a problem!

We spent approximately 2 days at each of the 3 places we visited.  As you might imagine with such a short visit, there was scarcely enough time to do much more than eat and chat about family-related topics.  During the course of our travels there was only one thing which might be of general interest.

While visiting family and friends in Ashland, KY we spent a few hours walking around the Port of Ashland. It is one component of a larger complex known as the Port of Huntington Tri-State which is the largest inland shipping port in the United States, both in terms of total tonnage and ton-miles.  This is due in large part to nearby coal and petroleum industries who load their products onto barges for shipment via the Ohio River which feeds into the Mississippi River system.

The snapshot below shows a portion of the port, as well as a nearby highway bridge that spans the Ohio River and connects the States of KY and OH.

And, the next snapshot shows a portion of the port from a different viewing perspective.

To protect communities along the river from flooding, floodwalls have been constructed.  Many cities, such as Ashland, have opted to adorn sections of the floodwall with huge murals to commemorate events of the city's history.  The snapshot below shows one such section of floodwall.

The next snapshot is a close-up view of one of the panels.  This particular panel was painted using a photo that was taken of a victory parade down the main street of Ashland to celebrate the end of WWII.

Shown below is another close-up photo of one of the panels on the floodwall.  This one is an artistic rendition of a scene along the river during the early days of the port's history.

Ashland is also renowned for the holiday lights that are erected each year in the massive park in the center of town.  Shown below is a snapshot of one of these festive light displays.

Okay, so that is about it in terms of items that might be of general interest.  There was no time to do any hiking other than some short strolls in local parks and neighborhoods.  These walks included some picturesque vignettes here and there, such as shown below.

To sum it up, our journey involved many miles of highway travel which was pleasurable in its own way, plus it provided a means to spend many enjoyable days visiting with family and friends.   Oh!  And I suppose it should also be mentioned that we had a total of 3 Thanksgiving meals, one at each of the locations we visited!  We eventually waddled our way back home to NH with full bellies and fond memories.

18 November 2011

Best Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Just want to let readers know that it will probably be awhile before I publish a new Blog report.  I'll be on an extended trip (11 days) to visit relatives.  Time and circumstances will most likely rule out any hikes of any significance while I'm away.

My travels will take me to the Midwest (KY), to the South (NC) and the Mid Atlantic (DE).   You can see my destinations and my general direction of travel on the map shown below.  If I happen to come across anything along the way that might be of general interest, then I'll post it here as a footnote, and/or I'll post it on my Facebook page (click HERE).

Best wishes to you for a Happy Thanksgiving holiday!

So long for awhile,

09 November 2011

A Short Gallop to White Horse Ledge

White Horse Ledge is such an alluring name.  As I understand it, this name was given because of a light-colored area on the face of this ledge which resembles a dashing white horse.  There is another nearby ledge called Cathedral Ledge which gets its name from a large cavity on the face of this ledge which is said to resemble a cathedral.

Both of these ledges are seen in the snapshot below which was taken from nearby Echo Lake on a day in February.  The wintery conditions seen here were definitely absent from my hike on a warm sunny Wednesday (09-November).

[White Horse Ledge is on the left, and Cathedral Ledge is on the right.  Clicking on this, or any photo in this report will slightly enlarge it.]

Perhaps it's obvious to some readers, but neither the horse nor the cathedral is readily apparent to me in the photo shown above.  However,  the snapshot does at least serve to show the relatively small distance between these two ledges.  Combining both of these destinations into a single hike is certainly not an all-day affair.  It is a short hike,  which is precisely why I opted to do this particular trek.  As mentioned previously in a few of my Blog reports, I only have a few hours available for hiking on Wednesdays, and therefore this type of jaunt is perfect for this situation.

As many readers know (and as is shown on the map below) there are several options for hiking to these two ledges.  Given my short time frame, I opted to drive up the auto road to the top of Cathedral Ledge and then begin my hike from there.  I parked and immediately headed for the trailhead for the Bryce Trail.  My plan was to go to Whitehorse Ledge first, and then upon my return, I'd pay a brief visit to Cathedral Ledge just before jumping in my car to head back to my home.

The Bryce Trail makes a relatively steep drop to the col between Cathedral and White Horse.  And of course, this meant I'd have a steep ascent on the return leg of my journey!  Upon arriving at the col, I picked up the White Horse Ledge Trail.  After a short and moderately steep climb, I arrived at White Horse Ledge where I could look back and see some of the rocky outcroppings on Cathedral Ledge (next photo).

From here, I could also peer down over the edge of the ledge and see Echo Lake (next photo).

Another nice vista was seen looking over the top of Cathedral Ledge with Humphrey's Ledge off in the distance, and the U-shaped Carter Notch visible on the horizon (next photo).

It was somewhat surprising that there was still some lingering autumn color, especially since we essentially have no color remaining near my home in Bethlehem which is just a short 40 minute drive to these ledges.

Not only were autumn colors visible in the distant views, but there were also colorful scenes literally right at your feet, such as those shown in the next two snapshots.

From White Horse Ledge I hiked a short distance to a spot near the junction of the Red Ridge Link trail.  This side-trip enabled me to get a view of the Moat Mountain Range.  However, I was looking directly into the sun which was low in the western sky.  The next snapshot was the best I could do under those unfavorable lighting conditions.

Well, as indicated earlier, the return leg of my journey was merely a retracing of the route that I had taken on the outbound leg.   Once I arrived back at my starting point on Cathedral Ledge, I hiked the couple hundred yards to the viewpoints.  One of my photos taken from here is shown below.   It shows the U-shaped Carter-Notch on the horizon over the top of Humphrey's Ledge which is mostly obscured by afternoon shadows.  It's a view that is similar to that seen from White Horse Ledge, but it is a slightly different perspective.

After completing my brief visit atop Cathedral Ledge I hopped into the car and drove down the auto road.  Since I still had about 15 minutes to spare, I parked at the base of the ledge and did a brief jaunt along one of the rock climbing trails to get a look at this massive hunk of rock from the bottom.   The next two snapshots show my "views from the bottom".

To sum it up, this was one of my better Wednesday wanderings.  It fit perfectly into my timeframe, and it was an unexpected bonus to experience a bit more autumn color before it disappears completely. 

07 November 2011

Cone Mountain: A Next-Door Neighbor to Welch-Dickey Mountains

Since the mid 1800s there have been hiking trails in the Waterville Valley area of New Hampshire.  One very popular trek is a loop hike that goes over Welch Mountain and Dickey Mountain (known collectively as simply Welch-Dickey). Located very nearby is a lesser-known peak named Cone Mountain which is separated from Welch-Dickey only by the narrow corridor known as Dickey Notch.

With the reduced daylight hours of late autumn, I'm now looking for shorter hiking adventures.  I'd briefly considered hiking the 4.4 mile Welch-Dickey Loop trail on this beautiful day of 07-November.  However, it had been awhile since I'd visited Cone Mountain and so I opted to go there instead.  There are no hiking trails leading to this mountaintop, but it can be accessed by a relatively short and easy bushwhack.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with this location, shown below is a photo of the map that is posted at the trailhead for the Welch-Dickey Trail.  Cone Mountain is circled in red. (NOTE: Clicking on any photo in this report will slightly enlarge it.)

Regarding my approach route to Cone Mountain, I used the Brown Ash Swamp Bike Trail.  It diverges from the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail at the junction shown in the next photo.  This bike trail traverses the Dickey Notch and provides a link to Mill Brook Road in the Thornton area.

I followed the Brown Ash Swamp Bike Trail to a point where I could head westward on public land to reach Cone Mountain.  There are sizeable chunks of private land in this area (as shown in white on the above map).   Actually, I purposely went further north on the bike trail than was necessary.  Going the extra distance enabled me to include a visit to a ledge at the northeastern end of a ridge leading up to the summit.

Most readers would probably agree that regardless of whether you're hiking on a trail or bushwhacking, the journey itself is often as delightful as the destination.  For this particular trek, there were picturesque scenes along the route such as shown in the next two snapshots.  The first one shows a beaver pond, and the second photo is simply a typical scene while bushwhacking through the open woods en route to the summit of Cone Mountain.

In terms of sweeping vistas of distant mountains, the ledge at the beginning of my climb provided nice views toward the Franconia Range (first photo), and Mt. Moosilauke (second photo).

From the summit of Cone Mountain, there are views similar to those shown above.  In addition, there is a nice view looking eastward toward nearby Welch-Dickey, plus the more distant peaks in the Sandwich Range.

Although Cone Mountain has no actual trail leading to it, the summit has a very impressive cairn which is a real work of art.   There must be an interesting story behind the construction of this masterpiece.  And, as you will also note in the snapshot shown below, the architect even included a stone bench to compliment this structure!

To sum it up, although this adventure was short in terms of time and distance, I still found it to be a very satisfying romp in the woods.