Sunday, March 25, 2012

Waterfalls Along Shannon Brook

The Mount Roberts Trail, in the Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area, is south facing and is almost entirely in hardwoods (scrub oak), so it is one of the earliest trails in Central New Hampshire to become snow free in the spring. Add excellent views to the south over Lake Winnipesaukee from open ledges on the way, and views to the north of the White Mountains, and it is one of my favorite hikes at this time of the year.

Last year I first read about the Brook Walk, a delightful trail that follows a part of Shannon Brook with many cascades and waterfalls, and I often incorporate it into my Mount Roberts hike.

Last Monday (3/19/2012) I was returning to Thornton from Boston. Feeling too tired to hike Mount Roberts I decided to do a loop including the Brook Walk, and take my time taking photographs. Most of the photos are from that day, though I have included a few from other trips.



This is a fully interactive Google Map. You can zoom in or out, pan, switch from map view to satellite view, and by clicking on either of the parking icons you can get directions to them.

A KMZ file, viewable in Google Earth, containing the track plus photos is here.

View Larger Map

I parked, as I almost always do, at the lower parking lot on Rt. 171. It is huge; I assume that it sees heavy use by snowmobilers in winter:

Just outside the parking lot is a kiosk with a map of the area:

The trail starts of the opposite side of the road, and you soon come to a welcome sign:

and the first of many trail signs:

The trail follows Shannon Brook, then a tributary, climbing at times more steeply than you would expect from an old carriage road.  It then dips down to cross the tributary on a bridge, and shortly thereafter reaches the lower end of the Brook Walk:

The Brook Walk drops steeply and crosses Shannon Brook on a bridge just upstream from its junction with the tributary (I would guess that the tributary is somewhat larger than Shannon Brook).  I followed a path downstream a bit and got this photo of the junction (tributary to the right):

Almost immediately upstream from the bridge is the most impressive of the falls; Falls of Song.  Each of the major falls has an interpretive sign, with an old picture and explanatory text:

The falls now:

The Brook Walk then follows the brook upstream, passing by a total of six named and signed falls.  Next up are the Bridal Veil Falls:

Just below the Bridal Veil Falls was the only ice I saw:

Next up is Emerald Pool and Emerald Pool Falls:

The falls from downstream:

and the pool from upstream:

The next set of falls are Whittier falls:

Beyond them is an unnamed cascade that seems worth noting:

On my two March trips I somehow completely missed the Twin Falls (often called 7 cascades, as they are a series of cascades)

Here is the most impressive of the cascades that make it up

 Finally I reached the last set of falls, Roaring Falls, which are the only ones that still have a bridge across them (though views are much better from below the falls):

The falls

and the pool below them

 I crossed the bridge and had lunch near Shannon Pond, which still had a partial ice covering:

After lunch I descended by the Shannon Brook trail, passing through a clearing from which there is a partial view of the Castle in the Clouds:

A couple of notes.  On my way in I met three women who live in the area; they told me that the water was quite a bit lower than it had been earlier in the season, but was still quite high.  I have never really timed my trips to coincide with peak high water, but hope to do so either after a big storm or at the peak of next year's snow melt.

For photographers I will note that the banks of the brook are very steep, and that I did not feel comfortable going far off trail.  There were several places where I longed to get closer to the brook for better views, but did not feel it was safe.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1,500 Feet of Vertical on Roads in Waterville Estates

When I want exercise that is more strenuous than walking on flat roads, but less so than real hiking, I look for roads which have some meaningful elevation gain.  Tripoli Road and the roads in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest are close to home, and are my most frequent destinations.  In winter they are unplowed but usually packed by snowmobiles (recreational on Tripoli Road, Experimental Station staff in Hubbard Brook Forest), and can be easily barebooted. However immediately after a snowfall, or during the spring melt, these roads can be difficult.

I had known for a long time that Waterville Estates was on the slopes of Campton Mountain, and looking at my Garmin-compatible topo map of NH I saw that a couple of roads ended over 1,000 feet above Rt. 175.  A PDF road map of the area (without contour lines) is also available.  In March 2011 I planned a route taking me to the high end of both Taylor Drive (1,820 feet) and Abanki Trail (1,620 feet), 7.2 miles starting at the bottom of Winterbrook Road and gaining 1,500 feet of elevation.  I have often returned since, walking as far as I wanted on any given day. On weekdays I park opposite the Campton Cupboard convenience store in "downtown Campton",   0.7 miles from the start of Winterbrook Road, while on weekends  I park  at the school, which is only 0.3 miles from Winterbrook Road.


This map shows the maximal walk I do, 7.2 miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. It is a fully interactive Google Map, so you can zoom in or out, pan and change the view to satellite or street map.

View Waterville Estates in a larger map

I normally do not take my camera when doing this walk, as it is more akin to going to the gym than to doing a hike, but on one of my first times there (March 17th 2011) I did.

Coming from "downtown Campton" you cross NH 49, then cross the Mad River just below the Campton dam.  With the beginning of spring melt the water was flowing:

Campton Dam
The road follows the Mad River:

Mad River from NH 175
Shortly thereafter Rt. 175 crosses Winter Brook, which joins the Mad River which you can (barely!) see in the background:

Winter Brook from NH 175
After 0.7 miles from "downtown Campton" (or 0.3 miles from the school) Winterbrook Road starts, with signs for Waterville Estates and the tiny Campton Mountain Ski Area:

Signs at start of Winterbrook Road
The road rises at a constant moderate gradient, and at about ¾ of a mile passes an interesting sign:

Note "Studded Winter Tires  Recommended"!
When did you last see "studded snow tires"??  About ¼ of a mile further the road crosses Winter Brook, much smaller at this stage of its life:

About 1½ miles from Rt. 175 my route forks; I take the left fork (continuing on Winterbrook Road) on the way up. Then on to Summit Avenue, Weetamoo Trail and Taylor Drive to Hilltop Drive, the highest road in the estate. The upper part of Summit Avenue becomes steeper, while Weetamoo Trail and Taylor drive are steep.

There are almost no views from the road on the way up, though you get glimpses of the outline of the mountains through the trees as you get higher. There are views from Hilltop Avenue, but you must look for them; trees and houses keep getting in the way! Here are views from Hilltop Drive, Moosilauke:

Cannon, with the Cannonballs and the Franconia peaks barely visible,

and Tecumseh, with Welch and Dickey.

 On the way down the steep upper section of Taylor Drive faces Mount Tecumseh, so there were straight ahead views:

I also found an opening between a house and the trees through which I had a view of Mount Moosilauke:

I continued retracing my steps to Winterbrook Road, from which I took a shortcut (Isaax Fox Road, note strange spelling!) to Reservoir Road and followed it and Abanki Trail to the other high point of the road system.  At the top of Abanki Trail there was this welcoming sign:

Clearly time to go home!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Waterville Valley Rambles, March 6-7 2012

On Tuesday I felt that I wanted an easy snowshoe ramble, something more ambitious that walking up Tripoli or Hubbard Brook roads, but less work than even an easy mountain like Mount Pemi. A few days earlier I had read a post by my friend Steve Smith: Greeley Ponds Trail and Davis Boulders, noting that the southern section of the Greeley Ponds Trail had recently been reopened, though the middle section was still closed. So I drove to the Livermore Road parking at Waterville Valley with a vague intention of exploring the Greeley Ponds Trail, and maybe checking out the closed section beyond the washed out bridge, or going up the Timber Camp Trail.

I returned next day to take a few more photos from the Depot Camp clearing and from an open area off Livermore Road about a mile from the parking lot.


This is a fully interactive Google Map.  You can zoom in or out, pan, and by clicking on the parking icon you can get directions to the start of the walk.

View Larger Map

I reached the parking lot around 11 AM, and there were many cars there on a nice warm winter day (XC skiing on the groomed Livermore and Tripoli roads is free).  There was a nice view of Mount Tecumseh and its ski slopes from the parking area:

I wore snowshoes, and Livermore Road was solid enough that I could walk on the groomed skating area leaving no trace.  Approaching the Depot Camp clearing the first peak to be seen is Flume Peak:

Once the road entered the clearing there was a better view of Flume Peak, Scaur Peak and North Tripyramid:

Zooming in on North Tripyramid:

More views required tromping around the clearing; snowshoes were essential in the surprisingly deep (and soft, on this warm day) snow.  A view of the three Tripyramids:

and of Mount Osceola:

A short distance beyond the clearing the Greeley Pond Trail starts, and there was a map showing the closure:

For more detailed views of the map and text click here and here.

A short distance up the trail there is a major washout from Hurricane Irene:

Other photos of it are here and here.  A bit further there were felled trees near the trail, part of the restoration project:

Beyond the washout the Scaur Trail looked well broken out.  I followed it to the Mad River and found a solid snow bridge:

Further on the Goodrich Rock Trail looked broken out by both snowshoes and skis; the Timber Camp Trail just had the tracks of a solitary up and down skier.  I had thought of going up it, but the snow was deep and heavy; breaking trail alone would be hard work.  Just beyond that trail is the site of the washed out bridge:

The crossing was clearly doable, but I found it unappealing ... I dislike sketchy stream crossings ... so I turned around.  Reaching Livermore Road I wondered what to do; going straight back to my car would mean only about three miles of snowshoeing with virtually no elevation gain.  I therefore decided to continue up Livermore Road as far as my energy would take me.

After about half a mile I came to the Kettles Path which was as well broken out as the Scaur Trail had been.  This got me thinking; I had done the loop of the Kettles and Scaur Trails a couple of times in the past, but had never done the short but very steep climb to the outlook.  This would add roughly 1½ miles and 600 vertical feet to my day, and I felt capable of doing it.  For a description of that loop in summer see Steve Smith's post:  The Scaur Loop.

The Kettles Path starts off with a couple of short steep climbs, then meanders through open hardwoods at an easy grade.  There are few things I enjoy more than open hardwoods on a sunny winter day; the grey trunks cast black shadows on the white snow, with a blue sky above:

I soon reached the junction with the Scaur Trail, and gritted my teeth for the steep climb.  It was steep but short, and I soon reached the delightful outlook for the first time.  It was definitely worth the effort, with views of Sandwich Dome:

and Mount Tecumseh:

After lunch I descended; there were a couple of tricky spots due to the steepness; on one I felt that the safest way down was butt sliding.  From the Greeley Ponds Trail it was about a mile to my car; my GPS track showed a bit less than seven miles, with probably 600 feet of elevation gain.

Looking at the photos at home I was disappointed by several of those taken at the Depot Camp clearing, so I returned on Wednesday to take better ones (those shown are all from Wednesday).  Since the ¼ mile to the Depot Camp did not qualify as even a mico-hike I continued up Livermore Road for about a mile to an area where there is a big open bowl on one side of the road and a large clearing on the other; I was sure that there would be good photo opportunities.

The view across the clearing was less than I had hoped for; all I could get was Mount Osceola through the trees:

I did, however, get some good views from the road; North Tripyramid and its slide:

 all three Tripyramids (from a slightly different location):

and Snow's Mountain:

I then got on the rim of the bowl, from where I got good views of Mount Tecumseh:

and Mount Osceola:

While on the rim I heard voices on the road and saw two XC skiers; I was just able to snap a quick photo as they whizzed by going downhill:

After a leisurely lunch in the sun I made my way back to my car and then home.  Two very enjoyable days in the Waterville Valley area!