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01 May 2013

Mt. Tremont Trail: On-Trail Maintenance and Off-Trail Meandering

When leaving the house to do some Springtime maintenance on my adopted Mt. Tremont Trail, I had a rather unusual beginning to my day.  At the foot of my doorstep was a garter snake!  Before it slithered away, there was time to pull out my camera and get the snapshot shown below.  And as you'll read at the end of this report, this would not be my only rather bizarre event of the day!
Garter snake greeting me at my doorstep
Before going further with this report, it might be good to provide some background information regarding the Mt. Tremont Trail.  The lower half is terrific for those who just want to enjoy a short hike along a picturesque mountain brook. The upper half provides a fantastic opportunity for those who prefer a more aggressive hike and the thrill of experiencing the vistas from the top of Mt. Tremont.

Also, I should point out that this trail faces predominately northward, and therefore it retains snow well into the spring.  However, the topography is such that the lower half usually loses its snow several weeks before the upper half of the trail which is much steeper and receives very little direct sunlight.

Okay, with that background information out of the way, here's my report. This was the first time I'd stepped foot on the Mt. Tremont Trail since doing maintenance in Autumn 2012.  Since this corridor seems to be a magnet for fallen trees, I never know how much work to expect.  Surprisingly, all I needed to do was remove two small trees that had fallen across the trail, and toss aside a variety of tree limbs and other debris that had accumulated over the winter.  The drainage was in pretty good shape, and just required some minor maintenance.

The "working" conditions along the lower half of the Mt. Tremont Trail are so scenic.  Much of the trail runs in very close proximity to Stony Brook.  The next two snapshots show just a few of the many picturesque vignettes along this brook.
Stony Brook
One of several cascades along Stony Brook
As I was working along the lower half of the trail, I was secretly hoping that snow and/or ice would be present on the upper half of the trail so that I could feel good about deferring maintenance to another day.  It would be much more fun to spend the remainder of the day doing some off-trail adventures!  My secret wishes became reality when I met a young couple coming down the trail.  I reluctantly asked them if they had been to the top of Mt. Tremont.  Their response was a resounding "No"!  They further elaborated that full winter gear would be needed to negotiate the snow and ice.

Eventually, I came to the brook crossing which roughly divides the Mt. Tremont Trail into its lower and upper portions.  Sure enough, just as the young couple had reported, that is where the deep snow began!
Snow still present in the area where upper half of Mt. Tremont Trail begins
And so, since I was "excused" from doing maintenance on the upper half of the trail, I set forth on my off-trail adventure.  But first, I had to plod through a short section of deep snow in order to reach a spot on the mountainside where there was bare ground.  Having done this, I began heading southeasterly toward the col between Mt. Tremont and Bartlett Haystack.

My goal for this off-trail adventure was to hike to the top of a cliff which is located at the far eastern end of Mt. Tremont.  This cliff is shown in the next photo, which was taken a few years ago from the side of Bartlett Haystack during another bushwhack adventure.
Cliff located at far eastern end of Mt. Tremont
In retrospect, this was a somewhat foolhardy objective.  Since there was deep snow and ice on the upper half of the Mt. Tremont Trail, then it would stand to reason that reaching this cliff might be an unattainable goal.  However, hope sometimes springs eternal in the mind of a bushwhacker!

Although I tried several different approaches, deep snow thwarted each of my attempts to reach the top of the cliff.  However, I had a backup plan to visit a nearby pond that I'd visited once before in November 2010.   Therefore, from the snow-covered backside of the cliff, I slithered my way down to bare ground and headed for the pond.  On my final approach to the pond, I once again hit deep snow, and thought here we go again!  But thankfully, bare ground soon appeared, and I finally arrived at the pond.   This tiny body of water has no official name, and so I've arbitrarily dubbed it "Tremont Pond".
Location of tiny pond in the col between Mt. Tremont and Bartlett Haystack
Upon comparing photos taken in November 2010 versus those taken on this visit to the pond, the ones taken in November 2010 were perhaps a bit better.  Shown below is one such photo of "Tremont Pond". 
November 2010: View of "Tremont Pond"
The next two snapshots of "Tremont Pond" were taken during my April 2013 visit.
April 2013: View of "Tremont Pond"
April 2013: Another view of "Tremont Pond"
One new discovery was made on this April visit to "Tremont Pond".  Just a few hundred feet south of the pond is a very tiny ledge which provides a somewhat obstructed view of Mt. Chocorua (next photo).
Mt. Chocorua as viewed from tiny ledge located south of "Tremont Pond"
After my brief visit to the tiny ledge, it was time to head back to the Mt. Tremont Trail.  Along the way, I came across a small patch of False Hellebore, as seen in the next photo.   Blooming wildflowers have yet to appear in this part of the forest where true Springtime conditions have yet to arrive.
Small patch of False Hellebore
Shortly after hooking up with the Mt. Tremont Trail, I was totally surprised to see my friend Chris Whiton and his hiking partner Mark.  They had just emerged from the woods on a bushwhack of their own, which was in a totally different part of the forest.  My second bizarre occurrence for the day!

To sum it up, my day began with a surprise encounter with a snake at my doorstep, and it ended with a totally improbable meeting with a friend along the trail.  And in between those two remarkably unusual events, I managed to do some trail maintenance, and enjoy an off-trail adventure.  Quite a day!


Karl said...

Great report, John! Visiting that little pond is definitely a great alternate goal to the higher trail maintenance and higher cliff destination. Looks like there is a lot more water in there now than in 2010. It's hard to tell how big the pond really is. How big would you say it is? Again, thanks for a great report!


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Karl,

First of all, thank you for your kind words, and for taking time to post your comments.

By no means am I an expert on matters such as this, but I suspect that the difference in water levels between my November visit and the April visit is purely related to the seasons of the year. November generally tends to be a drier month than April.

Regarding the size of the pond, it is really tiny! Some have even suggested to me that it is a vernal pool, rather than a true pond. However, in my non-expert opinion, it seems to be something more than a vernal pool. Regardless, I’d roughly guesstimate that the pond covers a space which is no greater than half an acre.


Rita Wechter said...

I'm so glad that we have people like you in our forests, John—people who are willing to maintain trails to the benefit and enjoyment of all.
That being said, I was also happy to hear that you were able to spend the rest of the day adventuring instead of maintaining—even if you did have to resort to your "backup" plan!

Stony Brook is just lovely! And the little pond is picturesque too. I wonder if there are any frogs in it?
I loved the picture of the snake at the start of this post. I don't suppose you took a photo of the friends you ran into at the end of the hike??

Thanks for another fun read, John!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

Wow! Thank you for all your accolades!

Regarding the friends I ran into at the end of my hike, unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a snapshot. But, I really should have. I think they would’ve enjoyed having their “red badge of courage” displayed. Their bushwhack involved a traverse through a thicket of briars, and they have obvious flesh wounds! :-)

And regarding frogs in the pond. Yes, I could hear frogs peeping in the distance as I was approaching. However, once I arrived on the scene, not a peep was heard the whole time I was there. I strongly suspect that once I left, the frogs were delighted to get back to their peaceful existence!


NeoAkela said...

Thank goodness you didn't get a photo of those two bedraggled characters on the trail, John! They were quite scraped over by tangles of raspberry bushes! Great report, and I love the photo of the little pond & the tiny ledge with the view. I had looked at that little knob to the east of Tremont a few times on a map and wondered about it and it's little pond. So many great spots to wander in. Thank you for bringing some of these places to us so we can enjoy the photos and narrative! :)

1HappyHiker said...

Chris, I can certainly understand why the “wounded warriors” might have been less than eager to have their photo taken! But it would certainly have been an interesting image! :-)

And yes, obviously I agree with you that there are so many great spots for wandering. There a lifetime (and then some) of new and fun things to be explored in the forest!

Thanks for all your kind words. Great to hear that you enjoy my reports.