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05 February 2012

A Beautiful Day of Trekking in Easton, NH (Cooley Hill and Mud Pond)

Regardless of whether you did a trek to the high peaks, or simply hiked at the lower elevations, 05-February was a gorgeous day for hiking!

On this particular day, I opted to hike in the Easton, NH area by visiting Cooley Hill via the Jericho Road Trail, and I also did a short ramble to Mud Pond.  You might ask how many ponds in New Hampshire are named Mud Pond?!  In addition to the one in Easton, I can think of at least four other identically-named ponds in the White Mountain region alone, i.e. one each in the areas of Jefferson, Lincoln, Thornton, and Benton.

Easton's Mud Pond is located very near the trailhead for the Jericho Road Trail.  This was my first visit to this spot.  It is only about 400 ft off the east side on NH 116, and I've driven past it countless times over the years.  It's not visible from the road, and as they say, "out of sight, out of mind"!  In Steve Smith's book "Ponds & Lakes of the White Mountains", mention is made of a path leading down to Mud Pond from NH 116.  I didn't take time to look for the path.  Instead, I just parked on the shoulder of the road, then plunged into the open woods and headed straight for the west end of the pond to get a view of South Kinsman poking above the pond's east end.

The photo below shows the view from the west end of Mud Pond (Easton).

For anyone unfamiliar with the location of Mud Pond and/or the Jericho Road Trailhead, perhaps the map below might help. (Click on map to enlarge it.)

Not that it matters, but my trek to Cooley Hill was done earlier in the day before doing my short romp to Mud Pond.  Okay, regarding Cooley Hill, this was only the second time I've hiked to this location.  On my first hike there several years ago, I met a Forest Service crew who had just completed opening up a view on the east side of the trail about 0.1 mile from the old Cooley Hill fire tower, which is where the trail ends. 

The next photo shows the view opened by the Forest Service crew.  The vista includes mountains in the Kinsman and Franconia range.

Besides this view, there are at least two other "unofficial" viewpoints.  One is located at about 1.7 miles from the trailhead (at about 2,000 ft elevation).  If you do a short 400 ft bushwhack eastward from the trail, you'll find an old logging cut that provides a view of the Kinsmans (see photo below).

The other "unofficial" viewpoint is about a tenth of a mile northward beyond the ruins of the old fire tower.  There is some faint semblance of a trail, but it's mainly a mild-mannered bushwhack.  This view is also the result of old logging cuts.  The next photo (highly zoomed) was taken from this spot and it shows a northward vista.  I'm uncertain, but I think the feature on the far left of the photo (on distant horizon) is the Willoughby Gap in Vermont.

Okay, so what about the fire tower that I've mentioned above!  About all I know is that it was a 40 ft tower built in the 1930s and removed in the 1950s.  The photo below shows the ruins of this old tower.

And, for anyone interested, here are a few details about the hike to Cooley Hill.  The trailhead for the Jericho Road Trail is located on NH 116 (1.9 miles north of its junction with NH 112).  The trailhead sign (photo below) shows a distance of 3.3 miles.  The White Mountain Guide says 3.2 miles, and it describes the trail as ". . . originally constructed as a horse trail and mostly follows logging roads of varying ages".

This little-used trail is never overly steep.  It gains 1,250 ft elevation which is spread out over the trail's distance of just over 3 miles.  On the day of my hike, the trail was in excellent condition with only a light layer of snow atop an underlayment of ice.  Microspikes were worn for the entire hike.  Overall, it was a very enjoyable walk in the woods with many trailside scenes such as shown in the next photo.

As I mentioned at the outset of this report, it was a simply beautiful day on 05-February.  There were picturesque vistas along the highway driving to and from the trailhead.  On my way home, I pulled to the shoulder of NH 116 to take a snapshot of Cannon Mountain and surrounding area (see photo below).

And then, I made a slight detour en route to my home in Bethlehem to stop by a farm in the Sugar Hill area.  At this location, I (along with a solitary horse) enjoyed a fabulous view of the sun setting over the Franconia Mountains (see photo below).

To sum it up,  this was one of those days in the mountains that you wish would come around more often.  But then again, if days such as these were more common, perhaps they would become less special!


Marty said...

Hi John,

As usual, great report and pictures- Do you think the Cooley Hill trail could be a nice ski if we ever get some significant snow cover? Looks like a gentle ski up and down!

Steve Smith said...

Another fine report, John! Great shot of Mud Pond and South Kinsman. Haven't been there in a while. Nice to see that little vista they cut on Cooley Hill.


1HappyHiker said...

Marty . . . we are on the same wavelength! While hiking the Jericho Rd Trail I was evaluating it as a possible corridor for XC ski. If we ever get any significant snow, then I think that a large chunk of this trail has the “right stuff” for XC-skiing. The last few tenths of a mile (the final approach to the old fire tower) have a degree of steepness that would be beyond my skiing abilities, but I think there are many who could do it.

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Steve!
The Cooley Hill vista + Mud Pond vista = a nice combination! It’s “pie in the sky” thinking, but it would be nice if a trail could be cut on the east side of NH 116 to enable hikers to park at the Jericho Rd trailhead and then have the option to hike to Mud Pond and/or Cooley Hill. One-stop hiking!


One Day in America said...

What a beautiful day! And a wonderful post, too. I especially like the horse enjoying the sunset. You have a great eye for scenes that make fantastic photographs—and you're fortunate to be able to get away and hike to all these places.
As for your summation, I don't know; I think that if every day was as spectacular as 05 February, they would all still be special!

Andrew said...

I was going to ask the same thing!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Andrew . . . yes, let’s all keep fingers crossed that we get at least one significant snow-dump here in the lowlands before the spring season arrives! Can’t bear the thought of having to wait until next winter to do some low-altitude XC skiing. ):

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Rita for such kind words! And yup . . . I do consider myself as very fortunate to have the time and the health to do a fair number of hikes to a variety of lovely locations in my small corner of the world. And thanks to bloggers like you, I’m able to vicariously expand my expand my “universe” to include other locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.


One Day in America said...

And thanks for your kind words John!
My this week's post (just published) takes place in your region of the country but.... I hope you still feel your universe expanding!

Summerset said...

You did have a beautiful day! Those last two pictures are really great - especially the one with the horse. Thanks for "taking us with you" on this journey!

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Summerset!

Watching an awesome sunset with a horse was a great way (albeit a bit unusual) to end my day. If I’d not spent several hours hiking earlier in the day, then I might have felt some guilt about not having earned such a reward! :)


Karl said...

Hi John,

Great report as always. I couldn't find a picture of the old fire tower on Cooley Hill. Usually, an old picture is shown on, but Cooley Hill had nothing listed. I really love that last pic! Looks like a nice spot to reflect upon the day.


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Karl . . . thanks for your comments!
I too have been looking for a photo of the Cooley Hill fire tower! A Forest Service historian has been contacted and the hope is that she might be able to come up with something. If she does, I'll post it here, plus I'll shoot an e-mail to you.