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Thread: Logistics Of The Mahoosuc Range

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    Logistics Of The Mahoosuc Range

    In my continued search for ridge walks I found myself looking in the Northern part of NH and the Mahoosuc Range. There looks to be a really nice string of mountains along this ridge with frequent open and bald areas looking at the satellite imagery. In particular, I'm looking at the stretch from Mt Success > Carlo > Goose Eye > North Peak > South Peak. Doesn't seem like the easiest area for road access though.

    It looks like Success Pond Road is the closest reasonable access to the "Success Trail" which would get me going along the ridge. But that is marked as a private road on the USFS layer of CalTopo. Is hiker access allowed? So how would people normally do Mt Success, which I believe is a somewhat popular mountain for several lists? Also, is camping allowed outside of designated areas on this stretch? A quick glance at the WMNF Backcountry pamphlet and didn't see anything but it doesn't appear that all of this section is in WMNF, if any. I'd probably hammock camp or bivy if I did this but if I did bring a tent is the terrain tent friendly?

    Never been in this area and don't know anything about it really so some initial guidance for additional research would be appreciated. Thanks.
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    You'll find lot of threads on Success Pond Road here. I've used it only in summer, only from the southern end, well after it opens to traffic. Be prepared for washboard surface, 20 mph conditions. And I've read that logging trucks have the right of way and use it, though I never experienced that high drama. I can't speak to the camping part of your query.
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    The Mahoosucs are an awesome, if very challenging area to hike. Among the options for Mt. Success besides the "washboard road", is the trailhead to Gentian Pond off Route 2 in Shelbourne (the Austin Brook Trail, which leads 3 miles to the AT). Once reaching the AT, it's just 3 miles to Success.

    If you like backpacking, this stretch contains unique terrain, especially if you're inclined to hike it all the way to Grafton Notch. From Shelbourne, you'd take in such highlights as Mts. Success, Carlo Col, Goose Eye, Old Speck, as well as plunge down to and up from Mahoosuc Notch- the hardest mile on the AT. I used to hitch hike back to Gorham from Grafton Notch but you can also find people who shuttle in the area on the AT shuttle list: https://whiteblaze.net/forum/shuttles-2016.php. Anticipate slower going but tremendously rewarding hiking if you have good weather. Wouldn't touch the area before mid June.

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    Its a private road that accesses land owned by multiple large land owners as well as the camp owners. It is gated during "mud season". "Success Pond Road" is pretty well established from the Berlin side but the road actually doesnt make it all the way to RT 26 on the maine side, rather it intersects a different road that leads to RT 26 which on occasion may shift. The public is allowed on the road by the land owners and have been for quite a few years but its at the public's risk and the owners have a right to close it to the public but rarely have except for seasonal reasons. The road is maintained for logging vehicles which have the absolute right of way so pull over to allow them to pass. It is generally quite rough for smaller vehicles, that means you need to drive slow which means getting to the trailhead will take far longer than most people plan. Note logging trucks dont drive slow and many locals also fly down the road at a high rate of speed. The logging traffic tends to be there during the week. The current majority owner on the NH end has pretty well clear cut the entire region and have been skimping on maintenance for years and drivers need to be careful to avoid culverts that are ripped open by road graders and can shred a tire.

    Campfires are not allowed on private lands in NH without a fire permit and the owners permission. There are no clear regulations on camping. Many people do and some abuse the privilege, leaving fire rings and trash. Law enforcement rarely visit the area and its popular spot to go drinking. Over the years there have been sporadic car break ins and vandalism at trailheads. I haven't heard of any of late.

    The lower side trails have been disrupted by logging in the past but the owner has pretty well stripped the area clean so I dont expect many more interruptions. The current majority owner of the land sold a first right of refusal option to the Trust for Public Lands several years ago and one of these years will exercise it. The owners have greenmailed in the past, raking in a major profit off the National Park Service for 5 miles of frontage on the AT several years ago and expect similar tactics will be used again. If a conservation organization gets a hold of it there will be no incentive to maintain the road and without maintenance of key bridges and culverts, there is no guarantee the road will stay open its entire length. The national guard was making noises several years ago that they need a mobile artillery training range and were considering purchase but expect it may be part of a greenmailing effort as it occurred just prior to the AT frontage negotiations.

    When considering hiking in the area, keep in mind the access from the south. The Wright trail in Newry Maine as well as the Shelburne NH trails are a lot quicker to access and shuttles are easier to get. There is also a "bushwhack" via the old Bull Branch road which is accessed from the Wright trail head that allows access to the east end of Mahoosuc notch. The bushwhack is quite popular and over the years has been flagged but I havent been up there for quite a few years. Shelburne Trails Association had been talking about extending their trail network up to Mt Success, but to date they havent announced if a trail is open. Once that one goes in, the Success Pond road trails will be less important.

    Cell service is slim to none on the north side of the ridge although its gotten better along the ridge and on the south side.

    The area is somewhat infamous for hanging onto winter late and bug season is consistently several weeks delayed compared to the whites. Black flies can be prolific and the western end tends to have dense populations of mosquitoes well into summer. The western end west of Success Mountain is infested with wood ticks. In general the terrain is pretty well split east to west by Success Mtn, west tends to be lower elevation hardwoods with somewhat well graded trails, east of Success its higher elevation spruce/fir with a rougher trail bed with a lot more up and down climbs.

    My research indicates that it is the longest stretch of AT north of the Smokies not crossed by any public or private road, considerably longer than the much vaunted 100 Mile Wilderness. Its less remote due to road access to the south and north.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucky Laura View Post
    The Mahoosucs are an awesome, if very challenging area to hike. Among the options for Mt. Success besides the "washboard road", is the trailhead to Gentian Pond off Route 2 in Shelbourne (the Austin Brook Trail, which leads 3 miles to the AT). Once reaching the AT, it's just 3 miles to Success.

    If you like backpacking, this stretch contains unique terrain, especially if you're inclined to hike it all the way to Grafton Notch. From Shelbourne, you'd take in such highlights as Mts. Success, Carlo Col, Goose Eye, Old Speck, as well as plunge down to and up from Mahoosuc Notch- the hardest mile on the AT. I used to hitch hike back to Gorham from Grafton Notch but you can also find people who shuttle in the area on the AT shuttle list: https://whiteblaze.net/forum/shuttles-2016.php. Anticipate slower going but tremendously rewarding hiking if you have good weather. Wouldn't touch the area before mid June.
    I'll have to check that route. And as much as I'd like to do Mahoosuc Notch I am pretty claustrophobic and expect there are places I wouldn't be able to negotiate. Looking to do the ridge walk mostly as an out and back.
    “Sometimes when you’ve lost something in your life that matters, the only thing left to do is go and find it.” Renan Ozturk

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Its a private road that accesses land owned by multiple large land owners as well as the camp owners. It is gated during "mud season". "Success Pond Road" is pretty well established from the Berlin side but the road actually doesnt make it all the way to RT 26 on the maine side, rather it intersects a different road that leads to RT 26 which on occasion may shift. The public is allowed on the road by the land owners and have been for quite a few years but its at the public's risk and the owners have a right to close it to the public but rarely have except for seasonal reasons. The road is maintained for logging vehicles which have the absolute right of way so pull over to allow them to pass. It is generally quite rough for smaller vehicles, that means you need to drive slow which means getting to the trailhead will take far longer than most people plan. Note logging trucks dont drive slow and many locals also fly down the road at a high rate of speed. The logging traffic tends to be there during the week. The current majority owner on the NH end has pretty well clear cut the entire region and have been skimping on maintenance for years and drivers need to be careful to avoid culverts that are ripped open by road graders and can shred a tire.

    Campfires are not allowed on private lands in NH without a fire permit and the owners permission. There are no clear regulations on camping. Many people do and some abuse the privilege, leaving fire rings and trash. Law enforcement rarely visit the area and its popular spot to go drinking. Over the years there have been sporadic car break ins and vandalism at trailheads. I haven't heard of any of late.

    The lower side trails have been disrupted by logging in the past but the owner has pretty well stripped the area clean so I dont expect many more interruptions. The current majority owner of the land sold a first right of refusal option to the Trust for Public Lands several years ago and one of these years will exercise it. The owners have greenmailed in the past, raking in a major profit off the National Park Service for 5 miles of frontage on the AT several years ago and expect similar tactics will be used again. If a conservation organization gets a hold of it there will be no incentive to maintain the road and without maintenance of key bridges and culverts, there is no guarantee the road will stay open its entire length. The national guard was making noises several years ago that they need a mobile artillery training range and were considering purchase but expect it may be part of a greenmailing effort as it occurred just prior to the AT frontage negotiations.

    When considering hiking in the area, keep in mind the access from the south. The Wright trail in Newry Maine as well as the Shelburne NH trails are a lot quicker to access and shuttles are easier to get. There is also a "bushwhack" via the old Bull Branch road which is accessed from the Wright trail head that allows access to the east end of Mahoosuc notch. The bushwhack is quite popular and over the years has been flagged but I havent been up there for quite a few years. Shelburne Trails Association had been talking about extending their trail network up to Mt Success, but to date they havent announced if a trail is open. Once that one goes in, the Success Pond road trails will be less important.

    Cell service is slim to none on the north side of the ridge although its gotten better along the ridge and on the south side.

    The area is somewhat infamous for hanging onto winter late and bug season is consistently several weeks delayed compared to the whites. Black flies can be prolific and the western end tends to have dense populations of mosquitoes well into summer. The western end west of Success Mountain is infested with wood ticks. In general the terrain is pretty well split east to west by Success Mtn, west tends to be lower elevation hardwoods with somewhat well graded trails, east of Success its higher elevation spruce/fir with a rougher trail bed with a lot more up and down climbs.

    My research indicates that it is the longest stretch of AT north of the Smokies not crossed by any public or private road, considerably longer than the much vaunted 100 Mile Wilderness. Its less remote due to road access to the south and north.
    The AMC Guide (I have the 29th edition I think - not the latest version) makes it sound like the trail starts as a road and you actually drive up it to an open field where I guess the parking is now (it shows on satellite imagery). When you say the roads are rough are we talking 20mph stuff like the drive to Roaring Brook or are we talking rutted, ups and downs, puddles, etc? I got a new car in FEB and have the ability to drive these types of roads now but that isn't exactly fun. I'd likely do on a weekend so hopefully I'd miss the bulk of any logging activity.
    “Sometimes when you’ve lost something in your life that matters, the only thing left to do is go and find it.” Renan Ozturk

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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    The AMC Guide (I have the 29th edition I think - not the latest version) makes it sound like the trail starts as a road and you actually drive up it to an open field where I guess the parking is now (it shows on satellite imagery). When you say the roads are rough are we talking 20mph stuff like the drive to Roaring Brook or are we talking rutted, ups and downs, puddles, etc? I got a new car in FEB and have the ability to drive these types of roads now but that isn't exactly fun. I'd likely do on a weekend so hopefully I'd miss the bulk of any logging activity.
    Not sure which trail you are asking questions about.

    With respect to driving a passenger car on Success Pond road, once the frost comes up and the road dries out, its not bad but it does tend to washboard. Many folks successfully go up it with an econobox as long as they go slow. Keep in mind some of the trailheads are 20 miles in so 20 MPH means an hour plus of driving. Go slow enough that the suspension can keep up with the ups and downs and its entirely passable but get going to fast and it will pound the car pretty severely. The other alternative seems to be fly down the road at a high rate of speed usually accompanied by an open beer and have a good relationship with a local mechanic. It much wider than Roaring Brook road and once you hit dry weather its in as good a shape. What can screw it up is if there is active logging as the equipment coming in and out of the woods onto the road can tear it up.

    By the way, the actual routing through Mahoosuc Notch is done to make it interesting. If you don't mind scrambling there are ways of avoiding the underground stretches. Ice Gulch in Randolph is a nice test. If you like Ice Gulch you will like the Notch, if you don't then you wont like the Notch. If you just want to do the longest stretch of above treeline from Goose Eye to the ascent up Fulling Mill Mountain, that's an reasonable out and back via the Wright Trail. The Wright trail used to fork with the east most fork closed several years ago but some folks have reported that its still in good shape and it cuts out a bit of elevation on the way back. It also could be blowdown "h**l" so factor it in.

    The hike down from Mahoosuc Arm to Speck Pond has some nice views to the Speck Pond. Its a possible out and back via the Speck Pond Trail from Success Pond Road.

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    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    The AMC Guide (I have the 29th edition I think - not the latest version) makes it sound like the trail starts as a road and you actually drive up it to an open field where I guess the parking is now (it shows on satellite imagery). When you say the roads are rough are we talking 20mph stuff like the drive to Roaring Brook or are we talking rutted, ups and downs, puddles, etc? I got a new car in FEB and have the ability to drive these types of roads now but that isn't exactly fun. I'd likely do on a weekend so hopefully I'd miss the bulk of any logging activity.
    I have 6 editions of the WMG, the 25th (1992) being a major source during our peak hiking days. For the fun of it I obtained 3 prior editions and, to keep "current" especially on new technologies and maps introduced in later editions, I bought two newer editions. My observations is that there aren't much in the way of changes in the trails that you can't deal with then and there no matter which edition you used. Never worried about access; got that mostly off DeLorme, the intersection of two lines on a map.

    Three things for you to consider: First, it can be part of the enjoyment of a hiking trip to find some things out for yourself or resolved as you go. A favorite sentiment of mine, the title of a book, partly biographical and partly philosophical, written by an acquaintance with a serious disability, "Expect the Unexpected". In this regard I've also been inspired by the writings and stories of earlier explorers. Second, at the end of each hiking trip we'd usually spend a little time scouting for a future hike ... my idea of being a tourist. Third, if you really like getting out into the back country, next time buy a vehicle more suitable for conditions you've learned to encounter. Though an admitted peakbagger and redliner, I have found a certain truth in that old slogan of luxury cruise lines, "getting there is half the fun."

    With respect to camping, on the first of our journeys to Success Pond Road and the Mahoosucs, we explored a few of the recovering side logging roads and found one particularly inviting "tentsite" where the resident moose made a diplomatic call at breakfast. Doubt anyone had camped there before or likely since.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I'll have to check that route. And as much as I'd like to do Mahoosuc Notch I am pretty claustrophobic and expect there are places I wouldn't be able to negotiate. Looking to do the ridge walk mostly as an out and back.
    Claustrophobic here, done the Notch a few years back. Though everyone's experience varies and I would NOT do this with a big pack with stuff sticking out of it (as I did- almost lost my sleeping pad and bag down a bottomless hole), the half dozen or so squeezes are short (20 feet max? most are shorter). hardest part for many is actually climbing (or descending) Mahoosuc Arm at the north end of the Notch.
    --would rather be hiking than typing.

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    Most of the notch has a herd path running alongside of it. Keeps you out of the tight places, unless you want to do tgem. It's a fun section and the only place along the AT that my GF and I passed through hikers. They were a whiny bunch, thinking that once out of NH, the trail would get easier, haha.

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    I have not accessed the Range for day hikes, so Ill leave that to the other's. I have traversed the range as a backpack trip. I take two nights to do it, you could make it three if you wanted a more leisurely pace. I set my camps at Gentian pond and Goose Eye. I had planned on a third night at Speck, but there were 50 boy scouts there and I decided to leave them to it. It is one of the best trips in NH. I would strongly consider this traverse, to have access to this range and not do it, it really a mistake. I did not find the notch that bad, yes its tight, yes you scramble, but it is amazingly cool and just a wild place to be. I chose to hitchhike back from Maine as car spotting is not an option for me.

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    Quick answer to your question. Success to Goose Eye, not so much fun and not really a ridge walk (open anyway). Very rugged section of trail. South Peak (Fulling Mill Mtn) to Goose Eye, awesome. Need 2 cars or a bike for a 3 mile spot. Ascend Notch Trail, head south on the Mahoosuc Tr., descend Goose Eye Tr. to Carlo Tr.

    One of the many open areas along the ridge.
    Last edited by JustJoe; 04-25-2018 at 03:05 PM.
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    BTW, Brand new deluxe shelter at Success Pond. More than a few folks dry camp up at Mt Speck summit in the clearing next to the tower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Not sure which trail you are asking questions about.

    With respect to driving a passenger car on Success Pond road, once the frost comes up and the road dries out, its not bad but it does tend to washboard. Many folks successfully go up it with an econobox as long as they go slow. Keep in mind some of the trailheads are 20 miles in so 20 MPH means an hour plus of driving. Go slow enough that the suspension can keep up with the ups and downs and its entirely passable but get going to fast and it will pound the car pretty severely. The other alternative seems to be fly down the road at a high rate of speed usually accompanied by an open beer and have a good relationship with a local mechanic. It much wider than Roaring Brook road and once you hit dry weather its in as good a shape. What can screw it up is if there is active logging as the equipment coming in and out of the woods onto the road can tear it up.

    By the way, the actual routing through Mahoosuc Notch is done to make it interesting. If you don't mind scrambling there are ways of avoiding the underground stretches. Ice Gulch in Randolph is a nice test. If you like Ice Gulch you will like the Notch, if you don't then you wont like the Notch. If you just want to do the longest stretch of above treeline from Goose Eye to the ascent up Fulling Mill Mountain, that's an reasonable out and back via the Wright Trail. The Wright trail used to fork with the east most fork closed several years ago but some folks have reported that its still in good shape and it cuts out a bit of elevation on the way back. It also could be blowdown "h**l" so factor it in.

    The hike down from Mahoosuc Arm to Speck Pond has some nice views to the Speck Pond. Its a possible out and back via the Speck Pond Trail from Success Pond Road.
    Sorry. I meant my original thought on Success Trail from Success Pond Rd. Back in the day I always enjoyed a "fluid mobile nature walk" along the back roads as my Uncle's friend used to call it but those days are behind me now. I'll look into that Wright Trail as an alternative. Thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by weatherman View Post
    Claustrophobic here, done the Notch a few years back. Though everyone's experience varies and I would NOT do this with a big pack with stuff sticking out of it (as I did- almost lost my sleeping pad and bag down a bottomless hole), the half dozen or so squeezes are short (20 feet max? most are shorter). hardest part for many is actually climbing (or descending) Mahoosuc Arm at the north end of the Notch.
    A 20' "squeeze" would freak me out, if by squeeze you mean crawling/dragging myself that distance. When I did the Subway on King Ravine Trail I climbed up and over 2 of the 4 squeezes. It is being fully enclosed with restricted movement that gets me, not so much tight spaces.
    “Sometimes when you’ve lost something in your life that matters, the only thing left to do is go and find it.” Renan Ozturk

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