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28 January 2013

The Abandoned Black Brook Trail on Cherry Mountain


In current times, there are two trails that hikers can use to launch treks to the peaks named Mt. Martha and Owl's Head, both of which are located on Cherry Mountain. There is the Owl's Head Trail located on Rt. 115.  In addition, there is the Cherry Mountain Trail which also has a trailhead on Rt. 115 on the west side of the mountain, plus another trailhead which is on the east side of the mountain off the Cherry Mountain Road (closed in winter).

In days gone by, the Black Brook Trail provided yet another option for hiking to Cherry Mountain.  This now-abandoned trail began at a trailhead off Route 302 about a half mile west of Zealand Road. The trail headed nearly due north to intersect with the portion of the current-day Cherry Mountain Trail that comes up from the east side of the mountain.

There’s still a short access road off of Route 302 to the former trailhead, but of course it’s unplowed in winter. So for my trek, I parked at the Zealand Road winter lot and did a short two minute bushwhack from the parking lot up to the railroad bed (also a snowmobile route).   Then, after about a ten minute westward walk, I arrived at the old trail.

The Black Brook Trail still shows up on some topo maps since many of these are generated from USGS maps which often have not been updated in years.  Therefore, it’s not uncommon to see some abandoned trails still show up on maps.  The corridor for the old Black Brook Trail is highlighted on the map shown below.  I've also included two labels which will be discussed later in this report.
 Map showing Black Brook Trail
On previous adventures in this area, I have hiked to a point about 1.5 miles from the old trailhead on Rt. 302, and then veered off the trail and headed eastward onto an obvious logging road which leads to a nice viewpoint.  For my trek on 27-Jan-2013, I had two rather simple goals.  One goal was to revisit the previously discovered viewpoint that I just mentioned. The other goal was to try something new for me by following the Black Brook Trail beyond the point where I've departed from  the old corridor on my previous hikes.

The old trail is quite obvious for about the first 1.5 miles.  In the past, portions of this corridor have been used as a logging road, as well as a snowmobile route.  I think this causes a trail corridor to remain obvious for a longer period than trails that were used solely for footpaths.  Shown below are a couple of snapshots of the trail corridor.
Portion of Black Brook Trail Corridor
Another segment of Black Brook Trail corridor
When I came to the spot along the trail where an old logging road veers sharply to the east, I did as I've done in the past and followed that road to the viewpoint which is mentioned above (and is labeled on the map shown earlier).  While travelling to this viewpoint, there is a meadow which provides a picturesque vista of Cherry Mountain's southern ridgeline.
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Cherry Mountain's southern ridgeline, as viewed from a meadow
Upon arrival at what I'll call the main viewpoint, there is a nice southward vista looking toward the Twins and the Franconia Range (see photo below).
Twins and Franconia Range as viewed from a spot located off the old Black Brook Trail
After my visit to the viewpoint, I returned to the point where I'd left the Black Brook Trail.   And so, the second part of adventure began.  In the past, I had never ventured beyond this point since the corridor for the old Black Brook Trail is very obscure at this particular spot.  However, with a bit of meandering zigzags,  I was able to locate the corridor which then remained obvious all the way to point where I stopped.

My stopping point for this trek is labeled on the map presented earlier.  From the outset of this hike, I had no preconceived notions as to how far I would trek along the old Black Brook Trail.  And actually, I was unsure if it would even be possible to find the old corridor!  Regardless, once I found it, I simply enjoyed hiking on it until I reached my turnaround time for arriving back at my car before nightfall.

I took a GPS waypoint at my stopping point.  At some point when I'm hiking the eastern portion of the Cherry Mountain Trail, I might diverge from that trail and hike down to my stopping point.  If you know where to look, the old Black Brook Trail is quite obvious at the point where it joins the Cherry Mountain Trail.

You might ask, just how obvious was the portion of the old Black Brook Trail that I followed when venturing beyond the 1.5 mile mark?  Well, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  So, just for good measure, shown below are two pictures.

The first photo shows the corridor, along with one of the yellow blazes.  These blazes are few in number, but just enough to provide reassurance that you are actually on the old trail.  The second photo shows evidence of past trail maintenance along the corridor.
Black Brook Trail corridor, along with one of the very few remaining blazes
Evidence of  past trail maintenance along the Black Brook Trail
Lots of moose poop was seen along the route.  Also, I saw a bird's nest that was positioned low to the ground, and directly at the edge of the trail's footway.   Maybe some knowledgeable reader can enlighten me as to the type(s) of birds that might build their nest at such a location.
Lots of moose poop was seen along the route
Bird's nest seen right next to trail corridor and down low to the ground
It was getting late as I was making my way back to my car.  I was surrounded by woods and therefore was unable to see any alpenglow on the mountainsides.  However, as I looked overhead, there was a definite reddish-golden glow that was illuminating the treetops.  I can only imagine what it must have looked like on the slopes of the surrounding mountains.
Late evening in the woods as the sun was setting
Before concluding this report, I should mention that (in my opinion) the abandoned Black Brook Trail is just marginally suitable for summer travel.   I once tried hiking this route during that season of the year.  The footway had many spots that were wet/boggy, and briar patches were encroaching into the trail's corridor.  And to top things off, I was covered in ticks!!  For those reasons, I think it's best enjoyed in late autumn and during the winter season.

To sum it up, this was a very enjoyable snowshoe trek spent meandering along an abandoned hiking trail.   I love this type of easygoing roaming with simple goals in mind.

15 comments:

  1. Hi John,

    You piqued the interest of this birder by showing that nest picture. I searched online and found a nest almost exactly like the one you saw—nestled in branches and low to the ground, belonging to the American Goldfinch. Can anyone else corroborate this?

    I also like the photo of moose droppings! So nice to see evidence of wildlife when out for a hike. And it looks like you had an excellent day for a winter's meander through the lovely New Hampshire woods.

    Thanks for another fun and interesting report.

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    1. Hi Rita,

      Didn’t know that you are a birder! Thanks for taking the time to do some online research regarding the bird nest. From my limited knowledge in these matters, it seems to me that the American Goldfinch would be a good fit for the nest that I saw. It will be interesting to see if any other birders will comment and corroborate this.

      And yes, it was indeed a wonderful day for a “winter’s meander through the lovely New Hampshire woods”! Such days are greatly treasured!

      John

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  2. what a wonderful exploration..not to mention the deep blue sky! I'll be curious to find out how obvious the intersection of Black Brook trail & Cherry Mountain trail is from the CMT. Do you know which trail came first?
    Thanks for the interesting read

    Marty

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    1. Hi Marty,

      Thanks for posting your comments!

      The intersection point of the Black Brook Trail (BBT) and the Cherry Mountain Trail (CMT) is pretty obvious if you know where to look for it. I’ve seen this junction several times when doing trail work on the eastern portion of the CMT. Toward the end of one of my older blog reports (link below), I show a picture of this junction.
      http://1happyhiker.blogspot.com/2011/05/between-rains-at-trek-to-cherry.html

      As to which trail came first, I really don’t know for certain. I suspect that the BBT might have been developed before the CMT, but it’s only a hunch.

      John

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  3. Nice report and timely. Today I was looking at the maps that came with the 26th edition of the White Mountain Guide. The Black Brook Trail is shown on the maps but is not listed in the guide. I thought it might make a nice trip on Sunday before heading home. Now I'll have to try it.

    Thanks again,
    Glenn

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    1. Glenn, perhaps it is me who should be thanking you for taking time to post your comments. It’s difficult to determine if one’s blog is of value, unless there is reader response.

      Regardless, I hope the weather cooperates for you, and if so, I truly hope that you have a pleasurable trek along the old Black Brook Trail. I know nothing about your hiking skills, but if you are adept at navigating by compass, then you should be all set for an adventure which I find to be fun. The old trail follows a northward course. If you lose it, then just do some zigzag meandering and chances are you will pick it up again.

      If you are so inclined, then please send me an e-mail at: randonneur8 AT yahoo DOT com to let me know the outcome of your adventure.

      Best regards,
      John

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  4. Interesting and looks like you had a lovely day (considering the weather of recent weeks) for a nice trek. Other than the boggy, spiny stuff in the summer seasons, do you know why this one was abandoned? Just curious. I know there are plenty of abandoned trails, some for obvious reasons, such as Adams Slide or Downes Brook Slide because of the danger, but some for not so obvious reasons. Maybe land ownership, or no one to perform the regular maintenance? I know maintaining everything currently in use is not an easy feat!

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    1. Hi Summerset,

      My understanding of the reasons for closure of the Black Brook Trail might not be totally accurate. I won’t be offended in the least if a reader posts a comment to correct what I’m about to say.

      Based upon “word of mouth” comments heard over the years, it seems that there were several factors that caused the closure of this trail. Perhaps first and foremost is that it was one heck of a long way to get to Mt. Martha! The Black Brook Trail itself was 3.5 miles long, and that only got you to the eastern leg of the Cherry Mountain Trail, and then you needed to hike another 1.9 mile on that trail before reaching the summit. This represents nearly an 11 mile round-trip trek which would be even longer if a hiker wanted to also include the Owl’s Head peak in the itinerary! It’s my understanding that the Black Brook Trail was developed in the days of the “grand hotels” that once populated the Rt. 302 corridor. The trailhead would have been conveniently located for guests at those establishments.

      Also, I’ve heard comments that a major disruption to the trail was caused by the logging operations of many decades ago. It seems that was the final nail in the coffin. By that time, the grand hotels were gone, and hikers were accessing the peaks on Cherry Mountain from other trails which involved much shorter hiking distances. As a result, the Black Brook Trail corridor was being only lightly-used, and so that must have played a role in the decision to abandon it.

      John

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    2. John

      Thanks for sharing your trip to Black Brook with us. I also like to visit the old Balck Brook Trail. Last time was in April of 2012. I was following the old trail down from ridge top and came across remains of a remarkable wood stove + moose skull. I took the skull home, but left the stove parts in accordance with laws of the forest. I don't know if it works to put urls in this thing, but I'll try:

      http://jazzbeaux.smugmug.com/Hiking/Black-Brook-Ramble-04072012/22400899_xWfGb8#!i=1790655659&k=StHC5vP

      That area is fabulous for moose. Another time in Black Brook I came across a truly gruesome moose carcass. It's pics are in one of my other Smugmug albums. I didn't think it was appropriate for VFTT.

      Jazzbeaux

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    3. Thanks Jazzbeaux for taking time to post your experience on the Black Brook Trail! After reviewing your photos and reading your comments, I think you have truly had more rewarding and extensive forays onto this trail than I’ve had!

      Regarding the link you posted, although it’s not directly accessible by simply clicking on it, it’s easy to cut and paste it into your browser. I reviewed all your photos in that album and found them to be very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

      And speaking of links and speaking of moose, you are absolutely correct about the Cherry Mountain area being a place that is rampant with those magnificent creatures. Don’t know if you’ve ever ventured out the area of Cherry Mountain called The Humps. Anyway, the forest floor in that area is literally carpeted with moose droppings! And regarding moose carcass, since I didn’t perceive it to be particularly gruesome, one of my blog reports contains a photo of a moose carcass that was located off to the side of the Cherry Mountain Trail. The link is shown below. If anyone is particularly squeamish about such things, then simply don’t bother to cut and paste this link into your browser! :-)
      http://1happyhiker.blogspot.com/2011/05/between-rains-at-trek-to-cherry.html

      Thanks again Ray for your comments, and for sharing the link to your photo album.

      John

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    4. Thanks John, that makes total sense, regarding the era of the grand hotels and their clientele, in addition to the logging. It makes sense that people would want to use the shorter trails to obtain the peaks, because for an 11 mile trek, you can go quite a few places in the Whites. I guess it comes down to your goals, either just scenery or a long ramble in the woods, with some views as a perk.

      Another interesting tidbit is that my husband just sent me a link for a snowshoe guide position at what is the closest to what remains of the grand hotel tradition, the Mt. Washington Hotel (even though it is owned by the Omni group now). I guess those activities are still popular today as they were back in the prime time of grand hotels!

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  5. I've been meaning to check out this trail - glad to see it still exists. I'd been looking at it as a way to cut out the road walking between Jefferson and Zealand Rd. Got to tell you - the Lost Trails web site puts all kinds of crazy ideas in my head!

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    1. Philip,

      Thanks for your comments!

      Further regarding the Black Brook Trail, as I indicated in my Blog report, this abandoned trail is probably best used on a seasonal basis. During springtime and early summer, my experiences on the Rt. 302 end of this trail have been unpleasant due to boggy areas, weeds, and ticks!

      And yes, I totally agree that the Lost Trails website is indeed another great resource for some ‘different’ hiking ideas!

      John

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  6. John, Thanks for the time you put into this blog and into trail maintenance in the whites. This year I am hiking the less traveled with lots of bushwacks and exploring old trails. I have to say, your blog gives me so good pointers, but I think I need to read ALL of the report(s) before embarking... I briefly read this report and decided I'll try Black Brook. All was good up to the "view" spot. It has now grown up so limited views with foliage.(assuming of course I was in the correct spot). I then ventured into the boggy areas and crossed the brook(s) but soon after lost any sign of the trail corridor. I did find a moose antler in thickets of scrub firs that I border the northern end of logging activity. I decided to keep trekking north and found nice open woods and a few steep sections with dead falls and thick spruce/pine before reaching more open wood toward the top of Cherry Mt. After a bit of zig and zag searching for the trail, I came out on East CMT above the 90 degree turn. It is close to 4 miles from 302 to the CMT junction (at least my GPS said so...) I enjoyed the climb to Martha with great views. On the return I decided to take the East CMT to the road rather than battle bugs and rough whacking then walked the road (very pleasant with only 3 cars during my walking) . At the bottom, I took lower falls road back to Zealand and along 302 to the fire road where I parked... 15 miles total loop. Had a great time exploring the old trail and really liked the gentle walk down the east side of the mt... BTW: one tree covers most of the trail about 1.25 miles up from CM road.... otherwise the trail is in good shape. I saw the back end of a moose and loads of tracks... Thanks again for your blog!
    Matt

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    1. Matt . . . Thank you very much for your kind words. Also thanks for taking time to post your experience with the abandoned Black Brook Trail. It's gratifying to know that my blog provides ideas for non-traditional hiking adventures. It can be great fun, and I wish you many "happy trails" in your explorations.

      John

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