Last weekend we had a pile of firewood that needed splitting and stacking, but we just had to get out on the trail. Luckily, we live just a short 5 minute walk to the Paul Dougherty Memorial Town Forest. Our goal was to visit Peboamauk Fall which is at the lower end of Ice Gulch. Most people hike there starting from trailheads at Randolph Hill, but there is a quicker trail from the Gorham side. To get there drive up Jimtown Road and turn right at the end of the road to a small parking lot on the left, before the gate to Ice Gulch reservoir. You can take the trail from the parking lot or you can walk up past the gate to the trail on the left (over the dirt berm). Click here for NH Forests and Lands webpage on Ice Gulch.
This trail, now only enjoyed by locals, was originally an old AMC trail for crossing over Hunter’s Pass to the Bog Dam Loop Road. Some old maps named this trail the Bog Dam Trail. Even though the trail is not a popular hiking trail, the local mountain bikers maintain the lower section for other loops in the Town Forest. The trail leads you through a hardwood dominated forest above Moose Brook the entire way. The leaves had all fallen and we could see far into the woods. We even scared up a couple of ruffed grouse. Andrew said that we could be at Peboamauk in 45 minutes if we were “diligent”, so we traveled swiftly with few stops and within 30 minutes we were at the “marked birch” trail junction. This four way intersection is only marked in two directions. The trail sign indicates west for the base of Ice Gulch, south to Randolph Hill, but we came up from the east (which does not have a sign). The trail to the north (which is also unmarked) drops you into the floor of Peboamauk, at the foot of the waterfall.
Immediately upon taking the north trail, the forest changes to softwood dominated. At the base of the trail is Peboamauk Fall, which is littered with fallen balsam, spruce, and hemlock tree trunks and branches. Recently the steep wooded bank adjacent to the Falls slid down. The water flowed over the falls endlessly and we explored “Winter’s Home” which is a steep walled little canyon.
We continued on the Peboamauk Loop Trail up out of Winter’s Home, toward Fairy Spring. This trail is very intimate with the Brook, magical with thick softwoods and moss, forcing you to cross the Brook numerous times. The air temperature started to become cooler, but every once in a while a warm breeze would pass over us.
Soon we reached the trail junction with the Ice Gulch Path. This section is also known as “out direct”. Andrew wanted to see Fairy Spring and the base of Ice Gulch so we went up the Ice Gulch Path. Fairy Spring is the beginning of Moose Brook and the terminus of water flowing under Ice Gulch. A spectacular waterfall from the north side of the Gulch carries a higher volume of surface waters to join Moose Brook. We make a mental note to explore the origins of this waterfall on another adventure.
We stopped at the base of Ice Gulch, awe inspired by the talus slope and rocky trail. We could hear the water rushing under our feet, flowing down through a never seen stream. We usually hike the entire Ice Gulch trail once or twice a year, but we had firewood to deal with back at home and this would be our final destination for the day.