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23 July 2013

Bushwhacking to Ledges along Ridgeline on North Side of Lafayette Brook

Perhaps to have a true appreciation for a report such as this, one needs to have an admiration for those places in the NH White Mountains that are trivial and lacking in fame!

This bushwhack adventure took me to some ledge outcroppings along a ridgeline that is located just a short distance north of the ravine drained by Lafayette Brook.  One prominent ledge along this ridge can be seen from the old Rt. 3 bridge at Gallen Circle.  I've always referred to this ledge as the Indian Warrior.  But I think the name of Sleeping Chief (as dubbed by my friend Chris Whiton) is the name that has stuck and most frequently used.

A red arrow is pointing to the Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge in the photo shown below.
Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge (as viewed from old Rt. 3 bridge)
Perhaps the highly-zoomed photo shown below will provide a better idea as to the "Indian-like" features of this ledge.
Highly-Zoomed photo of Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge
This was hardly a unique adventure!  I know of at least two others who have done bushwhacking forays along this ridgeline.  Steve Smith has been there on numerous occasions (click HERE to read one of his reports).  And I'm aware of at least one visit made by Chris Whiton to these ledges (click HERE to read his report).

Along the ridgeline there are slippery, moss-covered boulders with large gaps between them.  It makes for some tedious travel to avoid twisting an ankle (or worse).  So, rather than stay on the ridgeline for the entire trek, I just made selective forays onto it, so as to catch the views from a few ledges like Sleeping Chief/Indian Warrior.

Most of my trekking was done in the woods at the base of the ridgeline on its north side where there are some beautiful glades of birch and fern.   According to Steve Smith, "The birches are the legacy of a forest fire in 1903".
Beautiful glades of birch and fern seen while trekking to ledges
And speaking of flora, on the sunny ledges I saw wild blueberries in various stages of ripening.

And then, on the dark understory of the forest, I spotted several outcroppings of the delicate Indian Pipe.  Quite an appropriate discovery in light of the various Indian-like names bestowed upon one of the prominent ledges along the ridgeline!  Although the Indian Pipe resembles a mushroom, it's actually a plant that lacks chlorophyll.  Rather than generating energy from the sun, it gets its nutrients via a parasitic relationship with trees (click HERE to read more about this plant).
Blueberries on the sunny ledges; Indian Pipe on dark understory of the forest
There are several unique vistas from the ledges along the ridgeline.  Perhaps the most unique view is looking at the backside (east side) of Eagle Pass. The west side of Eagle Pass is what is most commonly seen as folks travel through the Franconia Notch along the I-93 corridor.
Backside of Eagle pass as viewed from Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge
Zoomed view of the backside of Eagle Pass
Looking through my binoculars, I could see Artist's Bluff and Bald Mountain.  These two little mountains provide short hikes which tourists and many locals (including myself) enjoy doing.
Zoomed view of Artist's Bluff and Bald Mountain
Also looking through my binoculars I could see the old Rt. 3 bridge that I'd walked across while en route to launch my bushwhack to the ledges.
Old Rt. 3 bridge as viewed from Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge
As I made my descent back to my starting point, I made one last foray onto the ridgeline to access a small ledge.  From here, I could look back at the spot where I'd lounged for about a half an hour on the Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge (lower left corner of next photo).
Looking back at Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief from another ledge along the ridgeline
Just as a side note, it was a bit of a challenge to locate this ledge since it was akin to locating a small island of rock in the middle of the forest.  Or, one could say like finding a needle in a haystack!  Perhaps the next photo will provide some idea as to its size.
The "small ledge", plus Cannon Mountain ski slopes peeking over Eagle Cliff ridge
As the crow flies, the Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief ledge is only about a mile from the busy I-93 corridor.  Other outcroppings along the ridgeline are even closer.  But despite this, there is a feeling of remoteness, as though you'd hiked several miles into the wilderness.  However, when you catch glimpses of I-93 from the ridgeline, you quickly realize that civilization is lurking nearby.
Portion of the I-93 corridor viewed from Indian Warrior/Sleeping Chief Ledge
To sum it up, I found this short adventure (less than 3 hours of actual hiking time) to be an enjoyable experience.  It was a trek that I've been meaning to do for several years but have just never gotten around to doing it.


Steve Smith said...

Great report, John, with some interesting zoom shots. That birch glade looks gorgeous in the summer! The lower ledges are, indeed, hard to find.


1HappyHiker said...

Thanks for the kind words Steve!

It took me a few years to get around to doing this bushwhack. It was fun, and it was interesting to mentally compare this experience with my past bushwhacks a little further north (in the vicinity of Scarface Mountain) to some small outcroppings which I know you have also visited.


JustJoe said...

Very nice John. Some very unique views from there. I'll second how beautiful those birch glades look. Great photos.

After reading a couple of Steve's reports, and now yours on this area, I will probably pay a visit to the Lafayette Brook area when I'm up north for a week in August.

Thanks for sharing,

1HappyHiker said...

Joe, thank you for taking time to read my Blog, and for your compliments about the photos.

This is definitely NOT intended to ‘toot my own horn’. It’s merely intended to give you another bushwhacking option when you’re in the general vicinity of Lafayette Brook. Shown below is a link to a Blog report I posted a while ago regarding an off-trail trek to some small ledges on Bickford Mtn and Scarface Mtn. (You’ll need to cut & paste the link into your browser since links aren’t ‘click-able’ in the Comments section of the Blog.)


One Day in America said...

How did you ever find that ledge—it's just a relatively "tiny" rock in a sea of green. Definitely shows off your bushwhacking skills!
In this part of the world the landscape is exactly the opposite - tens of square miles of rocks with one lone tree sticking out!

Finally, thanks for including the link to the interesting facts about the Indian Pipe. I first encountered the plant while taking a plant taxonomy course in college and it's one of my favorites. Very elusive though.

Another fun read, John!

1HappyHiker said...

Rita, I loved your comment: “In this part of the world the landscape is exactly the opposite - tens of square miles of rocks with one lone tree sticking out!”

That is indeed quite a contrast!

Glad you appreciated the link about the Indian Pipe plant. It, and the Pitcher Plant, are two of my favorite woodland plants. Most likely, the Pitcher Plant was another one that you studied in your college course in plant taxonomy.