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Wilderness at Stillwater Junction

This moss covered sign is showing its age

This is part 2 of my trip report up the East Branch Pemigewasset River (the Pemi) to scout a second river crossing at Stillwater Junction and beginning of the Shoal Pond Trail which links Carrigan Notch to the Ethan Pond Trail. I’ll be passing through this way on my White Mountain Challenge Route and since I’ve never hiked in this area, I wanted to make sure it was a viable route.

That might sound like an odd concern, but some White Mountain trails are frustratingly difficult to find either because they haven’t been maintained regularly or because their routes have been diverted but not updated on existing maps. In addition, the quality of the signage in the Whites can be a bit dodgy and the quality of blazing is often poor to nonexistent. I’m not complaining about poor blazing, mind you, but it’s one of the “features” of the White Mountains that you need to factor into route planning and decision-making when hiking in the more remote sections of the National Forest. This will become more apparent later in this trip report and one of the main reasons why I took this scouting trip in the first place.

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  1. I remember hiking this area with my camp group as a teenager. That was when the Desolation Shelter was still there in the late 60’s, now I date myself. I loved this part of the wilderness and plan to make it back there hopefully later in the Fall. This is great information for the rest of us that may venture this way. I agree, postholing through the snow into a small river in the treadway under the ice isn’t fun. Been there done that on Moosilauke once a few years ago. Really wished I had snowshoes. I almost got into trouble that trip, never made it to the summit, and had enough sense to turn back before I totally wore myself out. Great writeup Phil.

  2. From Steve’s blog:
    Ye guidebook editor, who hadn’t been here in quite some time, neglected to read the description for Shoal Pond Trail before setting out. As a result, it took 15 minutes to find the route on the north side of the crossing, where beaten paths went both R and L, but not straight ahead (north), the direction the Shoal Pond Trail is headed. Both beaten paths seemed to dead-end in a short distance, but another check of the one to the L revealed a thoroughly overgrown footway making a sharp R. This was the trail! It remained badly overgrown for 100 yards or so until it hopped onto an old railroad grade.

  3. Great report! We’re planning a series of ‘off the beaten path’ backpacking trips for this summer and Stillwater Junction and Carrigain Notch are at the top of the list. Do you recall seeing any good camping near Stillwater Junction?

    -Justin & Serena
    The Notch Hostel

  4. Great report and read. Im planning on heading up around May 7 and doing a loop via ethan pond>shoal pond>wilderness>thoreau falls. My biggest concern besides weather is crossing Stillwater Junction. How do you think the crossing will be and/or if it will be possible with high water.

    Thank you!

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