2016 TRAIL UPDATES
Every year we post information about the state of the trail, particularly the changes that you can expect. In 2016, there will likely be a number of changes for the better, particularly if we get the green light to relocate some pathways and develop several new ones.
2016 COHOS TRAIL UPDATE
Some changes are afoot for the upcoming 2016 hiking season on the Cohos Trail. There are a few route adjustments to take advantage of and some problems that you’ll come upon that you should be aware of.
NEW TRAILS OPEN IN THE SPRING
There are two new trails open now south of Coleman State Park, between the park and Mud Pond Ridge. The new Tumbledick Mountain Trail and the new Sugar Hill Trail are open now, but need a few signs bolted in place to help hikers more easily locate their starting points. Those signs are being created right now by Ray Chaput of Twin Mountain and will be set in place by the trails’ designer, E.H. Roy, before the hiking season commences.
At the height of land on Tumbledick Mountain south of Coleman State Park, the new Tumbledick Mountain Trail cuts sharp left (east) off a snowmobile trail and descends gradually down the southeast flank of the mountain, passing at first through pleasant hardwoods and mixed forest. Lower down the peak, the trail threads through a true boreal forest of spruce and fir, its floor covered with mosses and seedling trees. The route crosses a stream below a tiny cascade and then rises to meet the skimobile trail.
Directly across the skimobile trail, the new Sugar Hill Trail commences. It drifts west lazily onto the flank of Sugar Hill and meanders southward, falling in elevation gradually through open mixed forest to an unnamed brook. Ford the brook and regain elevation for a bit more than a quarter mile before reaching an access lane to the Nathan Pond area (well to the east) near a property boundary gate.
These two trails eliminate two long, tedious miles of tramping through high grass on the snowmobile trail. The paths are true woods trails and a joy to trek on.
In times of high water, when the streams are running swift and can be dangerous, the ford at the low point in the Sugar Hill Trail can be avoided by bushwhacking a very short distance downstream to an all-terrain-vehicle bridge over the brook. Just bushwhack upstream again and you’ll keep your feet dry.
THE DEER MOUNTAIN FIRETOWER TRAIL
This restored old spur trail up to the remaining firetower superstructure at 3,005 elevation on the north summit of Deer Mountain, four miles south of the Canadian border, is open all the way to the firetower now. Some additional work will be done on the trail this year, including on short spurs to the waterfalls, but the trail is easy to follow and throws no obstacles at the hiker. The route is signed and blazed.
HIKING OVER THE TRUE SUMMIT OF MT. SANGUINARY
There is some possibility that the Cohos Trail Association will be able to cut a new bypass trail off the Sanguinary Summit Trail and up and over the true summit of Mt. Sanguinary this year. The central section of the trail on the ridge is deteriorating, so we could close that section and reach the summit clearing where views await. We’ll keep everyone posted through the website and on Facebook should we complete the bypass and open it to hikers.
COON BROOK BRIDGE IMPROVEMENTS
Right this minute, the old skimobile bridge we use on the Bog Bridge Trail in Pittsburg is in very tough shape. We are anxious to nail down a 16-inch wide set of planks across one side of the span to make it safe for passage. The work is a high priority.
However, if we don’t get a chance to get the improvements in place by the start of the hiking season, we advise hikers to ford the stream if the water is not too high and dangerous.
Somewhat nearby, a wet spot in a low point the Bog Bridge Trail will get a puncheon span so that folks won’t have to pick their way through the wet.
ROUND POND BROOK TRAIL
Last year we solved a huge problem by completing the bypass work on the Round Pond Brook Trail in Pittsburg. The trail had to be closed in one long section, but we got the okay to skirt the problem. Yet we needed to install a 100-foot puncheon span over wet soils to complete the job. That was done last summer. Now this trail is a quiet forest gem within the Cohos Trail system, with a small falls, rolling terrain, gully and stream crossings, and a long granite rib to trace.
THE ORIGINAL ROUTE OPEN IN THE WHITES
Now that the Forest Service has restored and relocated some of the western leg of the Isolation Trail and the Dry River Trail in the White Mountain National Forest, following severe damage caused by Hurricane Irene, the original route of the Cohos Trail is now open once again. Hikers now have unfettered access to the Dry River Valley, the Dry River Cutoff path and the Eisenhower Trail. They can detour a short distance up the Dry River Trail to Dry River Falls or nearly a mile to the Dry River Shelter, too.
In the 4th edition of the guidebook, we’ll maintain a page or two about the High Peaks option if trekkers want to stay high on the ridge and pick up Boott Spur, Mt. Washington, Mt. Monroe, and Mt. Franklin. The High Peaks option was hastily set up because of the trail closings after the hurricane.
If you have the 3rd edition of the guidebook the High Peaks option is prominent on the pages. Look for the original route copy. It’s there, but it is wrapped around the High Peaks verbiage.
INTERACTION WITH ATV VEHICLES
Since inception of the Ride The Wilds ATV system in Coos County, motorized vehicles have impacted a considerable amount of Cohos Trail mileage between Coleman State Park and Cedar Stream Road south of Lake Francis and the Kelsey Notch Road and the wind turbine access lane on Dixville Peak.
Our hiking association is making plans to get off all ATV routes, but it will take some years to do so, as we need formal plans and permission, and we must cut lengthy new woodland trails. So hikers must be cognizant of ATV traffic and get off trails when the vehicles are moving through.
But there are some places where it’s difficult to get away from the traffic or bypass some of the wettest terrain made worse by the vehicles. So we advise caution, and we advise giving the motorized craft a wide berth.
THE SHELTER SITUATION
The Cohos Trail Association maintains three shelters right now and a tent platform site, too. Sometime during the summer of 2016 we hope to erect the new Tillotson Hut shelter in Pittsburg, about half way along between Lake Francis Campground and Deer Mountain Campground. We’ll keep you informed as to the status of the development of the new lean-to.
There are more shelters on the trail than those at our association maintains. In Pittsburg, Ramblewood Cabins and Campground maintains a lean-to. It’s available for a fee. On Mt. Prospect, Peter Castine maintains Mt. Bungalow, a donation-only second-floor hostelry. At Deer Mt. Campground there is a four-sided camp that can be reserved for a fee.
On Mt. Cabot in the Kilkenny division of the national forest, the Mt. Cabot watchman’s cabin is available on a first-come first-served basis. It holds up to eight people. In the Whites, on the Dry River Trail about a mile north of the Cohos Trail route reposes the Dry River Shelter.
There is also a modest chance that we will obtain permission to erect the Devil’s Rest shelter in the southwest corner of the Nash Stream Forest. Because numerous parties are at work on a 10-year plan for the Nash Stream Forest, most initiatives in that Forest are on hold. If we do get a green light, there may be enough time to erect that lean-to, as well. If that happens, it would be possible, after an all day hike, to trek between the Mt. Cabot cabin and the Devil’s Rest.
And lastly, other than shelters, there are tent platforms in various locations, from Percy Loop Camp on North Percy Peak, to a few in Lake Francis State Campground and in Deer Mt. State Campground.
THE TRIO TRAIL, AT LONG LAST
Probably the most significant improvement that will get underway this year is the development of the four-mile Trio Trail and the half mile Pond Brook Falls Trail in the Nash Stream Forest. These two trails will form a chain that begins at the Percy Loop Camp campsite on the northern flank of North Percy Peak and ends at the Nash Stream Road just west of Pond Brook Falls.
Held up because the federal transportation bill before Congress was not voted on until late in 2015, so that state Recreational Trails Program funding could not be underpinned. We had to cancel construction work last year because our RTP grant was in limbo. Those funds have since been approved and we are waiting for the logjam to free up. Once it does, a trail crew contract can be written so we can to move ahead with the two projects.
Once complete, hikers no longer will have to venture onto the Nash Stream Road and pace out 1.9 miles between the Percy Loop trailhead and Pond Brook Falls. The Trio Trail will stay at the 2,000 foot elevation level much of the way and swing around Long Mountain and end at the Trio Ponds Road. Once across the road, the Pond Brook Falls trail will drop down to Pond Brook, ford it, and then descend not far from the stream down to the very top of Pond Brook Falls. An old path just to the north of the falls will be cleaned out again so the trail can slip downhill and out to the Nash Stream Road.
There are some troublespots that have been remedied a bit by better blazing. The entrance to the Kelsey Notch Trail from the north has been completely reblazed. Trees had been removed in the area and our signs and blazing was missing. No mistaking the 90-degree turn now.
The link from the summit of Mt. Prospect out to Ramblewood in Pittsburg has been reblazed quite a bit and the pathways clipped. More work has to be done, but the way through the woods is now much more distinct.
The entrance to the Sugarloaf Arm Trail and the trail itself have been reblazed a great deal, starting at the gate on the southwest end all the way to the junction with the Sugarloaf Mt. Trail.
The Kelsey Notch Trail received a good deal of new blaze paint, as well, and the route was heavily clipped, too. The Col. Whipple Trail in Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge sports some fresh blaze paint, as does the Old Summer Club Trail and the north end of the East Side Trail.
PARKING NEAR PIKE POND
The parking area and the access to it on the Montgomery property off the Bell Hill Road in Stark will new signage created by Ray Chaput of Twin Mountain. This parking lot allows section hikers to park out of sight from the highways and secondary roads, thanks to the generosity of the landowner. There is a sign kiosk at the lot. The Pike Pond Trail, an access path from the lot to the Bald Mountain Notch Trail takes off westward. It is blazed in blue paint.
The parking area can be reached by turning off Route 110 several miles west of Stark village onto the Bell Hill Road. Cross the bridge over the Upper Ammonoosuc River, cross the railroad tracks and continue through an intersection straight ahead. Climb the hill. Near the very top of the hill the drive, Pike Pond Road, is on the left. Turn left and then watch for a second left not far from a building (ahead and to the right). Turn left and travel a minute to the parking lot.
There are some spots along the route where you should expect some wet footing in wet weather or moist summers, other than at stream crossings.
One or two puncheons on the Col. Whipple Trail can submerge slightly if water is high. The old dogleg pathway from the South Pond Road down to the Route 110 crossing can be quite soggy on the east end.
Behind Bald Mt., on the Bald Mt. Notch Trail, two spots can backup with water. You have to skirt around these small impediments if there has been a lot of rain or snowmelt.
The beaver activity on the north end of the East Side Trail has dropped off and so has the water level. The trail is drier now than it has been in some time, but still can be wet if a lot of drainage is underway off the ridges.
Both the Wilderness Link between Dixville Peak and Mt. Gloriette and the Table Rock Link between the Balsams Ski Resort summit and Table Rock have some soggy ground in places when the heavens don’t cooperate.
The Deadwater Trail south of the junction with the Dead Water Loop Road can be a bear to get through these days. And the low spot just west of Third Connecticut Lake near the border is notoriously wet underfoot for nearly 40 feet.
The low spot in the Bog Bridge Trail well below the Route 3 pullout is wet all the time, but were going to put puncheons in there this year.
SIGN KIOSKS SET OUT
As you trek along, you’ll come across a number of two-legged sign kiosks with roofing. These are in place and new ones will be installed this year, as well. During the summer, these kiosks will be outfitted with stunning Cohos Trail graphics that feature the sensational work of local photographers.
Our new databooks are just a month away, one for northbounders, one for southbounders. They’ll be available on our website (www.cohostrail.org) and through Amazon.com. They’ll eventually be available to distributors so the databooks can be purchased in the region. Don’t leave home without a databook.
FOURTH EDITION OF THE GUIDEBOOK COMING ALONG, TOO
The Cohos Trail guidebook is being revised now. It will be the fourth edition of the guide. If you have the third edition, then print out this information and keep it with the guidebook. Once the new maps are out and the databooks available, there should be absolutely no problem getting from point A to point Z on the Cohos Trail.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
Now that you’ve taken the time to read down through all this endless copy, maybe you ought to chuck everything now and get the boots on and the backpack on and get out there on the Cohos Trail.
It’s great to hike the trail. It’s also great to pitch in. We are always encouraging volunteers to spend a few hours, a day or two, or a year out there with us on the trail helping make the Cohos Trail the best darned new hiking trail in the Northeast in three generations.
We don’t call the long pathway the “mighty” Cohos Trail for nothing. Be a part of something big.
And, as we like to say, hike ‘til you drop!