Sunday, March 19, 2006

On Frozen Pond
 The Rants headed out into the Whites again this weekend. Given last week's difficulty in ascending higher elevations, we decided to try something different and keep to a lower elevation by hiking to a mountain pond rather than go for a summit. We figured this would lessen our chances of encountering problems with ice. Our goal this time was to hike to Flat Mountain Pond, a nice secluded spot tucked away in the Sandwich Range Wilderness. The benefit of altering our hiking approach was that it encouraged us to hike to a location that we wouldn't normally seek out. Virtually every time we hike, the goal is to reach a summit for the far-reaching views. This time, by seeking out a secluded pond, we'd be treated to a different perspective on the Whites.

Again, like last week the drive to the trailhead was an exercise in expert navigation along roads plagued with ferocious frost heaves. At one point I was forced to slow down to 20MPH to give me a better ability to spot and dodge suspension crunching dips in the road. The trailhead is located in what I believe to be one of the more intriguing corners of New Hampshire - the Wonalancet / Sandwich region. From the Mass / NH border, civilization creeps northward up the major river valleys and into the Lakes region. Historically speaking, with only low lying hills as obstacles, towns and villages were established along productive river and valley corridors and connected by a network of roads. The northern reach of this mass of development ends at the foot of the Sandwich Range. Thus, the towns of this area, including Sandwich, North Sandwich, Tamworth, and Wonalancet have a frontier feel about them. They mark a dividing line in New Hampshire between the broadly populated South and the sparsely populated Whites and Great North Woods region. One gets a sense when visiting these towns that neither region claims them. It is an untouched corner of the state that hints of a past and yet disguises a future. One cannot ignore the isolation of these communities - a condition I find strangely appealing. There is a timelessness here that demands further discovery. Finally, having arrived at the trailhead (at the end of a lonely gravel road leading past large farmhouse retreats), we booted up for the trek.

The trail follows an old longer road for much of its way. We made a detour to follow an alternate route (the Bennett Street Trail) that meanders streamside past attractive frozen pools and rapids. Some sections along the trail required care, but for the most part we breezed through this section. The trail then made a brief but steep ascent to rejoin the main logging road trail that we used to gain further access into the backcountry. The grade was quite easy and gradual. Along the way we encountered progressively deepening snows and abundant animal tracks, including wild turkey, rabbit, deer, and moose. In fact, some of the mooseprints were absolutely enormous. I could only imagine the size of the animal that happened to trudge along before us this same stretch of trail.

The logging road meandered along and eventually brought us to our objective: Flat Mountain Pond. I was surprised by the size of the pond and also the great (but partially obscured) panoramic views that greeted us here at this site. Helpful to us, a wooden camp shelter provided us some respite from the cold temps and biting winds. We used the rest stop to fill up on pretzels and energy bars and take a few photos. The location of the camp greatly suggested to us that a repeat visit be made sometime later during warmer weather. I could only imagine how peaceful and inviting the experience would be relaxing along the shore during summer, watching the sun descend behind the surrounding mountains. Indeed, we both felt the place was attractive enough to warrant a return visit.

We cinched and hefted up our packs and made the return journey back to the car. The gradual descending grade made for an easy (but long) 5 mile return hike. The last 2 miles or so saw our energy wane and our feet get a bit clumsy but in time we made it back to the car and the drive home. Both of us looked forward to getting back to the house to chow on a good old boiled dinner (in celebration of St. Patrick) and hoist a few cold ones. Even in the waning days of winter one can still find a good hike.  Posted by Picasa


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