Trying to come up with something good to say about Hancock Notch Trail in summer

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peakbagger

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Every trail usually has its "charms" and reasons to exist. I realize that in recent years this trail was adopted and much work has been done to improve it but after hiking the entire length yesterday I would be hard pressed to recommend it to most folks in summer. The west side from Cedar Brook up to the height of land it well routed and well maintained. From the height of land east is another story. There was a recent successful attempt to relocate the trail up out of the base of the notch to a hillside but even that has had a recent slide and expect that the only thing holding the slope together was the small trees and brush that have been cut to allow the relocation. Once off this section, the trail degrades into a series of braided routes that attempt to get around walking in an eroded trench that is now a stream bed or inevitable mud pits and wet areas. Its very easy to loose what may be the official route but inevitably one pops back up on it. Blazing is minimal to non existent in this area. Eventually it does transition to an older logging road and in dry weather I expect someone could keep their feet dry and mud free once past the upper drainage. Heading down into the valley the trail follows some extensive damage in the adjacent brook and some of the eroded banks and widened stream bed means a whole lot of water must have come through recently from what is actually quite a small drainage area.

Blazing along the rest of the trail is decidedly minimal and discreet although where the trailbed got nailed due to the flooding its there where its needed.

I have heard over the years that this is an excellent remote winter cross country route and since I don't ski I will leave it others to comment. It does make a nice connector for backpacking to avoid the Lincoln Woods "zoo" and avoid a car spot so that's a plus and I have no doubt this it is a remote rarely traveled area made more so by the recent Sawyer River road washout. Maybe its comes down to that putting up with a 1/2 mile of wet trail and mud pits is a made up by the rest of the potential backpack it makes possible.
 
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Maybe its comes down to that putting up with a 1/2 mile of wet trail and mud pits is a made up by the rest of the potential backpack it makes possible.

Hey Peakbagger,

When we all wore those big-fat-heavy hiking boots we laughed at mud and plowed right through the middle of it with our all-terrain thick-ass Vibram soles digging in deep.

Now we don't want to get those wispy trail runners all wet n dirty!

I hear ya brother!

cb
 
After year of using trail runners when its wet or a wet trail I just plow on through and find a stream to stroll thru. I not so fondly remember the days when the heavy leather boots finally were really wet and weighed a couple more pounds each.
 
I have heard over the years that this is an excellent remote winter cross country route and since I don't ski I will leave it others to comment.

It was pretty hellacious on snowshoes this past February. Hard to follow, trail often in a trench, and the sidehill was really scary. Obviously this winter was abnormal with the frequent thaws but it was quite the adventure.
 
Every trail usually has its "charms" and reasons to exist. I realize that in recent years this trail was adopted and much work has been done to improve it but after hiking the entire length yesterday I would be hard pressed to recommend it to most folks in summer.

Ok, I will bite.

I love valley trails. I especially love valley trails that require a bit of route finding, where a trimmed tree limb or boot print in the mud is a welcome sight.

While not in the Pemi Wilderness Area, I would argue that the Hancock Notch trail is a "Zone B type" trail. As such, your description sounds pretty good to me.

WMNF Wilderness Management Plan

2.1.2 Zone B — Areas within 500 feet of low-use trails

This zone includes the lowest-use, least developed trails within WMNF Wilderness. It offers the greatest opportunity for solitude and/or an unconfined recreation experience along a maintained trail system.
With the exception of the developed trail system, the landscape appears largely unmodified, supports only these minimally maintained trails but no other facilities, and has regular opportunities for visitors to experience both solitude and a primitive recreation confined only by the presence of the trail system.

The Rob Brook trail and the Nanamock (sp?) trail in summer were real water adventures.
 
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Did Hancock Notch Trail all the way through once in the early 2000s and said “never again.” And I have never done it again.

(I hike in trail runners 100% in summer and fall. Don’t mind the feet getting wet and muddy.)
 
You have to traverse the notch if you do the Carrigain - Hancock loop. I think sucking bog describes it well. Sucked my boots off twice I was a muddy mess. Glad it was on the return to Sawyer road. Ha, thanks for the memory. I had forgotten that day.
 
I also had a shoe sucked off on the Hancock Notch Trail. We should form a support network...
 
I did it from Sawyer River Trail 2 or 3 years ago. I do not recall it being too bad. In a few places the trail was vague, but just kept heading up the notch and kept near the stream.
 
Timing is everything! We did it in early July before all this rain and it was GREAT! Few bugs, even fewer people and great trail conditions. There is the washout from the hurricane(s) but was still easy to follow. Trail runners without a bit of water or mud on them. Saying this I saw enough to know that with this rain the OP's assessment would be spot on. Now don't get me started on Fishin Jimmy :)
 
Ok, I'll bite. I'm the maintainer for the entire length of the HNT, for the past 2.5 years. I can't argue with your trail characterizations. What i can offer is some background color.
- While it does not matter to you, the HNT is split down the in half by the divison of Pemi ranger district west of CB and Saco RD to the east. The pemi half is the super highway to knocking off a couple more 4ks, the Hancocks. I do very little work on thaat sections. The good hearted hikers take care of the small stuff.i. I call in the bigger stuff.

We hire a summer crew that does the heavy repair, downfall and rerouting. All the heavy projects are prioritization.
- The trail skirts the south end of the wilderness area, we have elected to make this more like a wilderness. Trails are narrower, canopy is lower, blazes are fewer, foot path is rougher. This is intentional, to provide those seeking sola e to linger in an untouched area. --CONTINUED BELOW --

-
 
When I took on the trail, it was as lost as Hubbard Brook Tr
It had no maintenance for seven years. We began from the east. Mostly tackling thousands of puckerbush. The heavy crew came in and cleared the large storm damage. Washouts and river erosion was logged for future work. Last fall and this spring we worked from the east. We put minimal blazes that we call "feel goods". As noted, this trail is not for beginners or those with no navigation experience.
I WILL BE BACK THERE again this fall.
TO BE CONTINUED,,,
 
Thanks for all your help billski. I personally have enjoyed this trail in all of the Seasons since the mid 70’s. Lot’s of personalities all times of year. Winter is my favorite.
 
When I took on the trail, it was as lost as Hubbard Brook Tr
It had no maintenance for seven years. We began from the east. Mostly tackling thousands of puckerbush. The heavy crew came in and cleared the large storm damage. Washouts and river erosion was logged for future work. Last fall and this spring we worked from the east. We put minimal blazes that we call "feel goods". As noted, this trail is not for beginners or those with no navigation experience.
I WILL BE BACK THERE again this fall.
TO BE CONTINUED,,,

That's thick brush was the worst part when I went though a few years ago. Thanks for your work on it - that's quite an undertaking!
 
<drift>
I miss the Rob Brook Trail and...
</drift>

I hope to hike or better, ski this trail some day.
 
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