I’ve long been intrigued by a small tarn named Bear Pond, or Redrock Pond to others, nestled in a small glacial cirque in the middle of the Pemi Wilderness. It is about as remote a place as you can get in the Pemi, being almost ten miles from any trailhead, and with some of those miles off-trail. I first saw this little gem of a place several years ago from the top of West Bond.
So, with our destination in mind, my faithful hiking dog Kirby and I started down the Lincoln Woods trail at 10 AM on a sunny Tuesday. We were armed with a map, compass, and an old copy of a popular hiking book which described a route to the remote pond via a logging spur and old roads. I wondered if the information, now several decades old, would still serve today.
The Lincoln Woods trail was its usual crowded, arrow-straight self, and in no time at all we were on the Franconia Brook trail headed north. This trail, like Lincoln Woods, also follows an old railroad grade, but I enjoy it more due to its relative remoteness and woodsy beauty.
Along the way, the trail passes several attractive beaver ponds and meadows.
At times it comes out in the open to let the sunshine in. Late summer flowers paint the meadows and the trees take turns from spruce to birches, and then back again.
After crossing Hellgate Brook, we traveled further on until we reached Redrock Brook. At this point, the old guide says to travel further onward towards 13 Falls until you find the old railroad grade that went up to Camp 14 back in the old logging days. I was tempted to bushwhack straight up the ravine from the brook, but instead we followed the main trail for another 15 minutes or so until I could make out the old railroad coming up alongside the trail. Once we were on the grade heading back around the arm of the ravine, it was extremely easy to follow, though it did not look like anyone had been out this way recently.
The old railroad bed wrapped its way around the side of the mountain in a slow, easy ascent. Along the way we saw some evidence of past railroad days.
As we got further and further into the ravine, the blowdowns got more and more frequent, but the grade was still fairly easy to follow. Eventually, the path came to an end as it met up with the brook. We climbed up the bank a little ways where we met an old overgrown road leading further in. Again, this was fairly easy to follow and there was a somewhat beaten path that we walked along. Soon, the path intersected the brook, where it was fairly easy to see how it got the name Redrock.
The small cascades along the brook were a pleasant accompaniment to our trek.
The road vanished after a while, so we were left to walk along a faint path that sidehilled on the north side of the brook. The water flow faded until we were walking alongside a dry brook bed, though we could still hear water flowing underneath the rocks. The brook split many times but we kept to the north each time.
After a while, there was a break in the forest at a lovely birch and fern glade. Could this be the site of Camp 14? It was in the right general area, and there were no clearings to be seen anywhere else. I looked around for a while for relics to confirm this, but found none.
The brook bed got narrower and narrower, and soon we broke out into a talus field at the bottom of the cirque. We headed straight across and into the woods beyond, turning to the right. This was a mistake, as we soon realized the pond was to the left (west) of where we were. Angling over to hit the pond, we thrashed through a horrible, blowdown-infested spruce nightmare. Kirby was somewhere underneath me as I clambered over broken, rotting logs, unable to see the ground. Finally, we burst out of the mess and onto a beautiful scene.
Words just cannot aptly describe this glass-still body of water, encased on three sides by a beautiful natural amphitheater. Vast slides, cliffs, and talus slopes rose up on every side. Green flowing grasses topped with white flowers in full bloom ringed the shore, where rocks and sand merged gently into the murky pool. I almost was afraid to walk along the edge, as I did not want to trample any of the fragile vegetation. This was truly a sublime location, a relic of times past when journeys into the wilderness were explorations of undiscovered wonder.
We spent several hours exploring the talus fields above the pond and walking along the shore.
The upper slopes of West Bond were clearly visible from my perch on the talus slope. I wondered if someone high above wondered about the little red speck moving about the ravine.
All too soon, it was time to head back. I took one last look back across the pond before plunging back into the spruce, making a promise to return someday soon. Hours later we passed mile twenty-two at the end of the long march back to the car, where I pondered not for the first time about the lives of the lumbermen who worked in these woods so many years ago.
Such a fascinating and rich history, and one that will always be appreciated by this backwoods wanderer.