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7-26-14-parsons-bondcliffA dramatic rock on the edge of Bondcliff, located just after the trail emerges from the trees. Franconia Ridge in the distance. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)By Ed Parsons

On a beautiful Friday last week, six of us biked/hiked into Bondcliff (4,265 feet) in the Pemigewassett Wilderness. It is 9.1 miles one way, 18.2 miles round trip. Starting at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center on the Kancamagus Highway, we biked across the suspension bridge on the Lincoln Woods Trail and 2.9 miles on the old railroad bed to the bridge over Franconia Brook. There we chained our bikes to a tree, and crossed the bridge to the Bondcliff Trail.

We had entered the wilderness area where mountain bikes weren't allowed, and that was fine with us. We hiked another 1.8 miles on the railroad bed and then the trail turned sharply left up the mountain. It was 4.4 miles from there — basically a long hike in itself — to the flat ledges on top of Bondcliff, one of the premier hiking destinations in the White Mountains.

That description of Bondcliff has remained constant since the early days. In the useful tome "The 4,000 Footers of the White Mountains" by Steve Smith and Mike Dickerman, there is a great quote from 1929 about Bondcliff by the noted mountaineer of his day, Robert Underhill: "No one within grasp of the opportunity should forgo visiting it."

Despite today's great access trails and the ever increasing number of hikers, Bondcliff has remained a place where one can sit on top of remote and dramatic cliffs and look out over a sea of peaks.


7-19-14-parsons-mud-pond-and-mount-moosilaukeMud Pond and Mount Moosilauke from the Tunnel Brook Trail. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)By Ed Parsons

Recently, a visiting friend and I drove west across the mountains and hiked up to the small and spectacular ponds located on the Tunnel Brook Trail. This hike, located just west of Mount Moosilauke, is unique.

This 4.4 mile north/south trail was frequently approached from the north end, but Hurricane Irene damaged the access road, making a road walk necessary, and presently it is often approached from the south.

From Conway, we drove over the Kancamagus Highway, and in Lincoln stopped to talk to Steve Smith at his Mountain Wanderer Map and Book Store. He was enthusiastic about our choice. "The Tunnel Brook Trail is my favorite," he enthused.

We continued under NH 93 and in Woodstock took Route 112, soon turning left onto Route 118, which brought us around the south side of Mount Moosilauke and into the town of Warren. At the junction with Route 25 we turned right, and in a few miles entered the village of Glencliff and took a right on High Street. One mile up High Street brought us to the left hand turn for the dirt Long Pond Road (care must be taken as neither High Street nor Long Pond Road had visible street signs when we were there). About a quarter mile up Long Pond Road, we saw the sign for the Tunnel Brook Trail on our right and parked in a tiny pull off. Though a busy summer day, we were alone.

We donned our packs and started along the gentle trail. In the first mile, there were many brook crossings, the first on Jeffers Brook, then a few crossings over Slide Brook, which descended from Slide Ravine on Mount Moosilaukee.

This summer the water has been high, and these crossings took extra care.


By Ed Parsons

Mount Paugus (3198 feet) in the Sandwich Range is a destination of mine a few times a year. The 5.8 mile loop up the Old Paugus Trail and down the Beeline and Bolles Trails is a quick and varied hike.

There is another hike — one with a bushwhack descent — that I did there more than a decade ago. I wanted to repeat it, but didn't. It was slightly intimidating. I finally repeated it last week on a hot day.

The actual high point of Mount Paugus is a forested and viewless point to the north of the trail. The well known South Ledges viewpoint is, for all intents and purposes, the summit for those seeking a view, and is reached on a short southern spur trail on ledge. It has a dramatic view of Mount Passaconaway and Mount Whiteface to the west, and a great south and southwest vista over the low ridge of Mount Mexico above Wonalancet.

Located below the South Ledges and not visible to hikers who rest there, is a unique scar of rotten rock and ledge on the south slope. This scar is also not visible looking north from the Bearcamp River valley to the south. The wooded summit of Mount Paugus is visible from many points in the valley, but the scar on its south slope is not visible because of the intervening ridge of Mount Mexico. Also, in between that low ridge and Mount Paugus is the quiet valley of Whiten Brook.

Years ago I climbed Paugus via the Cabin Trail and Lawrence Trail from the west, and from the South Ledges bushwhacked down the wooded slope to the scar, and made my way down it — sometimes just stepping down in rotten rock the consistency of corn snow, sometimes having to take more care on loose rocks with a tendency to slide or stepping down smooth ledge. At the base of the scar I walked across the silent valley to Whiten Brook and walked down it to the Whiten Brook Trail.

To get back to my car I had to cross Whiten Brook to Big Rock Cave and then up over Mount Mexico on the Big Rock Cave Trail. That was fine, except the weather prediction was off that day. After the rain the day before, it was supposed to be clear and sunny, and dry out the forest. But when I bushwhacked down from the South Ledges, the trees were still wet, despite it being partly sunny, and I got wet. Down in the Whiten Brook valley it returned to being cloudy and cool, and I remained wet and cold. The climb over Mount Mexico warmed me a little, but it was good to get back to my car and home.

That chilly experience might have tempered my enthusiasm to repeat the hike. But why would I want to do it in the first place? Open areas in the northeast mountains are special and often you work for them, like hiking above timberline.

When I recently showed AMC guidebook author Steve Smith my pictures of the hike down to the scar, he called the landscape "almost Arizona-ish." Years ago he had hiked across the trackless Whiten Brook Valley to the base of the scar and looked up at it, but without the intention of going up it. "It looked too gnarly to go that way to the South summit," he commented. I replied that it wasn't too bad going down.

I also had some curiosity about what caused the scar itself. After my hike down it last week, I called geologist friend Brian Fowler of Madison. I asked about "rotten rock" and told him that I had heard somewhere that such a thing didn't really exist, though I forgot the exact language. He countered that immediately. After a career as a consulting geologist, he was very familiar with the material. He said it had once been used for building roads.

"There is a phase of Conway granite that has some potash in the felspar. Felspar is the glue that holds granite together {granite is made up of quartz, mica and felspar}. Yet potash is unstable and susceptible to weathering. When it is exposed to a lot of water, like when the glacier melted 15,000 years ago, this type of granite will become rotten."

He reiterated that the rocks of the White Mountains are laid down like marble cake, and very different rocks are found next to each other. For example, the granite on Mount Chocorua, which is right next to Mount Paugus, does not have the potash problem and has remained solid. Fowler mentioned that Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch is Conway granite, and has a potash issue. "The talus slope below Cannon Cliff is longer and thicker than anywhere else around. Pieces of the cliff are detaching and falling off, and many climbers won't climb there because of it. Actually," he revealed, "the Old Man of the Mountains fell because of this potash problem in its granite." Yet, he said, just across the highway in Walker Ravine on Mount Lafayette, there are big slabs of granite that don't have this problem.

Back to my recent hike, perhaps last Thursday was not the best day to do it. It was excruciatingly hot and humid. Yet I had just spent two days on very social outings with friends and family, and felt like an introspective solitary venture deep in the mountains, and this old bushwhack rose to my consciousness. After telling my usual spotter--the artist Bob Gordon of Conway, with whom I share that responsibility when he goes out alone, I headed.
From the start of the trail at the end of Paugus Mill Road, the bugs were bad. Midges circled, trying to dive into my eyes. My herbal bug dope only humored them. I did what I had learned long ago — wet my T-shirt and hang it over my head, with the wet shirt hanging down my back and the short sleeves swaying back and forth in front of my face. This time I secured it with my cap.

I took the Bolles Trail to the Old Paugus Trail, and headed up alongside Whiten Brook. Before leaving the brook, I soaked my T-shirt again and then took a right up the mountain. I noticed the air getting slightly cooler as I climbed. I left the mosquitoes and midges behind. The trail topped out on the ridge and headed towards the top as I passed the Beeline Trail. Soon I found myself on the open "summit" with a nice steady breeze from the west. I took the short spur down to the south ledges, and sat in the breeze to eat lunch and decide my next move.

I looked south down to a wooded rise in the slope that I would have to climb over to get to the scar. Yes, I wanted to do it.

I put on long hiking pants and donned my T-shirt and descended the ledge into the woods. The forest varied from open to thick and gnarly. It felt good to be making my own way off trail. Soon I topped the rise, descended a little more and climbed out to smooth granite ledges on the top of the scar. Directly below was a long slope of yellow/red rotten granite, interspersed with ledges, boulders and clumps of trees. Above me was a unique view of the Sandwich Range, with a prominent Mount Passaconaway and below it a nearby cliff on the old Lawrence Trail.

I picked a different way down from last time, veering to the west and trying to stay on the stable rotten rock and avoiding loose rocks that slid. Looking along the slope, the open area extended further west than I thought, eventually narrowing down, and that lent itself to an interesting photo.

Many pauses were necessary to scope a route. I rejected a couple that had smooth ledge all the way to the bottom, and took one that was comprised of rotten rock down into the trees at the base of the scar. I wondered how often human foot prints were made in the rotten rock there.

Finally I entered the woods and continued until I was on the flat valley floor. A quarter mile brought me to a great small pool on Whiten Brook, and I immediately lay down in it. Then with a renewed and refreshed perspective, I followed the stream for what seemed like most of a mile before hitting the Whiten Brook Trail. There were many blow downs and obstacles next to the winding brook, and it seemed like a long way.

I must have looked a sight with my brown T-shirt hanging over my head and my eyes and white beard sticking out beneath, as I made my way down to the Old Paugus Trail to the Bolles Trail and my car. But I met no one. There were a couple cars there belonging to hearty souls climbing Mount Chocorua on that hot day, yet it was true there was that blessed breeze above the trees.

For a great color photo of the Mount Paugus south face scar, as seen from the Cabin Trail on the next ridge over, see the section on Mount Paugus in the new 6th edition of "50 More Hikes in the White Mountains" by Daniel Doan and Ruth Doan MacDougal. This is a wonderful new edition in the 50 Hikes series. Daniel Doan, who passed away on September 24, 1993, must know what a wonderful job his daughter Ruth has done in continuing this classic series. I will be doing a review of this new book in the coming weeks.


Saturday, July 5
• Along with the fireworks, summer blasts off this Fourth of July weekend, as schools are out, the attractions are all open, and summer is in all its hot splendor here in North Conway and throughout the rest of Mount Washington Valley and the White Mountains.
• A 9-year-old girl was injured on a Freefall Airbag attraction at Attitash Mountain Resort on Thursday afternoon.
• A retirement party to be held for longtime Conway police lieutenant Chris Perley originally scheduled aboard the M/S Mount Washington on Lake Winnipesaukee has been moved to Hobbs Tavern and Brewing Company on Sunday, July 20.

Tuesday, July 8
• Cameron C. Henry, 20, of Fryeburg, was arrested following a foot chase early Monday morning for allegedly burglarizing Jockey Cap Store on Bridgton Road in Fryeburg.
• It may have rained, even poured for awhile, but Mother Nature didn't put a damper on the town's annual Fourth of July Celebration. Despite the rain, the parade, entertainment, including the first chili dog eating contest to benefit the Wounded Warriors, and even fireworks went off as planned albeit with a few thousand fewer people in Schouler Park.
• The race for the Carroll County Attorney's office will be a repeat of 2010's match up. Republican candidate Tom Dewhurst is hoping to unseat Democrat Robin Gordon again.
• Police are investigating if there is any connection between the 20-year-old suspect in the Jockey Cap Country Store burglary and a rash of car break-ins over the weekend. The burglary suspect was caught after he allegedly locked himself out of his own home and was twice pepper sprayed by a police officer.
• The "cat and mouse game" between illegal immigrants and the U.S. border patrol was described at a recent talk at Conway Public Library by Robert Casimiro, of Bridgton, who has been to the U.S.-Mexico border six times since 2005.
• Lawrence Coats, 18, whose address is listed as Carroll County Jail, accused of swinging a machete at a woman and threatening to kill her has been indicted on two class-B felonies.
• Of the 125 lucky winners in the state's 27th annual moose hunt lottery drawing, eight are local — Justin S. Brooks, of Freedom; William C. Brown, of Tamworth; Brandon R. Croteau S., of Berlin; Kyle J. Guay, of Berlin, Matthew T. Liebenow, of Center Conway; Warren A. Lundin, of North Conway; Leisa M. Newbegin, of Center Ossipee; and Theresa L. Shackford, of Madison; and Raymond A. Tremblay. of Berlin.

Wednesday, July 9
• Adam Martinese, of Adam and Amy's Barber Shop on Seavey Street, is hoping two giant feather flags will draw customers to his business, but all he really wants is to be able to have a barber pole.
• Critics of the water district trustees are pleased that all four trustees are resigning in November. The trustee's chairman says it's time for others to step up.
• Jeff Locke, a 2006 Kennett High graduate, was once again sharp and for the seventh straight outing lowered his ERA as he pitched eight innings of three-hit ball to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2 on Sunday.
• Kennett High principal Neal Moylan hopes students will pick up a good book this summer. The school is encouraging students and staff to read through a summer reading program and has come up with several recommended books.

Thursday, July 10
• Cameron C. Henry, 20, of Fryeburg, the suspect in a burglary at the Jockey Cap Store has also been charged in connection with a series of car break-ins in Fryeburg last weekend.
• The governor and Conway selectmen are asking the Obama administration to reconsider the decision to deny federal disaster relief funding for replacement of an East Conway culvert that collapsed because of April's heavy rains.
• The former Fandangle's site is up for a third extension of the conditional approval developers originally received from the Conway Planning Board in September 2012.
• Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth has never held elective office, but he hopes to change all of that come November when the Maine independent candidate for governor squares off against outspoken Republican incumbent Paul LePage and six-term Democratic second district congressman Mike Michaud.
• Ruth Francis Brennan, 77, of South Portland, Maine was found alive in the woods of Waterford yesterday morning.
• A bill to require insurance companies to pay for stem cell testing has been passed in the State of Maine thanks to the efforts of Ellen Guilford of Lisbon, Maine Rep. Helen Rankin (D) of Hiram, Mark Walker (R) of Hallowell and Blanche Sanborn of Fryeburg.
• A baby raccoon will be getting a new lease on life. It will be sent to a raccoon rehabilitation center in Twin Mountain.
• Forty Kennett High seniors and juniors were recently inducted into the prestigious Tri-M Music Honor Society.

Friday, July 11
• Matthew Liebenow is now one of three finalists in the running to be named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year for 2015.
• Steve Woodcock drove 1,174 miles in two days on his planned trek to raise money and awareness for the Warrior Foundation Freedom Station.
• Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein will spend the day in town Friday and hopes to meet with as many Granite Staters as possible.
• Several members of the Kennett High Class of 2014 received special recognition from principal Neal Moylan at graduation last month.

By Ed Parsons

Last Sunday four of us climbed the 2.5-mile Caps Ridge Trail to the summit of Mount Jefferson (5,716 feet). It is one of my favorite trails up one of my favorite Presidential peaks.



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