Outdoor adventures: Linger at Sandwich’s Flat Mountain Pond

  • The wilderness surrounds Flat Mountain Pond. The backcountry pond is found along the Flat Mountain Pond Trail in Sandwich. Courtesy of Marty Basch

For the Monitor
Published: 10/7/2018 9:03:07 PM

It’s about a 5-mile hike to the flat rock on the southwest edge of the wilderness pond, a bit of a long way to go for a breakfast nosh. But during that bite on a weekend mid-morning I was absolutely alone.

On that solitary Saturday stopover, I counted 16 backpackers – a group of 10 college students, a family with two young children and two men with one poodle – returning from a peaceful night at the 30-acre pond’s shelter and tent spaces at some 2,320 feet in elevation.

No doubt it was a splendid night. But it was also a splendid morning. While chowing down on a second PB&J on that rock, fish jumped in Flat Mountain Pond, set in a saddle between its two namesake peaks. In the distance, Sandwich Range members like the Sleepers, Whiteface and Tripyramid rose proudly under blue skies.

The benign Flat Mountain Pond Trail is the gateway to the pond bearing its name. The trail is a 10-plus-mile-long horseshoe between a couple of trailheads on the fringes of the Sandwich Range Wilderness. The Whiteface-Intervale Road trailhead is east while the Bennett Street trailhead is west. For those making an overnight to the shelter carrying their possessions on their backs, it’s a straightforward march from either end to the pond.

But for day-trippers, it’s a glorious diversion to start in the west, and throw in the Bennett Street Trail and Gleason Trail for something of a 10-mile circuit with sweet portions along rushing waters with cascades and pools.

The Bennett Street Trailhead with its half-mile dirt ending is reached off the meandering Route 113A in Sandwich. The initially wide dirt road passes through the Swift River Tree Farm by Jose’s Bridge and then turns onto the Bennett Street Trail maintained by the Wonalancet Out Door Club before eventually leading into the national forest. The trail, which has some bite and offers fine sweeping views down over Pond Brook, winds by pleasant hemlock groves and along the rocky and rushing brook. The falls are a one-two punch. The first is about an 8-foot-long horsetail plunging into a deep pool. Hike another third of a mile up to Great Falls with its 12-foot cascade.

The trail joins the gentle Flat Mountain Pond Trail with its myriad of stream crossings. The pathway follows the grade of the old Beebe River Railroad. The 22-mile main line logging operation with some 12 camps along the way began construction in 1917 and ceased functioning in 1942. Reminders of it are frequent with wooden track timbers, rails and spikes found along the way. The trail passes by a curved meadow with a beaver dam that once held a camp. Hiking along playful birches, the trail soon reached a T-junction with a sign pointing to the shelter.

The White Mountain National Forest shelter, which sleeps 6 to 8, sits near the southwest shores of the pond. South Pyramid rises up in the distance above the trees. The Adirondack-style shelter has been there for more than a half century, built in 1964. It’s a type of shelter with horizontal logs saddle-notched at all four corners with a partially enclosed front and salt box style roof with a slight frontal overhang, according to a 2016 U.S. Forest Service document on Historic Hiking Shelters. An overflow tent site contains room for a handful of tents. A composting toilet is nearby, too.

By water’s edge, a decrepit small wooden dam sits in disrepair but serves as a vantage point for distant views.

That inviting rock by the tent site wasn’t that far away, and there that PB&J was much appreciated in the silence. But many side trails needed exploring and they led to soothing vantage points of the backcountry pond.

The return along the kind Flat Mountain Pond Trail was easy on the knees, only three backpackers past heading up to the pond. The half-mile-long Gleason Trail descended quickly though to a brook with lots of rock shelves. It flattened out near its bottom and rejoined the lower portion of the blue-blazed Bennett Street Trail for another bird’s-eye of Pond Brook before leveling off again for tail end of a fine hike to one heck of a place for what’s got to be one of the best spots in Sandwich for a shoreline peanut butter and jelly sandwich.




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