THE COHOS TREKKER
The electronic newsletter of The Cohos Trail Association
The Cohos Trekker Feb. 2009
THE COHOS TREKKER The electronic newsletter of The Cohos Trail Association
When the weather breaks in 2009, The Cohos Trail Association hopes to begin cutting and opening new trails in all new terrain at the very top of New Hampshire. After a great deal of work in the Upper Coos forests in 2008 -- exploring routes, obtaining grants, GPSing, slogging in the wet, walking proposed pathways with State Trails and Fish and Game personnel and private landowners -- we have developed a substantially new route that covers untramped ground in the community of Pittsburg.
The new trails spelled out below differ considerably from the original plans the association had been working on for some years. Rather than run in the lowlands close to First Connecticut Lake, the new route will trace a series of low summits and reach a series of ponds, features that will greatly improve the hiking experience.
Right this minute, almost all landowner permission forms are in hand to create a new trail from Mountain Bungalow hut and rustic Bear Ledge Campground on Danforth Road over Prospect Mountain, with its open summit and extensive views, to Ramblewood Cabins and Campground.
From Ramblewood, the route will follow an existing cross-country ski trail for ten minutes before turning sharply northeast toward a series of upland bumps known as Covell Mountain. All new woods trail will be created up the slopes of the tallest of the three summits of Covell to a broad open hardwood topknot. A small number of trees will be cleared to open up a dramatic view directly over 3,000-acre First Connecticut Lake to the highest elevations on the New Hampshire-Maine boundary in this region. Summits visible directly to the east and close in will be Pisgah Mountain, Mt. Magalloway, Diamond Ridge, Stub Hill, and Rump Mountain. North of Rump Mountain other summits along the Canadian border will be visible, including Mt. Kent, Mt. D'Urban, and Boundary Peak.
The proposed trail will gradually pitch off the north side of Covell Mountain and drift along the flank of the hillock's northern neighbor. Round Pond can be seen below on occasion. Once north of the Round Pond basin, the trail will follow old logging skidways and herd paths round a ridge framing the pond and reach Coon Brook Bog, a small unspoiled mountain pond. We'll follow the road and strike east in young open forest half a mile to a second lonesome body of water known as Unknown Pond (not to be mistaken for the pond of the same name high in the Pilot Range). Ever eastward, the route will pick up an unmaintained winter road for half a mile and drop down onto the gravel access lane to Big Brook Bog. Hikers could detour uphill half a mile to a beautiful expanse of water behind a newly rebuilt water control dam. Framed by the Corkscrew Hills to the north, Big Brook Bog is a most pleasant spot to stop to rest or have a bite to eat.
A stroll downhill several miles will place the tramper at Big Brook bridge on NH Route 3. This bridge and its environs is the haunt of moose. Virtually everyday of the summer and fall, moose browse in this area and are often visible along the highway.
Big Brook bridge marks the start of a second proposed trail we hope to have open by autumn of 2009 or summer 2010, the Little Falls in the River Trail. If we can get this trail cut, it will open the way to a rarely visited natural flume-step falls environment that thunders with noise and power.
About 800 feet along Route 3 to the north, the new trail will exit the highway to the east, a short distance above a large gravel pullout. It will run on the level or gradually climb for about a quarter mile before reaching a steep embankment high above the roaring Connecticut River below. In spruce and fir forest, the pathway will follow the crest of the ridgeline, rambling north directly above the river. The ridge soon abruptly drops away and the route will descend rapidly on a switchback into a series of ravines that frame a flume gorge rocking with fast moving water.
At the head of the flume is a falls with a rock ledge jutting out into it. One will be able to clamor out on the ledge where the river makes an abrupt turn and tumbles over a series of rock steps and squeezes into the flume. Have a seat on the rocks here and you can watch a wild river at work. It's all sound and fury around you.
Leave the falls and quickly ascend through softwood forest until the terrain changes abruptly into narrow but open meadow-like clearings. These openings run for a mile and are full of wildflowers in late spring and early summer. Woods eventually overtake the clearings. Cross indistinct Dry Brook in alder thicket and drift in flat country eastward until the babble of the Connecticut River can be heard again through the trees. Approach the river and follow it upstream for half a mile until Second Connecticut Lake Dam begins to assert itself. Slip out of the woods at the dam to a grassy opening and enjoy the spillway and a restricted glimpse of the big lake beyond.
If all goes according to plan, we should be able to open about ten miles of new trail into terrain that is virtually never hiked. The new routes will boast many more features that the older routes plans, more views, more summits, and plentiful and varied water environments.
The work will be supported by grants from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Foundation and the American Hiking Society, and dollars from the Cohos Trail Association.
Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge manager David Govatski reports that the Col. Whipple Trail from Whipple Road in Jefferson to Cherry Pond will be fronted by a four-car parking area. Construction on the parking lot will begin this summer making access to the refuge from the north more convenient.
The Kingdom Corps trail crew associated with the Northwoods Stewardship Center at East Charleston, Vermont, completely rebuilt the frequently hiked Sugarloaf Mountain Trail in the Nash Stream Forest.
Last summer, the crew created some 70 rock water bars and ditched to help move water off the trail and reduce erosion. No physical work had been done on the trail in decades and growth had not been clipped back in recent memory. Today the trail is in terrific shape.
For those who have never hiked Sugarloaf, it boasts one of the finest 360-degree views in the mountains north of the Presidential Range.
For a couple of years, the Cohos Trail Association and Sandy Young, who manages State of New Hampshire recreation facilities and properties in northern Coos County, have tossed around the idea of creating several hiker tent platforms near Huntington Falls in the Dixville Notch wayside a little ways off Route 26.
We'd like to provide the material and labor to do the job for the state, and put in several platforms and a sign kiosk. There is already a well-built pit toilet in the area.
That being said, we would like to ask our newsletter readers out there if anyone or any two or three of you might come forward to donate dollars or materials to get the job done. We are talking about something on the order of $800 to $1,000 for the project. That's it. We already have a finished sign kiosk ready to go.
If you think you might want to help us create such a facility, please email us at email@example.com or call Pete or Lainie at 603-538-6777.
Most folks don't know that the Cohos Trail Association operates a small hut on Prospect Mountain in Pittsburg, next to the home of Peter and Lainie Castine. The structure has two rooms and a functioning kitchenette. It can sleep five or six people comfortably and there is room to sit about and relax.
Overnights at the Mountain Bungalow are inexpensive. Call 603-538-6777 for details or go to the Cohos Trail website for information and photos of the facility.
Wayne Montgomery of Stark has developed cabins on Pike Pond. They stand within less than a mile of the Cohos Trail as it winds through the southeastern corner of the Nash Stream Forest. There is a snowmobile trail that connects the CT to Pike Pond. This spring we will attempt to get permission to put up a sign indicating hikers can turn off the CT toward Pike Pond to take advantage of the Pike Pond Cabins.
Go to www.pikepondcabins.com for details.
By this summer, the Cohos Trail will pass within less than a mile of six small private businesses that offer accommodations to guests, the Rosebrook Bed and Breakfast on Route 115A in Jefferson, Pike Pond Cabins off the Bell Hill Road in Stark, The Sportsman's Lodge on Big Diamond Pond in Stewartstown, Rudy's Cabins and Campground on Clarksville Pond in Clarksville, the Mountain Bungalow on Prospect Mountain in Pittsburg, and Ramblewood Cabins and Campground above First Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg. Most of these businesses have already hosted CT hikers.
Several other businesses are within two miles of the trail, such as the Stark Village Inn by the covered bridge in that town, and A Peace of Heaven in Millsfield not too far from Dixville Notch wayside. The Notchland Inn in Crawford Notch sits across Route 302 from the Davis Path parking lot, the CT's southern terminus.
So we got to thinking about those businesses. In some sense, the Cohos Trail has a defacto hiker hut system in place. But it is an all-private one. Each facility is a private enterprise.
Now, we haven't thought about organizing these into a cohesive system, but perhaps we could and should. Could the Cohos Trail Association assist the innkeepers (cabinkeepers?) with marketing and amenities of some kind? We probably could. Could some sort of benefits be created for hikers who stay at these places? Maybe.
If we lump these small private businesses together, then throw in the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel (just off the trail) and the Mount Washington Hotel (just off the trail, too), and add the two existing lean-tos and the Percy Loop campsite and the Bear Ledge Campground, then there is a fairly comprehensive overnight system on the Cohos Trail already. Throw in the federal facilities like the Mount Cabot Cabin and the Unknown Pond and Rogers Ledge campsites in the Kilkenny forests, plus the rustic campsites on the Old Cherry Mountain Road and even Zealand and Dry River campgrounds and that extends the whole system. And finally, mix in the state campgrounds at Coleman State Park, Lake Francis and Deer Mountain, and, well, there are plenty of places to bed down within a stone's throw of the trail.
Now that's a pretty eclectic system just to get a night's sleep, but the idea of a system that has at its heart small private enterprises is a nice idea (at least it is to me), one that should fit well into Coos County's independent culture.
That's it for now. If you have Cohos Trail News or information about Coos County, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
K.R. Nilsen - author