Blueberry Mountain & Shell Pond Loop | 8/12/22
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
At long last, I was returning to Cold River Camp. In my brief but very impactful time on croo, I had the opportunity to meet ten incredible people that I knew would remain in my life regardless of where our summer jobs took us. So, in my desperate pursuit to see the group all together one more time before we all went back to school, I drove six hours and planned a couple of hours of solo hiking so that I could see them all on the afternoon off-shift.
It had been a long time since I’d alpine started by myself and my goodness it was hard. It was even harder to drive through the lakes region. Ugh, that drive is the worst. Did I mention I can’t stand driving through the lakes region? Anyways, despite my breakfast quesadilla getting me through the highway portion, no about of caffeine seemed to aid my headache and brain fog that came with the three-hour drive to North Chatham.
When I finally did enter the familiar territory, I found myself driving into Evan’s Notch. Despite the Baldfaces being as gorgeous as ever, all I could bring my eyes to was the spot in the trees just slightly North East of Mount Meader where my summer got rocked. The damn evil leaf-slipping-ankle-spraining pile of shit. But, despite this, I was still cruising around in my brace and forcing my ankle to get stronger by continuing to cross water and step all over roots.
After passing Camp and parking at the Stonehouse Property trailhead, I got going up the White Cairn Trail which was surprisingly legit towards the top. The trail started very wide and gradual, including a comical “no diving” sign by a stream, and then picked up with open rock faces that encompassed rotting granite, loose dirt, and a lack of good hand holds. It wasn’t ridiculously hard and certainly wasn’t dangerous, it was more that it caught me off guard. I got past that section happy I’d chosen it for my uphill rather than my descent.
Once I got up to the ridge, I was reminded of my experience hiking Blueberry & Speckled with Ryan earlier in the summer and made sure to go back and walk over the couple feet of the trail I didn’t complete the first time as we skipped straight to the view loop before. The summit itself was exactly how I remembered it, but this time I took extra time to look at Shell Pond to try and gauge how long walking around it would take me once I got back down to the road. Fortunately, the way down Blueberry was significantly easier than the way up and afforded me a better understanding of how my croo mates managed to this be their 24th out of 28 miles when they did their Skyline Loops throughout the summer. Shoutout to Patrick, Emma, Meredith, and Adam for all completing this beastly 28-mile objective.
Before I reached Shell Pond Road, I stopped at Rattlesnake Pool and the gorge just below it and wish I’d afforded myself time to go swimming. It was just stunning.
When I got back down to the road, I started walking down the airstrip to bypass the gorgeous private property. The view of Shell Pond Crag from just above the homes was equally breathtaking.
After the grass started to turn into a stream, there were plenty of frogs and mud as I made my way to the junction of the Shell Pond Loop trail. I was thankful it hadn’t rained super recently because I can’t imagine this section before the trail starts would have been too fun.
When the real trail started, it was a wonderfully maintained and wide trail that sees a lot of machine traffic in the wintertime. The pond was phenomenal and I’d love to come moose watching at dawn or dusk here sometime. But, I was sure to not touch the water as I took strong caution to the sign that warned about leeches. Then again, I guess that can happen anywhere- especially if you’re my friend Julia who once had a leech stuck on her from our college laundry machines.
The loop went by quickly, but the ending did require some face in the GPS action just to make sure I exited on the trail rather than across the grassy field. With my hikes done, it was finally time to see my croo!
Truthfully, the girls and I did try to hike. But by the time we stopped chatting and started walking we only had time to hit half of the Deer Hills Bypass before they had to go back to work. I really did miss their little corner of the world. Evan’s Notch is easily one of New Hampshire’s most hidden gems. And it’ll always make the insanely long day trip drive worth it.