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Thread: History of Mount Willard trail?

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    Senior Member SpencerVT's Avatar
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    History of Mount Willard trail?

    Yesterday I climbed Mt Avalon and Mt Willard.
    The Mt Willard trail almost looks like it was a road of some sort at one point. There are massive concrete culverts in the trail which are way overkill for just a hiking trail. Throughout the trail you can see that it used to be wider.
    Anyone know the history of this? How old is the Willard trail? When was the older, more direct route abandoned? Was it a carriage road at one point?
    Super windy at the top yesterday but among the very best views in all of NH. So awesome!
    Spencer
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    My understanding was its was a carriage road associated with the large Hotel Complex (long gone) where the Highland Center is now located. My guess is their competition was the Glen House in Pinkham Notch with the Carriage road to the summit of Mt Washington so a carriage road was a box to check off on the amenities for Crawford House.

    http://whitemountainhistory.org/Crawford_House.html.

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    As noted above, the route to Willard was a former carriage road, which the hiking trail follows in part today. There was also an auto road to the top which was wiped out by the 1938 hurricane. From my 52WAV book:

    "In addition to the old carriage road up the mountain originally constructed in the mid-1840s — part of which Mt. Willard Trail still uses today — Mt. Willard also was very briefly open to automobile traffic. An auto road was constructed to the summit by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 but it was destroyed by the great hurricane of 1938."
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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Another interesting feature of Mt. Willard that many are unaware of, is the Devils Den. The Devils Den is a cave on the east facing cliff. It has some cool history and was reputed to contain bone fragments. Curiosity got the best of me one day and I rappelled off the summit into the cave. It went in about 10 ft. then jogged left another ten ft. or so. There were no bones to be found, but there was a metal tobacco can with a register in it. The paper inside was wet and in pieces nothing legible. I jumared back to the summit.

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    Also, the ledges where the trail ends are not at the summit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken MacGray View Post
    Also, the ledges where the trail ends are not at the summit.
    lol, I guess I get to go back up again.

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    Senior Member SpencerVT's Avatar
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    Thanks you all!
    I found this cool old map online which shows both the Carriage Rd and Auto Route. I love learning the history of some of these legendary trails, especially the super old ones in the Whites.

    Spencer
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    Senior Member Salty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerVT View Post
    I found this cool old map online which shows both the Carriage Rd and Auto Route. I love learning the history of some of these legendary trails, especially the super old ones in the Whites.
    Whoa baby! Great map, thanks Spencer. You are a peakbagger and a gentleman.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sierra View Post
    Another interesting feature of Mt. Willard that many are unaware of, is the Devils Den. The Devils Den is a cave on the east facing cliff. It has some cool history and was reputed to contain bone fragments. Curiosity got the best of me one day and I rappelled off the summit into the cave. It went in about 10 ft. then jogged left another ten ft. or so. There were no bones to be found, but there was a metal tobacco can with a register in it. The paper inside was wet and in pieces nothing legible. I jumared back to the summit.
    I rappelled down to the cave c.1982. Probably one of the scariest things I've ever done. It was cool seeing the railroad tracks so small so far below. Much of the rock above the cave was too rotten for me to climb on, so my friends dragged me up. (We knew nothing of ascenders back then, so we had the idea of rappelling down then being belayed up.) Strange side note: we saw what we thought was a body laying on a ledge near the cave. One of my friends reported it to the authorities. We never heard anything about it, but years later I read of a Boston college group that put a dummy on the ledge.
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    Wait a minute...doesn't that old map show a trail going right over the cliff, or am I reading it wrong???
    Steve H.
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    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	AC9C075F-08E6-4557-A19C-2A875828C35B.jpg 
Views:	107 
Size:	110.5 KB 
ID:	6480Raymond Evans writes on the back of this photo....."On top of Mt. Willard. All three of us rode to the top. There used to be a gravel road to the top. Aug. 1930." Left to right we have Ray Evans, Fred Whitcomb, and Chuck Martes. All three worked at the Crawford House. Photo from the Raymond Evans collection c/o Robert J. Girouard
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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srhigham View Post
    Wait a minute...doesn't that old map show a trail going right over the cliff, or am I reading it wrong???
    It does! And it looks like after the scramble off the top of the cliffs is "trail" follows the route of the Cinema Gully ice/snow climb all the way down to the tracks.

    Some badass hikers in those days!
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skiguy View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	AC9C075F-08E6-4557-A19C-2A875828C35B.jpg 
Views:	107 
Size:	110.5 KB 
ID:	6480Raymond Evans writes on the back of this photo....."On top of Mt. Willard. All three of us rode to the top. There used to be a gravel road to the top. Aug. 1930." Left to right we have Ray Evans, Fred Whitcomb, and Chuck Martes. All three worked at the Crawford House. Photo from the Raymond Evans collection c/o Robert J. Girouard
    That is a wonderful photo. Now I want to ride up that road!
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
    Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama
    .

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    That is a wonderful photo. Now I want to ride up that road!
    As noted above, the road is no longer there.
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    Culverts

    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerVT View Post
    Yesterday I climbed Mt Avalon and Mt Willard.
    The Mt Willard trail almost looks like it was a road of some sort at one point. There are massive concrete culverts in the trail which are way overkill for just a hiking trail. Throughout the trail you can see that it used to be wider.
    Anyone know the history of this? How old is the Willard trail? When was the older, more direct route abandoned? Was it a carriage road at one point?
    Super windy at the top yesterday but among the very best views in all of NH. So awesome!
    We hiked both on Friday, beautiful day with wonderful views. We also questioned the culverts. Thanks for the history lesson.
    Last edited by kmac; 09-22-2020 at 10:52 AM.
    Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgement-and for a moment at least, existing for the other person. ~Michael Nichols

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