Friday, November 21, 2014

Ledgey Goodness on Rocky Branch Ridge 11/8/14

First I must point out that this report is 2 weeks past due. ;-) I've got a huge backlog of photos to go through and subsequent reports to write. I just can't seem to find the time, or desire lately. And this report will be some what short.

Ever since reading this blog from Steve Smith, Mountain Wanderer Blog Post RBR, I knew it was a place I wanted to check out someday. Not only because of the unique views that could be had from 2 different ledges. One at around 3600' on Rocky Branch Ridge, and the other at 3900'. That, and to get to these ledges one must bushwhack through the premier birch glades of the WMNF. I was on the fence about the time of year I wanted to do this. I decided on November because they'd be little or no snow cover, and all the ground cover would either be dead or defoliated. Making the views in the glades that much better. For one reason or another, I wasn't able to get to this one until this month. The forecast was for mostly sunny, (but quite cold) on the 8th so that would be the day.

I headed out at 7:30 on what is one of my least favorite trails in the Whites, Rocky Branch. It will get you where your going, but with dry feet is the challenge. 8)

Skipping ahead to around 3000', winter conditions stating arriving. :(

It took me about an hour and a half to reach the start of what is known as the Engine Hill Bushwhack. I don't know how it ending up being called that since Engine Hill is on the south side of the trail. It probably should have been called the Rocky Branch Bushwhack. At any rate, the start is clearly, and disturbingly marked. Not only with the "T" that is deeply carved into a tree. But a piece of reflective tape nailed to the same tree. 

How ever small it's in the Wilderness and illegal. There's one more piece of that reflective tape nailed to another tree about 10' in on the herd path.

Just as I was getting ready to head out, a hiker I knew was approaching. We exchanged greetings and told each other of our plans. He was headed to Isolation via this bushwhack. I commented on how ridiculous the marking was getting and if I'd had the means, the 2 markers nailed to the trees would have come down. I also said I hate to be this way but if I run into any flagging that, would be coming down. So I headed out. And on the relatively short time I was on the "Official Whack" I pulled down a good dozen pieces of flagging. My thinking is one, these are beautiful glades in  wilderness and I don't want to see that. And two, if you need this flagging to be able to navigate these woods, you probably shouldn't be there. 

OK, enough of the, holy than thou, crap. ;-)

Now for my #2 reason for wanting to do this bushwhack. Arguably the #1 birch glades in the WMNF. Unfortunately, clouds and squalls moved in. :( 

With a short through some fairly thick snow covered spruce...

I reached ledge #1. 

And it's very cool and unique views.
Kearsarge North most prominent peak
Resolution and Stairs with Tripyramids in the back.
Montalban Ridge.

So that was the ridge at 3600'. I did not stay too long because with the wind-chill, it was easily in the teens. And the short distance I had to push through snow covered spruce got my legs fairly damp. Needed to keep moving. But the next set of glades took my mind of the slight chill. :)

As was the approach for the first ledge, the second was also through spruce. These were much more open and almost had a heard path.

And then, ledge #2.

Rather than post a bunch of photos I'll just post in the blog, a series of pano's which show the 360* view from this great spot. You can see more in the link to the complete album below.

This starts from  the north view over the high point of Rocky Branch, clockwise to Montalban Ridge.

It would have been nice if the sun was out with blue skies but the views where impressive none the less. It was still pretty cold, but I was able to sit long enough to enjoy the views while having a bite to eat. But as always, there comes the time to move on. And poor me, I've got those awful glades to walk through again.  8)

Which I got to quickly.

I'd dropped a bit lower than I'd wanted to. Another hope while in the glades was to see some moose. And perhaps an antler shed or two. So I headed up a bit more.

And soon spotted this guy playing hide'n'seek. :D I ended up seeing two others but this is the only, in focus shot I managed to get.

I saw maybe one set of tracks in the morning but by mid-afternoon it was a virtual highway. There's a set heading in almost every direction. Of coarse, there's no way of knowing if this is several moose or one very busy one. :0

Next is just a pictorial of my extremely, enjoyable walk in these woods.

And as good things always do, they come to an end and I was back on the, "DTW" trail. Dodge the Water. 8)

And with that, Done!

I can't say I wasn't a bit disappointed I didn't get the perfect day to do this. But man, it was close. :-)



  1. Great report and photos, Joe! Those birch glades are the best. And the upper ledge is a "Top 10" whack destination. Thanks for posting!


  2. Thanks Steve. I have to agree that that upper ledge certainly is worthy of your "Top 10" .


  3. Good to run into you again Joe! Sadly I too pulled a lot of flagging out on the way to Isolation, and I'm sure there is more. It looks like I might need to make a visit to these ledges someday, awesome views and I love those glades in there!

  4. Thanks Matt, it was good to see you as well. I saw your report on NETC, mentioning you pulled a lot of flagging down. There's no need of that anywhere but especially in pristine wilderness.


  5. Joe

    I was up on that ridge looking for those ledges this past May when ferns were just 2" tall, but I forgot my GPS at home so I was navigating by dead reckoning. May is a nice time to visit that area. I explored glades and explored first ridge extensively, never located 1st ledge. I see by your track it was pretty far south end. Due to no GPS I mistakenly traversed the bog just north of trail on my exit. Oh well I did find a mega-big rack. Jazzbo

  6. Thanks Ray. I love that whole area.