Pondering the Three Ponds Trail – Is This an Improvement?

IMG_4570Coming upon it in the woods was quite a surprise.  The trail I had been following was dwindling now that I had reached the first of the three namesake ponds.  Although it started out as a wide, old logging trail, it was becoming narrower and more obscured by vegetation and wetlands and was increasingly hard to follow.  Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, appeared what looked like the first stages of a highway, with trees cut down, rocks overturned, and the ground bulldozed into a swath of cleared land about 20 feet wide.  Where had this come from and how did the heavy equipment get so far from from the nearest road?  And why?IMG_4593The picture above shows what was going on, although in a different location a few miles away.  On the left, the hiking trail with the trail signs.  On the right, the “improved” version.  As it turns out, the US Forest Service is building a new “dual use” trail to serve “both hikers and snowmobiles”.IMG_4592Here’s a new bridge for the road, er…trail.  Note the steel girders.

The largest of the 3 ponds

The largest of the 3 ponds

It turns out there was an existing snowmobile trail nearby that was being rehabilitated and that a new half-mile spur trail was being built so the improved trail could also connect to the shelter on the first pond.  I’m not entirely sure what bothered me so much about this.  This is a pretty obscure part of the White Mountain National Forest that is accessed from the equally remote Stinson Lake road.  The AMC trail guide even warns that parts of the trail are “lightly used, and may require care to follow” and “it is not recommended for inexperienced hikers.”  As a confirmation of the guidebook, the trail northwest of the first pond quickly became almost totally hidden by thick stands of moose maple.  So intellectually I suppose building a wider trail to increase access is a good thing.  It’s just that it seemed to have been done in such a brutal and rough-shod way…IMG_4579So I’ll reassure myself that it will be no different than all the other logging roads that criss-cross the forest; nature will soften and mellow it out over time.IMG_4585Here’s a campsite on the 2nd pond.  Maybe over time the whole trail will see more use.  For me, I returned on the Donkey Hill Cutoff and the Mt. Kineo Trail, making this a fairly short loop hike.IMG_4596Towards the end of the Mt. Kineo Trail was this beautiful waterfall on Brown Brook – the highlight of the day’s hike.  Happy travels!

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