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Thread: Greeley Ponds via Waterville Valley Hike - 01/02/2015

  1. #1
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Greeley Ponds via Waterville Valley Hike - 01/02/2015

    Light snow was falling when I woke up coating all the trees with a dusting of snow. The sun came out by the time I started the hike, the temperature was around 25 degrees and there were light winds. Greeley Ponds Trail from Waterville Valley has been closed since Hurricane Irene in 2011 due to extensive damage and it recently opened in the fall of 2014. I had hiked this trail many times and is always been a favorite. I was curious to see the work that had been done and the changes that were made. I was also curious to see if I could cross-country ski it since I've done it many times before on the route pre-Irene.

    The west shoulder of Mount Kancamagus and Mount Osceola’s precipitous East Peak frame the two Greeley Ponds in a wild and mountainous setting. It is also the source of the Mad River that flows by my house and I hear it every day. There were about a dozen vehicles in the parking lot when I set out around 10:15AM. I saw some people cross-country skiing and I saw only one person near the ponds as I was leaving them.

    The trail was a packed sidewalk, ideal for MicroSpikes. However there were lots of frozen post holes and as I got closer to the ponds the trail became narrower forcing me to try walking around them….in some cases I had no choice but to step in them. Damn!

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    Paper signage was noted over some of the signs on the Greeley Ponds Trail. The trail is now as wide as a road and at certain turns I noted boulders with downed trees behind them that blocked the former trail. A light coating of snow were on the confiners that was a nice reminder of how beautiful winter is!

    The Greeley Ponds Trail now shares the Timber Camp Trail as it rises above the Mad River. At a junction the Timber Camp Trail veers left while the Greeley Ponds Trail continues right. I found this to be a steady ascent that I don’t think I would want to do on my cross country skis.

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    A few minutes after this junction I saw a great view of the Painted Cliff from the trees. One could never see this on the former route. Hidden behind Painted Cliff is Osceola’s East Peak.

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    A few minutes later the trail began to descend rather steeply using switchbacks to cross the Mad River on the new bridge. I began to doubt even more if I would want to do this nowadays with my cross-country skis. After the crossing, the route began a steady ascent to rise above Mad River that made my final decision about skiing the route….nope. It’s really too bad because I really loved cross-country skiing this trail but hey, I’m just happy the US Forest Service did not abandon it because it’s a great trek even on foot!

    After the ascent the route made a descent using switchbacks back to the former route that led to the ponds. The location of crossing the Mad River below the ponds has not changed and I made my way over. I could hear the wind howling and it began to get colder so I put on some extra layers.

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    I reached the viewpoint at the SW corner of Lower Greeley, where a long view north up the pond places Mad River Notch in profile. This pond is more open and expansive than Upper Greeley, and to the right are the cliffs of Mount Kancamagus. It was so windy that the snow was dancing across the pond and it was fun to watch!

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    Returning to the main trail, I continued up to Upper Greeley Pond, an easy half-mile of gentle ascent. The best view at Upper Pond is found along an overgrown side path on the southern end that crosses the outlet brook. Looking north down the pond, the rock-faced western spur of Mt. Huntington peers over the trees. Although I've crossed the ice on Upper Greeley many times in the past, I stayed off it today with a recent rain/thaw event in the back of my mind.

    I especially like the view up towards the top of East Osceola. From an opening on the SE shore there's an impressive look at the long line of cliffs fronting a northern arm of East Osceola. Periodically the wind got gusty making visibility difficult. It was an easy decision to have lunch on the return away from the Mad River Notch.

    I headed back and spotted a beaver lodge in the southern outlet. I did not see a beaver dam but the lodge did look like it was being maintained. It got sunnier on the return and I caught a better view of the Painted Cliff.

    When a logging railroad was planned through the notch in the 1920s, the Society for the Protection of NH Forests spearheaded a campaign to protect the area, and it was acquired by the Forest Service in 1928, with a 770-acre tract around the Greeley Ponds set aside as a permanent scenic reserve. Today the area is known as the Greeley Ponds Scenic Area. Now that the trail has been reopened from Waterville Valley, I will be returning often, winter or summer!

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    Last edited by RollingRock; 01-02-2015 at 09:44 PM.
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    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Great trip report! Thanks for sharing and all the updates on the relo. I assume it was JT Henry whom wanted that Railroad. Kudos to the folks that squelched that. Would have been overkill IMO with Livermore.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

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    Senior Member gram's Avatar
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    Interesting that the beginning of the trail is so wide. When we saw it last fall, I assumed it was done that way for x-c skiing, that it would be tracked like Livermore. But you indicate, it's probably not skiable.

    Are there new maps available?

    Thanks for the report. The ponds have always been a favorite snowshoe.
    gram

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    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gram View Post
    Interesting that the beginning of the trail is so wide. When we saw it last fall, I assumed it was done that way for x-c skiing, that it would be tracked like Livermore. But you indicate, it's probably not skiable.

    Are there new maps available?

    Thanks for the report. The ponds have always been a favorite snowshoe.
    The trail might be so wide because I think they were using a tractor to haul the steel beams over to make the bridge and for the general moving of trees away from the trail corridor. The trail is wide enough to possibly make snowplow turns down the steep descents [steep in terms of cross-country skiing] but there are a couple good ascents that would require a good amount of work on skis unless you were wearing skins. I'm fine with snowshoeing it, but with the trail being so wide and not as close to the river as before, the trek over to the ponds has lost some of its magic.

    I just bought the latest edition of Map Adventures [I think that is the company], and I found dotted lines on the map for the new Greeley Ponds trail as well as the Scaur Trail extension to Flume Brook. Checking out the Scaur Trail extension is on my 'to do' list.
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    Senior Member gram's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=RollingRock;419418] but with the trail being so wide and not as close to the river as before, the trek over to the ponds has lost some of its magic.
    QUOTE]

    Absolutely!
    gram

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    Senior Member IQuest's Avatar
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    I know what you mean. I would imagine that it would be possible to bushwhack along the route of the old trail. That would bring back some of that magic.
    Ian

  7. #7
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IQuest View Post
    I know what you mean. I would imagine that it would be possible to bushwhack along the route of the old trail. That would bring back some of that magic.
    The two bridges are gone on the former route so one would have to carefully cross the river for a bushwhack of the entire former route. A short bushwhack might be possible after crossing the river on the new bridge going north rather than making the ascent of the new route but there may be a lot of debris to work thru. Interesting is that after I crossed the new bridge, there is a sign indicating to go right on the former route to link up to the Kancamagus Brook Cross-Country Ski Trail...realistically one could not ski on the new route to get there but having skied the Kancamagus Brook Trail in the past, it would make an enjoyable hiking trek eventually joining Livermore Road.
    Last edited by RollingRock; 01-11-2015 at 11:12 PM.
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    Senior Member IQuest's Avatar
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    Unless the water level is high it's doable.

    http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...t=Osceola+Loop
    Ian

  9. #9
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IQuest View Post
    Unless the water level is high it's doable.

    http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...t=Osceola+Loop
    That's probably the only time it would be best to do it.
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    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Thanks for the report! But, I am a bit disappointed that it doesn't seem to be skiable any more.... this was one of my first "backcountry" ski routes (this and the Pemi east side/wilderness trail *loop* ).

    How bad are the uphill sections in both directions if you take your skis off or too far for that?

    thanks,
    Becca
    Yay for winter!!!!!

  11. #11
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca M View Post
    Thanks for the report! But, I am a bit disappointed that it doesn't seem to be skiable any more.... this was one of my first "backcountry" ski routes (this and the Pemi east side/wilderness trail *loop* ).

    How bad are the uphill sections in both directions if you take your skis off or too far for that?

    thanks,
    Becca
    I loved this backcountry ski trek in winter as well and will miss it. I was just talking to a friend this weekend in fact and there is more incentive now to use the x-c ski trail from the Kanc because the ponds are a great destination using backcountry skis in winter.

    It is a steady ascent and more work on skis than before using the Timber Camp Trail for about a mile...may need to herringbone up in certain sections. Then there is short steep descent using switchbacks down the bridge to cross the Mad River were I would take my skis off and would probably keep them off to do the next uphill and downhill section for about a 1/2 mile. After that you're back on the former route.
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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info.

    The Kancamagus Brook Tr--Livermore Tr loop on skis is one of my favorites. Looks like the approach may be a bit more difficult than it used to be.

    Doug

  13. #13
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Thanks for the info.

    The Kancamagus Brook Tr--Livermore Tr loop on skis is one of my favorites. Looks like the approach may be a bit more difficult than it used to be.

    Doug
    I did that a couple of times...a lot of uphill but I really liked the ski trek beside the brook and when it leveled off the section near the ponds. Lots of animal tracks! Probably the best thing to do now is to an up and back using Livermore Trail but still take the Kancamagus Brook trail to visit the ponds.
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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RollingRock View Post
    I did that a couple of times...a lot of uphill but I really liked the ski trek beside the brook and when it leveled off the section near the ponds. Lots of animal tracks! Probably the best thing to do now is to an up and back using Livermore Trail but still take the Kancamagus Brook trail to visit the ponds.
    I always enjoyed the backwoods feel of the KBT. I generally did it uphill (often breaking trail) followed by a nice downhill run on the LT, but once the snow on the upper LT was so deep and slow that it was easier to turn around and exit via the KBT and GPT.

    I once met a skier on the KBT who had skied the GPT from the Kanc, ascended the LT, descended the KBT, and finally followed the GPT back to his car. (Pre-Irene)

    Another time the snow all around a short section of the KBT had been severely trampled by moose. I presume that it had been a moose yard in the recent past. Also moose tracks were quite common on the section above the stream crossing.

    Doug

  15. #15
    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Thanks guys!!!! Good info!!!! [ I do hope to get out there this year before the snow is gone.... broke my fibula 2 weeks ago and a few more weeks of healing to go ]
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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