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Bushwhacking Unknown Pond Peak –

Bushwhacking Unknown Pond Peak

Unknown Pond Peak is the one centesimal highest mountain on the New Hampshire Hundred Highest peakbagging checklist, an inventory that I’ve been slowly engaged on since 2012. I haven’t performed an off-trail path hike for some time since I’ve been pursuing The White Mountains 4000 Footer Grid for the previous two years (mountaineering the 48 4 thousand footers in every calendar month of the 12 months). However I’m now “grid-locked” till November, having completed the 48 in June, July, August, September, and October, so I can’t make any extra headway till November, December, and January come round once more.

With that stated, I made a decision to climb Unknown Pond Peak as a result of it’s a brief straightforward bushwhack that might give me an opportunity to mud off my compass and GPS navigation abilities and assist me rebuild my off-trail navigation confidence again up once more. I’ve performed sufficient off-trail mountaineering to know that there are facets and intuitions that may develop into atrophied if not used frequently and that it’s prudent to regularly ramp up once more over a sequence of tougher routes earlier than tackling the “massive stuff” that continues to be.

Unknown Pond is an alpine pond located deep in the moose country of the Kilkenny
Unknown Pond is an alpine pond situated deep within the moose nation of the Kilkenny

Whereas I’ve liked gridding these previous two years, there’s one thing deeply satisfying about mountaineering off-trail for me and the heightened stage of consciousness it requires versus following a well-marked and closely trodden path. Whereas the purpose of gridding it to bag a summit usually by mountaineering a well-blazed path, the purpose of off-trail mountaineering for me is in selecting an “elegant” route to achieve the summit that minimizes the quantity of power required. This combines some upfront planning with native optimizations which might solely be found on the bottom as a result of the native geography and vegetation protection shouldn’t be represented adequately on maps and might solely be skilled firsthand. Topographic maps have limitations (“they lie”) in between the contour intervals, one thing you could readily respect when mountaineering off-trail when small cliffs and toppled timber block your route.

Unknown Pond Peak can also be situated within the Kilkenny Area of the White Mountains, north of Berlin NH, and approach off the crushed monitor. A veritable rainforest, the timber of the Kilkenny are sometimes bearded with stringy moss and hanging vegetation, not in contrast to a witch’s forest in kids’s fairytales. Regardless of this, it’s a reasonably benign place dotted with small ponds, beaver dams, small streams, and smaller-sized hills with good mountaineering trails and campsites. There are additionally some scenic highlights within the area together with the Satan’s Hopyard, Roger’s Ledge, Mt Cabot, The Horn and The Buldge, Mt Waumbek, and North, Center, and South Weeks Mountains which are effectively price a go to.

The trailheads are located in the Berlin Fish Hatchery.
The trailheads are situated within the Berlin Fish Hatchery.

The precise bushwhack to Unknown Pond Peak is sort of brief, perhaps a half mile in and a half mile out. But it surely has a reasonably lengthy method hike (roughly 4 miles) up the Unknown Pond Trailhead and a brief distance alongside the Kilkenny Ridge Path from the Berlin Fish Hatchery, a sprawling advanced the place trout are bred in open pens to inventory the lakes, ponds, and streams of northern New Hampshire. It’s fairly a tremendous operation you could see in motion.

After the bushwhack, I deliberate to proceed north alongside the Kilkenny Ridge Path earlier than mountaineering again to the Fish Hatchery on the Mill Brook Path, earlier than looping again to the Unknown Pond Trailhead on the gravel York Pond Street, a complete distance of about 12 miles. I’ve hiked all of those trails a number of instances up to now, nevertheless it’s been a minimum of 6 or 7 years in the past and I used to be wanting to revisit them as a result of I like this space a lot.

Unknown Pond Bushwhack Loop
Unknown Pond Bushwhack Loop

The day I hiked this loop it had rained the night time earlier than and was drizzling after I left the trailhead. The rain was alleged to taper off although, and whereas bushwhacking in moist climate actually sucks, I used to be wanting to go anyway. I carry all the best clothes and equipment for mountaineering in rain and I figured I’d be okay so long as I used to be mountaineering and producing warmth, regardless of how moist I obtained. Nonetheless, that was a calculated danger based mostly on expertise as hypothermia, even in reasonable temperatures, is a really actual danger in the event you get soaked when mountaineering or backpacking.

The hike up the Unknown Pond Path was nice and pretty reasonable, though fairly moist. I used to be sporting path runners for this hike they usually had been quickly soaked by the water operating down the path, as had been my pants, from rubbing towards the vegetation alongside the perimeters of the path. After I arrived on the pond, it was fogged over by low cloud blocking views of the encompassing peaks. That was a pity, as a result of I’d been trying ahead to that view (proven right here).

A light but steady rain fell as I hiked up the Unknown Pond Trail.
A lightweight however regular rain fell as I hiked up the Unknown Pond Path.

I turned onto the Kilkenny Ridge Path on the path junction and headed to the peak of land, which is the excessive level the place water flowing downhill adjustments instructions and demarcates one watershed from one other. I stepped off-trail right here and headed into the woods, angling within the path of the Unknown Pond Peak summit. The forest was comparatively open, that means that there have been few obstructions in my path like downed timber, with a sparse understory of ferns and different leafy greens.

Off-trail, the forest was quite open with a low lying understory.
Off-trail, the forest was fairly open with a low-lying understory.

Whereas there was, fortunately, no herd path indicative of overuse, there have been open seams within the forest the place I might make fast ahead progress towards the summit. Route discovering was trivial on this hike as a result of the summit comes to some extent; in different phrases, you’ll ultimately attain the highest in the event you simply carry on mountaineering uphill. As I approached the highest, I used to be looking out for the summit canister, which is normally a glass or plastic jar, or a PVC Pipe closed at each ends, that incorporates a log e-book the place individuals sign-in. I’m fairly good at recognizing these canisters hooked up to timber, however typically they require a number of looking, particularly when the summit is flat and doesn’t come to a transparent excessive level.

The summit canister on Unknown Pond Peak
The summit canister on Unknown Pond Peak

I discovered the canister simply sufficient although, opened it up, and scanned the latest entries to see who’d been up the height recently. There’s no requirement that you simply signal the logbook and a few individuals don’t trouble. There’s no formal authority overseeing this bushwhacking recreation, however signing the logbook is a enjoyable solution to join with the handful of different whackos climbing these off-trail peaks. There are NOT lots of people who bushwhack, actually bushwhack, these extra esoteric mountain summits as an alternative of downloading GPS tracks and following the carrot to the highest. Name me OG (outdated guard), however I nonetheless prefer to learn topo maps, navigate by following landforms and use a compass after I hike off-trail. It’s extra intellectually difficult that approach and simply extra enjoyable.

Canister logbook entries
Canister logbook entries

I signed in, closed the canister again as much as preserve the logbook dry, and began to hike again all the way down to the Kilkenny Ridge Path. Leaving a summit is tougher for me than mountaineering as much as one and I ceaselessly get lazy, a behavior I’m attempting to interrupt, when choosing a line off a peak. As a substitute of whipping out my compass and plotting a route, I head again within the path I assumed I’d come. Solely, I rapidly grew to become obvious that I used to be mountaineering down the again facet of the mountain and never the facet I needed. Because of this I used to be doing a apply bushwhack – to remind myself of my widespread errors and

Approaching Kilback Pond
Approaching Kilback Pond

I at all times hike with a watch that has an altimeter, so I can normally work out the place I’m on a topographic map just by discovering the corresponding contour. Fairly than backtracking, I merely adopted the contour – staying at my present elevation – however transferring across the mountain to its different facet earlier than descending again to the Kilkenny Ridge Path and persevering with north previous Kilback Pond.

Kilback Pond - Prime Moose Habita
Kilback Pond – Prime Moose Habita

Kilback Pond is a small pond that’s slowly being taken over by beavers. However I feel was in quite a bit worse form after I hiked by it the final time after I was doing a full Kilkenny Ridge Path Traverse and Cohos Part with my outdated good friend, the one and solely Guthook, in 2018. Nonetheless, there’s a bit of the path the place it’s important to hike throughout a beaver dam (the lavatory bridges have been included into it) to cross one of many pond’s retailers. That is solely going to worsen, so hike it quickly.

The Mill Brook Trail parallels Mill Brook a pretty stream in the Killkenny.
The Mill Brook Path parallels Mill Brook a reasonably stream within the Kilkenny.

The rain had tapered off by the point I reached the Mill Brook Path Junction and my pants had been dry by the point I’d hiked down Mill Brook to York Pond Rd and the Fish Hatchery. From there, it was about an hour street stroll again to the Unknown Pond Path. This was considerably longer than I’d anticipated however then once more I hadn’t actually deliberate it out in nice element. That stated, this was nonetheless a pleasant loop hike and apply bushwhack for what needs to be an attention-grabbing summer season of off-trail mountaineering.

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