It is not easy to find a relatively flat 8.3-mile hike in the White Mountains, but on Monday I drove up Route 113 towards Evans Notch and did a loop around Shell Pond from the Baldface Circle Trail parking lot.
To get there, in Fryeburg, Maine, I bore left before the post office on Route 113 and traveled 17.6 miles, turning into the trail parking lot on the right.
It was about 9:30 a.m., and there were only two cars there, likely because it had rained a little the night before. That is quite the contrast from beautiful days through the summer and September.
It is about a 25-car lot, and once in August there were 140 cars total parked in the lot and road. This Thursday was beautiful, and there were 65 cars there. A friend of mine drives by the Baldface Circle parking lot frequently, and calls me with the tally for our entertainment.
Anyway, on Monday, I took the trail directly from the parking lot called the Deer Hill Connector. This descends along Charles Brook to the Cold River, and bears right to the dam over Cold River. I had never seen the river so low. I crossed the dam and took a left on the Leach Link.
The 1.2-mile Leach Link trail is a pleasant north bound trail. It travels through some beautiful shady hemlock woods. On my favorite section, there is a steep drop of about 200-feet straight down to the Cold River on the left. The trail comes out on a grassy road and soon your reach the dirt Stone House Road, where I bore right.
I had to walk about a mile on the Stone House Road. You might call that the least aesthetic part of my hike, but I didn’t mind. I reached the gate for the Stone House property. That is the usual parking lot for hiking to Shell Pond or Blueberry Mountain. You might want to park there instead, but I wanted a long autumn saunter.
Continuing into the Stone House property on the road, in 0.2 miles I turned into the woods on the Shell Pond Loop. This trail is almost entirely on private land and is also an ATV trail. But I have never seen any there. I crossed a bridge over Shell Pond Brook and started to really appreciate the fall foliage. There were reflections of red maple trees in the water, and the surface of the water was sprinkled with red leaves. Photography helps me see.
The trail ascended a little as it began to traverse above the south shore of Shell Pond. At one point, I couldn’t resist bushwhacking a hundred feet down to the shore of the pond and sit on the moss-covered rock. The surface was mostly covered with lily pads and weeds. Immediately across the pond was a long two tiered cliff, red and yellow maples surrounding it. I heard the quiet daytime squawks of a large flock of Canada geese out in the middle of the pond. Like me, they were brief visitors.
I continued on the trail, turning onto the eastern shore and took a short spur out to a bench by the water. There is a great view there above a nearby low ridge of the Baldfaces and Mount Meader. The foliage had come quickly this year, and the early turning yellow of birches on their upper slopes melded into reds below.
I continued around the pond. The Shell Pond Loop ended where it connected with the Shell Pond Trail. The Shell Pond Trail continued east out to Deer Hill Road. I wasn’t going that way, was completing my loop heading west on the Shell Pond Trail.
I crossed over a bridge to a grassy meadow interspersed with tall maples, a unique part of the Stone House property. I continued through it out into the open field that has been a grass airstrip for years. On the right side were the historical Stone House, plus a recently built guest house.
Walking across the airstrip, I hit the road out to the gate, completed my loop around Shell Pond, and retraced my steps back to my car.