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Thread: Route Around Removed Pemi Wld. Bridge?

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    Route Around Removed Pemi Wld. Bridge?

    Is anybody sharing information about the easiest walk from Lower Bondcliff Trail to the Thoreau Falls Trail, to compensate for the removed Pemi Wilderness Suspension bridge?

    Basically I'm looking for a route to substitute for the bridge, and I haven't been there for awhile.

    At one point in a long trip I'll be coming down Bondcliff, so I'll be looking at leaving the BCliff Tr. to the South at just under 2000 feet, swinging around the declining ridge to the SE and then East and then NE either then to find a crossing of the North Fork of the East Branch of the Pemi to the Thoreau Falls Trail or maybe to pick up the old Thoreau trail on the west side and follow it to a crossing.

    At another point on the trip I'll traveling East on the Wilderness Trail, so I'll be looking to follow the trashed trail to the bridge site, then hug the River until the terrain flattens out a little, cutting NE to cut the curve, the again looking for a North Branch crossing to the Thoreau Falls Trail.

    I don't see any huge difficulties as I've essentially crisscrossed this whole area off-trail several times over the years, but memory fails and I wouldn't mind some time-saving tips!

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    Molly Route - First Try

    My first actual need to find a Molly Route to compensate for our destroyed bridge was to get from the lower Thoreau Falls Trail to the Bondcliff trailhead.

    Some would say the best Molly Route is simply to cross the Pemi East Branch S-N in the vicinity of the older bridge supports, the Molly Monuments. But many hikers will not risk that crossing; psychological and physical impediments. IMO there will be injuries caused by the bridge removal. There is a memory and a tradition over the half century existence of the bridge of what great hikes can be done in this area, and they will still be attempted, wisely or unwisely. Not all hikers are strong, but they see what others do and they try to do more than they CAN do. Some die.

    Here is an alternative to avoid what could be regarded as a dangerous crossing at or near the destroyed bridge. I'm not very happy with it, but here we are. Regard all of this just as very GENERAL and approximate guidance in an ongoing effort that I hope other people will pick up and do better.

    N of the old rickety bridge near the foot of the Thoreau Falls Trail you avoid much of the volume of water you have to cross. From 20-30 yards N of the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge at N44 07 08.3, W71 30 12.9 go right (N/NW) into the woods following a path that soon peters out. Pick up traces of that old path and other easy walking to a relatively easy crossings of the North Fork (MUCH less water volume than the East Branch). Here are a few points I noted:

    N44 07 09.9, W71 30 15.9 Cross small stream
    N44 07 09.9, W71 30 18.8 Another small stream crossing
    N44 07 08.6, W71 30 20.3 An interesting spot
    N44 07 08.4, W71 30 21.3 Old trail trace
    N44 07 09.3, W71 30 22.0 Old trail trace
    N44 07 10.3, W71 30 22.8 Somewhat interesting spot
    N44 07 11.4, W71 30 21.6 Old trail trace
    N44 07 11.8, W71 30 21.7 Open area
    N44 07 13.3, W71 30 22.4 Old trail trace
    N44 07 13.8, W71 30 22.4 Old trail trace
    N44 07 15.3, W71 30 23.3 This was what I scouted for North Fork crossing. Shallow, wide, slow moving.

    N44 07 11.1, W71 30 23.1 This is (approximately, I estimated later) what the group actually did. Shorter crossing; quicker to get to; less bushwhacking distance once you get to the other side. A few deep steps and a somewhat stronger current but this was the decision we made. I think cautious people would prefer to go on to the crossing I described a little further upstream.

    Once on the other side of the North Fork, a short section of happy walking SW in the area around N44 07 9.8, W71 30 24.7. Trail traces, maybe an old road trace or dry creek bed. But we soon found that we couldn't stay on the shore of the Pemi East Branch or nearby bank and so headed uphill.

    Horrible few hundred yards. Seemed to be trail traces or animal paths but badly tangled, in the area of N44 07 05.4, W71 30 28.2. Somebody must have a better idea through here.

    Descending back to river, great walking W/SW in the area of N44 06 59.5, W71 30 32.2. On rocky "beaches" or nearby 5-25 foot banks. Wonderful section! On a warm sunny day this is a great destination in itself. Interesting spot at N44 06 52.6, W71 31 10.7.

    Some couldn't continue along the shore as it roughened in the area of N44 06 50.5, W71 31 24.5. No low bank. Headed uphill again to try slabbing hillside along the river. Same as before: path traces but horrible tangles. Thankfully didn't last too long.

    Looking down: large rock slabs along the shore in area of N44 06 46.1, W71 31 29.2. Descended and found easy walking for all. Footprints in sand! The Molly Monuments now in view down river. When the slabs petered out around N44 06 44.2, W71 31 32.3 there appeared a decent path uphill, which quickly improved and led immediately to an open level spot at the N end of the destroyed bridge at N44 06 43.0, W71 31 34.7. (This path from the top needs to be explored back, to see if it continues NE higher up and leads anywhere useful; we didn't have the time on this trip).

    Although a slum with all the junk, the view is great here and a new very heavily used illegal campsite has been established, thanks to the NFS and our tax dollars at work.

    The Molly Route continues down river W on the (now officially non-existent) Wilderness Trail, which has been enhanced with random branches and brush at the start, and festively decorated with occasional Christmas Tree saplings. It soon clears. Approaching the old rail trestle, the Wilderness Trail is again entertainingly enhanced for a brief period. The Black Brook crossing here at the site of the other, smaller removed bridge was trivial for all. In a hundred yards or so of unenthusiastically-trashed Wilderness Trail, the Bondcliff trailhead is reached, heading right (N) up-mountain. The Wilderness Trail, now officially sanctioned (but in Orwellian fashion renamed "Bondcliff Trail"), continues W/SW as before.

    Anyway, here is one experience among hopefully many to come from better than me, to compensate for the destruction of our bridge. We, and our kids and theirs, will eventually come out whole, I think, in terms of getting from one place to the other with some semblance of what we have had taken away from us as a firm, practical if unsanctioned trail will eventually be established here. But the scars, the older bridge Monuments now sticking out like sore thumbs, the other junk (much of it thankfully hauled away by volunteer hikers in an effort organized here) that have devalued a useful and attractive rustic bridge into a collection of eyesores, may last for generations.
    Last edited by Will; 10-11-2011 at 02:07 AM. Reason: changed NPS to NFS & removed "NPS" from map

  3. #3
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    The Thoreau Falls Trail used to cross the North Branch at two points near Jumping Brook. Map attached. (Some of the crossings might have used bridges--the RR used have multiple crossings.) It might be worth checking these points out.

    Also, while skiing my Pemi "Lollipop" routes in 2002 and this past winter, I passed a spot where the TFT, which has been running parallel to the river, drops down to the river and the bank of the trail ramps down to the river as if it was a crossing. (The trail also becomes less distinct N of this point.)

    The snow cover hid the ground in both cases so I couldn't see the details. I crossed over and back on the ice in 2002--there was an old railbed on the other side. I have no idea how deep the water might be.

    I originally thought this might be the more northerly of the two crossings shown on the map, but close examination of the GPS track from 2011 doesn't show a stop lined up with either of the map crossings*. (We stopped at the spot to take some pictures so the GPS track should show the stop.) This spot should be fairly easy to find simply by walking the trail, S to N.

    * The GPS is also generally more accurate than trail marking on maps, so my spot might be one of the original crossings.

    Doug

    Map: USGS 24K, South Twin Mountain, NH 1995 and Crawford Notch, NH 1995
    Last edited by DougPaul; 10-11-2011 at 03:52 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    while skiing my Pemi "Lollipop" routes in 2002 and this past winter, I passed a spot where the TFT, which has been running parallel to the river, drops down to the river and the bank of the trail ramps down to the river as if it was a crossing...

    I originally thought this might be the more northerly of the two crossings shown on the map
    The spot you're describing sounds like it _may_ be the point where you'd cross the North Fork to the visit the site of the 1950s plane crash. The rail bed indeed goes upstream for quite a distance on the other side but I don't remember whether it extends downsteam as well.

    That is usually a trivial crossing but it's quite a bit further up, maybe 1/2 mile(?). Worth checking out to see if the rail bed goes downstream.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will View Post
    The spot you're describing sounds like it _may_ be the point where you'd cross the North Fork to the visit the site of the 1950s plane crash. The rail bed indeed goes upstream for quite a distance on the other side but I don't remember whether it extends downsteam as well.
    IIRC the crash was near Jumping Brook and I think this spot is across from the same. Isn't there supposed to be a plaque in there somewhere?

    That is usually a trivial crossing but it's quite a bit further up, maybe 1/2 mile(?). Worth checking out to see if the rail bed goes downstream.
    I followed it ~1/2 mi upstream and turned back. There were some snowshoe prints coming down the hill (from Bond? Guyot Shelter?) to the rail bed and over the crossing.

    IIRC, a while ago someone was posting about following the NW bank of the N Branch all the way around to just S of Zealand Notch and up to Ethan Pond Tr. Perhaps he will speak up.

    Doug

    EDIT: the following search (on "Jumping Brook") brings up some threads that may
    contain useful info: http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Ju...fe=images&tbs=
    Last edited by DougPaul; 10-10-2011 at 09:38 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Isn't there supposed to be a plaque in there somewhere?
    The plaque is low to the ground and easily missed even without snow cover.

    It has been deeply scratched, slashed. We are sure, very hopeful anyway, that it has happened over the years unintentionally by poles digging into the snow, rather than by deliberate vandalism.

    The whole area around it is very beautiful. The crossing back to the main trail, a ways north, when the sun gleams just right off the rocks and broad, shallow, gently rippling water, is a sight that can make you cry. The wrenching human history of it, a life-saving mission resulting in death, the fight for life, the frustration of the search, it all adds to an incredibly rich and humbling experience just to be there. There has always been a kind of unstated understanding among those who visit that it shouldn't be discussed; the vandals and trashers are legion. But the horrendous vandalism of the NFS in destroying the bridge and trashing the bridge site has opened up discussion about that whole area, and maybe it's time.
    Last edited by Will; 10-11-2011 at 01:08 AM. Reason: changed NPS to NFS

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    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Will - You've mentioned the NPS a few times. Do you mean NPS (National Park Service), or the NFS - National Forest Service - or perhaps something else?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rooney View Post
    Will - You've mentioned the NPS a few times
    Fixed the typos in posts #2 and #6 to read "NFS". I apologize to readers and to the NPS for my serious error.

    As far as responsibility for renaming trails and eliminating trails from maps, etc, I now realize I don't know whether the NFS is directly responsible for that. Obviously the original sin is theirs, but I don't know who actually dictates trail names and trail existence decisions, so I changed the label on one of my attached maps to read "officially".

    Thanks very much. I really appreciate it.
    Last edited by Will; 10-11-2011 at 02:15 AM.

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    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    The Thoreau Falls Trail used to cross the North Branch at two points near Jumping Brook. Map attached. (Some of the crossings might have used bridges--the RR used have multiple crossings.) It might be worth checking these points out.
    I used two shortcuts from TF to BC Trail when the bridge was still there! One started near the lower of Doug's crossings and went up the SE ridge of Bond, while the other started down the NE ridge of Bond to Jumping Brook. Neither route recommended for backpacking, the crossing is the least of the difficulties :-)

    The problem as I see it is that it may be easier to cross higher up the North Fork but that gives you a longer bushwhack down to the old trail at the bridge site. At one time, the plan to remove the suspension bridge was coupled with a Pemi bridge just outside the Wilderness but Molly seems to have deleted that.

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    Senior Member HAMTERO's Avatar
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    I would not say that the plaque is all that scratched for how old it is
    "I'm on a permanent vacation"

    Don Sheldon

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    Senior Member HAMTERO's Avatar
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    "I'm on a permanent vacation"

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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr View Post
    The problem as I see it is that it may be easier to cross higher up the North Fork but that gives you a longer bushwhack down to the old trail at the bridge site. At one time, the plan to remove the suspension bridge was coupled with a Pemi bridge just outside the Wilderness but Molly seems to have deleted that.
    I agree. But both crossings I have identified are pretty low on the North Fork so the bushwhacking total length is about the shortest it's going to get.

    A route intersecting one or both trails higher up is desirable but maybe the most useful priority right now is to establish the shortest Molly Route, a low route connecting the lower Thoreau Falls Trail just upstream of its bridge, with the Bondcliff low Trailhead.

    This would undo much of the damage the suspension bridge destruction has caused.

    Here's my thinking right now: some givens (moving from the Thoreau Falls to the Bondcliff Trails).

    1. The wide, existing old road/dry streambed/whatever going S/SW from the North Fork crossings I described will pretty much remain open without maintenance.

    2. The "beach" and low bank portions of the route I have described, through the early and middle section of the Route, are easy walking for most hikers (I'll have to see what issues Spring high water brings to the table). The animal paths or whatever on the low banks will be there, without maintenance, moving forward. The trees here are mostly not big, blowdowns will be mostly step-overs.

    3. The path from the rock slabs on the river shore up to the N top of the destroyed bridge will become even more beaten because the tourists are taking advantage of the new illegal campsite there and will keep the way down to the river open. (I don't like it any better than you do, but you play the cards you're dealt, even if they're from the bottom of the NFS deck).

    4. The portion of the Wilderness trail between the illegal campsite and the lower Bondcliff Trail trailhead will be a viable trail moving forward. They can't hide it. They may think we're stupid and have no memory, but the trail is there. Sure no maintenance, no blowdown removal or trimming; and sure they'll continue to throw junk on it, but the terrain will allow us to get by.

    So the issues remaining are these (again moving from the Thoreau Falls to the Bondcliff Trails).

    1. We need a beaten path from the N side of the Thoreau Falls Trail bridge to the North Fork crossing. For the most part this is just firming up an existing path.

    2. We need a beaten path slabbing along the hillside, mostly following animal paths/lines of least resistance above the East Branch early when the shore walking runs out. Several hundred yards.

    3. We need a beaten path slabbing along the hillside, mostly following animal paths/lines of least resistance above the East Branch towards the end when the shore walking runs out after that extended great walking through the middle section. Up to the beginning of the shore rock slabs. Maybe only 100-200 yards.

    So.

    After we talk about it for awhile here among those who have tried it, we agree on plotted GPS tracks for these relatively short sections. We publish the tracks here (or elsewhere if there is NFS pressure or honest objection from the forum owner). They will be rough for years, but passable. Over time the paths will become easier for those who follow. I'm not talking about establishing trails in any way we can be prosecuted or fined for. No saws, no blazing, no maintenance of any kind. We just choose to walk on our land, but with guidance along a particular course and obviously pushing impediments out of our way as we walk, as is natural.

    It won't take more than a few of us to agree upon and establish the GPS tracks. Once we publish the finals here (or elsewhere if there is NFS pressure or honest objection from the forum owner), boots take over the task. Hey, this is no miracle; I'm talking years. This is legacy responsibility as I see it.

    My premise (and I'm willing to listen to other opinion) is that a horrible mistake has been made and this Route is needed. Rather than many hundreds of trips over the upcoming years being made randomly all over the hillside I'm suggesting we all start walking the same way, to make it easier for our kids to eventually enjoy what we enjoyed before the NFS took it away.

    I'll probably be making another trip before heavy snow and a trip or two in the Spring, and I'll publish some tracks. If others do the same I'll attempt to put together some consensus tracks as time goes on.

    So?

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    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    i like it! good plan and very thorough!
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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    A few points from a just completed trip.

    The crossing much further up the North Fork is actually tougher than the two lower crossings I discussed. Of these two, the higher up (by only 100 yards or so) most people would find much better. Shallow (never hit my knees), slow moving. There is visible a line of now underwater rocks that could probably support a boots-on crossing at lower water times.

    The entrance to this preferred crossing is on the path I described. If in doubt stay close to the river until you pass some old bridge foundations. Then slightly away for the small stream crossings I described. Then tend back to the river and pass the interesting spot. A path upstream and slightly inland out of that spot is fine, but quickly look to your right and you'll spot a sandy/rocky stream bed which is easy walking all the way to the crossing. Look to the calm river flow a tiny bit to the right. When that stream bed occasionally has water, just walk on the left bank.

    At this crossing you reach a wide open flat area on the other side. A path leads downstream. But very soon, to your right, you see another dry bed which is even better walking for awhile.

    From the mouth of the North Fork on, I was much more stubborn about staying either in the E. Pemi bed itself, or on the VERY low bank just a few yards in. When the brush tangles get too much, don't climb way uphill. Although it looks tempting and appears flat higher up, and there is in fact a game trail or something mostly all along higher up, it's very bad going. Go uphill only as high as you have to to avoid the impediments, then back down to the bank or into the bed when it's sandy/easy rocks to traverse. Sometimes staying low means slabbing on a steep bank, like crossing a snow field, but it's never for very long.

    There's a section maybe halfway where, first trip, we were afraid of being islanded-out as water started developing to our right. But you can stay out all the way to the end of the island and there is a dry-boots crossing back to the bank.

    I stayed on the rock slabs a little longer at the end this time, even though some on our first trip thought it was too difficult. I think most can stay on the slabs/boulders until you can actually see the old N bridge junkyard; just pick up the path up at that point, a matter of a few dozen yards.

    I looked around at this point for a higher route back and found two possibilities. One, 75 yards or so uphill, seemed to me to be an old graded road bed. I followed it for quite a while but lost it in some tangles around a drainage bed and didn't have time to really do a search on the other side. Though clearly a road to me, this has been unused for a very long time, and has quite a bit of tree growth in it, especially at the start; but it wasn't bad going and seems to have possibilities.

    This trip worked out pretty well. I made a detailed GPS track and reference points for of all this, but looking at it against the maps I have, it often puts me right in the middle of the Pemi and in some case ON THE OTHER SIDE. Something is wrong (user error likely, else the Pemi has moved a couple of hundred yards in places or was never mapped precisely in the first place). I'll have to figure it all out before I can publish anything.
    Last edited by Will; 10-24-2011 at 09:50 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    HI Will, your GPS track is probably more accurate than the river locs on a topo map, as those are just approximate. I would suggest you follow your gps track on a subsequent trip - you will probably find you are right where you think you are and not on the other side of the river.

    I will probably take a look out there this winter (on skis) and will try to follow your information.....
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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