Outdoor Adventures: Much is found at Lost Pond
Save for the dabbling blue-winged teal leaving a small wake behind it, I had the small pond with mighty views to myself.
It was early on a recent Sunday and from the well-used trailhead at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in the popular mountain pass, many were preparing for an ascent of Mount Washington.
Not me. I chose to sleepily cross Route 16 en route to a pond that might seem lost, but is readily found in about a half mile – Lost Pond.
Peak-season hiking is upon us and seeking and reaching a peak is a fine thing to do. I certainly have many peaks on my radar this summer, but in the spirt of this National Trails Day weekend, I took the short hike to Lost Pond as a reminder that summits aren’t the only crowns in this game of rambling. There are ponds, lakes, ledges, caves, waterfalls, unusual geological formations, flora, fauna, folklore, history and so much more found along a hiking trail.
Certainly a simple undertaking, the trek to the four-acre pond in the shadows of Huntington Ravine and Mount Washington also prompted me back to the days of being a new and clueless hiker, unfamiliar with the ubiquitous blazes, bridges and bogs found while trekking these northern New England pathways.
The Lost Pond Trail, also part of the Appalachian Trail, is a favorable gateway for the uninitiated, as in the early steps one leaves pavement for worn planks, a skewed wooden bridge with one hand rail and some views of both water and mountains.
Then in a few more steps, the hiker may momentarily wonder if the trail goes right or left – eventually a sign is found to the right – and in just a few more steps enters the world of rocks, roots and mud.
That’s a fairly eventful first few hundred yards.
The path follows the Ellis River, a lovely roughly 17-mile long tributary of the Saco River on Mount Washington’s east side, flowing down alongside Route 16 into Jackson and Glen. The river itself is a pleasant and tranquil companion, no doubt a summer spot for sun and cooling off those tired booted dogs on that hot day in August.
The river leads to Lost Pond, but also is the water taking the spotlight during the 60-foot plunge of Glen Ellis Falls a really short drive away. The falls are another benign spot for those poking about Pinkham Notch, including wondrous Square Ledge (if Lost Pond Trail hikers turn left after the bridge), Crystal Cascade (a short trek up the big boy Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Mount Washington, leaving from the AMC parking lot), and Thompson Falls, a short way north on Route 16, accessible from the Wildcat ski area parking lot.
Often there is so much to see in these little hiking pods across the region that we return again and again, or often bypass the obvious only to see it later on.
Along the trail to Lost Pond over time there are the little plants to see, like trillium, perhaps a rare pink lady’s slipper or goldenrod.
Squirrels, chipmunks and birds share the precious real estate as may the oft-nocturnal beavers. If beaver work be about, there must be moose, as they, too, like those watery, boggy areas. Deer? Who knows.
Though many of the rocks by the path fell due to a long-ago avalanche, many were moved by man and woman, hearty dedicated youths who get paid (or volunteer) to gallivant around the woods in summer carrying medieval-looking tools designed for trail work like clearing and cutting brush, maintaining drainage culverts, building rock steps, constructing and installing bridges and generally doing what needs to be done to ensure passage on the myriad routes through the mountains.
Corralled by hiking clubs and organizations like the AMC, U.S. Forest Service, Green Mountain Club and Randolph Mountain Club, these trail warriors are literal rock stars. Give ’em a thank you if you see them on the trail.
Great rocks dot the shore of the pond. They, like portions of the shore, are vantage points to reflect upon the mighty sights. The Gulf of Slides, Boott Spur and Lion’s Head are all visible. Some antennae from the Mount Washington summit stick out and there’s also Huntington Ravine.
Some snow lingered.
While peering up, it was a perfect place to ponder and plan hiking the next peak.
(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)