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04 May 2013

Return to Razor Brook (Presidential Range Dry River Wilderness)

You'll note that the word "return" is used in the title of this report.  Frequent readers of my Blog might recall that I'd previously visited Razor Brook as part of a loop hike in July 2011.  (Click HERE to view that report).

Most of the Razor Brook valley is located within the Presidential Dry River Wilderness.  For anyone unfamiliar with the location of the Razor Brook valley, perhaps the Google Earth image shown below will be useful.  
Google Earth image showing location of Razor Brook valley
There have been no hiking trails in this remote region since the Razor Brook Trail was abandoned in the early 1960s.  The route of this old trail is shown on the vintage map below.
Route of old Razor Brook Trail (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
To access the southern part of the Razor Brook valley, you need to contend with a large chunk of private land that lies between the Saco River and the southern border of the Presidential Range Dry River Wilderness.  

Shown on the map below is the general idea of the route that I used to navigate around the private land.  Please note, this is not a GPS track, but rather is just a rough depiction of the route that covered about 5 miles round-trip.  Also, you'll note that just for variety, I used different routes for the outbound and inbound legs of my trek. 
General idea of route used to navigate around private land (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
As is apparent from viewing the above map,  I didn't travel very far up the Razor Brook valley.  For this particular day, my very modest goal was merely to reach the corridor of the old Razor Brook trail, and then to travel a short distance northward along the brook.  Hikes can have a destination such as a mountaintop, a pond, etc.  For this trek, Razor Brook was my goal.

When I was trekking in the Razor Brook valley during my July 2011 adventure, the corridor for the old trail was very faint.  There were times when I was uncertain that I was actually on it.  

However, as stated in old editions of the White Mountain Guide, the lower end of the old Razor Brook Trail followed logging roads up Razor Brook for some distance.  In theory, this had the potential for making the lower portion of the old trail more apparent than the upper portion which did not incorporate logging roads into the corridor.

Well, once I arrived at Razor Brook and crossed over to its west bank, there it was!  The old logging road was indeed still there and quite evident (photo below).
Old logging road used as corridor for the abandoned Razor Brook Trail 
This was only an exploratory mission, and besides, my goal for the day had been met.  And so, I just hiked a few tenths of a mile northward on the old trail.  However, it was ever so tempting to continue further up the valley.  But there is this thing called "Father Time".  I knew there simply would not be enough time to go any further and still leave myself a safety buffer for unanticipated issues during the return leg of my trek.

Although the distance traveled along the old trail was relatively short, the quality time spent meandering along the Razor Brook was immense.   As I sat having a snack at a picturesque spot along the brook, there was no doubt about this being a worthy destination!  No Photoshop processing done to the next photo in order to change or to enhance the colors.  The scene is exactly what was witnessed by my own eyes.
Picturesque spot along Razor Brook
And so, the above text and photos serve to present the background and the highlights of my Razor Brook adventure.  The next part of this report will focus on some of the other aspects.

The bushwhacking portions of this trek were through marvelous open woodlands, as depicted by the next photo.  For some segments, the woods were even more open than what is shown in this snapshot. 
Open woods bushwhacking
There was long stretch of the bushwhack where I followed the boundary line between private land and National Forest land. Numerous red markers are used to denote the boundary.  It was almost like following a blazed trail (next photo).
Red markers denoting boundary between private land and National Forest land
There was one spot where the crew apparently decided to add a bit of humor to their boundary marking duties.  I don't know if it's fair to assume that the crew member who did this was named "Muskrat", as the caption beneath the face might suggest!  Also, you have to wonder if the "artist" ever thought his work would be appreciated by anyone way out there in the wilderness, and even photographed to boot!
A piece of cartoon "art" interspersed among boundary line blazes
As shown on the map at the beginning of this report, Cave Mountain was included in the outbound leg of the trek.   The next photo is a collage of various aspects of this portion of the journey.
Collage of photos relative to the Cave Mountain portion of my trek
And shown below is one other photo relative to Cave Mountain.  It shows the view from a ledge near the top of this little 1,439 ft. mountain.  Mt. Chocorua is the sharp pointed peak that can be seen way off on the distant horizon, just a bit right of center.
View from ledge near the top of Cave Mountain
Lastly, here is a side note.  Upon returning to the trailhead, there was just enough time to do one more short hike before heading for home.  From the center of Bartlett, I drove eastward on Route 302 for 1.7 miles to reach the Thorne Pond Conservation Area.  At this location is a thoroughly delightful 0.7 mile trek which takes you around the perimeter of Thorne Pond, plus it includes a short side path to the Saco River.  Click HERE to read about that short hike.

To sum it up, a trek such as this will likely have little appeal unless you enjoy hiking for the sake of hiking, and the thrill of finding your way through the woods via off-trail travel.  Speaking solely for myself, this adventure was every bit as fun and rewarding as traveling along an official hiking trail to a conventional destination.


NeoAkela said...

Wow! Love those old logging roads - some of them certainly hold up well over the years! Looks like a beautiful brook! :)

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Chris!

Don’t know what factors might determine how well a logging road holds up over the years. Perhaps construction technique might play a big role. Or maybe it’s sort of like Real Estate. You know, “location, location, location”! :-)

Also, don’t know why Razor Brook had several of those brilliantly-colored pools, such as shown in my photo. Maybe it has something to do with mineral composition of the brook bed?

Regardless, thanks again for your comments, much appreciated.


Rita Wechter said...

Wow, John that picture of Razor Brook is beyond beautiful! I can't believe that shades of yellow, green and blue in that water. You certainly live near some great mountain streams.
I like the "artwork" on the tree too. It's always nice to see another smiling face in the woods!

1HappyHiker said...

Rita, your comments are always so perceptive!

Indeed, Razor Brook is a beauty! And it has the added quality of being a place that is rarely seen since hiking trails in this remote valley have been abandoned for decades. It was a privilege to visit here.

And yes, it is always a treat to see a smiling face in the woods, even if it’s a smiling caricature painted on a tree! :-)