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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States
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07 June 2011

A Lollipop Loop: Cascade Ravine and Castle Ravine

Many hikers are very familiar with the term "lollipop loop", but for anyone who is unfamiliar, here is my attempt at an explanation (as best as I understand it).  With this type of hike, you hike the stem of the lollipop, then do a circular hike and return to the stem.  When hiking the stem portion back to your starting point, you then retrace the same route taken on the outbound portion.  Whereas, with a "true" loop-hike you still end up at the same point at which you started, but NONE of your steps are ever retraced during the course of your hike.

So anyway, this past Tuesday (07-June), I did a 6.9 mile "lollipop loop" hike that took me through portions of both the Cascade Ravine and the Castle Ravine.  My trek began and ended on the Castle Trail in Bowman, NH.  The loop portion of my hike was done in a clockwise fashion and involved: Israel Ridge Path; The Link; Castle Ravine Trail. 

A map of my route is shown below.
Before getting into the hike itself, I just have to interject (as I've done many times before) what a pleasure it is just merely driving to the trailheads here in the Whites!  Shown below is a photo collage of some of the colorful sights that were seen along the road while traveling to the Bowman trailhead.
Okay, I think you get the "picture", and so now onto the hike itself!   My major goals for this particular trek were just to have a delightful hike in the woods, and also to visit two cascades that are simply named the First Cascade and the Second Cascade.  I could stop here and simply say that my goals were met!  However, for those who might be interested, I'll add a few more details, plus insert a few snapshots.

The beginning part of my "lollipop loop" was the hike along the Israel Ridge Path.  The lower end of this trail hugs Cascade Brook for a short distance where there are several small cascades such as the one shown in the photo below.
The trail eventually leaves the brook and begins to ascend.  At the point where the Castle Ravine Trail branches off to the right, the Israel Ridge Path enters the V-shaped Cascade Ravine.   A moderately steep climb into the ravine will eventually bring you to the junction of the southbound portion of The Link.  You could exit here and hike a very short distance along The Link to grab a glance at the First Cascade.  Or, you could do as I did, and go the Second Cascade first, then double back and go to the First Cascade.  (I know, it sounds very confusing to do "Second" first, and then do "First" second!!)

Regardless, shown below is a snapshot of the upper portion of the Second Cascade.
And, shown below is the lower portion of the Second Cascade which is more dramatic when more water is flowing.
I stopped here to have lunch, and also allowed the bugs to partake of some lunch by gnawing at any exposed skin.  It didn't seem to matter that the skin was tainted with bug spray.  They were willing to "take the hit" and grab a bite!

After everyone was fed, I doubled-back a short distance to pick up The Link trail.  Not being satisfied with the trailside view of looking down the First Cascade from its top, I decided to do a bushwhack to the bottom of the First Cascade to get a view looking up at the cascade.  For certain, it was a very steep descent to get to the bottom, but the view (again, just my opinion) was worth the effort. 

The snapshot below was taken from the bottom of the First Cascade looking up.
On my way down to the bottom of the First Cascade, I stopped at one of the tiers of this cascade and snapped the photo shown below.
Following my photographic escapade to the bottom of First Cascade, I returned to The Link and headed toward the Castle Ravine Trail which I then hiked northward to complete the "lollipop" portion of my loop.   At various points along the Castle Ravine Trail there are some small cascades that are mossy and worthy of having their photo taken.  The snapshot shown below is just one example of the many little cascades along the Castle Brook.
To sum it up, as is true with so many places in the White Mountains, the area where I hiked has some history associated with it.  For example, the Israel Ridge Path was cut in 1892 by the famous trail-builder J.Rayner Edmands.  It was his very first trail building project.

Also, there is a legend about an eight-pound silver statue of the Virgin Mary being hidden in the Cascade Ravine by members of Rogers Rangers who were fleeing southward after the successful raid at St. Francis, Quebec during the French and Indian War of the mid 1700s.

Perhaps I should also interject the following.  Although this particular "lollipop loop" doesn't provide sweeping vistas of mountain peaks, it's a wonderful trek if you enjoy a very pleasant walk in the woods with a few cascades thrown in for good measure.  And although I don't have the talent to capture it photographically, the general character of this area (in my opinion) has a feel to it that is as wild and remote as the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  To make such a statement is probably going out on a limb, and it's very understandable that many folks would disagree.
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ADDENDUM (added 11-Jun-2011):

Steve Smith (the respected "Mountain Wanderer") also hiked many of the same trails as me on this particular day!  
I strongly encourage you to click HERE to access his report of his adventure in the Castle Ravine.  As always, he presents in-depth information in a format that is very entertaining and easy to read.  And, he has a talent for interspersing many relevant photos which further enhance his narrative, and make you feel like you're hiking right along with him on his journey.




2 comments:

  1. Nice photos and narrative, John! I've often considered heading further up this ravine to attempt to visit cascades 3 through 6, as they used to be approachable by trail long, long ago. I am guessing this would be a very, very rough bushwhack however!

    Lots of beauty in those photos! I like the last nameless cascade that you shot even better than the "named" cascades!

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  2. Hi Chris . . . thanks for your comments. Regarding your comment about liking the last “nameless” cascade even better than the “named” cascades, it’s funny you should say that. I feel the same way! It’s certainly a lot smaller than the named ones, but as they say, sometimes “less is more”!

    John

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