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10 July 2013

Mountain Bike Treks: Pond of Safety, and Gorham Hydro Station

As a break from my usual routine of hiking, I recently did a couple of relatively short treks on my mountain bike.

PART 1: Pond of Safety (located in the WMNF near Randolph, NH)

It's interesting to note that the Pond of Safety got its name from an incident that happened during the American Revolutionary War.  Four local men who had joined the Continental Army were captured by the British and were paroled on the condition that they not participate further in the conflict.  But because they feared punishment if they were recaptured by the British, they went to an isolated area (now known as Pond of Safety) in order to remain out of reach until there was no further danger that they might be apprehended.

To access Pond of Safety Road, take Ingerson Road (directly opposite Six Gun City) in Jefferson, NH.  Pond of Safety Road begins at a sharp bend along Ingerson Road.  From this point, you need to travel nearly 4 miles to reach the pond.

Once you arrive at the pond, there's a herd path around a portion of the shoreline.  It was interesting to recently read that the U.S. Forest Service has plans to replace this "user created trail" and to harden the shoreline using riprap.
Herd path around a portion of the shoreline of Pond of Safety
As I arrived at the Pond of Safety, it started to rain.  It wasn't a hard rain, but enough to get you wet!
Rainy conditions at Pond of Safety
Besides riding on your bike, you can also get to the pond by hiking (about 4 miles one-way) via the trail system in the Crescent Range.  Presented below is a map which shows the hiking trails in the Crescent Range.  Also shown is my bike route which is highlighted in yellow.  (Just as a footnote, you can also drive to the pond in a regular passenger car.  The Pond of Safety Road (dirt and gravel) is actually in pretty good shape this year.)
Trails in Crescent Range, as well as my bike route to Pond of Safety (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
The next photo shows a collage of hiking trail signs that are located at the Pond of Safety end of the trail system.
Hiking trail signs that can be seen near the Pond of Safety
I was surprised to find one of those USGS benchmark discs embedded in a boulder along the shoreline of Pond of Safety (next photo).  Although I've seen these many times on mountain summits, I don't recall ever seeing one at a pond.
USGS Benchmark seen along shoreline at Pond of Safety
Seeing this benchmark at this location piqued my interest.  I decided to try to reach the USGS by telephone to see what I could find out.  It was a total shock when I was actually able to reach a live person after the second ring!

The USGS representative told me that benchmarks can be located in a variety of places, including the shoreline of ponds.  He further indicated that benchmark locations are designated by the letters "BM" on USGS maps.  I looked on a 1938 USGS quad map, and sure enough there is a "BM" symbol at Pond of Safety exactly where I stumbled upon it!

On the map shown below, I've circled in red some of the other benchmarks that show up on this quad.  Hmmm! I wonder.  Are there already "benchmark-baggers" out there, or could this be the beginning of a whole new list for hikers to pursue?
Location of Pond of Safety benchmark, plus others in same vicinity (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Now it's time for a bit of humor.  The bike ride was enjoyable, but there were lots of bugs.  Since my repellent wasn't repelling I ended up wearing a head net! I took the "self-timer" photo shown below since I knew my wife would get a laugh out of it.  So, go ahead.  It's okay to poke fun at my dorky outfit! :-)
Me with my dorky outfit to cope with the bugs at Pond of Safety
ADDENDUM:  A few days after preparing this Blog report, I did some further research about benchmarks, and I even went out looking for a few benchmarks that are located only a few miles from my home in Bethlehem, NH.  A separate report about all this is contained in another Blog that I author (click HERE).

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PART 2: Gorham Hydro Station

After finishing the bike ride at Pond of Safety, I loaded the bike and drove about 15 miles east along Rt. 2 to do my second adventure of the day.  My objective this time was to bike along the backroads near the Gorham Hydro station.  This is one of nine hydroelectric power plants owned and operated by PSNH in the State of New Hampshire. This particular facility is located on the Androscoggin River and has been in service since 1917.

There are a variety of roadways at the Gorham Hydro station where public use is permitted.  Many of these roadways are open to use for ATVs and snowmobiles, as well as for use by bicyclists, and for hikers who want to access the south end of the Mahoosuc Trail.

If you are accessing the Gorham Hydro area by bike, ATV, or snowmobile, you should use the large parking lot on Rt. 2 (west of downtown Gorham).   If you're going to be hiking these roadways to reach the Mahoosuc Trail, then you should park at a lot on Rt. 16 which is located 0.3 mile north of the junction of Rt. 2 and Rt. 16.  This lot is on the east side of the road at the base of an old railroad bridge.

If you're visiting the Gorham Hydro area by bike, ATV, or snowmobile, you'll be crossing the old railroad bridge on the upper deck.  If you're hiking, then you'll be using the lower deck.

So with that background in mind, the next photo shows the upper deck of the railroad bridge that I biked across en route to the roadways at the hydro station.
Approaching upper deck of old railroad bridge en route to hydro station
The next photo was taken from the railroad bridge looking toward downtown Gorham with clouds engulfing the mountains that surround the town.
View from railroad bridge looking toward downtown Gorham
Once I biked over the bridge, I entered the road network at the hydro station.  My first stop was at the dam near the south end of the complex.  At this location is a building that I find particularly picturesque (next photo).
Picturesque building at the dam near the south end of Gorham Hydro complex
Looking northward from the dam is also an eye-pleasing sight (next photo).
Looking northward from the dam at the Gorham Hydro station
My travels along the roadways at Gorham Hydro also led me to a spot where I could look southward toward the dam and building where I had stopped earlier in the day.
Looking south toward the dam and building where I had stopped earlier in the day
To sum it up, I find it pleasant to occasionally take a break from my hiking routine by interspersing some mountain bike adventures.  Both of these exploits were particularly enjoyable and they have put me in the mood to come up with some other ideas for similar treks.  


Marty said...

Head net picture...."priceless!" but where's the umbrella?
Cookie and I were discussing biking in that area, thanks for doing our trip planning!


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Marty,

Thanks for posting your comments. You and Cookie might enjoy biking at either Pond of Safety, or the roadways at Gorham Hydro. Both places are okay for mountain bikes, but I’m uncertain if you’d be able to comfortably use your road bikes since roadways at both locations are dirt/gravel. Of these two places, probably the Gorham Hydro location would offer the better potential for an enjoyable experience with road bikes. However, something to bear in mind for the Gorham location is the possibility for having to share some of the roadways with ATVs. I was there mid-week, and so this was not an issue.

Regarding the “head-net” photo, you make a good point about a photo of me holding an umbrella while wearing my head net. I’ll need to figure out a way to keep the camera dry while doing a “self-timer” photo in the rain! :-)


Summerset said...

Very interesting adventures. I used to be heavily into mountain biking, before children and before hiking. I still have my bike and gear, probably should get that complete overhaul done.

Regarding the bug get-up. I have a saying, "Cold knows no fashion." You wear what you need to in order to stay warm. I'm going to amend that to add bugs as well. Whatever works is just fine!

Very interesting stuff about the benchmarks! I always like to look for them if I know they are around. Should be fun to look for them in unusual places, rather than just high points or summits.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Summerset,

Thank you for your reassuring comments regarding my rather peculiar outerwear to deal with the bugs. I totally agree with your sentiment that “Whatever works is just fine”!

And yes, isn’t that interesting stuff about the benchmarks! I’ll never become a “benchmark-bagger”. However, whenever I think of it, I’ll check a USGS map for an area where I’ll be hiking to see if there are any benchmarks that I might want to try locating. It could add another element of interest to a hike.

Once again, thanks for your comments.


Steve K. said...

Nice report, John. Your photo looking towards Gorham looks just like a postcard!

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks so much for the kind words!
Since Gorham is situated in such a beautiful location, it’s easy to get some eye-catching photos.


Anonymous said...

I'm planning on doing P.O.S. Next time I'm up north. Jon have you considered doing the rail trail from Pondicherry to berlin? I did it in sections last year since I did not have a car spot and had the opportunity to see a bald eagle over the Androscoggin river, hear a black billed cuckoo and the trip from gorham to randolph is gorgeous with Madison in the distance. I agree that mixing it up is important (keeps me from getting bored). Another recommendation is the Ammonoosuc rail trail from Littleton to Haverhill. (I have one section left), but saw a bald eagle fly overhead as well as oriole birds, covered bridges, beautiful vistas, etc. Great TR as always!

Hiking Lady

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Hiking Lady,

The Rail Trail makes for some fantastic biking. Like you, I’ve done the segment from Gorham to Randolph. It was a terrific ride! However, unlike you, I wasn’t blessed with having a sighting of a Bald Eagle, nor hearing a Black Billed Cuckoo. Regarding the Rail Trail in Pondicherry, I think I’ve biked every ‘bike-able’ portion of that gorgeous piece of land!

And lastly, regarding that Ammonoosuc Rail Trail from Littleton to Haverhill, I really need to do that. I have done one small segment at the Littleton end. However, I have friends who have done the entire route, and they rave about it.

I hope you enjoy cycling to Pond of Safety. I didn’t do it on this most recent trip, but there is a way to bushwhack to the north end of the pond and get a view of the Presidential Range overlooking the pond.

Thanks for your comments!


Anonymous said...

Had a chance to drive up to POS on Saturday and saw a loon! It is a smaller pond then I envisioned, but nice and remote. Unfortunately I am on-call for work and realized half way up there that there is no cell signal, so we were unable to explore the northern part of the pond as you recommended, since I was feeling a bit anxious about the possibility of being "paged."

However, I noticed the road goes straight (on the map it connects to Bog dam rd eventually), but that there is a road that turns left and parellels the pond on the opposite side from the trail.
Have you explored that? We started to walk it (despite having brought our bikes), but after 10 minute of walking we turned back. My phone gps was not working so I couldn't tell how far we had gotten. Just curious if you've pursued that and have any info. I may need to go back someday and figure it out, since I hate unfinished business.

Hiking lady

1HappyHiker said...

Am glad you decided to venture up to the Pond of Safety. That was quite a treat to see a loon! I’ve not had that privilege!

Regarding your question, I’ve done very little exploration of the road that you mentioned. If we’re talking about the same corridor, then it’s probably the old Pond of Safety Trail which is now a snowmobile trail and is no longer maintained for hiking by the WMNF. The one time I started to explore this corridor, the ticks were so bad that I opted to abort.

Perhaps Autumn would be a good time to do some further exploration there. However, it would need to be done before hunting season starts. Once in late Autumn, I drove part way on the POS Road and felt like I’d entered a war zone. There were frequent gun shots, plus groups of hunters were walking the road with high powered rifles! I turned around at my first opportunity!