Trip Reports

Holden out for Noble – a Waterfall Story 07/23/2010

  • July 23, 2010

Most folks here may not be interested in a tale of old rocks and the water that runs over them, but a few weeks after the event I finally had some time so I thought I’d throw it out there for the few that might get a chuckle or two.

I’ve always had a fascination for waterfalls as well as for local history, so when I ran across a reference in Bolnick’s book of the two “lost” waterfalls Holden and Noble somewhere above Bridal Veil Falls, I was intrigued. The source of this information was an old book by Sarah Welch – A History Of Franconia New Hampshire. When I managed to obtain a copy of that book, I was somewhat disappointed to find only two old B&W photos with very little information. Further inquiries to the several waterfall website gurus in the area, as well as some local historians brought back no results…. no one had seen these rumored waterfalls for themselves!

So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a few hours to spare, I walked the trail up to Bridal Veil Falls. The water was flowing fast that day, and after reaching the upper falls, I headed diagonally up the left bank, moving away from the falls, until I was able to scramble up and then back over to the top of the waterfall. From there, I bushwhacked up the brook a ways, sometimes in the brook, sometimes out. After a good 15 minutes or so, I came upon a small waterfall about 7 or 8 feet high

Above the waterfall was a beautiful series of chutes, slides, and potholes. These were all exposed on a nice open slab with plenty of sunshine.

Very pretty, but not anything I would have given an official name, and certainly nothing that looked like the photos in the book. After lingering in the pools for a while, I followed the brook up a bit further but found nothing else of note. My turnaround time came up quicker than expected, so I headed back for the day.

About a week later, I convinced John (1HappyHiker) to accompany me on a second trip. This time we took the old Ski Trail up and around Bridal Veil Falls so we could avoid climbing around the cliffs. Once we were back on the brook, we followed it up a ways until it unexpectedly split into two branches. We took the left branch and headed up further, where we decided to make a side trip for an open slide that was visible up on the side of the western ridge of Mittersill. It was about 0.2 miles to the wide part in the middle of the slide – quite a nice open slab with lots of sun. I found several tree limbs cut neatly with a saw, so for some reason folks have been up here!

Back down to the brook where John and I decided what to do next. John had followed the brook further up while I was on the slide, up to about 2900 ft, where it was just a trickle. We decided to head back and go up the right fork, which headed up into one of the cols between the Cannonballs. It was getting a bit late, so after a while John decided to head back. I followed the stream further up until I hit the bottom of a gigantic rocky slide. I suppose in high water, this could be a waterfall, but I really didn’t think it likely that this was one of the lost falls. I climbed up and up, sometimes on the rock, sometimes in the gnarly mossy blowdown woods. The slab seemed to never end, so at about 3100 feet, I called it quits! The Kinsman Ridge trail was showing on my GPS as about a third of a mile away, but that was not the direction I needed to go!

Looking up from the base

Looking down from 2900 feet
Looking up – still going up at 3100 feet…..

Rather than scale back down the slide, I opted to cut northward across the slope to meet the other branch at about where John had left off. There were a few blowdown areas along the way that gave some nice views down the Coppermine ravine, as well as up to some nice exposed ledges on the knob north of the valley. After much scrambling and sidehilling, I dropped down to the other branch of the brook at 2800 feet. Just for fun, I followed it up to about 3050, encountering worse and worse blowdowns. The trickle branched out several times and eventually I gave up trying to figure out which branch to follow.

All along the way, there were many very small cascades, and several locations where the rock was carved nicely, or flowed down slabs, but nothing I would ever call a waterfall of any significance! So, that was it – defeated, I headed back to the ski trail and took it back around the falls toward the shelter again.

On the way down the ski trail, I had this funny feeling. I looked at the topo map again and since I had a few extra minutes, made one last excursion out to yet another drainage. I soon broke out of the trees at the top of a long, sloping ledge on what I realized was a third main branch of Coppermine Brook. The ledge dropped steeply out of sight, so I looped around to the bottom where there was a pool at the foot of a beautiful mossy waterfall! It might have been about 30 feet tall, but the cascades above flowed along a ledge another 30 feet or so. I pulled out the old photos and sure enough, here was Holden Falls, prettier in real life than its picture! I took a few quick photos but unfortunately blurred most of them with the condensation on the lenses.

After posing with my long sought-after find, I headed back home to beat the sunset!

A few days later I had a couple of hours free after work, so I decided to go back and head further up the drainage to try and find Noble Falls, since I now had what I believed to be the right ravine. The water level was a bit higher so I took a few more photos of Holden, then headed up the drainage. This ravine was very mossy and slippery, and contained some enormous boulders with fractured edges, some with giant trees growing from their tops. Lots of caves and crevasses – the ground between the boulders occasionally fell loose and down into deep holes, so I stuck to walking up the stream bed for the most part. Creepy and beautiful at the same time. At around 2200 feet, the stream split – I took the larger left fork. A little higher and there was a pink flagging ribbon tied to a tree. No other ribbons in sight. The mystery ribbon placer strikes again! At 2500 feet the stream was down to a trickle, it started to rain, and I didn’t see anything promising ahead, so I called it a day. I cut across the ridgeline and down to hit the Ski Trail…. along the way I hit a well-beaten path that led down before intersecting the ski trail This almost lined up with the pink flagging – I wonder if this some sort of back country ski route?

From the ski trail I whacked straight down to the shelter, where I accidentally scared the daylights out of two poor ladies who thought I was a rampaging bear. Oops!

So, after three days in the wilderness, Noble Falls still eludes me. Perhaps it is part of the big slide below the Cannonballs, or perhaps it is up yet one more hidden drainage in the deep Cannon valleys. I’ll go back someday to look, but not anytime soon – I’m a bit “washed out”!

I had a few folks who expressed an interest with the mystery falls of Coppermine Brook, so I thought it best to make one last post to finalize the story. At least now anyone searching for mention of these two falls online will have a bit more to go on. I left the details a bit vague to keep the spirit of adventure alive.Shortly after my original post, where I expressed disappointment not finding any trace of the elusive Noble Falls, I received an email from a fellow VFTT-er with a photo and a location. Needless to say, the falls were not in the location that they were rumored to be! So. during all the rain last Tuesday, I decided to venture out and finally visit Noble Falls. I brought my trusty mud-loving dog Kirby and we set off to explore some backwoods ski trails on the side of Mittersill.

After a mile or so on a well-marked ski path near a bubbling brook, we went off-trail and began bushwhacking east to meet the brook and then along the brook embankment. Along the way, we passed a few pink flags which we followed up the embankment – these led to a trail heading the wrong way, so we went back to the stream. After about another third of a mile, we reached a spectacular step-stair cascade waterfall which curved gracefully down a long embankment to a pool at the bottom. This cascade was immense enough that it could easily be worthy of a name – I have certainly seen much lesser “named” cascades. But, it wasn’t the “Noble Falls” in the old picture. I took a few photos but the angle and vegetation made it difficult to do it justice.

A few days later when speaking with Dean Goss of the Newenglandwaterfalls website, he showed me an old postcard of a place called “Plimpton Falls, White Mountains”. Amazingly enough, it was that very curving cascade waterfall – all the rock features lined up. That postcard had apparently been plaguing him for years! So indeed, it did have a name at one time, but what the source of that name was may be lost in time.

We next crawled up and around the steep embankment to reach the ledges above the cascades. Not too much further beyond we could see sunlight and a huge wall. Out we came into a clearing at the base of Noble Falls. Two plumes of water plunged down over a giant rock face and into a pool at the base within a tight ravine. The rock wall and the surrounding area reminded me of Bridal Veil Falls in size and scope – I would guess these falls are about the same height. Surprisingly enough, here was a sign nailed to a tree that said “Bridesmaid Falls”. (This I believe is actually a much more fitting name for the falls, given their “forgotten” status… as in the old saying “always the bridesmaid….”). These falls never received the respect they were due, forgotten in the shadow of their more famous neighbor.

I was curious about what might lie above the falls, but I hadn’t planned on an extended bushwhack, so I decided that have to wait for another day. From the sign, flagging followed a well-beaten path somewhat north, so Kirby and I decided to follow it. The trail zig-zagged up the slope to an intersection with another sign that announced “Mittersill and Bridesmaid Falls“, with arrows pointing in opposite directions. Checking my map, I decided it couldn’t hurt to follow the Mittersill direction, so off we went. The trail crossed the slope of the mountain, well marked and well trodden. The trail continued on and on…. eventually, we could see houses through the trees and the trail broke out on one of the many access roads above Mittersill village. There were no signs on this side, and the trail was not visible from the road.

We followed the paved roads past condos through several intersections, eventually coming back out on a road that led us to a long walk back to the car. A very interesting loop involving bushwhacking and pavement! So, apparently Bridesmaid (Noble) Falls is a known destination for some people and has it’s own trail. However, I have never heard it mentioned anywhere before. I wonder who keeps the trail maintained, and who benefits from that maintenance? Lots of questions. Many more waterfalls mentioned in old books waiting to be explored again!

As a final sidenote…. there was enough time and daylight to run up to Zealand and check out the “original” Zealand falls as well. Another one of those little places lost in the bits and pieces of history. A neat waterfall but difficult to photograph since there are several rocky bits in the way. But, a good way to end a rainy afternoon!