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Old 06-12-2019, 10:32 AM   #1
webby459
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NPT Stephens Pond vicinity

I did trail work on the NPT from Stephens Pond southward to the small wooden plank bridge over Brown's Brook. I was out 6/9-6/11, I approached the section this time from the Cascade Pond trailhead instead of Durant. I found with a couple exceptions, the Cascade trail was a bit more rugged than the NPT section, with notable sections of longer hobblebush and one significant and fairly new looking blowdown about halfway between the CP trailhead and the NPT junction. Going back the same way on 6/11 I found the CP trail to be very wet and muddy, probably mostly due to heavy rains the night before.

I had originally planned on camping at Cascade, but as nice as it was there I found few good/obvious tent spots except one that disappointingly had tp litter halfway between the leanto and the lake. Frances the dog also did not like crossing the hewn log bridge over the Cascade outlet, so I had to carry her over

I pressed on to Stephens Pond knowing there is a nice tent site on the knoll there, and was happy to see there was a father/son pair of thru hikers there. We spent a very enjoyable evening chatting by a nice fire. After they set off NOBO on 6/10 I saw no other hikers on either the NPT nor the CP trail.

I worked SOBO toward Brown's Brook knowing that it was likely to rain pretty hard starting later in the afternoon, so kind of let that dictate how much work I would do. I used the SOBO hike to mostly cut back brush, and then did more brush clearing on the return trip, while also adding some blazes. I actually got off trail twice on the way SOBO, so I well knew the challenges that would face hikers trying to follow just blazes. I think that while it's not perfectly marked or cleared, it's better than it was before I started.

When we went out to this trail section about 3 weeks ago, I found the muddy sections close to Stephens Pond heading southward pretty tough to navigate. It was better this time, but still not what I would call good. Frankly, the trail is quite low for about a quarter mile past the leanto turnoff and the lake is high this year. So it's not a matter of clearing obstructed water bars or small streams to improve flow out of a flooded section, it's that the trail is in parts somewhat submerged in lake water encroaching the lower spots. I'll report it to the forester, but maybe the problem such as it is will be gone in a couple more weeks.

Overall, good trip! We have a packed schedule until at least after 4th of July, but maybe I'll get out sometime later in July.

Add: also, if anyone has any nuggets of info for this section, I'd be grateful to learn them. Hideaway camp sites (any near Brown's Brook?), etc. Feel free to PM if it's double secret.
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Old 06-12-2019, 03:34 PM   #2
Bark Eater Too
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Thanks for your support on trail work! I'm always amazed at the difference in condition between the "old trail" near Stephens Pond and the reroute south to Browns Brook and beyond. The reroute generally stays up high and is pleasant and dry. As you mention, the old trail is a bog walk. I really enjoyed the rock formations on this section (sand stone?) that the "new" trail passes by. The only other snippet of interest is reminding folks of the ability to follow the old logging road trace upstream from the Brown's Brook crossing to just short of Dishrag Pond. There's some blowdown but it's still easy to follow. It's an opportunity to get very deep into the Blue Ridge Wilderness without a lot of extra effort.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:58 PM   #3
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You're right on the reroute being dryer. And then even northbound from the Stephens Pond leanto it's higher and a very good trail, so it's just that ~.6 of old trail that dips down into low elevations near the lake.

The rock formations were very cool! It was all I could do to not check out what was on top of them and then beyond, but that's for another trip!

And +1 to that road going from the crossing, I hadn't seen it on a map prior to today when I toggled over to the USGS topo on my app. The trail was indeed extremely well defined out there in real life still from where the NPT turns to cross the brook. I have a list of stuff to check out in the area, I'll add that trail to my list.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:51 PM   #4
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Webby, thanks so much for your trail work! Every little bit helps. Hoping to thru hike the NPT either later this year or next.
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:53 PM   #5
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My family summer camp is not far from there on the Cedar River Road. I have less than fond memories from a long time ago of the old trail traversing a beaver meadow. Sometimes the water could be waist deep. DEC would go in and blow up the beaver dam. The beavers would build it back up. After several years of battle they finally relocated the trail to downstream of the dam. As said above, the current re-route is a big improvement, both in terms of trail quality and also avoiding a long road walk. South of Brown's Brook, the "new" trail comes within about a quarter mile of the top of the cliffs on the backside of Sugarloaf Mountain. It would make a wonderful view if a short spur trail could be constructed to the cliff top.....hey, I can dream!
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