Sunday, August 7, 2011

#70 Mt. Nancy via Nancy Pond and Herdpath August 6, 2011

NEHH #70 Mt. Nancy (3,926) via Nancy Pond Trail and Herdpath, August 6, 2011.

Mileage:  9.8 miles (RT)
Elevation gain: 3,000ish'
Trailhead: The Nancy Pond Trailhead is at Harts Location, a few miles from Attitash/Bear Peak ski area, on the west side of US Rt. 302. It's approximately 2.8 miles north of Sawyer Rock Picnic Area (past Bartlett Village if you are coming from North Conway). There is space for a few cars.
Lessons learned:  1. Promises of a cascade and two pretty ponds do not necessarily mean the hike will be an easy trek into the woods (particularly on a humid day). 2. Always (ALWAYS) better to take what you think may be too much drinking water.

Rich and I decided that since rain was predicted for Sunday, we should do a hike on Saturday, particularly when our Maine hiking weekend was fast approaching and we had to stay in shape. Since I am working on my New England Hundred Highest list (among others), I figured I would start there to see what might be an attractive Saturday hike.

The New England Hundred Highest list is quite simply the 100 highest peaks in New England. Last weekend's hike was Cannonball's Northeast peak, which ranked 100.  After looking at the options for this weekend, we chose Mt. Nancy, which ranks 74th at 3926' (poor Nancy did not quite qualify as a 4000 footer but you would never know this given her terrain and steepness). 

The warmth and humidity of the day had both of us sucking wind and sweating bullets right from the start. I think I may have been soaked with sweat by the time I locked my car doors at the trailhead!

We arrived late, about 9:30, to find the trailhead parking full so we parked on Route 302.  The trail starts off wide and gradual with a few water crossings that weren't a problem but I suspect could be in high water.  After a few miles the trail steepens, with more of a typical Whites trail terrain. At 2.4 miles we arrived at Nancy Cascades and the cool breeze of the waterfall was refreshing. 

Bugs bothered us on this hike, more than on other recent hikes but we wound up with very few bites.

The trail steepened but overall was very dry, even the rooty parts.  I had heard that the Nancy trail had been plagued with blowdowns and although every inch of the trail was clear, the peripheral areas were riddled with downed trees the likes I had never seen. 

We continued on past the top of the cascades and I figured we would see Nancy Pond soon but it was another 3/4 of a mile over moderate and flat terrain that we finally spotted the pond, a serene spot quite isolated. 

Quite a few bog bridges later, we came to Norcross Pond, a larger pond with a beautiful view.

Norcross Pond view of the Pemi Wilderness.

We hiked to the far end of this pond (passing a few swimmers) to access the summit trail. When we reached the far end of the pond, we decided to stop at the rock dam and have lunch. It was 12:20 and we knew we had an adventure ahead of us.  The rocks provided a nice surface on which to spread out; check out the view!

Rich at the Norcross Pond rock dam.

Part of the fun for me is researching a hike and since there is no official trail to the summit of Mt. Nancy, we read up on the "unmaintained trail" to the summit, particularly how to find it. At the far end of Norcross Pond there is a small "no camping" sign on a tree just before the rock dam.  The entrance to the summit trail is to your hard right.  Past the entrance is a clearing with remnants of a fire pit.  As you pass the fire pit, go to the left of the fork. You will be tempted to go right as it looks like a nicer path.  As you head up this left path, you will see a sign on your left that indicates you are on an unmaintained trail. 

The trail was webby in spots but easy to follow.  Soon it turned to the right and followed up a small slide.  The trail was quite steep in spots but trees and roots provided security on the way up.  We were huffing and puffing.  About .7 mile from the beginning of the unmaintained trail we reached the summit, which provided a wonderful view of the Whites, particularly Mt. Washington. 

View from Mt.Nancy.  Mt. Washington is in the clouds (left).

The summit is a perfect place to relax and take in the view.  But like so many others who post their trip reports, I spent my time looking hard for that famous bright yellow/orange summit canister without success. I traveled down every possible path in the summit area and bushwhacked to my left to a clearing thinking that may have been the true height of land.   Because there were so many trees downed in the woods, I started looking under them to see if the canister was attached to a fallen tree. I scoured the area for anything bright yellow and wound up trekking into the woods for a closer look at several bright yellow mushrooms! 

We started our descent, disappointed in our continued status as "canister virgins."  The hike down required less heavy breathing but more caution as the organic litter, gravel and slide rocks made for slippery footing, even on this dry day.  With 4 miles left to go, we stopped again at Norcross Pond to sit and splash in the water.  The heat and effort drained our energy and a lot of our drinking water (we brought extra water and Gatorade).   We stopped again at the cascade for another refreshing splash and made it to the car by 5.