Cohos Trail Recce

Just the photos - Summer 2016

The Cohos trail has been on my radar ever since it was mentioned to me by Sir Speedy. It represents the work of countless volunteers and a few outdoor heroes who had a vision for a trail to take some of the burden off the white mountains. They have truly done an epic job, headed up by a fellow who has nearly put 20 years into his vision of the trail. An inspiring way to leave a legacy for generations to come.

The effort is in the coordination of land use, the maintenance of the trails and the work done to organize maps. As the trail grows in popularity through the years I can definitely see the already fair infrastructure around the route growing to accommodate thru-hikers. The founder of the trail outlines bed and breakfasts and general stores that are easily accessible, and are very happy to welcome people passing through.

For the trip I carried their old set of maps and a databook which detailed in < .5 mile increments the intersections, water sources and trail features along the way. Navigation of the sections I was on was remarkably straightforward. Though the facilities existed for refuel points along the way I opted to travel in unsupported fashion, taking my entire cache of food from the start. Water is seasonally plentiful and frequent when carrying some manner of purification.

Stretching 170 miles from Crawford Notch to the Canadian border the trail takes hikers on a tour of remote and beautiful settings in New Hampshire that don’t ostensibly involve the Presidentials. It does climb into them for a spot but from then on you get to trapeze through lesser known mountains and trails with commanding views of the rugged northern wilderness.

Starting in Crawford Notch on the chosen weekend presented some difficulties. I was leaving a very narrow window of time for me to start the clock and reasonably be able to complete the whole thing before I’d have to report back to work. Heading up to the Dry River area Thursday night I already knew the forecast was particularly mountain-esque shenanigans. Without chronological wiggle room I had to make the decision to face the below freezing snow and ice with my current setup or have a modified trip.

Thursday night was spent in a lean-to at the Dry River Campground. A great stay but a little rough sleeping giving the constant howling of wind against the stone peaks. As it eroded the rock faces, it also eroded my desire to trudge out into it.

In the end the modified trip presented the safer option. Later in my journey I would lose steam knowing that if I completed 100+ miles of the trail it was doubtful I’d come back for a full traverse again. As dawn set in I decided I would start a little down the road at the Mt. Cherry section, cutting out 25 or so miles.

It was a relief to get moving to fend off the wet and cold morning, I was wearing all the gear I brought with me. Armored for the elements I began climbing what looked like an ATV trail up the mountain. The knee high grass was dripping wet, and soon I was as well. Cold, wet, damp. Repeating themes of the weekend.

Not a knock against the trails or databook at all but there existed a humorous juxtaposition of the imperative notifications of not-to-be-missed vistas and reality of fogged in blankets framed by trees.

Copious, I mean, COPIOUS amounts of moose shit adorned the trail. The sounds of rain drops on the leaves made me think I was about to have an encounter with the shitters but alas droppings and prints were all I saw of the majestic New Hampshire moose.

Mt Cherry’s descent was traditional single track and dumps the user into what I think is an under appreciated biome, the marsh. With the presidential range and surrounding area being the big dollar tickets in NH I was treated to a view not often experienced. A south-easterly looking view of the range is presented against super flat marshland. A snowmobile trail ruthlessly cuts through the marshes and offers panoramic views of a variety of birds and peripheral mountains. Still socked in, the mountains took on the shape of giant mushrooms.

This is the trail. Did you spot the blaze?


The sections after the marshes linked together existing trails that didn’t look very often traversed at times. I toggled between wire covered log bridges and knee high grass whacking. At the end of this section was a road jaunt through the ancient Coos lake bed towards Jefferson. A stop in Jefferson to eat cheese and jerky on a bench caught me up on energy and I started the hike up Mt. Waumbek.

I had done the hike on Kilkenny Ridge before and knew it was a steady grunter, the ridge traverse itself being a fairly gnarly section. The gnarliest I think of the whole trip. It’s an uninterrupted ~25 miles without a road crossing or too many signs of civilization, and a scarcity of water in certain conditions. Halfway through the climb during a water fill and purification stop I picked up an uncomfortable chill that persisted till I had dipped to a better elevation towards the evening.

Also the trail.
The second quarterish of the Kilkenny Ridge has an absolutely stunning quantity of downed trees on the trail. So much so I’ve since been inspired to sign up as a volunteer to maintain part of the trail so that I could remove some of them before my next attempt. The random technicality of the terrain slowed my pace dramatically. It was around here I decided to cut the trip short, stopping when I reached an awaiting companion at Unknown Pond.

After bopping down a little dip on the ridge and up another climb you hit the second 4k footer on the traverse, Mt. Cabot. A creepy cabin sits atop the summit that captured another picturesque cloud interior. Aside from some navigation difficulties on the top I quickly descended into a much more pleasant world.

The clouds were clearing but not before I dropped out of them with declining altitude. The sudden shift nearly righted my plans but I reiterated to myself that continuing on to a partial traverse would sour my motivation to return. Silly how goals work.

Unknown Pond

A glorious sight awaited me at the “hike in only” quiet of the Unknown Pond. Golden light illuminated the shores and still waters.

Creeper presidentials. Adams Vertical Day happening over there somewhere.

South Pond

Despite a meal and a sound night of sleep I was soundly throttled the next morning. I dragged on the hike out. Movement with backpack seriously consumes calories. The weekend turned out fantastic though and I ended up capping it off with another traverse among friends along the Carter-Wildcat-Moriah thing. While trudging through wet grass and slippery rocks the earlier days I had dreamed of having less lofty goals that consisted of time in the woods with friends culminating in bubbly drinks.

A rigorous obsession to return consumes my idle thoughts. I’ve planned a pairing down of gear, counting ounces to hopefully get me under 20 pounds with everything I need. I look forward to calling the trail home again, for a longer stay this time.

Moves (Tracking time of 1 minute means wild inaccuracy) -

Popular Posts