Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bushwhack to Bear Pond, Redrock Ravine - 8/9/14

This adventure has been my list for some time, and a few months ago, my brother and I set the date in stone.  Lots of lead up discussion as we prepared.  I have all sorts of ideas lately, with a few upcoming trips that are recons for a possible winter adventure, including this hike.  I was hoping we'd get a chance at West Bond from the pond, with a bushwhack descent down the west ridge, but it didn't happen this time.  However we were excited to make it here, and it was an awesome new adventure in a place I love.

It's always fun when there's an opportunity for nights out in the wilderness.  We had our big packs with us for this one, with hammocks and tarps and lots of food...a bit of weight compared to my day treks, but you'll see why in short time that its just helping me prepare for my next adventures...after all, this year's Cross Pemi Bushwhack (we also call it the big pack bushwhack) is just a couple of months away.  This was a nice little practice run for that.
Ready to rock it!
Friday afternoons are hell now if you're trying to get home and get going to the White Mountains, so by the time we were heading up Lincoln Woods Trail it was about 7:30pm.  Either way, we knew we'd be camping the night before making it to the start of the bushwhack.  We made it to the Pemi bridge in about an hour, where we were just minutes from losing daylight.

At about 10:15pm, we arrived to Hellgate Brook on Franconia Brook Trail, where we pre-planned to stop in this situation of a slightly later start.  Turns out, there are others camping in the same areas which we've passed before.  We looped back between the trail and Lincoln Brook, and found a previously used spot, and set up quickly.  Once set-up, the next objective was to hang our food, which we did about 250 feet towards Lincoln Brook - a problem though, a quick torrent of a downpour came, and we had not put up the tarps because it looked like we were going to avoid any rain, given how late it was now.  We ran back as fast as possible through the thicket, and secured camp before our down bags got soaked.  We then went back to the bag to secure the ends, and hoist it up.  By then it was almost 11:30pm and there was no more rain, but a headlamp starts coming towards our set-up.  I hop out, to greet the person, who was looking for birch bark, and he informed me he was expecting others.  Lo and behold, its now almost 1:00am, and headlamps are slowly creeping towards our camp.  You've got to be kidding me! Almost 6 miles from the trail head, and I've got people approaching my hammock at 1:00am.  I wasn't expecting that, but I guess it's getting tougher to find true wilderness in the White Mountains.  They got close enough to realize we weren't the party they were looking for, and backed off, but they did wake us up.    
Ready to get up to Bear Pond
Nice morning walk
After getting some additional zzz's in, we got going up the Franconia Brook Trail sometime around 9:00am on Saturday morning, where we met a fellow Jim who was heading to 13 Falls.  It was a nice day, and I could feel us wanting to get up there, so we moved right along one mile up to the crossing of Redrock Brook.  Here, Jim was not too far behind, and we engaged in some interesting conversation as we took a break.  My brother and I were crafting the next segment of the route to get to Redrock Ravine.  One can follow Redrock Brook by staying to the left on all forks to get to Redrock Ravine.  We learned through other trip reports that it may be helpful to find an old railroad grade that meets the FBT just a bit further up from the crossing of the Redrock Brook.  After the chat, and actually switching to shorts (because it was heating up), we set off, passing the brook to go a bit further before heading in on the bushwhack.   
Redrock Brook geological survey marker 
Redrock Brook at the Franconia Brook Trail
We walked for about 10 minutes at pretty quick pace, and sure enough we started to see what we were looking for, which was a grade coming down from the right to meet the trail.  There are hand-drawn maps we researched that show the old logging camps and suspected railroad paths of the old system.  We took our best guess and started to the right off the FBT.  Within five minutes, we were on an obvious former railroad grade.  It then seemed to swoop closely to the river.  At times on the way up we noticed the grade would disappear, but then reappear slightly higher up, likely due to varying erosion along the way over the last 200 years.  Sometimes it appeared to be a herd path.  First thought to our head was that animals also take the easiest route.  As we continued further along, it seemed easier to stay with the grade, but it was getting slightly tougher because there is some elevation gain further up, and bushwhacking is a lot of extra effort.
A log creates a waterfall in Redrock Brook, about .2mi up-brook from LBT 
Well over a mile into our bushwhack, I spotted some rusty materials on the ground just in front of us.  As we looked down, we observed what appeared to be a dismantled stove, presumably from Logging Camp 14 back in the late 1800s.  Stove No. 30, it was, and it appeared to be a former stand-up stove, with a base, and probably a tall back with cupboards given all of the doors and sides.  Along with that, there were a couple of saw blades.  I have to say this was wicked exciting to see! We were making choo-choo sounds, imagining the workers working along the grade, and shipping out the wood.  Another fun find was a deflated Mini Mouse balloon, which likely landed who knows when after some poor child probably let it go from you wonder where?  I took it with us to carry out.    
Remnants of an old stove we found along the bushwhack
Lots of stove-top pieces, sides, doors, and what appeared to be a base
Saw blades
NO 30 is displayed on one door of the stove
***Please note that these items are artifacts, and it is illegal to remove them from the national forest.

Here is the mini mouse we saw
After the exciting find, we continued up in elevation, staying to the left at each fork (especially if you stay close to the river).  We could see that we were almost there, but just as we started to get close, it got a bit thicker. For the first time, we got to the right side of the dry stream bed, where we could see the opening on the other side.  We bee-lined it through the thick scrub to the opening.   
Last push to Bear Pond, we proceeded just to the right of the riverbed
So close I can taste it! 
Wait a minute....where's the pond? Oh, its behind the tall grass
When you step into a special spot, you know it and you feel it.  That's what we felt as we stepped into Redrock Ravine, about 9 miles from the nearest road, and 2.5 miles from Lincoln Brook Trail.  We followed an apparent animal path over to the right, where we hoped to find a suitable place to set-up our camp.  There is basically one open area under the trees for a camp spot, and its not completely flat, but perfect for our hammocks.  It was about 3:00pm then, and we focused on getting set-up so that we'd have some time to poke around and relax after a rather unrelaxing first night.
Two hammocks, one tarp, awesome set-up
The talus slope from the camp spot
Bill filters water for dinner from Bear Pond before we go explore
After getting everything situated, we set out for our recon of this majestic and remote place.  Bear Pond is a glacial tarn, and Redrock Ravine is sometimes called a glacial cirque, where long ago, massive glaciers carved this amazing place (as well as the rest of the White Mountains).  The prominent talus field visible lies on the southern slope of Southwest Twin.  The Twinway Slide rises to the Twinway Trail, with its tail an apparent chute leading to the ravine floor.  A most unique view of West Bond lies to the southwest.  The Pond sits high up in the ravine, and from the talus slope, the view down and out into the Pemi Wilderness was just incredible.  Nice breezes made the surface of the pond appear as if it were dancing in the wind.
Talus slope of Southwest Twin 
The Twinway slide 
The setting sun reflects off Guyot, and West Bond sits in the shade 
Thanks to Bill for capturing many of these great shots 

West Bond and its western ridge over Bear Pond  

We circumnavigated the pond....slowly, which has only small animal paths here and there. Pretty purple flowers, as well as others, surrounded the pond, as tons of monarch butterflies blanketed and fluttered about them.  The dragonflies were bigger than any I've ever seen, and we captured photos of them with their reflections in the glass water of Bear Pond.

Butterflies of Bear Pond
Dragonflies of Bear Pond
Once back to our spot, we established our bear-bag spot, which was at the end of the open area we were in.  We cooked some new AlpineAire freeze-dried meals we brought to try, and they were pretty good! After finishing, we grabbed a few snacks to keep for later, and hoisted the bag.  We've used a bear-bag almost anytime we needed to protect our food, except a canister on Whitney, so we have a good system that works, and I can do it myself fairly easily.  After that we chilled out for a little bit, making camp comfortable, and just tinkering around.

It was a beautiful night, except there were bugs.  They were manageable, and it was tough to be fully frustrated by the midges and mosquitoes. An occasional breeze pushed them away for a few, especially out in the open.  The entire time, we only heard a couple of planes, but there was no other noise except for the both of us.  Other than the flies and insects, and one darting fish I saw in Redrock Brook, there were little signs of other wildlife near the pond.
The moon reflects off the rocks, lighting up the area
Later on, well after the moon had risen over West Bond in the south, we ventured out to the talus slope to take in the beautiful full moon.  The moon was so bright, it was almost impossible for a perfect quality photo.  The entire ravine was lit up as if it were still twilight.  I've seen many full moons, but to sit on the talus slope here, and take it in... people come here...but very few, I'm sure, hang on out talus slopes in the full moon.  Even though the moon was out so brightly, it was still epic stargazing.
The best photo of the moon, stars, lightening Redrock Ravine 
The moon reflected off the talus, while stars shone brightly above SW Twin  
....and also amazingly above the Twinway
After about an hour hanging out on the talus slope, we ventured back to our spot where we enjoyed a very small morale campfire in the ring we found.  We also had some nice beverages and talked about the amazing day, the awesome-ness of being in such a cool place.  We then retreated to our hammocks for the night.  Not a sound, nada nada all night.  I slept so good, that the next morning my brother took down his entire hammock and had to shake me to wake me up. I was totally shocked, but that is why I'm better off out here than at home.  We woke, and got ourselves ready to go fairly quickly around 8:30am, as we wanted to make excellent time out of here, and get home at a reasonable hour.  The sunrise bounced off Southwest Twin and reflected its image in the water which was smooth as glass.  It was like..."Please don't go!" It's so darn hard to leave sometimes, but we did.

We pretty much followed the same path that we took in.  We came, once again, to the awesome fern patch and possible former logging Camp 14.  This time, we took some additional photos.  On the way out, we wanted to hit the log waterfall for more photos, but the old railroad grade, we found, stayed much higher than we took note of on the way in.  By following the easier grade, we found ourselves just a couple of hundred feet from the trail, covering almost .6mi in just a few minutes, taking an easier route than the first 1/2 mile on our way in.  I took note for my next time out here. 
Bill and I believe that we have natural-born navigational skills :) 
Imagine railroad workers possibly camping and working here in the 1890's 
Fern glade along the bushwhack to Redrock Ravine 
This would make a very nice winter camping spot too
Back on the FBT, we traveled at over 2.5 mph all of the way to the end, but not without enjoying the beautiful morning, passing Redrock, Hellgate, and the beaver ponds, which we passed in the dark the day before.  As with all walks along the Lincoln Woods, we felt our feet, the soreness taking over.  I was telling my brother how many times I've done at least out-and-back on this, and its somewhere around 12-15 times.  I reminded him he's done it more than a few times himself.  There is no use complaining any longer.  We crossed the bridge, and arrived back at the car safely and still happy.  The next required order of business was a nice ice cold refreshing dip in the East Branch of the Pemi to cap it off.
Franconia Brook Trail crossing of Redrock Brook 
A beaver pond along the Franconia Brook Trail 
The suspension bridge at Lincoln Woods
This is the same pool we dipped in after our first dayhike to the Bonds 
The Route
When venturing out to places such as Bear Pond, please practice leave-no-trace so that others for years to come can enjoy its beauty. Thank you.

Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Franconia Brook Trail, bushwhack
Distance: 18.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,466 ft.
Actual Book Time: 41:51

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