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Thread: Wow - Black Pond "Bushwhack"

  1. #1
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    Wow - Black Pond "Bushwhack"

    While returning from a very interesting traverse of the Owls Head Branch railroad route we elected to take the Black Pond bushwhack out. In the past I or the group I went with would shoot a straight bearing from the NW corner of the pond looking to gradually intersect the 2000 foot contour and then following that contour almost paralleling the Lincoln Brook trail until it made sense to drop down on the trail. It was a easy route heading in but a little less easy following out unless there were snowshoes tracks.

    Prior to heading into the woods off the LBT we encountered a pair of hikers heading down from Owls Head who had tried the BPB heading in and had lost considerable time as they had gotten turned around. They were going to take the trails back to their car despite our invitation to have them join us rather than risk another off trail adventure. Someone else was navigating this time and I was quite surprised that we headed all the way to the bootleg campsite just north of the Lincoln brook crossing. I always associated this spot with the start of the Fisherman's bushwhack that eventually ends up at Franconia falls. Our navigator pointed to another spot in the woods with an obvious path and said that was the entrance to the BPB. There was an attempt to block the entrance to this route with a couple of birch poles but it was quite obvious we were on very a well traveled route with what has becoming a distinct trailbed. The routing was reasonable and it was pretty obvious that we were heading west on a gradual slab up contours while slowly curving a bit more south. As we proceeded, the path would fade out and occasionally we would hit intersections where the path we were on was the not the most obvious. Eventually we encountered the large boulder I have encountered on past trips, we soon curved and headed downhill. Soon the path became very spotty and then we headed generally downhill before catching sight of the pond and soon we came out at the end of the old trail.

    My comments are that this bushwhack is mostly well beaten in at this point, but that probably provides false confidence to folks who let their navigation skills down as it does disappear on occasion and at least one intersection and path heads too far south and probably comes out on the Fisherman's bushwhack along the brook. Its definitely is a bit more of navigational challenge using a single bearing on a compass but I expect follow the beep GPS navigation with a track makes it easy. I would speculate that the routing to the river crossing is an attempt to avoid the softwoods and sidehilling on the last leg of the bushwhack I described previously as the current path stays in open hardwoods. One plus is if someone is heading south on LBT and they encounter higher than expected water in Lincoln Brook they have an easy option to head to Black Pond rather than backtracking

    Reportedly AMC has banned any of their group hikes from using bushwhacks to access the Owl and other summits but given their diminished number of trips in the whites I don't think they are going to diminish the popularity of this bushwhack which effectively isn't much of a bushwhack anymore.

    So the question is, have the groups I have been with been marching to a beat of different drummer or has the BPBs north end shifted over the years?
    Last edited by peakbagger; 08-21-2017 at 11:37 AM.

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    So the question is, have the groups I have been with been marching to a beat of different drummer or has the BPBs north end shifted over the years?
    The Fisherman's whack and the BPB seem to takeoff from almost the same point. The last time I did the BPB two years ago there was flagging marking the route. I suspect this consolidates use when people find it. I found both ends had pretty clear trails leading into the whack, and those are becoming distinct trails (especially heading south from LBT). There are many sections in the middle that have a trail-like feel too, but nothing consistent, likely due to the leaves covering the ground. How long had it been since you last passed by that campsite? The first time I took the whack (probably 4 years ago) it was just as obvious. Prior to that, I had only used the trails and wasn't aware of the shortcut.
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    I think I first did the BPB about 25 years ago and few times on and off since then. The last time was with Big Earl when he got bored after finishing the grid and joined us bushwhacking down the east side of the Owl. He was leading and we came up as described intersecting with the LBT up around the area where it crosses the 2000 foot elevation. Last time past the campsite was about 5 years ago. I first did the Owl via the trails around 1989 and remember coming upon that site around 10 AM in the morning with an unattended fire blazing away in the fire ring with no one around.

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    The BPB and Brutas are showing up on the Mapbuilder topos now too.

    Isn't any ascent of OH technically a whack? Is the AMC not allowed to do the peak at all anymore?

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    The AMC (at least the 4,000 Footer Committee) recognizes Owls Head Path as an unofficial route to an official 4K.
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    Given I got it third hand I cant comment on AMC's supposed policy or reasoning. Is it blanket prohibition on bushwhacks in wilderness areas or just specific whacks that have become standardized?

    In theory the Owls Head path has always been an outlier. I believe it was documented and existed prior to the Wilderness Designation and unless its been removed out of the most recent WMG it is accorded documented status, somewhat similar but more detailed to references to the Raymond Cataract on Mt Washington. The USFS did attempt to remove traces and markings from the Owls head path at one point culminating in the "battle of the Owl" one season where the FS would go in and remove signs blazes and cairns and the hiking public would rapidly replace them. Priorities changed with the FS and this activity gradually tapered into the current truce although the FS or some self appointed "wilderness protector" has consistently removed summit signage from the currently accepted summit.

    I have speculated over the years that some entity at some point elected to build and improve a similar but far shorter path to the Zealand summit. When I first visited it there was no defined trail to a defined summit point, the woods were somewhat trampled and I speculate that at some point someone used the reasoning applied to unofficial herd paths in the ADKs to formalize one specific route through the woods to reduce the overall impact to the woods.

    Realistically barring a major flood, slide or blowdown, the use of GPS and availability of high resolution GPS tracks has made removing blazes and cairns a moot point for most. The predecessor to LNT was "Leave nothing but footprints take nothing but pictures" probably should be revised to be "Leave nothing but footprints take nothing but photos and don't publish GPS tracks" but it sure doesn't flow like the original version.

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    FWIW, I haven't heard anything regarding the AMC prohibiting bushwhacks. I'm an active leader and have lead trips to Owl's Head and trips to Isolation (via Engine Hill BW) in the past few years. There are 'whacks currently listed for the Boston chapter. I could be out of the loop (as I don't often lead 'whacks...really prefer not to, actually), or it could also be that specific chapters discourage certain 'whacks for any number of reasons.
    Sure. Why not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerbrian View Post
    FWIW, I haven't heard anything regarding the AMC prohibiting bushwhacks. I'm an active leader and have lead trips to Owl's Head and trips to Isolation (via Engine Hill BW) in the past few years. There are 'whacks currently listed for the Boston chapter. I could be out of the loop (as I don't often lead 'whacks...really prefer not to, actually), or it could also be that specific chapters discourage certain 'whacks for any number of reasons.
    I was told by a commercial guide that the USFS doesn't want guided groups doing bushwhacks at all. Secondhand info, of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshandBaron View Post
    The BPB and Brutas are showing up on the Mapbuilder topos now too.
    FWIW, Caltopo populates Mapbuilder Topo with trails sourced from OpenStreetMap. Here's the entry for "Brutus Bushwhack". It was created by someone in May 2016 and then updated by another person (twice) this spring.

    It's interesting to note that whoever drew it, did not connect the two ends to the existing trails. The same is true for the Black Pond Bushwhack. I assume this is not an oversight (the most recent map editor has a history of over 90 edits) but possibly intentional. I don't know the reason but one possibility is that it prevents auto-routing (i.e. using software to automatically create a route from Lincoln Woods to Owls Head via the Brutus Bushwhack).

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
    FWIW, Caltopo populates Mapbuilder Topo with trails sourced from OpenStreetMap. Here's the entry for "Brutus Bushwhack". It was created by someone in May 2016 and then updated by another person (twice) this spring.

    It's interesting to note that whoever drew it, did not connect the two ends to the existing trails. The same is true for the Black Pond Bushwhack. I assume this is not an oversight (the most recent map editor has a history of over 90 edits) but possibly intentional. I don't know the reason but one possibility is that it prevents auto-routing (i.e. using software to automatically create a route from Lincoln Woods to Owls Head via the Brutus Bushwhack).
    I think you might be right about the auto routing piece. I also noticed that on the Brutus Bushwhack map, the northern stretch of the LBT is listed as an extension of the Owl's Head Path, hurting my confidence in using this as a primary resource...
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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    I have found many discrepancies on the MapBuilder layer for CalTopo versus tracks I have done that I know were on trails. Given the variation in bushwhack tracks from person to person I'm sure it is best to use merely as an approximation. When I did the Black Pond Bushwhack this past Winter the actual route I followed was already substantially different than a track Tim had provided me from just 5-6 weeks before. Still a nice resource for getting an idea of how a bushwhack should go but certainly not a definitive source. And I guess when there is a definitive bushwhack track it really isn't a bushwhack anymore.

    Edit: I realize the obvious variation in Winter due to snowfall. I have observed track variations for Summer as well.
    Last edited by DayTrip; 08-23-2017 at 02:55 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJsName View Post
    .. the northern stretch of the LBT is listed as an extension of the Owl's Head Path, hurting my confidence in using this as a primary resource...
    It's only as good as the skill of the person who entered the information. Think: Wikipedia of maps. However, on the positive side, if you see an error you can easily flag it with a note (using OpenStreetMap's "Add a Note" function) and it will be visible to everyone (general public and volunteer map editors). Eventually, a map editor who has developed a fondness for the area, will see the note and fix the error. Alternately, you can determine who authored the "Brutus Bushwhack" (this person -> http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/KMR31), get a free OSM account and send them a message to fix the error. Last resort is to login and fix it yourself (when you gotta get something done right ...)

    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I have found many discrepancies on the MapBuilder layer for CalTopo versus tracks I have done that I know were on trails. Given the variation in bushwhack tracks from person to person I'm sure it is best to use merely as an approximation. When I did the Black Pond Bushwhack this past Winter the actual route I followed was already substantially different than a track Tim had provided me from just 5-6 weeks before. Still a nice resource for getting an idea of how a bushwhack should go but certainly not a definitive source. And I guess when there is a definitive bushwhack track it really isn't a bushwhack anymore.

    Edit: I realize the obvious variation in Winter due to snowfall. I have observed track variations for Summer as well.
    You hit the nail on the head. A single GPS track of most any path will not align itself perfectly with even "perfectly drawn" trails. Heck, two GPS receivers running concurrently won't produce perfectly aligned tracks. Now if you have multiple GPS tracks whose average path significantly disagrees with a map's trail, there's compelling evidence the map needs revision.

    If the trail is drawn properly, it'll be the average of many GPS tracks and not just one. Personally, when creating/modifying trails in OSM, I use a minimum of two tracks in order to get something that's a reasonable facsimile of the actual trail. I'll often use more. For example, I used 6+ tracks for Lyon Mountain.

    I've never hiked the Brutus Bushwhack. If it's a true bushwhack (no discernable path), including it in OSM is, in my opinion, a misuse of OSM. OSM is for depicting evident things and not ephemeral routes.

    On the other hand, if the Brutus Bushwhack is self-evident and the local hiking community and authorities accept its existence (i.e. there's no concerted effort to discourage hikers from using it) then it might be a useful addition to OSM. In which case, it should be drawn correctly and not disconnected from all other trails.

    PS
    I can think of four established paths in the High Peaks that I have chosen not to include in OSM. Although the paths are evident (some more than others), they're unofficial. Some run along highly erosion-prone terrain and/or ecologically-sensitive areas. Including them in OSM would be a disservice to the High Peaks.
    Last edited by Trail Boss; 08-23-2017 at 03:56 PM.

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    Here are tracks from 6 of the ? times I have been to Owl's Head via Black Pond and/or the skidder bushwhack (common winter route).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
    You hit the nail on the head. A single GPS track of most any path will not align itself perfectly with even "perfectly drawn" trails. Heck, two GPS receivers running concurrently won't produce perfectly aligned tracks.
    I get that. I'm talking about significant route differences like those seen in Tim's tracks of "identical" routes. Not just "noise" but clearly different routes taken for what is supposed to be a visible track on the ground.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I have found many discrepancies on the MapBuilder layer for CalTopo versus tracks I have done that I know were on trails.
    If any of them were in the High Peaks, I'd appreciate knowing which ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    Here are tracks from 6 of the ? times I have been to Owl's Head via Black Pond and/or the skidder bushwhack (common winter route).
    I've done the Black Pond Bushwhack only once (4 years ago). At the time, I recall finding evident herd paths at each end but the central portion was indistinct (a free for all). Your multiple GPS tracks paint the same picture. All tracks have similar ends but the middle portions disagree on a common route.

    IMHO, I wouldn't have drawn it in OSM. Start here, finish there, improvise the middle your own way; that's not a trail suitable for OSM.

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