35 pics and some excited babbling from a four day section hike of the Cohos from the Canadian border to Coleman State Park. Had hoped this would be a thru hike but concerns about my sleep insulation sent me home to swap out some gear. I’m heading back to do another section in a few days heh.
I’d made arrangements to park the scoot at the Stark Village Inn and for a ride to the border. It was after 1pm by the time I put my pack on and headed into the no man’s land between US and Canadian customs booths. The CT starts with a lollipop loop around Fourth Connecticut Lake that starts and ends with a walk literally along the border.
The lake loop was soon completed and I was headed back to where I’d started. I’d seen the sign for my next bit of trail on the way in and despite the late start felt good about having dinner on time.
The trail from the border towards Deer Mountain was not heavily used, but easily followed. I passed by Third Connecticut Lake where I found a few kayaks parked. Never saw the owners though.
The lightly used trail joined up with a snowmobile trail that eventually became more of a road. Being interested in getting to camp I passed by the trail up to Deer Mtn without notice, though I’d already decided I wasn’t going to make the effort.
I’d made a reservation at the state park not because I thought it would be full, but because I wanted a spot that would work for my hammock. My guess was correct that site 17 had what I was looking for heh.
Dinner was served, neighbor was chatted and sunset enjoyed. The next day was going to be a race against the weather, trying to reach a shelter about 8 miles away before the expected rain hit. Early to bed…
Day two started out with a wide open road that became grassy and eventually well grown over. Somewhere along the way I missed the turn to Upper Blackcat and ended up on the highway. I followed that from the East Inlet intersection down to the West Inlet intersection where I was easily able to pick up the trail properly. This was the only time I actually lost the trail for the whole section though there were a few doubts at times heh.
When I reached the dam at the bottom of Second Connecticut Lake the water level had been brought way down. The sky was what I was watching though and it was a great motivator.
I followed the Falls in the River Trail south from the dam and with the gate open there was a nice noisy flow. I ran into a few day hikers around the falls, but didn’t stay long to chat.
The CT passes through private lands in many areas and that means running into sections that have had trees harvested at various times in the past. This section was cut a year or two ago and trail maintainers have artfully painted a series of blazes to get you through. Challenging at times, but totally doable thanks to their efforts.
That is my last picture from day two because feeling the rain getting closer was keeping my focus on speed. Once I cleared the cut area and was back on trail I flew through Moose Alley and on towards the Bog Board section. I was on the boards when the rain started and I was almost running the last mile or two to reach Tillotson Hut. Once there I did a quick recon of the possible local water source to find a few puddles but no flowing water. As the rain picked up I thought I might just collect from the shelter roof. When I looked again after a few hours there was a nice stream to collect from in the gully.
Near dark I thought I was hearing strange sounds in the forest and at one point felt something thump the shelter. I was curled up under my quilt keeping warm when suddenly a man in a raincoat walked past the open front of the shelter. I didn’t get his name because I was so surprised, but he’d come out in the rain to tend to the latrine! The Cohos may not be famous yet, but they really do try hard to take care of their hikers 🙂
Day three was also expected to rain on me so I hit the trail early to get in some miles. The top of Covell Mtn had a bit of a view, but the giant blow down was hard to stop looking at. Amazing how that tree stood there for so long with so little dirt to work with.
The rains were kind enough to hold off for a while. I eventually broke out of the forest onto an old road that led towards the highway again. This crossing held the joys of the Happy Corner Cafe and Young’s Store. Despite my protests at being too dirty and smelly the folks at the cafe let me sit at a table and eat heh. I had lunch and ordered a second meal wrapped up to go for dinner.
This signboard outside Young’s Store was the start of a section that had few if any blazes for the most part. Some corners were marked, but long stretches of road or snowmobile trail were unblazed.
Following the map and guidebook instructions kept me headed in the right direction, but attention was required to maintain confidence. As the sky darkened with the approaching storm I admit I checked my GPS once to be certain that I was where I thought I was along the Lake Francis Trail.
I made camp for the night near the lake with my tarp set at what I hoped was the right angle to take on the storm. The first big blast hit just before dark. The windward side of the tarp was perfect, but the lee side barely survived as the foot end caught too much air. When it seemed to have passed I messaged my wife that all was well and dozed off…only to be awoken around 9pm by another huge blast of wind moving through heh. It popped one of the lee stakes and then another as I held on to the tarp looking for the first one. After managing to get both back in the ground securely I took the end of my whoopie sling and tied it to the corner of the tarp. That took some of the load off of that stake when the gusts hit and I was able to ride out the rest of the storm in my sleep.
After a night of wind and waves the morning was shockingly quiet. Noise had become the norm at some point and now it seemed strangely absent. I had cold french fries and a cheese stick for breakfast, laughing about it being the hiking man’s poutine, but it actually was pretty good.
Then it was time to take on the 20+ miles of road walk to reach Coleman State Park. A new route that heads more directly through the forest is planned and may be blazed next year, but for now, this is the route. It was almost all forest roads and ATV trail with only a few paved sections.
A big highlight of the day was the snack bar at Grandview. If they had been open it would have been nice I’m sure, but being alone there with the view was fine by me. I broke out the cheese and sausage for a late lunch.
A couple on ATVs did pull in for a few minutes, take some pics and then head back the way they’d come from. It must be very different during the season with a bunch of those things ripping around. I did encounter a few ATV trains during the day, but they were easy to hear coming so I had plenty of time to get out of the way. Thankfully none caught me in areas with giant mud puddles 🙂
Then the trail branched off onto a farm path and the next few miles were very peaceful indeed.
After two days of rain it was wonderful to be soaking up the sun. Walking through farmland was reminiscent of my youth, but we didn’t have mountains on the horizon like this.
A horse…some cows….
Even some people! I ran into these two nice ladies working on a NOBO section hike that would complete their hike of the entire trail. After walking all day without seeing any footprints I’d been starting to think the road walk was a cruel joke I’d fallen for. Seeing them doing it too made me feel better heh.
Someone had piped this water along the road, but I couldn’t tell if it was just a gravity feed from the ditch or an actual spring. Given the rubbish scattered about I took the time to filter it, but appreciated the easy way of filling my water bag.
From here I ground out the final miles to Coleman State Park where I threw myself in the shower before making either camp or dinner. I wanted some time to get dried off before it got dark and was glad I’d kept moving all day. I’d made it from Lake Francis to Coleman in about 9 hours including breaks. A good dinner in my belly and I was ready for bed. Well some chocolate and then some snacks too, but then bed. Seems the Hunger was starting to appear after four days 🙂
The night was an odd one…first the neighbor’s camper seemed to be configured to kick on the generator every few hours which is not only against the rules, but really annoying! Then it started to rain unexpectedly, at least to me. Each time the generator woke me up I was surprised to hear it still raining. In the morning I checked the forecast via satellite and the numbers worried me. I’d been borderline cold at night several times on this trip and something about being cold and wet in the mountains made me nervous. Something clicked and I decided to pull the plug here rather than keep going.
Looking back now I’m not sure why that seemed like such a clear choice, but I had to respect the feeling. I knew if I was dying later I’d feel pretty silly for not listening to this hunch heh. So I went home, took the girls to the fair, road the Ferris wheel and bumper cars with my daughter and will head back to Coleman to pick up the trail in a few days. Maybe something bad was going to happen out there, maybe I was just meant to go to the fair and have fun with my family, but no matter what any fortune cookie says, I think I did what I was supposed to do even if I don’t know why.
So far my time on the Cohos has been amazing. The trail has a wonderful feel to it and the bright yellow blazes and signage have become familiar and friendly. The folks I met along the way, hikers and locals, were also notably friendly.
I have some video I shot on this first section that I’ll be putting together later, but hopefully the pics have given you some idea of how pretty the far northern reaches of New Hampshire can be. Honestly though, I think a person has to walk through these forests to really appreciate the peace and beauty found there. I know I can’t wait to get back!