We set out for another backpacking trip in the White Mountains for the July 4th three day weekend. This time we met up with Benoît and Leah for the first day.
Tyson picked the route this time. He wanted to explore the full loop he had considered for skiing. In the previous backpacking trip, we hiked half of the loop down Carrigain Notch trail and determined it wasn’t suitable for skiing. Tyson still wanted to explore the Nancy Pond Trail half of the loop. Benoît and Leah had Friday July 1st, Canada Day, off. They were coming down from Montreal. We had Monday the 4th off. So we came up with a hybrid plan.
We met at the Nancy Pond trail head on Rt 302 Saturday morning. We left our car there and drove their car to the Signal Ridge trail head on Sawyer River road. This gave them two options to hike out Sunday. They could either hike up and over Mt Carrigain or back the Carrigain Notch trail. Benoît’s tent was soaking wet from camping in a major thunderstorm Friday night. I lent them our old 2 person tent for the weekend hoping they would like it and keep it. We left the wet tent laid out in their car.
Off we hiked up the Signal Ridge trail. Leah hunted for mushrooms, hoping the evening’s storm had brought them out. We found few. The persistent drought was too much for one storm to overcome. From the sound of it, it was quite a storm. They said the rivers ran red last night from the tannin overflowing the high elevation bogs. We saw a few lady slippers at higher elevations. Down low they had gone to seed.
We pointed out all the sights we had identified last time. Isaac had fun with more adults to interact with. We didn’t find the bushwhack up to Vose Spur. It seemed like there were a lot fewer people out hiking than on Memorial Day. That time, a steady stream of people passed us on the Signal Ridge trail. This time, only a handful. Once we turned off onto the Carrigain Notch trail we saw no one, as expected.
We made good time and Tyson decided to push on to our wonderful campsite from last time, near the Desolation Trail junction. For us, it was the wrong way up the railroad grade from the Nancy Pond Trail junction. But it helped Benoît and Leah for their loop. Isaac dragged his feet the last mile up the railroad grade. We made it to the campsite early eavening and no one else had claimed it.
Benoît and Leah set up camp and relaxed by the fire ring and benches. They built a small campfire from some split cordwood left by a previous camper, and then they pulled out their red wine. Isaac played in the woods with his packable frisbee. So everyone had a good evening.
In the morning, we said goodbye to Benoît and Leah. Isaac was really bummed, so it took us a while to get going. The first part of the trail was easy hiking down a railroad grade. Farther on, the Nancy Pond trail turned up the hill onto what might have been a logging road. On that we steadily climbed 1,000′ up to Norcross Pond. Most of the trip was forested, some areas quite thickly. We caught a few glances back to Mt Carrigain and wondered how Benoît and Leah were doing. We stopped at all the stream crossings to splash in the water. It took us all day to hike the 4 miles up to Norcross Pond. Cresting the ridge at the pond, we broke out of the trees for a wonderful view down the cascades and across the Pemigewasset wilderness.
There was a couple camping at the end of the pond. We went looking for our own campsite. It turned out they had by far the best site. Continuing along Norcross pond, the shores were either steep, swampy, or thick with evergreens. At the west end of Nancy Pond, there was a slight hill with a small camp spot right on the trail. Then the trail descended into a bog. We found pitcher plants in bloom, but no good campsites. On the far eastern end of Nancy Pond, we found another larger campsite, but still near the trail. We opted for that campsite.
At the north end of Norcross Pond, there was easy access to water where the stream cascaded down rocks. Nancy Pond just spreads out into a wide bog. Previous campers had attempted to walk out in the wet sphagnum moss. I found a muddy spot with more grass and pumped there. The filter clogged up so fast that I had to scrub it after every liter. So, if you ever want to camp at Nancy Pond, either hike all the way to the west end of Norcross Pond or pump water from Nancy Brook on the hike up the hill.
Monday morning we headed out, down Nancy Pond trail. At first, the trail passed through lots of little boggy openings in the forest. There were good log bridges, so no issues with getting our feet wet. Once Nancy Brook grew large, we stopped to pump more water. The hillside next to the trail had been reinforced with a pile of large rocks after hurricane Irene washed it out.
Lower down, we stopped for lunch to enjoy the cascades. I tried to climb around the edge of the pool with my boots on, but it was too steep. So instead Isaac and I swam over to the cascades. Afterwards, we found bunches of salamanders hiding at the edge of the pool.
Much farther down, the trail passes a brick structure and a crumpled metal chimney. The structure looks newer than the 1900 railroad logging in the Pemigewasset area. According to the AMC guidebook, it was “Lucy Mill.” I can find little on the internet about it. The brick structure was a fire box for a boiler engine which pulled cables hauling logs down the hill — a stream donkey according to this post. The metal chimney has a screen to prevent sparks from escaping. This blog post says the Lucy family of Conway ran the mill to salvage lumber from the hurricane of 1938. The date seems reasonable given the construction style and the road rather than railroad going to the mill. I can find no other mention on the internet of a Lucy family in Conway. The hurricane of 1938 happened during World War II. Women took over much of the salvage logging during the war — see “They Sawed Up a Storm“. So I have to wonder if the mill was run by a lady named Lucy.
From there on out, the trail skirts civilization and isn’t that interesting. We reached the car mid afternoon.