In the summer of 2018, Tamworth resident Amy Berrier walked the 165-mile Cohos Trail, heading northbound from Crawford Notch to the Fourth Connecticut Lake at the Canadian border.
Just days before she went, she saw on the Cohos Trail Facebook page that a section of the trail in the Kilkenney Range near Mount Weeks had severe blow downs and was impassable. She adjusted her plans and bypassed that section.
On the trail, her husband picked her up in Jefferson and drove her to Stark, where she was hosted by Nancy Spalding at the Stark Village Inn. But wanting to see as much of the trail as possible, she then hiked south for a day in the Kilkenney Range to Unknown Pond, Mount Cabot and the Mount Cabot cabin, The next day, she turned back north on the trail, leaving a fairly short section undone.
She loved the quiet solitude of the trail, and wanted to go back and finish the section she missed, plus revisit some beautiful places again. This July 21, exactly two years to the day that she “completed” the Cohos Trail, she returned, spending four days and three nights on the trail and walking approximately 45 miles.
Berrier is a neighbor of mine in Tamworth. I wrote a hiking column about her hike in 2018, and we agreed it would be fun to do another about her return to the Cohos Trail this year.
With a 38-pound pack, she started up the Starr King Trail in Jefferson. She had individual dry dinners that she had prepared, and other trail essentials for four days on her own. Unlike her longer first hike on the trail, when she brought a GPS satellite messenger that noted her location on the trail, and sent out the data each day to 10 family members, she relied on texting and her phone from high points to keep people updated on her progress.
She met people doing the popular trail up Mount Starr King and the 4,006-foot Mount Waumbek. But continuing north on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail towards the three summited Mount Weeks, “there was not a soul in sight.” This trend continued. On popular mountains she met people, but the majority of the time she had the wilderness to herself.
There were challenges. “The Cohos Trail is not a beginner trail,” she noted. “The trail is not heavily used and sometimes not clear.” Close to the top of Mount Weeks, she made her way around a blow down and couldn’t find the trail again, so she bushwhacked to the summit, visible just above.
She took a spur trail to a tent site on Mount Weeks that was frequently used by Cohos Trail thru-hikers. But she never met one.
The next morning, she descended to Willard Notch and climbed Terrace Mountain. Looking north from its summit, her next objective, Mount Cabot, looked very close. But she had to descend the deep and muddy Brunnell Notch before climbing Cabot.
Passing the Mount Cabot Cabin before the summit, she was on familiar ground. From Mount Cabot she descended a ridge to the tent site at Unknown Pond, first stopping at the famous viewpoint call the Horn, where the vast Killkenny Region she had just traversed spread out below.
Unknown Pond is a special place with an appropriate name, though not entirely accurate anymore. The reflection of the sharp Horn in its waters, surrounded by dark pointed spruce, make for a perfect scene.
Berrier spent a quiet night alone there and the next day continued on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to Rogers Ledge, another fabulous lookout. Although she had passed that way on her last hike, she was glad to be there again.
“The last time, there was a group of noisy kids there,” she said. “This time I was able to sit on the ledge alone and appreciate the view.”
This was one of her longer days, as she descended to South Pond, crossed Route 110 and walked a short way on a couple of Stark’s back roads, continuing on the Cohos Trail.
That night she stayed at the Devil’s Rest Shelter, built three years ago by CT volunteers.
The next day was her last on the trail, but spectacular. She ascended the Summer Club Trail and entered the Nash Stream Forest, New Hampshire’s largest state forest.
The Cohos Trail passes below the Percy Peaks which she had bypassed in 2018, but this time she wanted to climb North Percy, and did it. Its round ledgey summit has a memorable view, including the nearby short and steep hills of Vermont. She made a few calls, chatting with her son in Colorado and arranging for her husband to pick her up at the trailhead that afternoon.
Her final section was on the Trio Trail, and was quiet and solitary. The trail had no recent human footprints, only the deep hoof prints of one moose. She followed the moose prints for 4½ miles. At the trailhead for Pond Brook Falls, she arrived at the road for a 3 p.m. pickup at 2:59.
“This trail catches your fancy,” Berrier recently said. “Once you have been on it, you feel a certain ownership.”
She has volunteered to do trail work for the Cohos Trail Association, and attended meetings.
For more information on this north country treasure, go to cohostrail.org.