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06 February 2013

A Rocky Branch Ramble

As many frequent readers of my Blog know, I'm a fan of doing hikes that are either new to me, or at least trying to incorporate some new element into a hike that I've previously done.

One of several sources that I use to come up with new ideas is to read past postings of Steve Smith's Mountain Wandering blog (click HERE).    Awhile back, I recalled reading a report of Steve's concerning a trek to some prominent ledges on Maple Mountain which is located in the Rocky Branch valley.

When researching Maple Mountain as a possibility for my trek on 05-Feb-2013, I decided that getting to this destination was a bit more involved than what I was seeking for this particular day.  However, when looking at this general vicinity on Google Earth, I noticed what appeared to be a rather large beaver pond complex.  Bushwhacking to that spot appeared to be a relatively short trek and fairly straightforward.  And  to top it off, it was certainly a place that I'd never visited!

The beaver ponds are located in the Otis Brook drainage and is about 0.8 mile nearly due north of the Jericho Road trailhead for the Rocky Branch Trail.  From the general vicinity of the trailhead is where I launched my bushwhack.  However, to get to the launch point, I needed to walk the road for about 1.7 miles since the upper end of  Jericho Road is closed to vehicular traffic during winter months.

I'm not a huge fan of doing long road-walks.  However, at a brisk pace, this particular jaunt takes only about 40 minutes.  Although I saw no one for the entire day, there was an abundance of boot prints, and ski tracks on this snow-covered roadway.  I have no idea where everyone was headed.  Perhaps many folks just do this walk to be outside and to enjoy the scenery.  As far as road-walks go, it is pleasant, and especially at those points along the way where you can see the Rocky Branch River.
View of Rocky Branch River from Jericho Road
Although it wasn't absolutely necessary, I wore Microspikes while walking the road.  When I eventually left the road to begin my bushwhack, I was able to keep using this same footwear.   The ground had only a moderate covering of snow, and it was crusty enough to support me without snowshoes.  However, later in my trek,  as I approached the beaver ponds, I did eventually need to switch to snowshoes.

Along my route there were a few unattractive areas created by old logging operations.  However, the majority of my bushwhack consisted of tramping through very attractive open hardwoods, such as seen in the next photo.
Bushwhacking through open hardwoods for most of route to the beaver ponds
Although logging cuts generally are unattractive, they sometimes do open up a view.  There was a logging cut along my route which provided a nice view of Stairs Mountain, as seen in the next photo.
Zoomed photo of Stairs Mountain, as viewed from a logging cut along my route
Upon reaching the beaver ponds, I was pleased to discover that there was also a view of a portion of Stairs Mountain from this location (next photo).
Stairs Mountain as viewed from beaver ponds in the Otis Brook drainage
Okay, I've mentioned the beaver ponds several times in this report.  To gain a better appreciation for these ponds, it might be helpful to take a look at the Google Earth image shown below.  This image serves a couple of purposes.  It provides a general idea as to where these ponds are situated (Rocky Branch river is at left; Mt. Washington at top).  Also, the blowup portion of this image provides a perspective that I was unable to capture in my photos.  I'm speaking of the fact that this is a multilevel beaver pond complex.  I was able to see three dams at this site which are identified in the image below.
Google Earth image of beaver ponds
The next photo is one taken by me while standing near Dam 1.  I've labeled the location of the three dams, but perhaps you will now understand my earlier statement about being unable to adequately capture the "3-dam perspective" in a photo!  You have to wonder if the beavers hired a Clerk of the Works to oversee this elaborate project!
Photo showing location of the 3 beaver dams that I spotted
The next photo shows what I've been arbitrarily calling "Dam 3".  It was by far the largest of the three dams.
Photo showing "Dam 3" of a multi-dam complex
This next photo is sort of a copy-cat of something frequently used in Steve Smith's blog (referenced earlier in this report).  I have no intention of using Steve's "signature pose" on a regular basis.  However, in this particular case, it seemed useful to illustrate my feelings while having lunch on the shore of the beaver ponds.  As weird as it might seem to some people, I was thinking how much more enjoyment I derive from sitting on the shore of a beaver pond wearing my snowshoes, versus sitting on an ocean beach wearing flip-flops!
Having lunch on the shore of the beaver ponds (north end of Iron Mountain in the background)
So, in addition to the beaver dams, and the views of Stairs Mountain, and the attractive hardwood forest, there were some other eye-catching things that were seen during this adventure.   For example, at a spot on the forest floor where a snow cover was lacking, I saw a beautiful reddish-orange mushroom.  And, as I was walking back down Jericho Road at the end of the day, there was a nice scene along the Rocky Branch River.  The pretty mushroom, as well as the river scene are shown in the following two photos.
Mushroom seen on the forest floor where a snow cover was lacking
Early evening scene along the Rocky Branch River
While driving home, I decided to pull into the Thorne Pond Conservation Area which is a facility in Bartlett that is available for the public to enjoy.  I've driven by this spot several times, but never taken the time to stop.  I've learned that this pond was created to provide water for snowmaking activities at Attitash's Bear Peak Ski Area, which is right across US Rt. 302 from the pond.  I've read that several types of waterfowl (ducks, blue heron and loons) have been spotted at this body of water.

I only had time to walk a short distance on the trail system at Thorne Pond.  However, my short foray did enable me to see a sunset over Bartlett Haystack and the surrounding mountains (next photo).
Bartlett Haystack and surrounding mountains as viewed at sunset from Thorne Pond
To sum it up, it was a terrific day spent exploring the beaver ponds, and it was an unexpected surprise to experience a nice sunset at Thorne Pond while driving home. 


Steve Smith said...


Great report on a seldom-visited corner of the mountains. That is an impressive beaver pond complex! Neat views, too. Thanks for sharing!


1HappyHiker said...

. . . And thank you Steve for posting your comments!
Sometime I still want to do the Maple Mountain trek that you’ve reported in your Blog.


Rita Wechter said...

This looks like another rewarding hike, John. I like the beaver ponds and, of course, Tim would want to know if there are any fish in them!
The mushroom is amazing. Do you know what kind it is?
I love the snowshoe picture!
The winter woods and stream are lovely, too. As always, an entertaining report. Thanks!

P.S. I love the blue sky but it looks like you're going to get hit with quite a snowstorm this weekend. Enjoy!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

I always enjoy the comments that you post for my reports. Thanks once again!

Regarding the mushroom, I have several possible candidates as to what it might be, but am unprepared to commit to anything definitive at the moment. With any luck, perhaps a knowledgeable reader will identify it and post a comment.

And regarding our potential snowstorm for 08-Feb/09-Feb, at the moment I’m sitting here still waiting for something significant to happen! So far, there’s only a skiff of new snow that has fallen. It might end up being pretty much a southern New England event.


1SlowHiker said...

Always enjoy your posts and pictures. That is one intersting looking mushroom (or fungi ? ). I tried but couldnt find anything like it on the web. On a 2 day hut hike last August, my grandson and I got obsessesed with taking pictures of mushrooms and fungi (I think it was peak mushroom season), but never saw anything quite like yours. - Marvin

1HappyHiker said...

Marvin, thank you so much for taking time to post your comments regarding my Blog report.

Regarding that colorful mushroom, I received an e-mail from a very dear friend who suggested that it might be the mushroom identified at the link shown below (to access the link, you’ll need to cut and paste it into your browser window).