While trying to come up with a plan for my next outdoor adventure, I stumbled upon a scenario whereby I could combine a hike, a bushwhack, and a mountain bike ride. This trip would be a little over 7 miles (round-trip).
About 4 of those 7 round-trip miles would be done by mountain biking on an old logging road. A little over 2 miles would be spent doing an out-and-back hike on a segment of the Hancock Notch Trail. Another mile or so would be an out-and-back hike on a portion of a bootleg trail that heads toward a peak with a huge cliff known as "The Captain". And finally, about 0.2 mile (round-trip) would be spent bushwhacking to a small pond on the south side of the Hancock Notch Trail.
Maybe the map shown below will be helpful in making some sense out of the preceding paragraph. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
|Map showing my route of travel (CLICK TO ENLARGE)|
PART 1: Seeing "The Captain"
When I came to the end of the 2 mile stretch of logging road, I stashed my mountain bike in the woods. I then continued on foot along a bootleg trail. I've previously travelled this faint pathway and knew that it would provide a good view of The Captain, plus a nice view of the Sandwich Range.
The huge cliff on the south side of The Captain is such a fascinating place with a beauty that is rugged and awesome. It’s tucked away at the head of a ravine that is south of Mt. Carrigain and east of the Hancocks. There are a few vantage points where it can be seen from a distance. But to get an up close view, the only vantage point known to me is from what I've dubbed as "The Captain's Ravine". By hiking a segment of the bootleg trail that leads into this ravine, you can get some intimate views of The Captain.
Shown below is a photo taken of The Captain during my 12-July-2013 adventure.
Perhaps it should be noted that Carrigain Pond is located at the base of The Captain's north side, and therefore some refer to this 3,540 ft mountain as Carrigain Pond Peak. However, most often this place is referred to as The Captain. And actually, that name has been in use for nearly 150 years. On page 188 of the first edition of “Forest and Crag” by Laura and Guy Waterman, there is a short passage where it indicates that The Captain was given its name by the Portland White Mountain Club in the mid 1870s.
|Excerpt from "Forest and Crag" by Laura and Guy Waterman|
From a meadow along the bootleg trail leading to "The Captain's Ravine" there is a pleasant view looking southward toward peaks in the Sandwich Range, including notable peaks such as Mt. Passaconaway, Mt. Whiteface, North Tripyramid.
|Sandwich Range as viewed from a meadow on the bootleg trail mentioned above|
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PART 2: Flirting with the Hancock Notch Trail
Following my love fest with views of The Captain, and of the Sandwich Range, I returned to the spot where I had stashed my mountain bike. However, the bike would remain there while I headed off on to the next phase of my adventure which was to bushwhack to a pond located less than a tenth of a mile off the Hancock Notch Trail.
One might legitimately ask why I chose to visit a pond which doesn't even have a name! Well, my primary objective for this portion of my trek was merely to get a feel for the eastern end of the Hancock Notch Trail. The only portion that I'd previously traveled was en route to the Hancocks when I hiked the heavily-used 1.8 mile segment at the western end of the trail. And so, the unnamed pond was merely used as an arbitrary destination. As some might agree, a destination can be whatever you personally want it to be. For example, it doesn't need to be at the top of a mountain where a trail ends!
You might be curious as to how I reached the Hancock Notch Trail from the spot where my bike was stashed. Near the end of the old logging road, it crosses the Sawyer River on a bridge and then continues for only a few hundred yards where the road terminates at what I presume was once a log landing site. From the backside of the log landing there is a faint pathway which is only a few hundred yards in length, and it leads you to the Hancock Notch Trail.
Upon stepping foot on the Hancock Notch Trail, I was immediately favorably impressed! Since this trail is lightly traveled, the footway is relatively smooth, rather than being choppy with exposed roots and rocks, as is the case with high-traffic trails that have become eroded.
Of course I can only speak about the approximate 1-mile segment of trail that I traveled. However, it was in great shape, and had just recently been maintained. There was fresh evidence of brushing and removal of downed trees from the trail.
Shown below are a couple of snapshots taken along the Hancock Notch Trail.
|Snapshots taken along Hancock Notch Trail|
Okay, that was the good news, the other news (which is really old news) is that portions of the Hancock Notch Trail sustained significant damage in August 2011 when Mother Nature threw a temper tantrum in the form of Tropical Storm Irene. There are some sections of the trail along the Sawyer River where there is still evidence of washouts and erosion caused by this storm. The next photo shows an example of the damage.
|Example of Tropical Storm Irene damage to trail along the Sawyer River|
The next photo is basically the same as the one shown above. However, it provides a closer view of the area where the Hancock Notch Trail is located. The pink line and arrow shows the trail's corridor.
|Pink line and arrow shows Hancock Notch Trail's corridor (after Irene's damage)|
After a trekking for about a half hour, I arrived at a likely spot to leave the Hancock Notch Trail to do the short bushwhack to the unnamed pond, which clearly shows up on Google Earth (see next photo). CLICK TO ENLARGE.
|Unnamed Pond as seen on Google Earth image (CLICK TO ENLARGE)|
This body of water is probably nothing more than a beaver pond, and it covers only about an acre of ground. Nonetheless, some of the backcountry ponds of this type have an innate beauty. And some, like this one, provide a window in the forest for some interesting views of mountain peaks.
The next photo shows my first view of the unnamed pond as I approached it. The yellow-colored specks on the pond are water lilies in bloom.
|First view of unnamed pond as I approached it|
As I walked around the pond, I could see ridges and peaks in the Hancocks.
|Ridges and peaks in the Hancocks as viewed from unnamed pond|
|View of Mt. Carrigain (nearly dead center, on the horizon)|
|Left panel: view with binoculars. Right panel: enlargement of viewing platform|
To sum it up, this adventure lasted only about 4 hours. However, it was truly a fun experience. Not only did it include a trail and a destination that was new to me, but it also provided a varied experience of hiking, biking, and bushwhacking. And I can honestly say that it whet my appetite to travel and explore more of the Hancock Notch Trail.