Member Trip report
A Three-Day Nash Stream Backpack
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
Friday, October 5th:
Robert and I were to meet up at L.L. Cote's in Errol around 9PM. I got a little worried by 10PM, when I hadn't seen him yet and drove down the road to Dixville Notch State Park to see, if he had gone there. Unfortunately, he was not there and I started to return to Errol. Luckily, I spotted his car not far along Route 26 and we headed back to the parking area for the State Park. It turned out that traffic had gotten bad and travel along Route 16 north of Berlin was slow. Now that we had connected and it was late, we turned in...sleeping in our respective cars.
Saturday, October 6th:
We awoke around 6:30AM. It was cold with a frost warning overnight. We had light breakfasts before getting organized and carpooling back south to Stark. Along the way we stopped in Errol for coffee/juice. At about 8AM we reached the trailhead for the Cohos Trail system off of Pike Pond Road. After getting ready we set off up this connector trail to the Bald Mountain Notch Trail at 8:25 and we started our trek north. This initial portion followed an old logging road, which coincided with current ATV/snowmobile trails. In less than 30 minutes the trail turned off onto a traditional trail as it climbed into the notch. This was a fairly persistent climb until we reached the top at 9:30. The trail descended down to another old tote road and then back onto a trail as it climbed up to the col between the two Percy Peaks. This section of the trail was modest, but became increasingly steeper as it approached the col. It was 11:30, when we reached the marked herd path for the South Percy Peak. We dropped our packs and headed for the summit. While this wasn't a fully-maintained trail, it was just as good, given its use. The trail ascended fairly quickly and as we climbed there were good views of the north peak as well as Long Mountain to the east. We made it to the summit of South Percy Peak (3234') at 11:40. It was still slightly overcast, but the views over the color in the valleys was wonderful. The higher summits of the White Mountains were obscured by clouds. We headed back down to the trail junction and we proceeded to the intersection with the Percy Loop Trail following this north until we reached the junction for the north peak spur. We again left our packs and scrambled up the mostly bald summit of North Percy Peak. We ran into some hikers here as it is a popular day hike. We made it to the summit (3430') by 12:15PM. The summit provided sweeping views and the sun was starting to emerge overhead. The entire Nash Stream Forest could be seen to the north and southward to Christine Lake and Bald Mountain. We chatted with a local woman for a bit before heading back down. After collecting our packs again, we continued along the Percy Loop Trail down to the tentsite. This was modestly steep for a bit and then moderated down to the junction with the 2-year old Trio Trail. The tentsite was basically in the middle of the trail and we stopped to take a quick lunch break at a little after 1PM. After lunch we followed the Trio Trail as it meadered through the woods around the base of Long Mountain. At about half way across this, we emerged out into the first of several old logging yards/clearings. The first opening provided great views to the northwest towards Mount Sugarloaf. As we continued along I had gotten a little further behind Robert, but as I almost caught up, he was signaling me that he saw something. I quietly entered the clearing and saw the moose, that Robert had spotted, in the tall undergrowth. As we watched this young bull moose, he apparently didn't like us around and he began to head downhill. Still, it was great to see. Continuing along the trail, we could see the moose watching us until he eventually disappeared into the woods. Just before reaching Trio Ponds Road at 3PM there was a nice view of Whitcomb Mountain. At the road we crossed and headed east for a short distance where the Pond Brook Falls Trail re-entered the woods, reaching the main part of the falls in only 15 minutes. The falls were beautiful and running swifter than the last time, we were here. After some time we continued down the trail and quickly reached the Nash Stream Road again. This trail jogged to the west on a connector road and crossed the old Trailblazer Bridge. This joined up with the West Side Road (ATV/Snowmobile Trail) and we followed this as we started to climb the arm of Sugarloaf Mountain. We did encounter two ATV'ers through here, who weren't quite sure where they were going. It wasn't long after that we reached the old Sugarloaf Arm Trail, which followed an old road across the arm. It started to sprinkle, but nothing heavy and by 4:45 we reached the Old Hermit Shelter for the evening. Noone else was here, so we ended up having the place to ourselves. There was a small brook just beyond the lean-to and we filtered water, cleaned up and hung our bear bags before dinner. As it got dark by about 7PM and no campfires are permitted in this managed forest we pretty much turned in by 7PM.
Sunday, October 7th:
After a very rainy night, we got up at a little before 7AM. It was chilly, but it felt like it had warmed up over night. It was foggy and we took our time in the morning hoping conditions might improve. After having breakfast and getting packed up and organized, we hit the trail again by 9:20. We continued northward along the trail and in about 25 minutes we reached the poorly marked junction for the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail. We had thought about taking this spur to the summit, but agreed that with the low clouds, that it would not be very worthwhile. We proceeded down the trail (passing a camp) and reaching the Nash Stream Road in a few minutes. The trail zigzaged across this road, crossed the Nash Stream and then re-entered the woods following the water upstream. By 10AM we reached a short spur trail for the Devil's Jacuzzi. We checked it out...it was a turbulent pothole in the cascading stream. Back on the East Side Trail, it was only another half-hour before we came to a short trail out to the Nash Bog. This used to be a rather large pond before the dam was breached in 1969. We were hoping that we'd be able to see wildlife here, but the grasses were very tall and overgrown. If it had been clearer there would have been views of the peaks, but that wasn't the case with the low cloud cover. We explored it a little before returning back to the main trail. The trail meandered through woods and open areas until it again crossed the Pike Brook (a tributary of Nash Stream) and turned northward on the main road. It was a little after 11AM. We passed a number of camps along this section of the road and a few of the camp owners came out to chat. We reached the end of the maintained road at the bridge and gate, where the grassy Nineteen Valley Road headed across the brook. We took a short break here with a family fishing below the bridge. After the break we headed up the Gadwah Notch Trail, which was an old overgrown tote road with veered off to the left of the bridge. The trail steadily climbed this road and it wasn't long before we were fogged in. Even with the limited views we passed through some beautiful open meadows...Cathedral and Morah Meadows along with the Muise Bowl and Bulldozer Flats Clearings (there supposedly great views from a couple of these). It was in this last clearing at around 1PM, that we had our lunch break. After this point the trail narrowed to a traditional path through tighter woods as we continued to climb up into Gadwah Notch, reaching the top about 15 minutes later. The notch was level for a bit before it began a somewhat short and steep descent. The terrain became a rockier as we began our ascend of Baldhead Mountain. We stopped to filter some water along here, since there was no reliable water at the next shelter. By about 3:10 we had reached the Baldhead Mountain Shelter (3097'). It was a nice, partially enclosed shelter, which looked like there may be eastward views on a nice day. We were again the only ones there and we relaxed and got organized for the night. Since there was a stone fire ring out in front of the shelter and we were outside of the state land boundary, we decided to try and have a camp fire. We collected some dead wood and since everything was so wet it took awhile to get going...and to maintain. It was nice with the chill in the air and it gave us something to do once it got dark. We ended up staying up until a little after 9PM, when we pretty much turned in for the evening.
Monday, October 8th:
We awoke to a very cold morning with a lingering, low cloud cover. I noticed inside the lean-to, that someone had handwritten on one of the postings inside the shelter, "No campfires". I wasn't sure, if they were or weren't allowed here. It seemed that if they weren't permitted that someone would have dismantled the fire ring. In any case, we slowly got ready for the day by having breakfast and getting our gear organized for the day. At about 8:50, we continued north on the Kelsey Notch Trail. This trail initially descended steeply off of Baldhead Mountain and then it leveled out some as it passed periodically through open fields. It was along this stretch of trail, that we were startled by a large female moose, who crossed the trail right in front of Robert. We must have startled her too, since she bolted for more enclosed woods. From here we descended further into Kelsey Notch and emerged out onto a relatively well-maintained logging road (there was an ATV'er who passed just before we met the road). We followed the road past a couple of marshy areas and then started to climb up to the junction with the utility road, which climbed Dixville Peak. We headed up this very nice graded road, which led to the summit and its recently installed wind farm up there. As we gained elevation, it appeared like the clouds were going to lift, as it got brighter and clearer. About three-quarters of the way up this road, the trail finally re-entered the woods on the Dixville Bypass Trail (10:30AM). Before the wind farm was put in, the Cohos Trail summited the the peak, but now it skirts around it. If it had been clearer, it might have been worthwhile to follow the utility road to the summit for the views, but the fog had rolled back in. The bypass trail meandered a bit through the woods, before it steeply descended into a ravine and then climbed the other side. Eventually, the trail led to an old fire tower service road, which was incredibly eroded and muddy. We followed this downhill and then up a bit before the trail headed again into the woods. This led up to the top of the Balsams Ski Area, which we reached by 11:20. Even though there have been hopes to re-open this resort, it appeared that the lifts and buildings would need alot of work before any of that would happen again. From the ski resort, we eventually turned onto the Wilderness Link Trail (a cross-country ski trail), which followed the ridge out to Table Rock. This trail was very wet and at times muddy and we reached the junction with the Table Rock, Three Brothers and "Billy Goat" Trails at 11:50. We descended the steep "Billy Goat" Trail a short distance for the spur out onto the Table Rock...a slab of rock, which cantilevers over Dixville Notch's steep vertical walls. On a clear day, there are amazing views over the notch and the grand Balsams Hotel, but the notch was anything but clear. There were a few people up here already and there was some crazy guy dressed in a cow suit who was tight-wire walking high above the notch. Since there wasn't much to see, we headed back up to the Three Brothers Trail and began our final descent back to our cars. By 12:30PM we had reached the upper most cascades, which make up the Huntington Cascades as the brook descended between sheer granite walls. We decended along here and in 10 minutes we had reached the more spectacular cascades. After this it took us only another 5 minutes to reach the trailhead in Dixville Notch State Park. We got packed up and stopped in L.L. Cote's on the way back to Stark to pick up the other car. By 2PM we were headed home.
The third times a charm...after attempting this trip twice before, we finally did it! Thanks to Robert for wanting to try it again and for the great companionship through the weekend! Despite the persistent fog on the second and third days, it really was a spectacular backpack and one which we both agreed may be worth re-visiting. The fall colors were at peak and brilliant. The views were great and there were enough points of interest even in the fog that it made for a great remote backpack. Also, seeing two moose along the way, was just absolutely amazing!
We covered about 34 miles over the three days and while I didn't calculate the cumulative elevation gain, it was known to be about 2000-2400 feet per day. On each of the days the mileage broke down to roughly 15, 11 and 8 miles, respectively.
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This is a must do again hike.... So much more to see and the Moose were incredible! Massive thanks to Stephen for sticking with the goal of traversing.... Couldn't have been more brilliant of an adventure!!