by Amy Patenaude
Coös County is the most northern and largest county in New Hampshire. Coös and Cohos are pronounced “CO-ahss” with two syllables. If you say Coös as if it rhymed with ooze you’ll quickly give yourself away as a flatlander “from away.”
The Cohos Trail (CT) travels the County from North to South over 165 miles utilizing old and new trails. The Southern terminus is Notchland (just north of Bartlett) at the Davis Path. The Northern terminus is the Canadian border at the Fourth Connecticut Lake.
Long distance backpacking is the rage. More people than ever are hitting the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail—two trails made even more popular due to recent books and movies. The Cohos Trail is a jewel just waiting to be discovered. Or maybe we should just keep it for ourselves!
The new third edition of The Cohos Trail guidebook has just come out and ask for it in your favorite bookstore or purchase it and the new map on-line at cohostrail.org.
The map is broken up into four sections: Notchland to Jefferson, Jefferson to Nash Stream, Nash Stream to Clarksville and Clarksville to Fourth Connecticut Lake.
Many White Mountain hikers have traveled southern sections of the CT while summiting Mount Isolation or Mount Eisenhower since the CT’s route utilizes the Davis Path and the Edmands Path.
Guests at the Omni Mount Washington Resort might spy a backpacker trekking down along the bank of the Ammonoosuc River on the edge of the golf course as the hiker makes his way to Cherry Mountain. But, if they are trekkers, they will continue over Mount Weeks and on to Roger’s Ledge.
The AMC’s White Mountain Guide includes a few North Country hikes. Fourth Connecticut Lake Trail, Falls in the River Trail and the Percy Peak Loop come to mind. The CT connects these nice trails and these trails make super day hikes.
I confess I have yet to take up long distance backpacking. Recently I have done a good number of sections of the CT in the North Woods to help me access 3,000 foot peaks. The 3ks are a much less popular list of New Hampshire peaks because most do not have trails.
After a day of bushwhacking north of Route 26 in Dixville, up to the summits of Cave Mountain and Rice Mountain, we slept well in our tents. The next morning with a belly full of oatmeal cooked on Becca’s new Jet-Boil stove we looked forward to following the Cohos Trail to Baldhead South.
East of Dixville Notch from Route 26 we took the West Branch Road, a rugged gravel road that you shouldn’t take your mother’s sedan anywhere near. My all-wheel drive rig bumped its way to the gate at the old Kelsey Notch Road. We passed by a tractor backhoe that was attempting to smooth out some of the more washed out parts.
We parked at the gate and headed up the old road. A sign read “3 Miles to Shelter”. The Baldhead Shelter was our goal since Baldhead South’s summit was just a short distance north of the shelter.
The CT guidebook’s instructions include “What to Do When You Meet a Moose” and “What to Do if You Meet a Bear”. These instructions are followed by “What to Do If You Meet a Homo Sapiens”. I giggled at the “When” you meet a moose verses “If” you meet a bear or a homo sapiens! North of the White Mountains on the CT you will see other people infrequently it warns.
Becca and I hiked south on the CT up the old road. This old road from Colebrook is now a popular ATV corridor. After hiking less than 15 minutes the trail left the road and went into the woods. We followed the yellow blazes and the CT signs. Moose tracks far outnumbered the few boot prints we saw in the muddy areas.
The trail was pleasant and felt much easier than our efforts bushwhacking. We crossed through many fern glades, the foot bed of the path was not heavily worn and felt soft on our feet. The North Country is famous for its mud but we easily kept our feet dry in our trail runners since it had not rained in many days.
The hike wasn’t a grind. In fact, the trail rolled up and down and then a final steep push and a short descent to the shelter. The Baldhead South Lean-to was empty and it looked like a nice place to make camp. In front of the small shelter an area had been cleared to provide a fine vista. We tried to convince ourselves we could see all the way to the Percy’s over the Nash Stream Forest.
The bushwhacking to the high point was easy since, obviously, the area’s moose meet here to have dance parties. Seriously, the herd paths went in every directions and we followed a clear path right to the summit bump.
On the way back we took our time. Big trees, fern glades and boulders we admired and appreciated maybe a little more this time. We didn’t meet a moose but I bet we walked by one.
We rolled back into civilization at lunchtime. A trip to Colebrook requires a stop at the Le Rendez Vous French Bakery! We wouldn’t dream of missing their yummy tarts and croissants. Have Fun
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: [email protected].