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Bushwhacking Mt Bemis

Bushwhacks are like jungle gyms. Type II fun for hikers who enjoy off-trail hiking the way it used to be before people cut trails in the mountains.
Bushwhacks are like jungle gyms. Type II fun for hikers who enjoy off-trail hiking the way it used to be before people cut trails in the mountains.

Mt Bemis is a 3725′ mountain located in the White Mountain’s Crawford Notch, named for Dr Samuel Bemis, who built the stone house at its base which is now the popular Notchland B&B. Bemis was an interesting character: a denture maker turned landscape photographer, he loaned money to the Crawford Family, whose Inn made Crawford Notch famous. Check out the Bemi’s bio on WhiteMountainHistory.org for more details about this interesting fellow or visit Notchland, where more information about his life and many innovations can be seen.

I’ve wanted to hike Mt Bemis for some time since it’s on the NHHH (New Hampshire Hundred Highest) list. The site of an old fire observation tower, there are also the remains of an abandoned fire warden’s trail to the tower site, a short distance from the trail-less summit.

Remains of the old firetower near the summit of Mt Bemis
Remains of the old firetower near the summit of Mt Bemis

When planning this hike, I thought it would be more of a bushwhack than it actually was. Once you find the start of the old, unmaintained trail, just after the first major crossing of Nancy Brook, it’s easy to follow from 1800′ to about 2900′. As you climb, the trail gets more and more congested with blowdowns and spruce, but you can still follow it all the way to the summit if you keep your wits about you and can follow an overgrown trail.

Where do they imprison unauthorized trail maintainers?
Where do they imprison unauthorized trail maintainers?

Unfortunately, we fell off the abandoned trail and ended up following a herd path into adjacent spruce. No big deal, we followed a compass bearing for a while and bashed our way through the trees until we came to a clearing at about 3000 feet, where we found the trail again. From there it was an easy hike to the fire tower, with a few scrambles around blowdowns along the way. Not much of a challenge really, except we got soaking wet on a cold and foggy day.

We came to a clearing at about 3000' where we reaquired the old fire wardens trail
We came to a clearing at about 3000′ where we reacquired the old fire wardens trail

When you reach the firetower, you will need to do some bushwhacking to find the herd path (which is very faint) to the actual summit. There is an old glass canister at the summit with a logbook, which we all signed.

Kris at the glass jar
Kris at the glass jar

I took the lead on the hike back down Bemis and managed to follow the old trail all the way back to Nancy Brook. Reports that it’s congested with blowdowns are exaggerated. It’s pretty easy to follow and we flew down the peak at a very fast pace. Being cold and wet, I was motivated to move fast and get back to my warm car.

Heather in the mist
Heather in the mist

Still, this was a nice hike with good friends on a Sunday afternoon. While it wasn’t quite the exercise in logic and navigation I enjoy on my off-trail hikes, it was still a great workout with nearly 3000′ of elevation gain and 7 miles of round trip hiking.

Mt Bemis Bushwhack - Approximate Route, Not for Navigation
Mt Bemis Bushwhack – Approximate Route, Not for Navigation

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2 comments

  1. I’m envious of how much you get to hike! The White Mountains must be an incredible place to hike.

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