Eastman Mtn., Mountain Pond Loop - 10/30/14


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New member
Sep 5, 2003
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Date: Thursday, 10/30/14

Trails/Route: Slippery Brook Road, Slippery Brook Trail, Eastman Mtn. Trail, bushwhack, Mountain Pond Loop

Trail conditions: Slippery Brook Road is currently being repaired, at least the major washout 2 miles in from the locked gate. SBT was grassy road, then leafy trail with some mud, some downright soupy sections, and a couple of brief head-scratching searching-for-trail pauses higher up. Eastman Mtn. Trail is in excellent shape. Mountain Pond Trail had rough footing--very slippery rocks, roots and bog bridges, some of which were partially floating and/or slanting precipitously into mud pits requiring literal leaps of faith to traverse.

Comments: How can you tell when a redliner is closing in on her quest? One answer may be her unwillingness to wait for the 2015 grand re-opening (post-Irene) of Slippery Brook Road in order to check off these trails, adding 8 extra miles round trip to the routes as otherwise described in the WMG. Although the total mileage came out to just about 20, the elevation gain was somewhere in the wimpy 1500 feet range.

I parked in the pulloff just outside the locked gate showing up at the same time as the road crew. The thought of hitching a ride with one of these guys was tempting, but my head was already wrapped around a full 20-mile day and I like to walk, so…

The big curve 2 miles up the road is where the current major work is being done. Some impressive reinforcements being installed there! Just before the official Slippery Brook Trailhead at a snowmobile trail junction 3.6 miles in (according to the sign), there is a large ~5 ft culvert that appears to be totally jammed up. Consequently, there is now a little pond to the right of, and somewhat ON, the road. I was able to keep my feet dry this day but could see where it could be a wading situation in times of sustained rain or snowmelt.

The next couple of miles was more easy walking on pretty level grassy logging road. Follow the arrows LEFT at both snowmobile trail intersections, then an arrow RIGHT onto a much narrower trail. I was a bit perplexed; something felt “off” about the route. I had last been in this area in the early 1990s, when some friends and I were doing the NH 100 Highest and climbed Chandler and Sable. I vaguely remember coming out on the Slippery Brook Trail, but to this point today it had been a grassy logging road. When I got home and searched my old WMGs last night it finally made sense. Sometime between the 26th and 27th editions of the WMG (1998 and 2003 copyrights), the entire lower 3 miles of Slippery Brook Trail had been relocated to the logging road.

Once on the narrower section of trail, it was 1.8 miles to the Eastman Trail junction. The SBT is obviously lightly used, and in a couple of spots care was required in order to stay on the trail. There are no blazes--absolutely NONE--to guide you, so if you need paint blazes to follow, you probably will not enjoy this trail. There were a few blowdowns, one requiring a walk around. I had read reports of nasty hobblebush whacking, but since all the leaves had dropped, the hobblebush really wasn’t an issue today. (And I maintain that you haven’t been hobblebush whacking on a “trail” until you’ve done 3 Ponds Trail.) :D As for color, foliage season's not over yet: there were a few bright yellows on a palette of drab browns and grays. The yellows were really quite stunningly beautiful, some of them seeming to glow neon. Seven miles in, I had the sense that I was the only human around for miles, a real feeling of solitude there. It was quite nice.

After slopping through a particularly wet section around 2400-2500 feet, the rest of the hike up to Eastman Mtn. was uneventful. Yeah! Views from the summit! Especially enjoyed the perspective on South Baldface.

On the descent, I decided to make a beeline from the summit back to SBT saving a bit of mileage and a 100 foot climb. Things looked a bit thick in the immediate summit area, so I retreated about halfway back to the lovely birch forest in the col and ‘whacked west through nice open hardwoods back to the SBT, popping back on the trail below the wet section. Footing on the ‘whack was actually better than the trail in this area!

The Mountain Pond Loop awaited. While the pond was gorgeous, the trail--ugh--does not rank high on my list of favorites. :( Somehow I managed to stay upright the entire time, but for a flat trail, this one was not fast due to many SLIPPERY rocks, roots, and dilapidating bog bridges. The outlet crossing wasn’t bad except for the slimy rocks; somehow my feet stayed kind of dry. A very bright moment was encountering a large, healthy appearing moose and her young’un in the area around the shelter. It had been some time since I’d seen a moose while hiking, so this was a real treat. Shortly thereafter I met the only other hikers of the day, a couple going around the pond.

On the way out, the road lengthened by a couple of miles, or so it seemed. The road construction and grading and Slippery Brook itself provided enough diversion so it wasn’t so bad. Another great day playing in the woods… :D
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