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14 December 2013

A Short Trek to Mascot Pond, Point Lookout, and Leadmine Ledge


It was the 12th day of December (not even officially winter), but yet the daytime high temperature was only 12˚F with a chilly northwesterly wind.  With those conditions, I was uncertain how enjoyable a long hike would be, and so a decision was made to do a moderate hike.

With that issue resolved, I then needed to choose where to hike.  This sometimes proves to be challenging since my preference is to do something new on each hike, and eventually the supply of "new" becomes more and more limited!  In the end, I decided to revisit Mascot Pond and Leadmine Ledge, and add a side trip to Point Lookout which would be a new destination for me.


The trailhead was reached by driving north on NH 16 for 0.3 mile from the western junction of NH 16 and US 2 in Gorham, NH.  Parking is permissible in a lot at the base of the old B&M railroad bridge on the east side of US 16. The lower deck of this bridge is available for pedestrian use.  It's perfectly safe to cross on-foot, especially since metal decking has been installed within recent years.

Once you walk over the bridge to the other side, you will immediately see a huge sign that points to "AMC Trail".
One of several signs on east side of bridge guiding you to the Mahoosuc Trail
Along the way, there are additional "AMC Trail" signs and blue blazes to guide you to the Mahoosuc Trail.  After walking for about 10 minutes, you'll cross a wooden bridge over a canal.  Once on the other side, make a sharp right into the woods onto an unmarked foot path which will ascend to a dirt road (an extension of Hogan Rd.).  Turn right onto this road and follow it for about 10 minutes where you'll turn sharply left off the road onto the Mahoosuc Trail.  At this point, you will have traveled about 1.1 miles from the parking area on NH 16.

In the upper left corner of the map shown below, you can see the three places I visited, i.e. Mascot Pond, Point Lookout, and Leadmine Ledge.  Highlighted in yellow is the portion of my route that was used to access these destinations. (Click on map to enlarge.)
Map showing places visited, with approximate route highlighted in yellow
Mascot Pond was reached by hiking the Mahoosuc Trail for 0.5 mile to the Mascot Pond Spur trail.  From Mascot Pond I trekked southeasterly on an abandoned branch of Hogan Road for a short distance, and then left the road for a short open woods bushwhack in an easterly direction to the ledges on Point Lookout.  From Point Lookout, I bushwhacked a short distance northward to an old logging road which I followed westward to a bootleg pathway leading to Leadmine Ledge.  And from Leadmine Ledge I descended the same pathway back to the logging road and continued to head westward for a few hundred feet to join the Mahoosuc Trail which I followed southbound back to the parking area on NH 16.

This entire trek covered a distance of only about 5 miles.


As indicated earlier, my first stop was at Mascot Pond.  From here, I enjoyed a nice vista overlooking the frozen pond with North Carter and a portion of the Moriah Range visible on the horizon.
Mascot Pond with North Carter and a portion of Moriah Range visible on the horizon
Looming above Mascot Pond's northern shore is the old Mascot lead mine.  Apparently, the mine was in operation only for a few years during the late 1800’s. But today, it is perhaps more famous for its bats than for its history as a mine.  It's one of the few places in New Hampshire where bats hibernate.  The mine provides a nearly steady temperature in the 50’s, and it has been estimated that approximately 1,700 bats congregate to “snooze” here for the winter. Experts have identified 5 separate species.

You can hike up a crumbly talus field to peer inside the mine.  However, the entrance to the mine shaft has been barricaded not only for human safety, but also for the safety of the bat population that lives there.  (Click HERE for an interesting link that contains additional information about this.)

Presented below are two photos.  One shows the pathway leading up to the mine from Mascot Pond, and the other shows a close-up of the barricaded mine entrance.
Pathway leading from shoreline of Mascot Pond to the abandoned lead mine entrance
Barricaded mine shaft entrance
From the top of the pathway leading to the entrance of Mascot Mine is a nice view which features Mascot Pond in the foreground with peaks in the Northern Presidential Range on the horizon.
Vista from Mascot Mine (Northern Presidentials on horizon; Mascot Pond in foreground)
The next stop on my agenda was Point Lookout.  I found it interesting that back in the days when the Appalachian Trail had a different routing through Gorham, the ledges on Point Lookout were reachable via a spur path off the Appalachian Trail.  Vintage editions of the White Mountain Guide described this destination as "a fine view-point".

In doing some research on the Internet I came across the website which contained an old 1930s postcard that featured a vista from Point Lookout.  It's interesting that someone (presumably from the time period) took the time to add handwritten numeric labels to the mountain peaks on the front of the card, and then keyed the labels to text written on the back of the card.
Old postcard from 1930s which shows vista from ledges on Point Lookout
I became aware of this postcard after having done my hike.  When going through my photos I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had inadvertently captured nearly the same view as the postcard photographer had done about 80 years prior.  As you will see in the composite image below, it appears that I was standing just slightly west of where the postcard photographer's photo was taken.
Composite image comparing 80-year old postcard to photo taken during my hike
My last stop of the day was at the top of Leadmine Ledge.  From here there are excellent 360 degree views which include peaks in the Moriah, Carter, Wildcat, Presidential, and Crescent mountain ranges.   But, for whatever reason, the vista from this location that is most appealing to me is the one shown in the next photo.  It features a lineup of peaks in the Moriah, Carter and Wildcat range with the village of Gorham tucked in a little nook just a short distance away.
Vista from Leadmine Ledge: Moriahs, Carters & Wildcats; village of Gorham
To sum it up, I enjoyed the Point Lookout component of this trek, especially since there is some history associated with this destination.  However, getting there does  involve some off-trail travel, which is not everyone's "cup of tea".  But even by omitting Point Lookout from the agenda, a 3.5 mile round-trip trek to Mascot Pond and Leadmine Ledge might be worthy of consideration for those times when circumstances limit the time available for hiking.


Steve Smith said...

Nice ramble. John! That's an interesting and often overlooked area. Great tie-in with the history at Point Lookout, and cool comparison photos!


1HappyHiker said...

Your generous words are much appreciated, Steve!

Regarding that comparison photo, as indicated in my report, the old postcard was discovered AFTER doing my hike. If I’d been more diligent with my pre-hike research, I might have discovered the postcard and taken a photocopy with me on the hike, and then possibly done a better job of lining up my photo to match the postcard. But on the other hand, if the postcard photographer was standing where I’m thinking, then it would have been risky business to get there on the day of my hike due to icy conditions.

Thanks again for your comments,

Chris Dailey said...

Wow! The old postcard and your picture are really neat and fun to compare! Really like the cursive handwriting on the post card, too!

Great report and pics!

1HappyHiker said...

Hey Chris,

Mega thanks for your comments and nice words about my report.

Regarding that cursive handwriting on the postcard, could be wrong, but think I read/heard somewhere that cursive handwriting is no longer being taught in many schools across the country. It was taught when I was in school, but my cursive handwriting was (and still is) nearly illegible. :-)


Chris Dailey said...

That's too bad, I always love writing in cursive and I am happy I got to learn it growing up!

Rita Wechter said...

Hi John,

I, too, really appreciated the old post card tie-in to your hike. What an interesting find, and it's great that you included it in this report.
I'm happy to hear that the old Mascot mine is being put to better use now—as a bat cave!
It's good that the cold temperatures didn't dissuade you from this pleasant trek. I was just telling a friend that I would rather hike in 10 degree weather than in 90 degree weather!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

Thank you for posting your comments regarding my blog report. And, oh how I can truly relate to your comment about preferring to hike in 10 degree weather versus 90 degree weather! Yes! Cold-weather hiking is definitely the clear winner over hot weather hiking.

Regarding the old Mascot mine, it is indeed terrific that bats discovered this ‘hole in the hillside’ and have put it to good use.