There is a great deal to report this month, following the end of the summer work season and after a trip to the northern-most communities in the state where the CT rambles. The fruits of some of our labor may now be seen on the website. We have posted nearly a score of new photos, sprinkled throughout the site. About half of the pages sport new photos.

On the home page we have posted two views of the Panorama lean-to high on the long north ridge of Mt. Sanguinary. And under Trouble Spots there is a large image of the view from Panorama, taken just at sunrise. Ground fog hugs the Connecticut River Valley, while the earliest rays of the sun blaze red on Abeniki Mt. and the Mt. Keysar ridgeline. Beautiful. Good to be alive.

For the first time, we have posted a concept map for the proposed, vast High Country Trail extension of the CT. See it by clicking on the index line that states High Country Trail on the right side of the home page images.

So here we go...two new lean-tos under our belt, five miles of brand spanking new trail open, and some sweet-as-candy things on the horizon.

Bob MacGregor and Dave Falkenham of NH Forests & Lands went out in Nash Stream Forest with us to have a look at the two proposed camp site locations, one on the northeast flank of North Percy Peak and the other on the slope of Sugarloaf Arm, just above the only good water source along that trail. Bob and Dave said they thought both locations were quite suitable for camp sites and that they may give the nod to both.

It appears that the State may lean toward two tent platforms and a moldering latrine at each location, plus a small sign board for posting notices.

The trails in the Nash Stream Forest, from just south of Gadwah to Percy Road, really are in tip-top shape. Signage and blazing is now very good and the trails are clear of debris. Weedwhacking with the new machine certainly has helped make these trails very easy to move over. Two new junction signs will be going in in the fall to take care of the last of the problems people have had in seeing the blazing at the junctions.

A fifth of a mile north of Owls Head trailhead, and thanks to the generousity of Richard and Erin Charpentier, we should have a “no-facilities” camping spot for folks moving along the trail. The site is a small field under the terrific summit spike of Owls Head. It will be accessed by the Cherry Pond Link of the CT. Watch for signs next year.

TCTA’s new trail crew will begin work under the auspices of North Country Americorps the first week of October and work until mid-August next year. The two Groveton High School seniors are Chad Pepau and Joel Cote, both from the town of Stark, NH. They have worked on the Cohos Trail as volunteers. Chad has put in considerable time on the trail over the past five years, and he is also a member of the WMRHS Outdoor Adventure program.

For the first eight months, the crew will work 15 hours each week on the ground and from snowmobiles in the winter. In the summer, they will work 40 hours or more each week. During the winter, they will be able to work in a home shop where there are woodworking tools and metal welders. They will be fashioning signs, information kiosks, pre-fab latrines and pre-fab tent platforms for installation in 2003.

Americorps is, in essence, the U.S.-based equivalent of The Peace Corps. North Country Americorps, based in Gorham, NH, is the branch that oversees Americorps employees working in northern New Hampshire. Thanks to Joe and Jon for bringing Chad and Joel into the fold. They have made it possible for us to have a trail crew working year ‘round. Imagine that!

The new crew, Chad and Joel have a list of 110 small place name signs to cut and finish over the winter. The place name signs would coincide with the names on the maps and would make it easier for people to recognize where they are along the trail system.

Other signs are necessary, too, such as “Do Not Block Gate” or Do Not Block Drive”, that sort of thing. As the sentence states, please always remember to park a car away from gates and traveled ways, including what may look like an abandoned road or woods road.

Railroad crossing work will begin in the Cherry Pond area soon. Plans call for two heavy plank crossings for foot traffic and a barrier fence to keep people off the tracks at all times. Our new trail crew could certainly assist there with the crossing work and the installation of the new barrier fence. Best to keep a railroad locomotive off your back. Yes.

What a difference a year makes. The summit of Dixville Peak has been cleaned of most of its trash and the fallen weather tower. The tower’s stablizer wires have been removed, too. The old steel grill is there still, filled with cans. But the ground in all directions seems to have been well picked over and all the cans and most of the broken glass has been removed. Someone or some group has made a real effort to improve the summit. Last year, it resembled a dump.

Steve Barba at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel told me that a power company is now taking wind velocity measurements along Mt. Gloriette ridge to see what the potential is for wind turbine power. He indicated that the power firm found that the ridge is in “the 99th percentile” in New England when it comes to available wind running at 9 knots or more daily.

I recently returned from a week in the far north. It was a very fruitful trip. My daughter and I hiked 11 miles from the new Panorama lean-to down to the Baldhead lean-to. We got a good look at the trail in between, its high points and low points. I would say the trail between the lean-tos is in fair-to-good shape. Where we cut the Sanguinary Summit Trail last year, new growth has come on very strong, and the trail needs to be reclipped, weedwhacked and several bog bridges built to replace the jury-rigged ones we put in hastily last year. The Kelsey Notch Trail is in better condition than I expected, except for the weeds, five new good-size blowdowns and some new blazes which washed out in the rain.

If we obtain permission to put in trails in the former International Paper Company property in Stewartstown, Clarksville and Pittsburg, we will run a trail in to the low summit of Mt. Covill. There is a modest-sized clearing on the top of Mt. Covill which has a dramatic view from the northeast through to the southeast. Within this 40-mile view, one can see most of the big Connecticut lakes and all the 3,000- to 3,600-footers from Mt. D’Urban on the border down to Mt. Pisgah and Crystal Mt. not far from Coleman State Park. These include Kent, Rump, Prospect, Diamond Ridge and Magalloway. Numerous peaks in Maine are also visible, including such remote ones as Marble and Saddle.

Our new trail proposal on the west side of Route 3 in Pittsburg takes in Big Brook Bog. It is a beautiful elevated-terrain bog situated in the Corkscrew Hills. It has a small spillway and only one camp not too close to its west shore. Hopefully, we will be able to build new trail from the spillway over the ridgeline and down into the Desmond Valley, then pass above the present logging operation and cut, and run up the little spike of Black Cat Spur and down to the Deer Mt. Campground.

Just to the east of the U.S. Customs Station on the border is a low peak that straddles the international boundary that the Canadians call Montagne des Lignes (Lignes Mt.). As one approaches the peak from below on Route 3, there is a substantial rock outcropping and cliff on the south flank. A very short trail to this ledge would give a hiker a view right down into Third Connecticut Lake with Deer Mt. above it and Second Connecticut Lake in the distance.

I had the good fortune to have a long meeting and luncheon with Steve Barba, Jeff McIver and Chris Morrison of The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel. We discussed a whole host of issues regarding the potential site for and the construction and operation of a modest four-sided 12-bunk shelter in the saddle between Mt. Gloriette and Dixville Peak.

They said they would get us some estimates of the number of guided guests that they could bring to the shelter in the summer, fall and even the winter months. Getting some numbers would make it possible for us to do an income/cost study to see if the shelter would be economically viable, that is, able to cover all costs of operation all the time and generate some extra funds to cover the cost of trail maintenance in the Dixville region.

We discussed the possibility of creating a reservation service, secruity, insurance, use patterns by CT hikers and Balsams guests, fire codes, cooking facilities, and more.

The new cuts on the Sanguinary Summit Trail between the new lean-to and last year’s cut--fashioned by North County Trailmaster--were first rate. The trail is wide and well trimmed down to ground level.

The volunteers on this new lean-to did what I would call an exceptional job, finishing this structure before running out of wood on the east wall. The new green steel roof is perfectly set on level purlins. The board and batten siding is impervious to rain and wind, and it is very pleasing to the eye. A small step was fashioned to make it easier to enter the building on its “high” side.

This lean-to is larger and a bit deeper than Baldhead. It could sleep eight people comfortably, 10 in a pinch. There are five entries in the log book. The flow pipe at the new spring 200 feet below was running in a fat jet.

Be sure to have a look at the website to see the photos of this new structure.

The log book at Baldhead lean-to has nearly a score of entries in it now. A small shelf was erected and a front step, too. The new latrine materials and siding are now stored right on or just below the trail at the base of the mountain. Hopefully we can get the materials to the summit this fall.

I had a good look at the way known as the Route 120 snowmobile trail which runs from the vicinity of the Weirs Tree Farm east and then south to a junction with the Route 5 snowmobile trail just east of Big Diamond Pond near Coleman State Park.

Traveling southbound, the route is at first a very old, tired dirt road (Covill Road) that continues to get narrower and narrower. It passes a few small camps, some with sweeping views of the mountains in Pittsburg and northwestern Maine. Soon the trail becomes a two-wheel tire track and finally these end at the corner of an old maple sugarhouse at the foot of a fine sugar orchard. The trail then becomes a very narrow, weedy woods lane that two or three ATV machines have run over during the course of the summer. It meanders through fine hardwoods most of the way south, the tree canopy overtopping the trail most of the way.

We hope this snowmobile trail will become part of the main trail, and eliminate the lowland walking along the Heath Road, Bear Rock Road, MacAlester Road and much of the high-land Covill Road.

One of the most pressing improvements we hope to have in place for 2003 is the closing of the one-mile gap in the trail at the top of Ben Young Hill. We hope to have permission to move northeast off the height of land near where the trail ends now and slip over a small elevation and reach a long lost skidder trail which overlooks Murphy Dam and the western waters of Lake Francis. This view, 600 vertical feet above the lake, is worth every effort to put a trail in at this location.

We have the opportunity (or burden) of taking on the maintenance of the old Percy Peaks Trail to North Percy Peak. This trail is in need of major maintenance and perhaps several reroutes around existing trouble spots and one dangerous ledge.

Volunteers on the CT put in 960 hours of work this past year. At the $7.39 rate that the State values such work, TCTA received work valued at over $7,090. We had a North Country Trailmaster crew in too -- 12 students for nearly a week -- which added another 380 hours to the mix. Top that off with our trail foreman’s work, and we set big records for service and sweat on the CT up and down the system.

And for the first time, TCTA’s budget ran to double (internally raised) figures...and we ended the year in the black. It was all made possible by folks like you who contributed funds ranging from $5.00 to $3,000. And that doesn’t begin to indicate the value of the donated materials. Thank you. Thank you ever so much.

We are a young organization, just five years out of the gate. But with the help of hundreds of men and women and boys and girls like you -- from 12 years of age to 81 years -- we have accomplished some lofty things. Although we are still a tiny fish in the pool of national hiking organizations, we can truly say get things done!

There is much more to do and some truly exciting things to do. Come along for the ride.

I had the pleasure of many moose encounters, one deer sighting, and several beaver sightings. I made friends with a fox who, apparently, is use to human presence at Second Connecticut Lake. She came to within 50 feet of me on several days and watched to see if I had handouts or was gutting fish. I was fortunate to have a loon do a pronounced warning display for a 60 seconds. She was within 30 feet when she surfaced, as my daughter and I sat on a lonely rock outcropping on the far western shore of Third Connecticut Lake. She was warning her fully fledged chick of my whereabouts.

Above Dixville Peak, a bald eagle circled, moving very slowly eastward. On Boundary Pond, an osprey wheeled about effortless for most of the time I was at the remote lake under Mt. D’Urban. Beaver patrolled the waters and occasionally slapped their tails.

Gray jays were plentiful, grouse and black duck, too. On Route 16 at the Errol-Dummer town line, a big bull moose raced across the road at night in front of my truck, giving me a hell of a fright as I locked up the wheels to avoid it.

And, finally, the rut must be just underway. Standing on the west shore of Second Connecticut Lake at 9 pm, I could hear a moose calling repeatedly, intermingled with loon calls, from the forests beyond the eastern shore of the lake.

Come on now. Come up and have a look around. See you on the trail.


Kim Robert Nilsen
The Cohos Trail Association