Keeping with the streak of checking out new (to us) mountains, Rich and I took vacation days and went to see Mt. Nancy. No traffic, no cars in the parking area for Nancy Pond Trail, no rain in the forecast and almost no clouds in the sky. Perfect.
It had rained heavily the day before, so we were excited to see the Nancy Cascades, but the entire trail was beautiful. This hike takes you through a very nice variety of terrain – more than most of the 4000 footers in New Hampshire.
Nancy is just shy of 4000 feet at 3,926′, but for you peak baggers, she’s pretty high up there on the New England Hundred Highest list.
The hike to the cascades is fast and easy, and the beech trees had us walking through a sea of yellow. I love these trees in the fall.
There are a few stream crossings early on that I would imagine to be very tough or not worth trying in the spring or after an especially heavy rain. They weren’t bad today, but you could see by the banks that these get crazy. Hurricane Irene did a number on this trail and these streams, too.
We took a break at what’s left of some sort of brick furnace(?), and then headed for the cascades, which aren’t much further up the trail.
I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls and cascades, so I thought I had a good idea of what to expect, but these ones are truly amazing. Think of the nice spots on the Falling Waters Trail on steroids. The rain had certainly helped. There is a great area to stop and look around at the foot of the cascades. The mist blowing off the falls felt nice, for a little while.
Heading up alongside the cascades the trail gets into a series of switchbacks, alternating very steep and rough with more even stretches as it switches back toward the falls. The view from the bottom of the cascades doesn’t show you how tall these really are. As you keep going, the cascades are right there with you for a long time. Overall, these must be somewhere around 300 feet tall.
Once you’re over the cascades, the trail becomes almost flat, but it’s not very easy going. Lots of roots, loose rocks, and deep mud make up the trail, so it’s not strenuous, but it is somewhat slow.
This area reminds me of the hike out to the Hancocks, not just in terms of being wet but the soil and the plant life, too (which makes sense I suppose). It’s very pretty.
Soon you’ll see Nancy Pond in all of its glory. Here we realized we were hot on the trail of a moose, with fresh tracks and some droppings… we never saw it though, unfortunately.
Norcross Pond is just after Nancy. It’s much larger, and the view across it toward the Twins and Bonds creates somewhat of an “infinity pool” effect. You could turn around here and call it a great day. It’s a unique view in the Whites and well worth seeing.
It was very windy and cold near the ponds – Norcross had some relatively sizable waves on it.
We hiked to the end of the pond and powered up on some cheese, salami, crackers and clementines, then headed up the herd path toward Mt. Nancy’s summit. The herd path starts at the end of the pond on the right, it’s very easy to find (it used to be a fully maintained trail). Very soon after it starts, it forks, stay to the left.
The herd path is mostly easy to follow, but like most trails, when you reach an open area, the chance to lose it is there. We did lose it a little way up the slide, but we decided to bushwhack instead of backtracking. Our enthusiasm for this died after about 30 minutes, so we trended to the right up the slope until we came across the path again.
Not long after regaining the path, it started to level out, the trees got shorter, and soon we were on the summit taking in a great view of the Presidential Range. It’s always interesting to see things from a new angle. Mt.’s Field and Willey look a lot more formidable from here than they do from Crawford Notch. Their western sides are slide covered and steep. The Dry River Wilderness spreads out between the Southern Presi’s and the Montalban Ridge. Throw in the Webster cliffs and it’s really quite a view.
We took the herd path the whole way back to the ponds – no bushwhacking. Once you get back to the top of the cascades, the trail can be grueling to descend. But once you get off the switchbacks, the rest of it is a breeze all the way back to the trailhead.
This would be a great hike if you were only going to the foot of the cascades, or going to the ponds, or continuing on from Nancy to Mt. Bemis or elsewhere. As I said above, the terrain and the scenery varies quite a bit on this trail – that’s what I’ll remember most about this trip. This one is a repeat for sure.