Thu, Feb 23, 2017
If you're interested in a quick, one day hike on which you can stretch your legs, test new gear, or break in a pair of new boots, this is the hike for you . . .
Pamela and I decided that it was high time we spent a little time out on the trails, as she hadn't been hiking yet this year, and I had only been once. So I checked out the possibilities and we chose the trip to Black Pond. My resource for information was "50 Hikes in the White Mountains", a useful little book that demonstrates information about trips with medium depth. This hike traveled along an old railroad path, so it intrigued us.
Promises of railroad ties and train tracks made the 2 hour drive through touristy traffic almost bearable (I was constantly reminded of the joke, "If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"). By the time we traveled the 19 miles across the Kancamagus Highway, we were ready for some solitude.
Unfortunately, solitude was a pipe dream. The shallow grade and broad width of the Lincoln Woods Trail attracted every yahoo east of the Mississippi who can walk. Not surprising, considering it was a picture perfect day in the heart of summer. If you start from the ranger station, the beginning of the trip takes you across a small suspension bridge that is really rather cool. It shakes a little as you walk across it, but that's part of its charm.
Soon after the bridge, we started up the highway sized Wilderness trail, which, as previously stated, has a very slight incline. Immediately you notice the remnants of old railroad ties that once, according to numerous resources, allowed trains to carry hardwoods from the area to a point at which trucks could transport them to, no doubt, anywhere in the world. The trail follows the Pemigewasset River for 2.6 miles until you reach the diversion point, the Black Pond Trail.
At this point, if you turn onto the Black Pond Trail, you will leave behind 95% of the people you see on the Wilderness Trail. They are headed for Franconia Falls, which is about another mile up the Wilderness Trail.
We made our way onto the Black Pond trail, not concerned that we were missing the Falls. Immediately we noticed a difference in the two trails; the Black Pond Trail is a "true" hikers trail (only wide enough for one person at a time). Following the trail can, at times, be tricky, so watch for blaze marks. At one point, Pamela and I unwittingly diverged and only turned around when we had reached the Wilderness Trail again.
About a half mile onto the Black Pond Trail, we happened upon Ice Pond, a swampy yet beautiful little body of water. After a few minutes of rest (which you won't really need), we continued through the Birch and Maple laden forest, enjoying the scenery. A little hunting around at this point and you'll find wild Blackberries, maybe some Blueberries. The deer had ravaged the small patch we found, but that was the only sign of life. We had yet to see another human since leaving the Wilderness Trail, and we were happy as pigs in shi . . . well, we were happy.
Another half mile up the trail, we found Black Pond. Small, but nice. If I liked fishing, I don't think I could resist. As it was, Pamela and I just sat and ate, conversed and looked. This is a very tranquil place that is blessingly void of biting insects. Remnants of beaver activity (and moose, if you know what I mean!) clutter some of the atolls, but Black Pond is otherwise clear and clean.
Before long, June, Ward,Wally and the Beav showed up and the tranquillity was broken. But not before we had a chance to enjoy the scenery. We headed back to trail and ventured back among the masses. The Wilderness Trail was just as busy on the way out as it was on the way in, but mostly with friendly people.
Our whole trip from beginning to end took less than 5 hours, and didn't tax us too much. The absence of peaks to climb and the slight gradient made this a climb you could take your grandmother on. If a light hike with running streams is what you're after, and you don't mind a little company, I recommend this one highly.
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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy