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Thread: Using the Little River Valley as Part of a Loop to North & South Twin (25-Jun-2010)

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Using the Little River Valley as Part of a Loop to North & South Twin (25-Jun-2010)

    This loop began at the trailhead for the North Twin Trail. Shortly after the third crossing of the Little River, I left the trail and bushwhacked southward along the Little River, and then whacked up the headwall at the end of the valley to intersect the Twinway (at a point just a few tenths of a mile NW of the Twinway/Bondcliff Trail junction). Once on the Twinway, it was a routine on-trail hike to South Twin, then North Twin, and onward from there back to the trailhead.

    As many already know, there used to be an officially maintained trail that followed the same route described above for the bushwhack portion of my trek. It was called (appropriately enough!) the Little River Trail. In my 1940 edition of the WMG, the trail description for the Little River Trail indicates that it was 3.5 miles from the point where the trail left the present day North Twin Trail to the point where it joined the Twinway. Below is a portion of map from the 1940 WMG which shows this trail (see inserted red arrow pointing to trail).


    According to Guy Waterman's booklet (An Outline of Trail Development in the White Mountains 1840-1980), the Little River Trail was in bad shape in the 1950s and was officially abandoned in the early 1960s. (The trail was originally developed in the 1930s using an old railroad grade and logging roads.)

    This 3.5 mile bushwhack was by far the longest bushwhack I've ever done, but oddly enough, it was also one of the easiest. The woods were open nearly the entire distance. Whenever some thick stuff was encountered, it seemed to be in narrow bands, and so it was easy to simply veer slightly left or right to quickly get back into open woods. As might be expected, the thickest parts were encountered on the way up the headwall.

    This bushwhack was also one of the easiest in terms of navigation. There was the handrail of the Little River to the east which was nearly always within earshot, or in view. And upon leaving the Little River to climb the headwall, there was the assurance that I'd eventually hit the Twinway as long as I kept to a southerly compass bearing.

    I must admit that I was not content to hit the Twinway at just some random spot. On my recent trek to Mt. Guyot, I made a short side trip to take a waypoint at a spot which appeared to be a good point to intersect the Twinway. My waypoint was used as a target to aim for while climbing the headwall. But as said earlier, one could easily do the whack up the headwall without the benefit of a waypoint, and still be assured of eventually hitting the Twinway just by keeping to a southerly compass bearing.

    In terms of photos from the 3.5 mile bushwhack, it was a beautiful (and long) walk in a very attractive and remote part of the Whites. However, to my mind, it was a case of where "you had to be there" to truly appreciate the journey. I took a few snapshots of the woods and tributary brooks that feed into the Little River. However, when viewed out of context with the entirety of the surroundings, I feel they have little impact or meaning.

    I did take a snapshot (shown below) of one of the many spots where I came upon segments of a trail. I have no proof that these random encounters were actually snippets of the abandoned Little River Trail. However, I can say that they appeared to be more than just a moose trail, and they were located where I think the old trail would have been.


    In case you might be wondering, this 3.5 mile bushwhack took just slightly over 4 hours! I usually factor in a speed of about 1.0 mph for a bushwhack. This trek was obviously a bit slower than that, and I'm uncertain as to why, especially since the woods were so open and the navigation was extremely easy. However, I suspect that I actually bushwhacked more than 3.5 miles due to meanderings to avoid blowdowns, and working my way around a few thick patches, etc. Also, I was moving more slowly and deliberately than I normally do. I wanted to take every precaution to avoid injury that far off-trail.

    As with most of my hikes, the day I chose to do it was purely on a last minute whim. However, by pure chance, this hike was done 2 years to the day that I first contemplated doing it. When retrieving the photo below, I discovered that on the 25th day of June 2008, I'd done a short bushwhack to a ledge off the Hale Fire Warden Trail. From this ledge, there is a nice view of the Little River Valley. Upon seeing this view shown below, I thought WOW, what nice bushwhack that would be!


    I had hoped I'd find a spot on the headwall where I could get a view similar to the one shown above, except looking up the Little River Valley from the opposite direction. If there is such a spot, I didn't come across it on this trek. Maybe next time!

    So, after reaching the Twinway, the hike then became a routine run-of-the-mill hike. I must say that after whacking for just over 4 hours, it was really nice to be on a trail for the remainder of my journey. In less than an hour, I was on the summit of South Twin. Although the distant peaks were visible, it wasn't a crystal clear viewing day. Don't get me wrong. The distant vistas were still nice, such as shown in the photo below.


    After lingering on South Twin for a short time, I headed over to North Twin. From here, I snapped a few photos, including the one of the Presidential Range shown below. I then headed off the mountaintop to begin the final leg of my journey back to the trailhead.


    I arrived at the trailhead just over 10 hours from when I had started this loop. In terms of distance, I calculate that the loop was roughly about 12.5 miles, of which at least 3.5 miles was a bushwhack. For me, this was an enjoyable and very gratifying trek. However, I can completely understand why it would not be everyone's cup of tea.

    1HappyHiker
    Last edited by 1HappyHiker; 06-26-2010 at 09:46 PM. Reason: Added info about the old Little River Trail

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    Senior Member audrey's Avatar
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    Thanks John for a window into another corner of our beloved mountains. Following abandoned trails (sure looks like one in your photo) is exciting, invoking the ghosts of decades ago.

    Did you happen to watch for ax blazes on the trees?

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    Senior Member Jazzbo's Avatar
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    Great Whack Route!

    Well done John... Isn't it amazing how many places there are to visit in these mountains? ... What a great way to make two 4K's normally done as an out & back into loop hike. There are some cliffy ledges on west slopes of Mt Zealand. I recall seeing them on Google Earth probably when I was inspired by your TR and images on the hike to Hale you mentioned. Were you able to at least get glimpses of them?

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audrey View Post
    Thanks John for a window into another corner of our beloved mountains. Following abandoned trails (sure looks like one in your photo) is exciting, invoking the ghosts of decades ago. Did you happen to watch for ax blazes on the trees?
    Audrey, when I came upon those areas that appeared as though they could be fragments of the old Little River Trail, I did take a moment now & then to inspect some of the larger trees to see if I could see any signs of an ax blaze or any other trail-like marking. Since it's been well over a half century since the trail was maintained, I even looked high up on the trees to account for tree growth.
    The bottom-line is that I saw no markings. However, I'll quickly admit that I wasn't overly thorough about this since I knew I still had many miles to travel, even after my long whack was over.

    In addition to doing a hurried search for tree-markings, I also kept my eyes open for evidence of any old logging camps. Once again, nothing was readily apparent. However, now that I know how easy the whacking is in the Little River Valley, perhaps it might be fun to go back in there and just concentrate on snooping around the valley floor. Hmmm!
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzbo View Post
    Well done John... Isn't it amazing how many places there are to visit in these mountains? ... What a great way to make two 4K's normally done as an out & back into loop hike. There are some cliffy ledges on west slopes of Mt Zealand. I recall seeing them on Google Earth probably when I was inspired by your TR and images on the hike to Hale you mentioned. Were you able to at least get glimpses of them?
    Thanks Ray for your reply.

    Please take a look at the snapshot below. Are these the "cliffy ledges on west slopes of Mt Zealand" that you're referring to? If so, during the bushwhack portion of my trek, I was able to get several "through the trees" glimpses of those areas. The snapshot below was taken from North Twin during the return leg of my loop.


    By the way, when I was on Zealand Mountain a few days ago while en route to Mt. Guyot, I noticed a path leading northwesterly from the summit cairn. Perhaps this is a pathway to those bare spots on the west slope of Zealand, or perhaps it just leads to a spot that hikers use for a "nature break".

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    My apologies for the "bumping-up" of this thread, but I came across something that's related to my recent trek which I'd like to share. Perhaps others won't find this to be of interest, but I was fascinated by an article that I just finished reading in a book edited by Mike Dickerman which is entitled: "The White Mountain Reader". It's sort of a Reader's Digest type of collection of 35 articles about the White Mountains. Many of the articles date back to the 1800s.

    Anyway, since I just completed a trek to South & North Twin, I was intrigued by one of the articles which describe an expedition to the Twins that was made way back in the 19th century (1882 to be precise). This adventure was undertaken by 3 men and 3 women.
    There were no trails to the Twins at that time. So, this was a pure bushwhack all the way! It really puts things into perspective.
    By comparison, it certainly makes the bushwhack portion of my trek appear to be rather trivial at best!

    Below is a small excerpt of the report written by the leader (A.E. Scott) of this 1882 expedition.

    "We are familiar with the scrub as it appears on Adams, Carrigain, and other summits, but the worst place on those summits seem to us like pleasure-grounds compared to this. Twin Mountain scrub is unique; it is indescribable . . . we crawl prone beneath the lowest branches; we cut our way through with hatchets; we try first one way, then another, and always feel like some other way must be better . . . we climb upon an out-cropping rock and get a view of the immense sea of scrub stretching in all directions . . . we press on inch by inch . . ."
    Last edited by 1HappyHiker; 06-28-2010 at 01:46 PM.

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    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Hmm, that trail view looks suspiciously like old RR grade, did you compare where it was taken to one of the logging RR books? I've never done the upper part of the route mentioned, but I've been up to the Zealand-Guyot col twice and we followed the old RR in part and found what may have been an old camp clearing.

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr View Post
    Hmm, that trail view looks suspiciously like old RR grade, did you compare where it was taken to one of the logging RR books? I've never done the upper part of the route mentioned, but I've been up to the Zealand-Guyot col twice and we followed the old RR in part and found what may have been an old camp clearing.
    Roy, actually you (and Steve Smith) were part of my inspiration for undertaking this adventure.
    I'd read mention about your trek up the Little River Valley on Mohamed Ellozy's website!

    Anyway, to answer your question, I had with me a copy of both the old trail map, plus a copy of the route of the old Little River RR (as contained in Belcher's "Logging Railroads of the White Mountains"). These maps are shown in the side-by-side photo below. I know it's difficult to see from this photo, but it appears that the Little River Trail and the Little River RR follow a pathway that is nearly identical.

    By guesstimating elevations, and the locations of the slight twists & turns, I tried the best I could to retrace the same route as shown in these maps. Since the old hiking trail essentially followed the same route as the old rail bed, then is it fair to assume that my sporadic encounters with the trail-like corridors were probably the old rail bed? Don't know if what I just said makes any sense?


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    Senior Member NeoAkela's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1HappyHiker View Post
    ...By the way, when I was on Zealand Mountain a few days ago while en route to Mt. Guyot, I noticed a path leading northwesterly from the summit cairn. Perhaps this is a pathway to those bare spots on the west slope of Zealand, or perhaps it just leads to a spot that hikers use for a "nature break".
    I followed that path last year on a rainy day, trying to get to those views from the top of the talus slopes. It vanishes into some thick, dense pokey-bushes. I tried to push on further but after a few tenths of a mile and many scrapes, I gave up the fight, mostly due to it being rainy and somewhat dreary (or at least that was the excuse I stuck with)!

    The Little River valley sure looks like a nice place to explore!
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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeoAkela View Post
    I followed that path last year on a rainy day, trying to get to those views from the top of the talus slopes. It vanishes into some thick, dense pokey-bushes. I tried to push on further but after a few tenths of a mile and many scrapes, I gave up the fight, mostly due to it being rainy and somewhat dreary (or at least that was the excuse I stuck with)!
    Thank you Chris! I was hoping that someone with first-hand knowledge would step up to the plate and provide some info about that mystery path leading away from the summit cairn on Zealand Mtn. I really like your spirit of adventure!

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    Fine report and photos. Will need to try your route next time that I am in that neighborhood. Here is link to thread from our bushwhack down from Zealand's summit into Little River valley last September. We picked up the old logging road / abandoned trail for the last half mile or so before reaching the North Twin Trail; lots of alder overgrowth, but a decent tread, albiet wet and boggy in places.

    http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...land+bushwhack

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Dasypodidae View Post
    Fine report and photos. Will need to try your route next time that I am in that neighborhood. Here is link to thread from our bushwhack down from Zealand's summit into Little River valley last September. We picked up the old logging road / abandoned trail for the last half mile or so before reaching the North Twin Trail; lots of alder overgrowth, but a decent tread, albiet wet and boggy in places.

    http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...land+bushwhack
    Thanks for the link to the thread from your bushwhack down from Zealand's summit into Little River valley. I remember reading that Trip Report with a great deal of interest since at that time I was beginning to think about doing the whack that I just reported on.

    In your response to my thread, you mentioned picking up a trail/logging road for the last half mile before reaching the North Twin Trail.
    It sounds like you were on the east side of the Little River at that time. If so, I've also been on that trail/logging road. However, it's unclear to me exactly what that corridor is.

    I could be completely wrong, but from looking at the old trail maps and railroad maps, it appears to me that both the old trail and the railroad crossed the Little River at the point where the current North Twin Trail crosses the Little River for the 3rd time.
    Then, from that point forward, the corridor for both the old trail and the railroad remained on the west side of the river. But, I could be missing something . . . that happens!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1HappyHiker View Post
    In your response to my thread, you mentioned picking up a trail/logging road for the last half mile before reaching the North Twin Trail.
    It sounds like you were on the east side of the Little River at that time. If so, I've also been on that trail/logging road. However, it's unclear to me exactly what that corridor is.

    I could be completely wrong, but from looking at the old trail maps and railroad maps, it appears to me that both the old trail and the railroad crossed the Little River at the point where the current North Twin Trail crosses the Little River for the 3rd time. And from that point forward, the corridor for both the old trail and the railroad remained on the west side of the river. But, I could be missing something . . . that happens!
    Interesting, as we were definitely following a corridor with decent tread for a half mile or so on the east side of the Little River, which we never crossed on the way down (above the last crossing of the N Twin Trail). We also saw a few old fire pits, so perhaps could be a fisherperson's trail?

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    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Dasypodidae View Post
    Interesting, as we were definitely following a corridor with decent tread for a half mile or so on the east side of the Little River, which we never crossed on the way down (above the last crossing of the N Twin Trail). We also saw a few old fire pits, so perhaps could be a fisherperson's trail?
    I've seen that too and thought it was old RR [maybe not, maybe spur, maybe map wrong]

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Roy & Dr. D: My guess (and it's only that) is that the old trail and the old railroad did in fact continue southward along the east bank at the point where the present-day North Twin Trail crosses the Little River. This would explain the very prominent corridor on the east side that all 3 of us have hiked on separate occasions.

    However, I further guess/speculate that the old trail & old railroad continued southward for only a short distance before crossing to the west side of the Little River and then remained on that side of the river.

    Here's my rationale for thinking that the old trail & old railroad only went a short distance southward beyond the point where the current day North Twin Trail crosses the river. If you look at a topographic map, the bank on the east side of the river soon becomes steep. Whereas, the bank on the west side has a more moderate topography which would be better suited for a rail bed.

    As I said, this is all pure speculation on my part. I never have a problem with being proven wrong. It certainly would not be the first time, nor the last!

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    That looks like a *really* great hike!
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