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20 July 2011

A Trek to Church Pond - Simply Divine!

Perhaps it's a bit of a hyperbole to use the term "divine" to characterize the Church Pond Loop hike.  Nonetheless, I did find it to be a pleasant experience.

I'd never done this hike, even though I've been meaning to do so for quite awhile.  It suddenly leapfrogged to the top of my list on 20-July-2011 when I only had a few hours available for hiking.  And besides, the weather was too hot and humid (for my taste) to do anything strenuous.

The entire loop is only 2.8 miles. The map shown below was extracted from a document published by the Forest Service which outlines a proposal to decommission a 1.2 segment on the east side of the loop.  Apparently, this plan was set forth since it would require extensive labor and materials to rehabilitate this badly deteriorated section.  The 1.1 mile western side of the loop would continue to be maintained. (Click on the map to enlarge.)
On the day of my hike, the two crossings of the river were pretty easy.  However, the water depth at the first crossing was about 10 inches deep.  And with no stepping stones, it was just deep enough to require wading (unless you don't mind getting your footwear wet).  Whereas the water level at the second crossing was only 2-3 inches deep, plus someone had laid down a few logs which further facilitated the short passage across the water.

Shown in the photo below are the two water crossings.
I did this loop in a clockwise fashion.  Aside from deteriorating bog bridges, the western side of the loop was in very good shape.  There was even evidence of recent trail maintenance.
However, the eastern side of the loop was in poor condition.  There were many segments of the trail that were similar to the one shown in the photo below.
Throughout the entire loop, ripe blueberries were abundant.
On the better-maintained western side of the loop, I spotted one of the more unique wildflowers, the pitcher plant.
And, I also saw what I consider as one of the more beautiful wildflowers in the Whites, the purple-fringed orchid.
Near the end of the western side of the loop is a knoll that overlooks Church Pond.  This knoll is covered with red pines.  The approach leading to the top of the knoll is picturesque (photo below).
By following one of the paths from the top of the knoll to the water's edge, you get a great view of Potash Mountain (foreground) and Mt. Passaconaway (background).
By going off-trail, you can get a spectacular view of Green's Cliff.
And, another off-trail exploit to a different spot will earn you a view of Owl's Cliff with lumpy Mt. Tremont behind it.
Okay, and now for something that isn't "divine" (as per the title of this report), but instead is rather "silly".  There was one segment on the west side of the loop where the angle of the sun was such that it cast my shadow in front of me for a tenth of a mile or so.  Everywhere  I went, there I was! With all due respect to the Beatles song entitled "Yesterday", I was reminded of the line from that song which says: "There's a shadow hanging over me".

To sum it up, this was a great little hike, and I'm very happy that I finally did it. As one final note, on the day of this hike, no insect repellant was needed.  The bugs were buzzing, but not biting!  And for certain, that was "divine"!




16 comments:

  1. Great report from a trail you don't hear much about. Recall two women got lost on this trail several years ago.

    Have to say that is pretty axe work. Thanks for sharing

    Chris

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  2. That is such a cool spot. What time were you out there? I was running in that area from 5-6PM from the Sawyer Pond Trailhead.

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  3. Hi Chris. When I saw that awesome axe work, I thought about you! I don't suppose that was some of your handy work, was it??

    John

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  4. Kevin: That is indeed a "cool spot" . . . well, maybe not so cool yesterday (20-July) with the high temps, but certainly tolerable.

    As to the time I was out there, I started out at about 2 PM and was back at the trailhead a little before 5 PM. It sounds like we just missed each other!

    John

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  5. The NFS is going to "decommission" the eastern leg of this trail, which I think is a shame.

    Lot's of pickerel in there. A student at the UNH forestry camp drown in there years long ago. His ghost is said to haunt the knoll where your were standing.

    Don't try to swim in the pond, the leeches are thick!!!!

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  6. I've always wanted to hike the Church Pond loop, but have been deterred by the river crossing. Will have to try it this fall, before the east leg is closed. Last year we hiked the Rob Brook Trail - that too is a very cool place with lots of moose sign and beaver activity. The latter is apparently the reason for the closure -- too many places where the beaver flood the trail, which is why it is such a cool place.

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  7. ANONYMOUS: Leeches in the pond . . . that sucks! :-)
    And a ghost that haunts the knoll! Hmmm!
    With a name like "Church Pond", that isn't the type of "spiritual" experience you'd expect! :-)

    John

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  8. Ellen, the best way to get to church's pond in high water is at the site of an old logging bridge. The Swift if narrow there. It's located about .4 mile west of the Passaconaway Campground. You will see a gated logging road going up to Potash that is almost directly across the road. Just walk down the logging road and you will see a sign for Nanomocomuck and church pond trail on your right in .3 mile or so. The river is wide here, but it's easy to cross in all but spring conditions.

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  9. ELLEN: I know EXACTLY what you mean! I've also always been bit put off by the thoughts of doing the river crossing. However, with the water levels now so low, I decided to give it a shot and simply do whatever it took to make the crossings. As indicated in my report, it ended up not being a big deal at all. As happens frequently in life, i.e. things that seem formidable in our mind often end up being no big deal when we actually confront whatever it is!

    John

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  10. I've sunk to my hip in muck on that trail and punched through the ice. That trail is freak'in haunted, tell you!

    "Never take no cutoffs, and hurry along as fast as you can."

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  11. Wow, this review certainly brings back memories! In February 1974, when I was 15, my parents let me snow shoe into Church Pond for a "wilderness" adventure. I pitched my camp on top of the knoll on the southeast side of the pond and stayed for 2 nights, exploring the country around Church and Little Church Ponds. Little Church Pond was little more than a silted in beaver meadow almost 40 years ago, so I wonder if it even exists today. I've always wondered why the WMNF never cut a trail to the top of Green's Cliffs off the Sawyer Pond trail. I bushwacked up there in 1975 and spend a memorable night. Now I live in Omaha, Nebraska, far from the hills, trees, and clear running waters of NH, but they will live on in my memory and reviews like this are nice for us "ex-New Hampshiremen". Thanks for taking the time to write and post it.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous . . . I’m delighted that my post was able to bring back some pleasant memories for you!

      Judging from your comments, it sounds like you had some terrific adventures in NH. Just as one example, even today there are not that many folks who bushwhack to Green’s Cliff. I’ve been there many times, and like you, it’s difficult to understand why a trail was never cut to this fabulous location.

      Regarding your conjecture as to whether Little Church Pond still exits . . . yes it does! And actually, in my posting about Church Pond, the snapshot that shows Green’s Cliff (third photo from the bottom) is overlooking Little Church Pond.

      Thank you for taking time to post your comments!

      John

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    2. I was raised in Lebanon and for 30 years, from 1967 through 1997, my parents liked to camp via RV across the entire WMNF, but their favorite place to camp on the Kancamagus was Jigger Johnson and, after JJ closed for the season, at Passaconway or Blackberry Crossing. Back in the late 1960s, the NFS people would allow overflow camping in the gravel pit across from Passaconway GC and in the old CCC camp area at the Sawyer Pond trail head. Back then, tThe only sign of the CCC camp were the chimneys and concrete foundations, do you know if they are still there? We also camped at another former CCC Camp near the north end of the Tripoli Road. Over the years, we hiked most of the trails off the east side of the Kank, with favorites being Potash, Hedghog, Chocorua, Passconway, Osceola, East Peak. I also sent a lot of time poking around the tiny brooks looking for native brook trout. Douglas, Rob, Sabbaday, Oliverian, Downes, and probably most/all of the other brooks would produce tiny native brookies from 5" to 8", with the 8" trout being few and far between, if you dropped a small worm on a small hook in the right pocket of water.

      IIRC, Church Pond has a sandy bottom, but more leaches than anywhere I've ever seen, other than a bait shop! Until about the mid-1970s, there was a log bridge over the Swift River about 1 mile west of the Passaconway GC that allowed for an easy portage of a canoe from the Kanc to Church Pond. My Father and I carried our canoe in to Church Pond several times, which allowed for better fishing access to the pickrell and bullheads/hornpout that were resident to that body of water.

      Thanks for prompting my memories, sorry if I rambled a little!

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    3. First of all, no need to apologize for “rambling”. Anything about NH (+VT and ME) is of interest to me!!

      Regarding the chimney and foundations for the old CCC camp in the Sawyer Pond area, by any chance are you referring to the structures at the beginning of Sawyer River Road? If so, then yes, those structures are still “alive and well”. If you’re indeed referring to structures at the Sawyer Pond trailhead, then those also might still be in place, but I don’t know that for a fact.

      Regarding Church Pond, it is still full of leaches!! Some things never change!!

      Best regards to you,
      John

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    4. No, the CCC camp, or so I was told, that I speak of was between the Kanc and the Swift River, to the left of where the parking areas is (was?) for the Sawyer Pond Trail. The other CCC camp was on the north end of the Tripoli Road, between the Russell Pond road and the head of the East Pond Trail. It was on the northeast side of the road, on the right if headed north from Waterville Valley or on the left if headed south from Lincoln/North Woodstock.

      In the early 1980s, when I was away fulfilling my UNH ROTC commitment, my parents camped a lot in the fall at Dolly Copp CG and got to know the legendary Paul Doherty a little. I only met Mr. Doherty a couple of times, in the late 1980s, but he was one of the more unforgetable people who I've met. He loved to talk fishing and took me on a day long tour of his "honey holes" between Gorham and Jefferson, along Routes 2 and 115. I have heard that there were people who didn't like Mr Doherty, but he always struck me as a man who would do his duty to enforce both the letter and spirit of the law, treating everybody equally kind if they were following the rules and equally tough if they were breaking the rules.

      We used to camp in Campton at Goose Hollow and hiked the east side of Waterville Valley, between Osceola and Sandwich Mt quite a bit too. I have always wondered why there was never a road cut between Waterville Valley and the Kanc, intersecting near Lily Pond on the Kanc. There is a low, relatively speaking, notch in there, Livermore Pass(?), and the rise in elevation form WVV to the Kanc seemed pretty easy to me. Probably not done for environmental concerns.

      Jeff

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    5. Thanks Jeff for the follow-up info about the CCC camp, plus the other interesting info you’ve shared in your comments!

      John

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