Camping near Norcross Pond on the Mt Nancy Trail
January 12, 2007, 7:30 PM
As Bob and I were heading up Rt. 25 on our way to Crawford Notch, I thought back to my two previous hikes to Norcross Pond, via the Nancy Pond Trail; once with Matt and Meghan about 20 years ago and two years ago with Bob as one of our few non-winter hikes. This is one of my favorite trails because of the variety of the terrain and the views: the trails runs along the Nancy Brook for about two miles, where it then crosses the brook at the Nancy Brook Cascades; it then climbs very sharply to the top of the cascades; winds through beautiful alpine terrain, finally arising to the height of land where are nestled two mountain ponds, Nancy and Norcross. At the outlet to Norcorss pond, where the stream tumbles into Carrigain Notch, there is a spectacular view of the Pemi Wilderness.
We started from the trailhead in Crawford Notch at around 10:30 am and arrived at the campsite at the base of Mt. Nancy around 3:00. It was a slow leisurely hike. It’s amazing that no one else is camping, even though it’s a beautiful warm winter day. Bob arrived first at the site as usual, had set up the tent and was beginning to gather firewood. Bob loves camp fires, but knowing the difficulty in building a fire in winter I had a sense it would be a dubious task, but what the heck! After I had a chance to relax and get myself settled I began to help Bob. However, it dawned on me that it was only 3:00 and why not climb Mt. Nancy now instead of waiting for tomorrow. We certainly had enough time before dark. I suggested this to Bob and with no hesitation he said, great, lets go!
We pulled some food and water together in our smaller hip packs and off we went. We knew the trail, because of our earlier climb (Nov. 2004) of the mountain. Its described as a bushwhack, but is really an unmarked trail. Someone does a good job of keeping the trail brushed-out. It isn’t marked, but we had no trouble following the trail. It’s a better-maintained trail then many we have been on in Vermont and NH. The trail starts from a clearing at the outlet of Norcross Pond. It slabs along the west side of Nancy and reaches a slide. At the slide it makes a sharp right heading directly up the side of the mountain. From the slide there is a magnificent view of Carrigain, Vose Spur, the Bonds and Franconia Ridge.
We climbed steeply the next 30-40 minutes. There was little fresh snow, but hard packed snow, that had iced over, probably from recent rains. We wore snowshoes primarily for traction and thank God we did, because the trail is very steep in places and without them it would have been hard going. When we arrived at the Summit, there is a small man-made clearing, facing east toward Crawford Notch and the Presidentials. The clouds from earlier in the day were just clearing off the mountain and the sun was beginning to set in the west. This made for a spectacular view, and I was so glad we decided to climb today and not wait until tomorrow. We were also treated with the sighting of 2 Boreal Chickadees, hopping around in the trees. This bird makes it home exclusively in the boreal forests of Northern New England and Canada. Following a brief stay on the summit for a few pictures and trying to remove the lid of the canister, we headed back down, arriving at the campsite shortly before dark, good timing.
Upon arriving back at camp, Bob returned to his to his campfire plans, collecting wood and then starting the fire. He spent the next hour blowing and fanning the flames to get them going. I watched, drank a little bourbon and prepared dinner. As I sat back and watched Bob struggling to get the fire going, I thought about the beautiful setting we were in and no one else here to disturb the solitude. The question arose as I sipped, why not anyone else? I hear so much about the gaining popularity of winter camping, yet no else is here. Fortunate for us and I guess perhaps unfortunate for others, who would love to experience what we experience on every one of our winter adventures. Why do we continue to look-forward to these treks, what is the reward? These questions seem even more pointed, when I experience the chill of wet clothing, or frozen hands attempting to light the stove. There is some mysterious over-powering force that pulls me back to the winter landscape, to experience the magic of the wilderness and all has to offer. There is the additional challenge of climbing a mountain in winter that also provides an additional incentive, climbing the highest 100 in New England. This list, however, is really just the means to an end, the end being the winter experience. I will continue to look forward to our treks, the adventure and challenge of winter mountaineering as long as I can. Without it I would feel a terrible loss in my life. Tomorrow well make our way out. It may be snowing as the weather forecast predicted a winter storm starting tomorrow and continuing into Sunday. It will be good to get back home to start planning our next trip, Jay and Big Jay Mountains in Vermont.
Last updated on 12-10-06
Copyright, 2006. Robert Manley, All rights reserved