Andrew has had his eye on exploring Nash Stream State Forest for years. He does get to explore a little via the snowmobile trails when he’s out grooming for the Groveton Club, but that happens in the comfort of a warm vehicle. And he’s hiked the Percy Peaks, but never explored the most southeastern part of the Forest, although together we have visited Pond Brook Falls. Last weekend, we decided to do a little hike to check out the Notch between Bald Mountain and Long Mountain in Stark, NH. Lindsay was feeling a little under the weather, but the fresh air would certainly change that. We drove to Stark and parked at Christine Lake (pronounced by local old-timers as “Chris-Tine”, as in rhyming with pine).
This time of year Christine Lake is a hub of activity. Bobhouses dotted the frozen lake, snowmobiles raced down the long lake, and dogs barked enthusiastically at all the excitement. We did a little research before heading out and learned that the land around the lake was owned by the Percy Summer Club (but may now be owned privately by individuals) with a conservation easement on most of the land held by the Society for the Protection of NH Forests (SPNHF), as well as a fee owned parcel. We also found a nice map on the SPNHF website showing the hiking trails that was useful. SPNHF calls the area Kauffman Forest.
We walked up the gated Percy Summer Club Road a short distance and veered right onto the Old Summer Club Trail where we followed bobcat tracks to a junction with a snowmobile trail. We put our snowshoes on and continued up the snowmobile trail away from the lake (still considered the Old Summer Club Trail), waving at the numerous snowmobilers passing us, and again continued straight at the next junction. Lindsay wondered if the snowmobilers thought we were crazy to be using our two legs? Shortly we came to an obvious hiking trail that continued straight while the snowmobile trail turned left. This trail is called Rowell’s Link although SPNHF calls the it the Lamphere Trail. In no time, the exhaust and noise faded away and left us hiking up hill through an open hardwood forest. Lots of beech, sugar maple, birch, and ash covered the boulder strewn slope. A few beech trees showed black bear claw marks.
The Rowell’s Link continued uphill at a nice easy grade eventually passing a lonely fireplace and chimney indicating that there was once much more human activity in the area. The forest began to change to more softwoods and eventually the trail joined up with Rowell Brook. At this point, we noticed a cabin on the other side of the brook. Lindsay saw recent tracks crossing the brook toward the cabin and Andrew noted a new looking tarp hanging near the entrance, as well as piles of freshly shoveled snow and stacked firewood. Hmmmm….we wondered….didn’t we just cross over into State Forest land? Why would there be a cabin? When we got home from our hike, Andrew called the local the Regional Forester, a friend of ours, to understand the story. Turns out that before the State owned the land, squatters had built the cabin (albeit illegally), but somehow they now had “squatters rights” to remain on the land. We still need to do some more digging on the rights of someone illegally squatting on someones land, since it didn’t quite make sense to us why they would be allowed to stay if they were illegal to begin with, but that’s the story.
When you hike past the cabin, be sure to take the left fork to stay on the trail closer to Rowell Brook. The trail continues uphill with Rowell Brook on your left and Bald Mountain growing taller on your right. The steep-walled ravine is rather impressive, and the boulders with cascades deserve a return off trail exploration.
We soon came to the Cohos Trail junction where there is an opening in the forest. We followed the moose tracks right (east) into the notch behind Bald Mountain. The snow was deep here and we were glad we had our snowshoes. We recognized marten tracks criss-crossing the trail along with snowshoe hare and squirrel. Bald Mountain is much more impressive than we thought. The backside had steep overhanging cliffs and we longed to hike to the summit. But we will save that adventure for the spring or summer months. As we continued on and Bald Mountain started to be at our backs, we stopped for a short break at a crystal clear brook and then turned around.
When we found ourselves back at the three-way junction we decided to take the Cohos Trail instead of taking the Rowell’s Link back down to Christine Lake. The Cohos Trail crosses Rowell Brook and wanders easily through the forest back to a snowmobile trail (still on the Cohos Trail) and eventually to the Old Summer Club Trail which is snowmobile primary trail 117. We want to come back sometime to hike up Victor Head. After a long walk down the snowmobile trail we made our way back to Christine Lake just as the last jeep was pulling off the frozen lake for the day.
On the way out, we stopped to look at the waterfall that crosses under the road.
We ended up traveling 6.2 miles. Here’s a map of our track: