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27 October 2012

A Little Bit of This and That: Zealand and Crawford Notch Areas


First of all, I wasn't going to write up these two adventures since I felt they would have limited appeal.  Then, once I decided to go ahead and write about them, I couldn't decide whether to split it into two uninteresting reports, or just do it all in one dose.   In the end, it was decided to employ a single-dose regimen, rather than do a divided dosage! :-)

As the title states, these recent treks were a combination of a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  These adventures were half-day affairs.  And both can be done in a single day, especially since they can be launched from trailheads that are only about 20 minutes apart on the Route 302 corridor.

I should also probably state from the outset that this report isn't about pretty pictures.  In the areas where I hiked, much of the "pretty" is gone since most of the autumn leaves have fallen and we're left with the drab colors of "stick-season".

So, with that lengthy introduction, here are some words and photos of my recent adventures which are presented in the order in which they were done.

PART 1 (Zealand Area):

This trek was launched from the trailhead for the Zealand Trail at the end of Zealand Road.  My final destination was a little unnamed pond which is located just a few tenths of a mile due south of the Zeacliff Trail.  A book-time of 2'15" is listed for the 3.8 mile trek from the Zealand trailhead to the Zeacliff Trail.  However, it is a flat walk along an old railroad grade, and it can easily be done in well under 2 hours.   Reaching the unnamed pond takes about 30 minutes from the time you leave the junction of the Ethan Pond and Zeacliff Trail.

If you're unfamiliar with the location of this pond, perhaps it will be helpful to take a look at the combination GoogleEarth/topographic map that is shown below (click on image to enlarge it).
 Google Earth/topo map combination showing location of unnamed pond

I've visited this pond on one other occasion, but it was several years ago.  For whatever reason, I had a hankering to make a return visit.   And actually, it was as good of an excuse as any just to visit the remote Zealand Notch area.  Even though it is stick-season, the sights are still impressive!

From the Ethan Pond/Zeacliff Trail junction, there is the view of massive Mt. Carrigain silhouetted on the southern horizon.  From this angle, it almost looks like a huge elephant in repose that is looming in the distance.
Mt. Carrigain looking like an elephant in repose (head on left, rear-end on right)

Besides the vision of Mt. Carrigain, there are other impressive vistas, such as the rocky precipices of Zeacliff far above you, and the "right in your face" collection of cliffs and broken rocks on Whitewall Mountain's western wall.
 Rocky precipices of Zeacliff

Cliffs and broken rocks on Whitewall Mountain's west face

So, after admiring the scene and snapping the above photos, it was time to head off to the pond.  After a short and moderate climb on the west side of Whitewall Brook, the Zeacliff Trail levels out for a short distance.  At this point you just head due south and before you know it, you're at the unnamed pond.

The next two snapshots show the pond from two different directions.  The first photo was taken from the south end looking northward.  The second photo was taken from the north end of the pond looking southward.
 Looking northward from south end of unnamed pond

Looking southward from north end of unnamed pond

It's nearly impossible to show in a photo, but this pond lays deep in a small slit in the mountainside.  I know this sounds somewhat comical, but try to imagine a hot dog bun with nothing in it other than a thin layer of mustard at the bottom.  
In this example, the pond would be the mustard at the bottom.  Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that it's difficult to see the pond from other locations because of how it's oriented on the landscape.

If you've ever bushwhacked to the top of Whitewall Mountain, then you know that you can get a bit of a view of this unnamed pond by standing at just the right spot.  On this adventure, I thought perhaps I could grab a "sneak peek" by scampering about 20  minutes off the Ethan Pond trail to a small ledge on Whitewall Mountain.  No such luck!  I could see a small portion of Whitewall Brook below me.  However (using my example above),  I could basically only see the slit at the top of the "bun".

The next photo shows what I could see from my little ledge.  The red arrows at the top of the photo point to the two small spots where I could catch of faint glimmer of the unnamed pond laying deep in its narrow slit on the mountainside.
Arrows point to faint glimmers of the unnamed pond as seen from a ledge on Whitewall Mountain

Okay, so that does it for my little half-day trek to an unnamed pond in the Zealand area.  And so now it's off to Part 2 which takes place a short distance down the Crawford Notch in the Dry River area.

PART 2 (Dry River Area):

The other half of my adventure in the Dry River area was a pure bushwhack.  However, there was one small bit of unexpected on-trail involvement using a new trail in the area called Maggie's Run, but more about that later.

To get you oriented, perhaps the map below will help.  This map is a bit "busy" with information.  But for now, just look at the upper right side where I've placed a large "X" to show the general location of the ledge which was my destination. 
(Click on map to enlarge it.)
 Map showing features relative to "Part 2" of my adventures

This trek was launched from the Pleasant Valley Wayside area on Rt. 302.   From this location, my targeted ledge can clearly be seen, as shown by the arrow in the photo below.  (Located on the bump at the far left of this photo are some higher ledges.  I've visited those ledges on previous occasions, but they were not on my radar for this day.)
 "My ledge" as viewed from Pleasant Valley Wayside area

As was the case with the unnamed pond in my "PART 1" trek, I also have visited this unnamed ledge on other occasions, but it has been several years ago.   On my other treks to the ledge, I've taken the Dry River Trail for a portion of the way.  However, this time I decided to "cut to the chase", and immediately head off into the woods from Pleasant Valley.

It takes less than an hour to reach the ledge, and the entire trek from start to finish takes you through open hardwoods, such as shown in the next photo.
 Open hardwoods for entire bushwhack from beginning to end

It was at the beginning of my trek that I intersected a trail that was freshly blazed.  It suddenly occurred to me that this must be a segment of the new Maggie's Run Trail.  I followed it for a short distance before it started heading off the course that I was following. (I'll be talking more about Maggie's Run toward the end of this report.)

The views from the ledge were a bit hazy, and it didn't help too much that the dullness of "stick season" is here. Regardless, shown below are a few snapshots taken from the ledge.  Hopefully, they will provide some general idea as to what can be seen from there.
 Looking down at my car parked at Pleasant Valley Wayside area

Looking southward down Crawford Notch (portion of Frankenstein Cliff is in shadows on far right)

Basically same view as above, but it shows a snippet of the cliff from which the photo was taken

 Looking northward up the Crawford Notch towards Mt. Willey and Mt. Webster

Okay, I mentioned several times above that I'd say some more about the new Maggie's Run Trail that was recently opened by Crawford Notch State Park staff.  I first learned of this trail from a Steve Smith blog report (click HERE).

Although it was now late in the day, I took time to investigate a portion of this new trail.  If you park at the Pleasant Valley Wayside Area and walk about a tenth of a mile southward on Route 302, you will come to two signs on opposite sides of the road (see photo below).  The sign in the top photo is on the west side of the highway, and the sign shown in the bottom photo is on the east side of the road.
 Signs along Route 302 for new Maggie's Run Trail

As mentioned earlier in the report, it was purely accidental that I walked a small segment of the Maggie's Run Trail on the east side of Route 302.  However, after my bushwhack to the unnamed ledge, I walked the length of Maggie's Run that is on the west side of the road.  This segment of the trail hugs the Saco River.  It's a peaceful and scenic walk.  We'll see how it pans out, but I'm thinking Maggie's Run might provide some nice mild-mannered XC-ski and/or snowshoe opportunities this winter.

If you want to get a general idea as to the location of Maggie's Run, then you might want to refer back to the map that was shown earlier in "PART 2" of this report.  Since I only followed a small segment of the trail on the east side of the highway, I have no good idea as to what course it might follow (which is why there are question marks on the map).  Regarding the portion that runs along the river, my hand-drawn depiction of the trail is far from accurate.  However, it provides a general idea about the course that this trail takes.

I should also add that you don't need to walk the tenth of a mile down Route 302 to access the west side of Maggie's Run.  You can link directly to it via a short connector trail that begins near the Pleasant Valley Wayside Area.

The next two snapshots were taken during my amble along Maggie's Run.  The first photo shows a segment of the trail itself, and the second photo shows a scene along the Saco River.
A portion of the new Maggie's Run trail along the Saco River on the west side of Rt. 302
 Saco River as viewed from Maggie's Run Trail

To sum it up, the Route 302 corridor offers almost endless opportunities for on-trail and off-trail adventures.  You can fill your day with multiple short treks, or do a longer hike that fills the entire day.  The choice is yours!  And, it almost boggles the mind to think that the Route 302 corridor traverses just one small segment of the White Mountain National Forest.  There's a lot more forest out there to fill your days for a lifetime of exploration! 

10 comments:

  1. Interesting treks! Glad you decided to post them.

    Was surprised to see blue-blazing on new Maggie's Run trail in your photos, but since it connects to Saco River Trl which connects to AT, guess blue is correct.

    Sam

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  2. Sam,

    Glad you liked reading my report! Thanks for taking time to post your comments.

    Regarding that blue-blazing on Maggie's Run, I had the exact same thoughts, i.e. initial surprise, and then after some thought, concluded that blue was the appropriate color since the Appalachian Trail can be reached via this trail.

    John

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  3. Hi John,

    These two treks made for a most interesting post. I love the unnamed pond in the first part of the report. It looks so wild. (I liked your hot dog bun analogy too.)
    The views from and along the Maggie's Run trail are beautiful too. I'll look forward to reading about your cross country ski or snowshoe treks on that trail this winter!

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    1. Hi Rita,

      It’s terrific to read that you liked the unnamed pond, as well as my hot dog bun analogy. It’s truly an odd little pond in terms of how it is tucked into the side of the mountain.

      Regarding the new trail named Maggie’s Run, I’m very eager to see how that pans out this winter in terms of providing opportunities for mild-mannered XC-skiing and/or snowshoe adventures. If it does work out, then chances are good I’ll be posting a Blog report about it! :-)

      John

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  4. Nice little treks. Although "stick season" might be a bit drab (at least until the snow hides all of that!), those sticks open up a lot of views that would be missed if all the leaves were still on the trees. I noticed this while out working on Cardigan's trails last week; I had some views I had not noticed on a work day back in June on the same trails.

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    1. Thanks for posting your comments, Summerset!

      As you correctly point out, “stick-season” does at least have the saving grace of opening up some views. And along the same lines, it’s beneficial when bushwhacking since the line of sight through the woods is much more open. Even though there are some positives about “stick-season”, its dull colors are always such a downer for me after experiencing the brilliant colors of Autumn.

      John

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  5. John, don't even contemplate not posting reports on your hikes! We enjoy them thoroughly, and we get ideas for future hikes from you.

    My wife and hiked up the Zealand Trail on our last day in the White Mountains earlier this month, even though the clouds were low in the sky and there was intermittent rain. I wanted to show her the rockfall of Whitewall Mountain, and we did get a nice look at it despite the weather. The beaver pond area lower on the trail is also attractive, regardless of the weather.

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    1. Steve . . . thank you for your encouragement to post reports about my hikes. I’m very appreciative of the feedback!

      Also, it’s terrific to read that you and your wife took the opportunity to hike along the Zealand Trail. As you indicate, regardless of the weather, that trail provides an abundance of attractive landscape features to admire!

      John

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  6. John, I recently walked the Saco River Trail and Maggies Run and was dismayed by the excessive use of blue blazes which are painted on every other tree and rocks. The amount of blazing far exceeds AT guidelines, let alone WMNF's. What are your thoughts about them or am I being too critical. They really detracted from the beauty of the trail in my opinion.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Philip,

      Thanks for taking time to post your thoughts.

      The blazing on Maggie’s Run was done by the Crawford Notch State Park staff since they are the ones who built this trail. So, one can speculate that perhaps trails constructed and maintained by NH State Parks adhere to guidelines that are different from those established by the WMNF and other organizations? And/or perhaps the rather liberal use of blazing was done as a cautionary measure because of the likelihood that the primary users of this trail might be non-hikers/picnickers who travel the Rt. 302 corridor?

      In addition to the issue you raised, it’s surprising to me that Maggie’s Run is absent from even the most recent editions of commonly used trail maps for this area. But perhaps there is a valid reason for this as well? Maybe it has something to do with this trail being wholly maintained by Crawford Notch State Park staff, rather than by an outside group such as the WMNF, AMC, etc??

      John

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