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19 February 2013

Lunch at Eliza Brook Shelter


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.)

20 comments:

  1. Very nice hike - not many people can boast of a lunch scenery like that! I've never seen that shelter, but this rebuild is really nice. I've wanted to try the Reel Brook Trail, but in summer, as it isn't such a popular winter route. Maybe when the snow is gone. Very cool find of the moose antler, and can you imagine that he had two of them, one on either side of his head? Moose are impressive animals.

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    1. Summerset, I think you would really (or should that be ‘reely’) like the Reel Brook Trail! Perhaps if you have a hankering to do the Kinsmans this summer, then you can consider using the Reel Brook Trail. The most efficient way to do this is with an easy ‘car-spot’ at the trailheads for the Reel Brook Trail and Mt. Kinsman Trail.

      As you might recall, in the Summer of 2011 I hiked the Kinsmans using this ‘two-trailhead’ method. I still rank that particular hike as one of my all time favorites. Shown below is a link to the report about that adventure.
      http://1happyhiker.blogspot.com/2011/08/reel-good-approach-route-to-kinsmans.html

      As always, thanks for posting your comments.

      John

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    2. Hi John,
      Thanks for posting. Eliza Brook is one of my favorite lean-tos. Nice and quiet. The stream is very impressive in spring and summer. I want to do a winter overnight at the shelter. I'm a little worried about the "Northern Pass" - they would add and heighten the existing power lines - the only negative about Reel Brook Trail. I hiked under those lines one summer day during a thunderstorm and quicken my pace when hearing the loud buzz.
      Happy hiking - be safe.
      Peter

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    3. Hi Peter,

      Thanks for dropping by to read my blog, and to post your comments.

      I totally agree with your thoughts about the Eliza Brook shelter. It is such an idyllic setting.
      And yes, there are segments of the Reel Brook Trail that are negatively impacted by the exiting power lines, and it would indeed be so sad to have this situation exacerbated by the proposed Northern Pass project. Hopefully, with the involvement of concerned citizens and enlightened lawmakers, this venture will never come to fruition.

      Best regards,
      John

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  2. John, your reports are the best. And so often you hike routes that I love too, and for the same reasons you do. Thanks for the time you put into these projects. They're entertaining as well as informative.

    P.S. Boy, my dogs would love to have found that moose antler!

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    1. Thanks Steve! That’s quite a compliment!

      Regarding the moose antler, maybe the moose’s second antler is laying close by to the trail for your dogs to find! :-)

      John

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    2. Maybe!

      A few years ago, my late, great hound Tuckerman found a huge moose leg bone on the North Twin Trail. You've never seen a happier dog: from a dog's point of view, he had hit the hiking jackpot! Before we got to the trailhead (we were on our way out) he did something he never did before with other bones: he buried it, up on a bank from the river. I hope it's still there in the ground.

      /S

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    3. Thanks for sharing that Steve! Some dogs, like some people, are simply special and will forever hold a special place in our memory.

      John

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  3. Lovely - looks like the perfect hike for a windy cold day! I've often thought about the possibility of walking the powerline corridor eastward from that point on the Kinsman Ridge trail. It would be an interesting trek down through Bog Pond and Bog Eddy to the snowmobile corridor and out to the Georgiana Falls trailhead. Probably a trip only for winter snowshoeing, though!

    Another potentially cool spot would be that knoll roughly SW of Harrington Pond. I'm hoping sometime I'll have the opportunity to explore that spot.

    Thanks for posting this trip, John! That's such a nice area up there on the side of the Kinsmans :)

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    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the comments and thoughts!

      You might have already done this, but here’s something to consider regarding your thoughts about trekking eastward from the power line and eventually coming out at the trailhead for Georgianna Falls. If you have access to one of the very old WMGs, you might find the route of the old Bog Pond Trail to be of interest. My 1940 WMG describes a route somewhat similar to that which you outlined. Of course, chances are very slim that are any remaining remnants of that old trail. However, a corridor that was once suitable for a trail, MIGHT be one that is suitable for bushwhacking. Just a thought, but perhaps not a good one! :-) Regardless, I do agree that an adventure through such a boggy landscape is one that is best undertaken during winter conditions when the ground is frozen.

      John

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  4. Nice report on a cool and seldom-traveled area, John. The rebuilt shelter does look great. The powerline was put through in the 1950s, I believe. I've often thought of how wild an area the Bog Pond plateau must have been before that. It's still a pretty neat place to visit.

    Nice antler find!

    Steve

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    1. Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your nice words about the report, and thanks for providing the info about the time period in which the power line was put into place.

      As I think you know, I’ve only explored one small segment of the Bog Pond plateau, i.e. basically just the NE corner. At some point, I’d like to explore more of it, especially the SW corner.

      John

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  5. finding those moose antlers makes the trip worthy all its own!! What a find!! Great stuff, shelter looks nice too!!!

    Hiking Lady!

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    1. Hi Hiking Lady!

      You are so right! Finding the moose antler did indeed make the trip a worthy adventure all on its own. It was an unexpected treat, and a great way to cap off an enjoyable day of winter hiking.

      And yes, the Eliza Brook Shelter is very nice! Can’t help but feel that a facility of this quality is greatly appreciated by the Appalachian Trail thru-hikers as a place to bed-down for the night.

      John

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  6. A long walk on a beautiful winters day, to a beautiful spot, just to eat a sandwich..... Beats a day at work or just home on the coach, anytime. Great report John. I'm not into winter backpacking but that photo of the shelter looks sooo inviting.

    I plan to revisit Mt Wolf someday using the Reel Brook Trail as I've never been on it. I was surprised to see the conditions you posted. Did not know people used that route in winter to I'm assuming the Kinsmans.

    Joe

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    1. Hi Joe,

      You hit the nail on the head! Could not have said it any better than you did, i.e. “A long walk on a beautiful winters day, to a beautiful spot, just to eat a sandwich..... Beats a day at work or just home on the coach, anytime.”

      Having the Reel Brook Trail/Kinsman Ridge Trail combination broken out in Wintertime might be a bit of an aberration, but I don’t know this for a fact. Regardless, it was an irresistible opportunity to hike this route after seeing the VFTT report that the trails had been recently traveled.

      Thanks Joe for posting your comments!

      John

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  7. Looks like you had a perfect winter day for this hike, John. (Well, minus the high winds.) I love your destination of the Eliza Brook Shelter as a lunch stop. I don't think any restaurant could match that scenery. I hope that all guests to the shelter will heed that nice note from the construction crew.
    How heavy was that moose antler? I've seen some elk antlers in the fields, but none that I would have wanted to carry a few miles!
    It was good to see all that snow in the woods again.

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    1. Hi Rita!

      Well, first of all, yes it is indeed very good to finally have some significant snow here in northern New England! Whew! I was starting to think it might not happen this year!

      Regarding the moose antler, it really wasn’t all that heavy. However, I do know what you mean about some antlers being VERY heavy. A few years ago, I found a moose antler at least twice the size of my current find. That one was a struggle to bring out of the woods on my backpack, not only because of its weight, but its size.

      Thank you for your comments . . . greatly appreciated, as always!

      John

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  8. Moose antlers...???!!!! How exotic!!! ^_^ definitely won't find that anywhere here in North Wales (UK). Just stumbled upon your cool blog and have already hit *follow* [although I've just realised you only do that on Wordpress, ha!]
    great pics!
    Babs

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    1. Well, speaking of exotic, it’s an extraordinary (and pleasant) surprise to receive a comment from a reader in the UK. Thank you for taking to post your remarks!

      Just did a little web surfing and think you might the person who authors a very nice Blog named “VAN PLUS4”. Correct?

      Many years ago I was employed by the U.S. division of the British company ICI. My business travels took me to the UK on several occasions, and even once included a brief visit to North Wales. What a beautiful part of the world that is!

      John

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