On this particular day, the destination was only a secondary consideration. My primary goal was to do a trek that would have little, if any, snow and ice along the route.
Gentian Pond is located at an elevation of nearly 2,200 ft, and is surrounded by steep ridges which limit the amount of direct sunlight it receives. Given those conditions, I was uncertain what I'd find there in late April in terms of snow and ice. However, I was fairly certain that the route to the pond would be relatively snow-free since the Austin Brook Trail is predominantly a south-facing trail.
My supposition about the trail was pretty much on target. The vast majority of this 3.5 mile trek was indeed free of ice and snow. The next photo show a typical segment of the trail.
|Trail was free of snow and ice for the vast majority of the trek|
However, there were a few short segments of patchy snow beyond the junction with the Dryad Fall Trail where the Austin Brook Trail veers a bit from its south-facing orientation (next photo).
|Just a few short segments of patchy snow beyond Dryad Fall Trail junction|
When I arrived at Gentian Pond, it was as though winter had never left, or should I say that spring has yet to arrive?! The pond was still ice-covered, and the shoreline still had a layer of very deep snow. How deep was the snow? Well, I only traveled a short distance along the shoreline because I was stepping into soft spots in the snow where the depth was well above my knee!
Given the deep snow conditions, and the fact that I'd purposely left my snowshoes at home, my exploration of the area was limited. However, there was no real disappointment with being unable to do more exploration in the vicinity of Gentian Pond. As indicated at the beginning of this report, I was uncertain what I'd find once I arrived at this location.
The next photo is the only decent view of the pond that I was able to capture.
|Gentian Pond as it appeared on 26-April-2013|
Although the pond was still frozen, the nearby Gentian Pond Shelter was very inviting. It has a southern exposure overlooking mountains in the Royce and Carter-Moriah range. This provided a warm, sunny and dry spot to spread out and enjoy a beautiful day while eating lunch and savoring the view. It's little wonder that this is a popular stopover for hikers traveling along the nearby Appalachian Trail.
|Gentian Pond Shelter|
|View from inside the Gentian Pond Shelter|
Besides experiencing Gentian Pond, and besides a delightful lunch-break at the shelter, the hike itself was filled with several trailside views that were pleasing. For example, just before the ascent to the plateau where Gentian Pond is located, there is a picturesque wetlands area that is dotted with several grassy islands (next photo).
|Picturesque wetlands area which is dotted with several grassy islands|
Also, along the route there is a trailside clearing where you can see Dryad Fall off in the distance. As the crow flies, it's about 0.7 mile away. Therefore, it requires a significant zoom to capture a snapshot of this far-away waterfall. Shown below is the best image I could capture with my "point and shoot" camera.
|Zoomed view of Dryad Fall as seen from a distance of about 0.7 mile|
While on the topic of waterfalls, my trek also included a short side trip on an unofficial trail in order to visit a series of cascades known as "Bowls and Pitchers". This little trail (about 0.3 mile long) has a south and a north entrance. Although neither entrance is signed, the trail itself is yellow-blazed and easy to follow. There is no place to park for the south entrance, but it's an easy walk (less than 0.5 mile) from the trailhead parking for the Scudder Trail. For the north entrance, there is a large wide spot on Mill Brook Road where you can park. However, the north entrance is not quite as obvious, and the first part of the trail is very brushy.
The points mentioned above are labeled on the map shown below (click to enlarge).
|Map showing location of "Bowls and Pitchers", plus unofficial trail leading to it|
The "Bowls and Pitchers" cascade has been known by this name for at least several decades. For example, there is mention of it on page 61 of my 1940 edition of the White Mountain Guide where it is described only as "interesting pot-holes in the stream".
One section of those "interesting pot-holes" is shown in the photo collage presented below. Two different camera settings were used to photograph this cascade. These are okay snapshots, but a REAL waterfall photographer is needed to more vividly capture their splendor! My "point & shoot" camera has its limits!
|Two different camera settings were used to photograph this cascade|
Here is just one more bit of information about my route. You can reach Gentian Pond by following the Austin Brook Trail all the way. However, I chose to do a slight modification by parking at the trailhead for the Scudder Trail, and then walk along Mill Brook Road to the point where it intersects the Austin Brook Trail. (Another parking option is to drive 0.9 mile beyond the Scudder Trail and then park at the wide spot along Mill Brook Road that I mentioned above. This wide spot is located just a few hundred feet from where large boulders have been placed to block access.)
To sum it up, this hiking adventure was perhaps a good example of the notion that the journey can be just as worthy and rewarding as the destination itself. My primary goal was met by journeying along a relatively snow-free trail, and I saw a number of beautiful sights along the way!