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19 March 2011

A Late Winter Hike to Georgiana Falls . . . and Beyond!

My first winter visit to Georgiana Falls was just last year in January 2010. Since that was such an enjoyable trek, I decided to do an encore performance! The trailhead for the Georgiana Falls Path is off Hanson Farm Road just north of North Woodstock, NH. And although this is in close proximity to busy I-93, you soon leave the road noise behind.

Actually, I find that there is a level of tranquility about the visit to these falls since there are far fewer visitors than to other waterfalls such as Arethusa Falls in the Crawford Notch. It is somewhat puzzling as to why Georgiana Falls seem to lack popularity. They were glowingly described by Thomas Starr King as early as 1859, and a path to the first path to the falls was cleared around 1877.

On the day of my hike (19-Mar-2011), the path up to both the lower and upper falls had been tramped out predominately by hikers on snowshoes, but there were also some postholes resulting from those who had opted to bareboot it. Also, it should be noted that the snow had softened considerably by the time I was heading back down the trail in mid afternoon. Even with wearing my snowshoes, I occasionally sank and created a hole here and there.

There are picturesque cascades all along Harvard Brook to keep you entertained as you make your way up the trail. However, the star attractions on this hike are two waterfalls. One has a 30 ft drop, and the other one drops 80 ft. The smaller waterfall is often referred to as Lower Georgiana Falls and the larger 80 ft waterfall is referred to as Upper Georgiana Falls (also known as Harvard Falls). There are no signs to identify these falls. However, below are two snapshots which show what I'm fairly certain is Lower Georgiana Falls in the FIRST photo, and Upper Georgiana Falls in the SECOND photo.

By carefully working my way to a spot near the top of the upper falls, I was able to peer down at I-93 off in the distance. Perhaps many readers have seen this vantage point while travelling northward on I-93 in the vicinity of Exit 32. Particularly during the winter months and during the Spring run-off, it appears as a small white streak near the top of a distant ridge on the west side of the Interstate corridor.
Just as I'd done on my previous winter visit to Georgiana Falls, I opted to go beyond the upper falls by bushwhacking another half-mile or so up the brook to a boggy area that has been created by beaver activity. On many maps, this area is named Bog Eddy. There are excellent views from this location toward Mt. Pemigewasset, as well as the Kinsman Range.

Mt. Pemigewasset:

Kinsman Range:
On my previous visit to Bog Eddy, I was able to get a dramatic view that included not only Mt. Pemigewasset, but also a portion of the Franconia Range (SEE PHOTO BELOW). On this March 2011 visit, I just didn't take the time to bushwhack around to the spot where I could get this particular view.
By high peak standards, this hike was relatively short. Including the bushwhack to Bog Eddy, this journey was well under 4 miles round trip. However, in my opinion, it was just as enjoyable as many of my hikes that have covered a far greater distance. There are simply times when less is more!
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Leaving a comment via this Blog is always appreciated. However, if you prefer to ask a question or make a comment via a personal E-mail, then you may contact me at: randonneur8 at yahoo dot com.
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ADDENDUM TO ABOVE REPORT:

It might be of interest to learn that "trip reports" have been written about treks to Georgiana Falls (as well as to other White Mountain locations), as least since the mid 1800s. Below is report that appeared in the Appalachian Mountain Club's journal entitled "Appalachia" (Vol IV 1884-1886).
(NOTE: If you would prefer to read the original text, it has been digitized by Google Books and can be accessed by clicking HERE.) 
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Path To Georgianna Falls
By M. Isabella Stone

On the Pemigewasset valley stage-road, at a point about two miles north of North Woodstock post-office, and three miles south of the Flume House, the traveller crosses Harvard Brook, flowing from the northwest and running east to empty into the Pemigewasset River. Half a mile north of this point, on the eastern side of the road, is the house of Mr. Stephen Russell, where a guide can be obtained for Georgianna Falls, described in Osgood's Guide-book as eighty feet in height, located on Harvard Brook, but rarely visited on account of the difficulty of traversing the pathless forest for nearly two miles. Directly after a heavy rain, when the brook is pouring away its high tide of life in merriest music, this is a delightful walk, extending through beautiful woods rich in botanical attractions, and ending in a short, steep clamber. Both below and above the Georgianna Falls proper there are numerous picturesque cascades, varying from three to fifteen or twenty feet in height. For the first one above, which is especially beautiful, I suggest the name "Harvard Cascade."

Formerly, to reach the cliffs at the top of Georgianna Falls, from which is an attractive prospect down the Pemigewasset valley, and for the best view of the falls themselves, we were obliged to fight our way through an intricate mass of fallen timber called "the burnt district," where hundreds of large trees, killed by fire, have rolled into the bed of the stream, seventy feet below, or are hanging over its precipitous banks. This summer a good path was cut through this debris; but the injury to the waterfall and its grand setting from the unsightly mass of dead wood is irreparable.

In 1877, from the point of intersection of Harvard Brook with the stage-road, a narrow path was "brushed out," following the course of the stream to the falls, but leaving untouched countless huge logs, which afforded the pedestrian ample gymnastic exercise. From neglect this path soon became badly overgrown, obscure in places, and encumbered with fresh windfalls.

The majority of guests at North Woodstock in recent summers hare considered this excursion a hard day's work, — once in the season being quite enough for nearly all, too much for many. Several persons wandering up the brook for a seemingly long distance returned firmly convinced that the lofty waterfall was a myth, and smiled at the gross exaggeration of certain enthusiastic mountaineers. The truth was, they had failed to reach the true Georgianna Falls at all.

During 1882, 1883, and 1881 the writer five times visited these falls, and has ascended far above them, exploring the upper course of the stream which rises in Bog Pond. Nearly half a mile below the pond is a series of interesting cascades, in a gradual descent for a considerable distance, making a continuous cataract. These we named "Upper Falls," painting the name on a tree blazed for the purpose. About halfway between its source and its mouth the brook entirely loses its impetuous character, and for perhaps three eighths of a mile spreads out into a series of pools, between which it almost disappears in tracts of marshy land. From the margin of one of them we obtained a fine view of Mt. Liberty. This part of the brook's course bears the local name of "the Bog Eddy."

Opposite the house of Mr. Stephen Russell, above-mentioned, is a grove, through which leads a broad path due west, the first right-hand fork of which the traveller should follow northwest — as directed by a sign-board — into an open field; thence nearly west, guided by a white topped stake, to the edge of the woods, where there is a guide-board inscribed "Georgianna Falls, 1 mile 54 rods." By a mossy log the path crosses a tributary stream, passes through the woods westward till it strikes Harvard Brook itself, where it turns to the right, continuing up the left bank. Another sign is placed here. From this point the old path of 1877 was followed on account of its nearness to the charming brook. The present path continues to the falls, where is a large board bearing the name, and a smaller one inscribed "Bog Eddy, J mile;" it passes on for sixty-four rods through " the burnt district" and beyond to Harvard Cascade, which shall have a sign next summer if the name be approved or a better one offered. The present path, from the road as far as Harvard Cascade, made in the summer of 1884, is well brushed out, holes filled up, most of the logs chopped asunder or removed, and steps fixed for the others. In short, the work was done by Mr. William M. Sargent, now of North Woodstock, well known to many Appalachians as a skilled woodsman and a faithful worker.

Beyond Harvard Cascade to the Upper Falls, less was attempted, as few visitors would care to go so far. Other laborers were employed. A good blazed trail is made the entire distance; much of the way a narrow, rude path has been made. At the upper end of the Bog Eddy is placed a sign, and another nearby, directing to the Upper Falls, with the distance marked. At the Upper Falls we nailed a sign directing to "Bog Pond, i mile;" this distance is estimated, and is probably overrated. From this point the writer and one companion, on Aug. 7, 1884, with a light two-rod surveyor's chain, measured the entire route down to the highway, marking every quarter-mile on trees blazed for the purpose, and putting up the eight signs above-mentioned, prepared by the writer.

DISTANCES
From the road at S. Russell's to Georgianna Falls .... 1,1/4 miles 18 rods.
Georgianna Falls to Harvard Cascade .... 1/8th mile 24 rods.
Harvard Cascade to end of Bog Eddy .... 4/8 mile 16 rods.
Bog Eddy to Upper Falls .... 7/8 mile.

Total . . 2,7/8 miles 18 rods. According to the measurement of Mr. Sargent, the height of Georgiana Falls, to the first basin below, is sixty-seven feet. At the foot of the falls is a cave for shelter in case of rain. This summer, sixty, two rods below the falls, close to the path, a birch-bark camp was constructed.

10 comments:

  1. What a nice spot -- thanks for the introduction. It's amazing how much really sweet country gets ignored by the peak-obsessed. I'll have to visit these falls, and my dog Tuckerman would especially love the bog.

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  2. John, always love your bushwacking adventures. How much snow do you estimate is still in the area of Georgiana Falls? It doesn't look like there is too much left. I'm going to be doing some bushwacking in the same area in about three weeks. Thanks. - JT

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  3. Thanks for your reply! And, you're so right about there being a lot of really sweet country out there that often gets ignored!

    Oh! And regarding the likelihood of your dog Tuckerman enjoying the area around Bog Eddy, I can tell you for certain that the moose simply love it! There was moose sign everywhere (droppings, hoof prints, etc).

    John

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  4. JT, thanks for taking a moment to post a reply to my Blog!

    Regarding how much snow is in the Georgiana Falls area, I think that at this time of year it is a very fluid (no pun intended) situation. On the day I was in that area, conditions ranged from occasional patches of bare ground to areas of "knee-deep" snow. However, that was then! The sun will change these conditions very quickly. Sorry I can't be more precise, but hopefully this will be of some help.

    John

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  5. Good one, John! Great photos of the falls. Bog Eddy is a cool spot, better known to snowmobilers these days than hikers. In the 30s and 40s there was a hiking trail up through there, the Bog Pond Trail, leading past the falls and the Eddy to Bog Pond and Kinsman Ridge Trail. In those days the KRT ran along the eastern base of Mt. Wolf.

    Steve

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  6. Thanks Steve, not only for your kind remarks, but also for including a bit of history in your comments. Any historical information about the Whites is of great interest to me!

    Regarding your statement about Bog Eddy being “better known to snowmobilers these days than hikers”, I’m sure that is correct since there is a well-used snowmobile trail that travels along the south end of Bog Eddy. When I hiked up there last winter in January 2010, I was able to easily cross Harvard Brook on snow/ice bridges to access that snowmobile trail. And from that trail, I was then able to access some additional viewing perspectives. However, on this most recent trip, the brook was really flowing, and I didn’t spend much time trying to find a convenient crossing. But that was fine. I enjoyed exploring the northeasterly corner of Bog Eddy which was far removed from the sound, sight, and exhaust fumes of the snowmobiles!:)

    John

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  7. Like I said when you did this hike last year - WOW! So easy to ignore some of the spots like this. I'm once again jealous and feel a great need to get out to Georgiana Falls in winter. It's officially spring now but there still might be a chance to sneak one in while the snow is still around. We'll just have to see...

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  8. Mark, hopefully you will have the opportunity to sneak in a trek to Georgiana Falls. If you do, and if the trail become difficult to follow (not uncommon), please don't be discouraged. It's difficult to get truly lost. Just keep the brook within sight or within earshot as you go along.

    As you might already know, there are some nice tips and lots of interesting information about Georgiana Falls in the book entitled "Waterfalls of the White Mountains" by Bruce, Doreen & Daniel Bolnick. If you don't have access to that book, the chapter dealing with Georgiana Falls is online at the following link: http://www.nhvacationhome.net/images/Georgiana_Palls.pdf. (And yes, the word "Falls" in that link is misspelled as "Palls", but the link is valid and it works the last time I checked it!)

    John

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  9. Wow! Look at that water just gushing down Upper Falls! What a great shot - I love waterfalls in the early spring!

    Great report, John! A fun read as always, with excellent photos to spice it up. Bog Eddy looks like a beautiful spot to visit in the cold season!

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  10. Chris . . . many thanks for the kudos!

    And yes . . . I completely agree with your statement: "Bog Eddy looks like a beautiful spot to visit in the cold season!" I've never been there in summer conditions (and maybe never will). I'd guess that in order to get around you'd almost need one of those airboats like they use down in the Florida Everglades! Oh! And stinging/biting bugs! One can only imagine!:)

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