I did a lot of hiking last year up and down the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine in addition to climbing a lot of the White Mountain 4,000 footers. I didn't hike nearly as much as my friend Mike Knipe who topped over 1,200 miles this year, but it was still a very good year and I saw many good sights.
But there is one section of trail I really fell in love with last year out of the hundreds of miles I covered and that is the Peabody Brook Trail which branches south from the Mahoosuc Trail section of the AT at Dream Lake and comes out at Rt 2. I hiked down it as a shortcut back from Gentian Pond near the New Hampshire/Maine border, in mid-November, the morning after a torrential all-night rain storm.
The falls themselves are wonderful, but Dream Lake (above) is worth a visit all by itself. It was screened from view by trees and I walked right by it when walking north, so it was my good luck to come across it on the way back. It's located at about 2,000 ft of elevation and has an active beaver population. It's a large and beautiful pond but you can also clearly see the pyramidal point of Mt Adams (5,774 ft) from the shoreline, far to the south in the Northern Presidentials. I remember being very surprised when I saw Adams on the horizon in the clearing mist.
Finding the Peabody Brook Trail from Dream Lakes requires good trail reading skills and a high tolerance for ambiguity. Let's just say that the blazing is vague and much of the trail is underwater after heavy rain. Just remember, turn right when you come to the rock in the trail – this will lead you to the top of the descending pathway.
From there, the trail begins to drop, gradually at first and then steeply, while running adjacent to a series of continuous waterfalls and slides that drop 2,000 feet over 3 miles. The trail is quite slippery in places, especially in late fall with the wet leaf clutter so care must be taken to avoid an accelerating fall. Some bushwhacking is required to get optimal views of the massive volume of water rushing by, but there is still a lot to see for the less adventurous.
Getting to the falls and Dream Lake is a lot easier if you start from Rt 2 and ascend, but you can also make a fine overnight loop by hiking up the AT from Hogan Road just past the Androscoggin River Dam (park at Rattle River Trail Head) and back down the Peabody Brook Trail. Once you arrive at Rt 2, it's a short 1.3 mile walk back to the dam. Forget hitchhiking – I've had the worst luck in New Hampshire, even when I'm clearly wearing a backpack.