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Thread: Holden out for Noble - a Waterfall story

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    Senior Member NeoAkela's Avatar
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    Holden out for Noble - a Waterfall story

    Most folks here may not be interested in a tale of old rocks and the water that runs over them, but a few weeks after the event I finally had some time so I thought I’d throw it out there for the few that might get a chuckle or two.

    I’ve always had a fascination for waterfalls as well as for local history, so when I ran across a reference in Bolnick’s book of the two “lost” waterfalls Holden and Noble somewhere above Bridal Veil Falls, I was intrigued. The source of this information was an old book by Sarah Welch - A History Of Franconia New Hampshire. When I managed to obtain a copy of that book, I was somewhat disappointed to find only two old B&W photos with very little information. Further inquiries to the several waterfall website gurus in the area, as well as some local historians brought back no results…. no one had seen these rumored waterfalls for themselves!


    So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a few hours to spare, I walked the trail up to Bridal Veil Falls. The water was flowing fast that day, and after reaching the upper falls, I headed diagonally up the left bank, moving away from the falls, until I was able to scramble up and then back over to the top of the waterfall. From there, I bushwhacked up the brook a ways, sometimes in the brook, sometimes out. After a good 15 minutes or so, I came upon a small waterfall about 7 or 8 feet high


    Above the waterfall was a beautiful series of chutes, slides, and potholes. These were all exposed on a nice open slab with plenty of sunshine.


    Very pretty, but not anything I would have given an official name, and certainly nothing that looked like the photos in the book. After lingering in the pools for a while, I followed the brook up a bit further but found nothing else of note. My turnaround time came up quicker than expected, so I headed back for the day.

    About a week later, I convinced John (1HappyHiker) to accompany me on a second trip. This time we took the old Ski Trail up and around Bridal Veil Falls so we could avoid climbing around the cliffs. Once we were back on the brook, we followed it up a ways until it unexpectedly split into two branches. We took the left branch and headed up further, where we decided to make a side trip for an open slide that was visible up on the side of the western ridge of Mittersill. It was about 0.2 miles to the wide part in the middle of the slide - quite a nice open slab with lots of sun. I found several tree limbs cut neatly with a saw, so for some reason folks have been up here!





    Back down to the brook where John and I decided what to do next. John had followed the brook further up while I was on the slide, up to about 2900 ft, where it was just a trickle. We decided to head back and go up the right fork, which headed up into one of the cols between the Cannonballs. It was getting a bit late, so after a while John decided to head back. I followed the stream further up until I hit the bottom of a gigantic rocky slide. I suppose in high water, this could be a waterfall, but I really didn't think it likely that this was one of the lost falls. I climbed up and up, sometimes on the rock, sometimes in the gnarly mossy blowdown woods. The slab seemed to never end, so at about 3100 feet, I called it quits! The Kinsman Ridge trail was showing on my GPS as about a third of a mile away, but that was not the direction I needed to go!
    Looking up from the base

    Looking down from 2900 feet


    Looking up - still going up at 3100 feet.....

    Rather than scale back down the slide, I opted to cut northward across the slope to meet the other branch at about where John had left off. There were a few blowdown areas along the way that gave some nice views down the Coppermine ravine, as well as up to some nice exposed ledges on the knob north of the valley. After much scrambling and sidehilling, I dropped down to the other branch of the brook at 2800 feet. Just for fun, I followed it up to about 3050, encountering worse and worse blowdowns. The trickle branched out several times and eventually I gave up trying to figure out which branch to follow.

    All along the way, there were many very small cascades, and several locations where the rock was carved nicely, or flowed down slabs, but nothing I would ever call a waterfall of any significance! So, that was it – defeated, I headed back to the ski trail and took it back around the falls toward the shelter again.

    On the way down the ski trail, I had this funny feeling. I looked at the topo map again and since I had a few extra minutes, made one last excursion out to yet another drainage. I soon broke out of the trees at the top of a long, sloping ledge on what I realized was a third main branch of Coppermine Brook. The ledge dropped steeply out of sight, so I looped around to the bottom where there was a pool at the foot of a beautiful mossy waterfall! It might have been about 30 feet tall, but the cascades above flowed along a ledge another 30 feet or so. I pulled out the old photos and sure enough, here was Holden Falls, prettier in real life than its picture! I took a few quick photos but unfortunately blurred most of them with the condensation on the lenses.


    After posing with my long sought-after find, I headed back home to beat the sunset!

    A few days later I had a couple of hours free after work, so I decided to go back and head further up the drainage to try and find Noble Falls, since I now had what I believed to be the right ravine. The water level was a bit higher so I took a few more photos of Holden, then headed up the drainage. This ravine was very mossy and slippery, and contained some enormous boulders with fractured edges, some with giant trees growing from their tops. Lots of caves and crevasses - the ground between the boulders occasionally fell loose and down into deep holes, so I stuck to walking up the stream bed for the most part. Creepy and beautiful at the same time. At around 2200 feet, the stream split - I took the larger left fork. A little higher and there was a pink flagging ribbon tied to a tree. No other ribbons in sight. The mystery ribbon placer strikes again! At 2500 feet the stream was down to a trickle, it started to rain, and I didn't see anything promising ahead, so I called it a day. I cut across the ridgeline and down to hit the Ski Trail.... along the way I hit a well-beaten path that led down before intersecting the ski trail This almost lined up with the pink flagging – I wonder if this some sort of back country ski route?

    From the ski trail I whacked straight down to the shelter, where I accidentally scared the daylights out of two poor ladies who thought I was a rampaging bear. Oops!

    So, after three days in the wilderness, Noble Falls still eludes me. Perhaps it is part of the big slide below the Cannonballs, or perhaps it is up yet one more hidden drainage in the deep Cannon valleys. I’ll go back someday to look, but not anytime soon – I’m a bit “washed out”!

    Last edited by NeoAkela; 07-25-2010 at 08:54 AM. Reason: wording
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    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Your first photo gets my vote for one of the finest I've seen on the board so far this year.
    Very nice thread, thanks for sharing.
    "The fact that going off the deep end appears
    to be a requisite to doing anything of consequence
    in this life has not escaped me." Jim Harrison

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    Senior Member 1HappyHiker's Avatar
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    Chris, your report and photos are as striking and spectacular as the waterfall that you found! To say "job well done" is such an understatement.

    As we've discussed, it is interesting that you found Holden Falls to be located below Bridal Veil Falls since the book by Sarah Welch indicates that it is located above Bridal Veil Falls in. We've also mulled over the possibility that the word "above" perhaps was referring to elevation. But, you ruled that out since your GPS data show that Holden is somewhat lower in elevation than Bridal Veil Falls.

    And regarding the elusive Noble Falls, the Welch book states that it is located "well above Bridal Veil Falls". In view of where you found Holden Falls, it sort of makes you wonder if Noble Falls is well below Bridal Veil Falls!

    Thanks for sharing your explorations and photos with the VFTT community!

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    I think it's quite fortunate that Sarah Welch wasn't a mapmaker. She would have probably kept the S&R people busy if she were.

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    Senior Member NeoAkela's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone for the kind comments! What a great group of people we have here - within a few days of my posting, one excellent VFTT member took a long walk and sent me back a photo and the location of Noble Falls.

    It was, of course, no where near the reported location "on Coppermine Brook above Bridal Veil Falls" that is listed in every waterfall book and website, though it is in Franconia.

    One more history bit put to rest, at least for me. It's fun to have a little mystery out there in the woods. Now, if I can only find those two old copper / iron mine locations....
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    Senior Member Jimmy Legs and Little D's Avatar
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    A great job on your search for the elusive falls and that you were partially successful. It's nice to see a different kind of report!

    Donna

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    Senior Member NeoAkela's Avatar
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    Not trying to bump this little thread, but I had a few folks who expressed an interest with the mystery falls of Coppermine Brook, so I thought it best to make one last post to finalize the story. At least now anyone searching for mention of these two falls online will have a bit more to go on. I left the details a bit vague to keep the spirit of adventure alive.

    Shortly after my original post, where I expressed disappointment not finding any trace of the elusive Noble Falls, I received an email from a fellow VFTT-er with a photo and a location. Needless to say, the falls were not in the location that they were rumored to be! So. during all the rain last Tuesday, I decided to venture out and finally visit Noble Falls. I brought my trusty mud-loving dog Kirby and we set off to explore some backwoods ski trails on the side of Mittersill.

    After a mile or so on a well-marked ski path near a bubbling brook, we went off-trail and began bushwhacking east to meet the brook and then along the brook embankment. Along the way, we passed a few pink flags which we followed up the embankment - these led to a trail heading the wrong way, so we went back to the stream. After about another third of a mile, we reached a spectacular step-stair cascade waterfall which curved gracefully down a long embankment to a pool at the bottom. This cascade was immense enough that it could easily be worthy of a name - I have certainly seen much lesser "named" cascades. But, it wasn't the "Noble Falls" in the old picture. I took a few photos but the angle and vegetation made it difficult to do it justice.


    A few days later when speaking with Dean Goss of the Newenglandwaterfalls website, he showed me an old postcard of a place called "Plimpton Falls, White Mountains". Amazingly enough, it was that very curving cascade waterfall - all the rock features lined up. That postcard had apparently been plaguing him for years! So indeed, it did have a name at one time, but what the source of that name was may be lost in time.


    We next crawled up and around the steep embankment to reach the ledges above the cascades. Not too much further beyond we could see sunlight and a huge wall. Out we came into a clearing at the base of Noble Falls. Two plumes of water plunged down over a giant rock face and into a pool at the base within a tight ravine. The rock wall and the surrounding area reminded me of Bridal Veil Falls in size and scope - I would guess these falls are about the same height. Surprisingly enough, here was a sign nailed to a tree that said "Bridesmaid Falls". (This I believe is actually a much more fitting name for the falls, given their "forgotten" status... as in the old saying "always the bridesmaid...."). These falls never received the respect they were due, forgotten in the shadow of their more famous neighbor.




    I was curious about what might lie above the falls, but I hadn't planned on an extended bushwhack, so I decided that have to wait for another day. From the sign, flagging followed a well-beaten path somewhat north, so Kirby and I decided to follow it. The trail zig-zagged up the slope to an intersection with another sign that announced "Mittersill and Bridesmaid Falls", with arrows pointing in opposite directions. Checking my map, I decided it couldn't hurt to follow the Mittersill direction, so off we went. The trail crossed the slope of the mountain, well marked and well trodden. The trail continued on and on.... eventually, we could see houses through the trees and the trail broke out on one of the many access roads above Mittersill village. There were no signs on this side, and the trail was not visible from the road.

    We followed the paved roads past condos through several intersections, eventually coming back out on a road that led us to a long walk back to the car. A very interesting loop involving bushwhacking and pavement! So, apparently Bridesmaid (Noble) Falls is a known destination for some people and has it's own trail. However, I have never heard it mentioned anywhere before. I wonder who keeps the trail maintained, and who benefits from that maintenance? Lots of questions. Many more waterfalls mentioned in old books waiting to be explored again!

    As a final sidenote.... there was enough time and daylight to run up to Zealand and check out the "original" Zealand falls as well. Another one of those little places lost in the bits and pieces of history. A neat waterfall but difficult to photograph since there are several rocky bits in the way. But, a good way to end a rainy afternoon!

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    Spectacular! Thank you for pictures worth seeing!

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    Senior Member roadtripper's Avatar
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    Incredible! Congrats on finding three of the "lost" waterfalls of the Whites. I'm especially amazed that you pinned down Plimpton Falls. I always thought that Plimpton had some resemblance to Ripley Falls.

    Which "lost" falls is next for you?

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    Really fascinating story here. I've often looked at the topo maps of WMNF and all the many brooks running through ravines on the mountain sides... I wonder how many of these have relatively unknown waterfalls.

    Were Noble and Plympton Falls even on a tributary of Coppermine Brook, or another brook entirely? I see there is a brook to the northeast of Coppermine and many ravines to the southwest. I am interested in looking for these at some point, but if you say they are not even where they were rumored to be...

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    Senior Member una_dogger's Avatar
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    Rocket21, Terra and I were poking around the woods today after climbing Cannon via the Tuckerbrook & Mittersall Ski trails -- and stumbed upon an old herd path which we followed. Rocket21 spotted an old tin sign with "Bridesmaid Falls" hammered into it -- we happened upon Bridesmaid AKA Noble Falls and minutes later Plympton Falls while following the drainage out scouting our way back to Tuckerbrook...because there is *clearly* no safe way out upslope -- thats a very impressive ravine!

    GREAT falls! I was pointed back to this thread. I love your side by side photos!

    One of the best things for me about getting off trail is what one stumbles upon.

    Thanks for sharing the history of these lesser seen places. I like the name "Noble" way better than "Bridesmaid". Standing at the base of that wall of rock, all I could think was that the falls were named after some poor woman who had thrown herself off of them!!
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    Senior Member NeoAkela's Avatar
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    Hey - congrats to you, Terra, and Rocket for finding those falls! That is definitely an impressive ravine and drainage - a real treat to visit. It is really cool what you can find just by kicking around the trail-less woods a bit - I'm glad there is still some adventure to be had even outside of the more "remote" areas of the forest!
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    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Thank you, Chris!


    A couple more here.

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    Senior Member billski's Avatar
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    Hey Guys, I'm just back from tromping about at Noble and Plimpton. I took the ski trail up and whacked it. Talk about nobody being in there! It was heaven. This thread inspired me to go find it. So it seems there is a way to it from Mittersill? I missed all the signs you talked about. And probably easier than my way! Hmm. I scaled the falls from the left side looking up, hopped the two brooks and whacked back to the ski trail. Took a lot of pics, but nothing to compare with yours! There is one really well-trodden trail above the falls which intersects with the ski trail. It goes east/west, and appears to be well-used. I wonder where the westerly side comes out?

    I then continued on up the ski trail and began a whack to the west, which I've been told was a ski trail down towards Copper mine. Apparently people lost interest in it and it grew in. I did find some tell-tale signs of "maintenace" which suggested someone attempted some clearing; it looks about 5 years old. It was getting a bit late for whacking, especially since I didn't really know how it would all turn out, so I'll save that for another day. I spent too much time doing ski trail maintenance (man that trail is LOVED - It really has me itching to do this in the wintertime. ) It's a wonderful trail, very much like the Thunderbolt down on Greylock. What's better is that it's lift-served. I did some CCC backcountry trails at $teaux last March, it was to die for.

    Thanks again!
    Have boots will travel.

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    Senior Member NeoAkela's Avatar
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    Hey Billski! Glad you found Noble and Plimpton - those are some neat little gems out there in the woods!

    The well-trodden trail you saw above the falls is the one I take to visit. It intersects the Tuckerbrook trail fairly close to the falls, and is marked with colored ribbons on trees. It slabs across the slope at a fairly level pace before ending at a small turnoff near the top of Alpen Hill Road in the Mittersill complex. If you are looking for it from that side, head up Alpen Hill Road until it makes a sharp hairpin turn to the left and park in the small pulloff near a telephone pole. The path starts at the pole and heads into the woods.

    There are quite a number of cut and beaten paths out in the Coppermine ravine as well as the others... some old roads, some bike and ski trails - fun to explore.

    Chris
    www.WhiteMountainImages.org
    At the ticking of the sun on the green bellied mountains, I'm staring high in the sky.
    In the breeze I can taste the fragrance of this moment... and I take a deep breath. - Mostly Autumn

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