Pond of Safety via Four Soldiers & Underhill Path | 8/17/23
Don’t fear folks- after Monday’s overly-typical hike, Liz and I got back to our regularly scheduled programming of “Is this the trail” & “My shoes are already soaked” with a trip to the Pond of Safety, in Randolph, NH.
The history behind this remote spot is adventure worthy in itself. During the Revolutionary War, 4 men were captured by the British and "paroled on the condition that they not participate in further conflict" (p.549, WMG). By result, the men were forced to make a home at the Pond of Safety, hunting and fishing for survival until they were exonerated of their wrongful desertion charges after the war. For more information, see section 12 (Northern NH) of the White Mountain Guide!
We left town at a modest hour and were still first to the Mount Crescent trailhead at about 9 am. Though neither of the ways one would access Four Solider’s Path starts from here, it is the least neighborhood-invasive parking area and it appeared we’d have an easy walk across Jimtown Logging Road to Four Soliders Path. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Don’t mess around with Jimtown Logging Road. The grass, moisture, and spiderwebs were uninviting to our disturbance, and towards the intersection with Four Soldiers, the raspberry bushes got worse and worse- my unusual and preexisting fatigue leading me further and further frustrated. Ultimately, we ended up bushwhacking around the leg-destroying parts of the trail, I was feeling burnt out before we even started the hike.
Once we were atop the yellow-blazed Four Solider’s Path, we had a much easier going. Early in the trail, we passed a gorgeous birch glade, soon followed by the completely viewless “Eye of the Needle,” a spot at the height of land that once provided a view of Washington through Edmands Col, according to the White Mountain Guide. Soon, we crossed a logging swath that was massively overgrown, plentiful in scat, and pretty hard to follow. We admittedly had our noses in our GPS apps through here.
Past the logged-out and grassy area, we went through a nice patch of open woods behind some massive moose prints. I noted some blue markings on the trees, presumably property divisions, and wondered how the hell and also why land is divided out there- and so randomly. If anyone happens to know, please enlighten me!
Soon, the most even part of the trail ceased as we crossed Hunter’s Pass, a grown-in but snowmobile-accessible looking “road.” Past Hunter’s Pass, we crossed into the most chaotic, but easily my favorite part of the trail. This 0.5-mile section offers crumbling and slippery bog bridges, stunning open forests, lush emerald-green moss, and the biggest bear scat I’ve ever seen. In full seriousness, this section was incredibly unique and highly reminiscent of the 4th Connecticut Lake and Falls in The River trails up by the Canadian border. I enjoyed this stretch.
After we popped out onto Pond of Safety Road, again a “road,” we swung left and worked towards the Pond of Safety. This road had been recently driven, and two different sets of treads were visible in the ground. We didn’t walk past Pond of Safety, but the road suggested good driving conditions up until that point- practical as there is a boat launch at Pond of Safety.
At Pond of Safety, we walked down the short, meandering gravel path down to the water. There were hundreds of teeny frogs preventing us from sitting at the edge of the water, so we opted for the small stone bench adjacent to the shore. Liz & I stayed for some time, hoping to catch a feasting moose, but were unlucky- even though some were undoubtedly within a hundred feet of us at this remote location.
Backtracking through the exciting part of the trail, we popped back out to Hunter’s Pass Spur and then kept left to grab Underhill Path. From the pass, we had to gain 700 feet to the Crescent Ridge, and while the humidity didn’t make this easy, the approach was shockingly quick and gradual. These bog bridges were in various states of unwell but did the job and were all passable with very small steps.
Near the height of the trail, the overgrown ferns and various greenery were slightly obstructing, but the markings were constant enough to ease us forward. At the ridge, we grabbed Carlton Notch Trail for a descent, whose ease, sharp orange markings, and sudden breeze were the most delightful feeling in the world. Completely different from this morning in mood… which I later discovered was because my severely gluten-free self was unknowingly glutenized the night prior. While unpleasant, it was a relief to hear I wasn’t being a downer for nothing in the early hours.
Several hundred tiny frogs