Here is a "spoiler-alert". This wasn't much of a hike, especially if you prefer adventures with grandiose mountaintop views. However, it was an opportunity to enjoy a wonderful winter trek though snow-covered woodlands and end up at the rustic Eliza Brook Shelter in time for lunch.
It's okay. You can rightfully say that this is a long walk just to eat a peanut butter sandwich at a remote shelter in the middle of nowhere, and which overlooks nothing other than the surrounding forest!
How long of a walk is it? Well, using a combination of the Reel Brook Trail and Kinsman Ridge Trail, the distance from the trailhead to the shelter is 3.9 miles. And, since winter parking is located about 0.2 miles from the trailhead, you're now talking about a 4.1 mile (one-way) trek. However, perhaps it's just me, but the distance doesn't seem to be much of a factor. Other than a couple of short-lived steep spots, the grade is relatively gentle and you can make good time.
I had read a report on a hiking forum that this corridor had just recently been traveled, and so I knew that I wouldn't need to break out the trail. The next photo shows the trail condition at the trailhead. These lovely packed-down conditions continued all the way to the Eliza Brook Shelter. And although my stopping point was at the shelter, I could see that the trail had been broken out beyond that point, perhaps all the way to the Kinsmans??
|Well broken out trail from the trailhead to the Eliza Brook Shelter . . . and beyond!|
In addition to the trail's nicely consolidated snowpack, all of the many brook crossings were snow-bridged. I would venture to say that if you had never travelled this trail in non-winter conditions, then you would probably be unaware that you were crossing several brooks along the route.
|All the multiple brook crossings along the route were snow-bridged|
At the junction of the Reel Brook Trail and Kinsman Ridge Trail, there was no evidence whatsoever that anyone had traveled the Kinsman Ridge Trail southbound toward Mt. Wolf.
|Junction of Reel Brook Trail and Kinsman Ridge Trail|
En route to the shelter on the Kinsman Ridge Trail, you cross a depression which is the location of the original Kinsman Notch. In current times, Kinsman Notch is referred to as the area on Rt. 112 in the general vicinity of Lost River Reservation. Regardless, the original Kinsman Notch corridor is now "graced" with a power line complex. At the point where the Kinsman Ridge Trail crosses over this power line, there are some vistas. No attempt will be made to "sugarcoat" the view from here. It is what it is! I'll only say that there is a fine line between a "view" and a "spectacle".
The next photo shows the view from the power line corridor. The area known as Bog Pond dominates the foreground, and the Loon Mountain Ski Resort dominates the more distant view.
|View from power-line corridor en route to Eliza Brook Shelter|
Up to this point, I've failed to mention that although I've traveled this route before, I've never hiked it in winter conditions. And since I enjoy doing new things, it was appealing to me to experience this route in winter. So, that was certainly one motivation. The other factor had to do with weather. On the day of this hike, it was very windy (gusts up to 35 mph), and bitter cold (temperature in the teens). Given those conditions, I wanted to do a hike that was relatively protected from the wind by staying in the woods, rather than travelling to some open location like a mountaintop or pond.
When I arrived at the Eliza Brook Shelter, there was still some wind, and it was still bitterly cold. However, it was a terrific place to have lunch. It felt almost cozy being inside the shelter, and being surrounded by the 3 walls with a roof overhead.
|Eliza Brook Shelter|
Shown below is a sign posted inside the shelter. It is gratifying to see that visitors to this facility are respecting the request made by the Eliza Brook Construction Crew. (Click HERE for some interesting photos and information about this facility located along the Appalachian Trail.)
|Sign inside Eliza Brook Shelter|
After dining on my gourmet lunch of peanut butter sandwich, grapes, juice box, and cookies, I began my return journey to the trailhead. The distance between the Eliza Brook Shelter and the Reel Brook Trail is about 1.0 mile. Over that one-mile distance is about a 300 ft. elevation gain as you travel back to the Reel Brook Trail. In the grand scheme of things, that's not much of a gain. However, it's enough to know that you've done some climbing before you begin your descent on the Reel Brook Trail.
When I'm hiking, I'll often do some mini-bushwhacks off the trail when I see something that catches my eye. On this adventure, I saw what appeared to be remnants of a man-made structure that was tucked in the woods off in the distance. It sort of looked like it might be a stone-wall, or possibly an old stone foundation for a house. Anyway, once I got there, it was just a natural formation created by Mother Nature. But, the exciting part is as follows!
In making my way back to the trail, I noticed a moose antler poking up through the snow! The first photo shows the antler as it appeared when I spotted it. The second photo shows the antler with dimensions that I measured once I got it home.
|Moose antler seen poking through the snow|
|Dimensions of moose antler|
To sum it up, long walks through the forest are enjoyable to me, but it's totally understandable that such a hike would have limited appeal. It was terrific to experience this route in winter conditions, which was a first for me, and it was truly an unexpected treat to find the moose antler!
(And finally, here is a bit of audacious self-promotion! You can find write-ups for a growing series of smaller hikes at my other Blog entitled "2 Small 2B Big". Click HERE.)