Backpacking Trips dream lake Mahoosucs Travel waterfall hike

Backpacking a Gentian Pond Loop

Gentian Pond in Autumn
Gentian Pond in AutumnGentian Pond in Autumn

Gentian Pond is within the Mahoosuc Vary, one of many hardest sections of the Appalachian Path. I hiked a one night time loop as much as the AT shelter there, visiting two massive waterfalls referred to as Big Falls and Dryad Falls on the best way. My pal Ken and I had stopped by this shelter once we hiked this part in August, however the shelter and campsite had been full, so we’d skipped previous it and camped a few miles south at Dream Lake.

This was a mixture psychological well being and redline hike. It being Columbus Day week, the White Mountain Nationwide Forest is overrun with tour buses and automobiles with out-of-state license plates. It’s not a lot their presence which bothers me, however the mile-long visitors jams, in a place the place there are seldom greater than a few automobiles stopped at a pink mild. So, I did what I do when confronted by crowds. I headed north to the less-visited wilderness areas within the northeast nook of the WMNF.

Redlining, for the uninitiated, is once you hike all the trails within the AMC’s White Mountain Information. There are 640 trails within the present 30th version. It took me 10 years to hike all the trails within the 29th version (I completed final yr) and I’m now working through the 30th version, revisiting all the previous trails that I’ve forgotten and the 12 or so new trails which have since been added to the redlining spreadsheet. Every a type of 640 trails is akin to a meal on a menu at a actually good restaurant so it’s straightforward to get motivated to hike all of them.

Being a solo hike, I mapped out a loop that might convey me again to my start line. The paths I hiked are largely maintained by the Shelburne Trails Membership, a small however fairly expert path membership that maintains a good path community off North Street, close to Philbrook Farm, simply south of the Mahoosuc Path. There are various pleasant locations alongside these trails, that are straightforward sufficient for youthful youngsters, though there’s nonetheless loads of exhausting stuff to gnaw on if you would like it.

Gentian Pond Loop

Right here’s the route I took:

  • Austin Brook Path (from North Rd) – zero.four miles
  • Yellow Path – 1.1 miles
  • Gates Brook Path – zero.5 miles
  • Center Mountain Path – 2.1 miles
  • Peabody Brook Path – 2.three miles
  • Big Falls Spur – zero.6 miles
  • Bald Ledge Spur Path mile
  • Dryad Path – 1.5 miles
  • Austin Brook Path (as much as shelter, then again to North Rd the subsequent morning) four.7 miles

Apart from Gentian Pond, there are two giant waterfalls on this route: Giants Falls, off the Peabody Brook Path and Dryad Falls off the Dryad Path. Mount Crag, Center Mountain, and the Bald Ledge Spur Path even have good summit views of the Androscoggin River Valley, and Dream Lake is all the time good to go to on the junction of the Peabody Brook Path and the Mahoosuc Path (A.T.).

Wooden Turnstile at the Austin Brook TrailheadPicket Turnstile on the Austin Brook Trailhead

I began my hike on the Austin Brook Path Head on North Street with its quirky gate, a picket turnstile, which I’ve all the time seen as a native joke. The path is an previous logging street for many of its size. Down on the backside, it’s gravel coated with a delicate mattress of spruce needles that makes for nice strolling. I walked down that for zero.four of a mile earlier than turning onto the Yellow Path which climbs Mt Crag on a well-blazed path.

The views on the summit of Crag have been fogged in, so I stored going previous the summit towards the Gates Brook Path, descending steeply. I turned proper onto the Gates Brook Path, passing a picket foot bridge on the left and persevering with straight. Don’t cross that bridge. There are yellow blazes marking the path you need straight forward, however they’re hidden from view if you flip onto the Gates Brook Path.

Don't cross this bridge. It's not on the Gates Brook Trail. Don’t cross this bridge. It’s not on the Gates Brook Path.

The vegetation closes in as you strategy a junction with the Center Mountain Path. The junction is nicely signed though it’s all the time useful to hold a map for fast reference. There are a lot of brief interconnected trails in Shelburne and it pays to examine your place each time you come to a landmark or path junction.

I climbed up the Center Mountain Path and walked proper previous a flip, the place the path makes a onerous proper. The flip is signed and flagged with orange plastic tape, however I stored on going straight, following pink tape, which is usually used to mark trails within the Whites. It took me a whereas to note that I used to be on the improper path as a result of it was blazed in orange. I feel it’s a path to First Mountain and its ledges, which have been additionally socked in by fog. I found out my mistake once I began dropping altitude in a place the place I didn’t anticipate to lose it. So I backtracked and located the junction that I’d by chance walked previous. Doh!

Again on the right path, I climbed to the open summit ledges of Center Mountain, that are capped with a giant rock that somebody has helpfully spray-painted with the phrase “TOP”. It’s nonetheless a fairly sight. From the summit you’ll be able to see the summit ledges on Bald Cap Peak. I’d stand on those self same ledges later within the day and look down on the huge rock on the Center Mountain summit, which is clearly seen from them. The fog had additionally began to carry, so I had clearer skies the rest of the day.

Big rock on Middle MountainHuge rock on Center Mountain summit

The Center Mountain Path continues previous the summit to hitch the Peabody Brook Path. The path passes by means of nice open woods earlier than following a slender logging street to the path junction. This being October and moose mating season, I half anticipated a bull moose to come out of the bushes on the aspect of the path and problem me. So I sang out “Mr Moosie? Where are you?” each fifty ft or so, to alert them to my presence.

Once I arrived on the Peabody Brook Path junction, I turned proper onto the path which follows one other previous logging street, earlier than narrowing to a common mountaineering path. In zero.four miles, I got here to the Big Falls Spur, which results in the bottom of Big Falls, a large 100+ foot waterfall which was cranking once I visited. We’d simply had an inch of rain and the falls have been going full blast, flooding the slender gorge under them.

Giant Falls after a heavy autumn rain.Big Falls after a heavy autumn rain.

Subsequent, I backtracked to the Peabody Brook Path and continued climbing towards the Mahoosuc ridgeline, heading north. The path will get a lot wilder previous the falls, with over-reaching shrubbery (one thing referred to as hobblebush) that’s so dense, you’ll be able to barely see the path at your ft. It was nonetheless moist from the rain, so my pants have been shortly soaked.

The higher a part of the Peabody Path has all the time been moist, muddy, and half underneath water for so long as I can keep in mind, so none of this actually stunned me. 9 years had handed since I final hiked this path in its entirety and it hadn’t actually modified a bit. Perhaps that’s a good factor.

The new Bald Ledge Spur Trail JunctionThe brand new Bald Ledge Spur Path Junction

One factor has definitely modified although and that was a new path junction to the brand new Bald Ledge Spur Path. This path passes by way of a big fern meadow, in all probability the results of a logging reduce, to south-facing rock ledges. It’s a very new path maintained by John Compton aka 1HappyHiker, who’s a famend bushwhacker within the Whites. It was additionally principally underwater once I hiked it, the chilly rain water soaking my socks and footwear.

Views of the Androscoggin River Vqlley from the ledgesViews of the Androscoggin River Vqlley from the ledges

The ledge views have been value it although, so long as you descend all the best way right down to the “edge” overlooking Center Mountain and the Androscoggin River Valley. A ledge in White Mountains parlance is often a horizontal rock face with open views, like the highest of a cliff. Hikers are drawn to them like flies.

I backtracked to the Peabody Path and adopted it previous the Dryad Path Junction to Dream Lake and its junction with the Mahoosuc Path. I resupplied my water there, at a stream that Ken and I had used once we’d camped there in August. Then it was again to the Dryad Path Junction, the place I began mountaineering down the very moist Dryad Path. I’d snowshoed this path pretty lately with my pal Josh, once we’d additionally visited Gentian Pond. The path had been underneath snow then, so this was the primary time I’d see it in non-winter circumstances.

Top of Dryad FallsPrime of Dryad Falls

I hiked down the path, which can also be an previous logging street, to the Dryad Falls Spur Path. The path leads very near the highest of the falls, which drop 300 ft under. It’s a fairly spectacular view, however you possibly can’t see the underside. My footage don’t do it justice.

Trail to Gentian PondPath to Gentian Pond

I hiked again to the primary path and adopted it right down to the Austin Brook Path junction. From right here it was a 1 mile hike and climb to Gentian Pond, the lean-to-and campsite. I had two hours earlier than sundown and needed to get my hammock squared away, resupply my water, and prepare dinner a hearty dinner. I used to be drained.

Hammocking at the Gentian Shelter and CampsiteHammocking on the Gentian Shelter and Campsite

The subsequent morning I packed up and hiked out the Austin Brook Path again to North Street. It’s usually a fairly path, however elements of it cross forest openings which were logged. It wasn’t actually guidebook materials for that cause (not fairly sufficient), though small stream fly fisherman will certainly have an interest within the stream entry it supplies. Austin Brook has small native trout in it, I checked. ?

Austin BrookAustin Brook

All in all, a good and fast 1 day backpacking journey, though you can definitely hike the entire loop in in the future in case you had extra daylight.

Complete distance: 16 miles with 4300 ft of elevation achieve.

Beneficial Guidebooks and Maps:

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th individual to complete mountaineering and backpacking all the trails within the White Mountain Information (1440 miles). He is additionally completed mountaineering most of the area’s peakbagging lists together with the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a four season backpacking chief for the Appalachian Mountain Membership, a member of the chief committee for the Random Hikers, a Lengthy Path Mentor for Vermont’s Inexperienced Mountain Membership, and a Depart No Hint Grasp Educator. He additionally teaches a number of compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation programs annually, listed on


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