White Mountains

Sunday, July 8th: Today we walked the Sawyer Pond Trail from Kancamagus Highway to Sawyer Pond. The trail is about 9 miles, round-trip, with about 1000 feet of elevation gain.

The trail got interesting immediately after the trailhead as you have to cross the Swift River. A White-tailed Deer was standing on the riverbank. It disappeared after it noticed us on the bank. There's no bridge across the Swift, and you can't keep your feet dry. So we took off our shoes and boots, rolled up our pants, and waded. The river was cold in the morning, not so much when we returned.

The riparian area was also fairly birdy. Nothing new, but for those of us who live in south Florida, a breeding-plumaged Chestnut-sided Warbler is a treat. The trail then went into a mixed forest with lots of small conifers next to the trail. We encountered another deer as we walked along.

The forest slowly turned into a hardwood mix as we walked. After about a mile, we got to a trail junction, indicating we had 3.6 miles to go before arriving at Sawyer Pond. The signage also indicated a length of 4.7 miles, but I think that included the short road connecting the highway and trailhead, so it's really only about 4.5 miles one-way.

Later we crossed a roadway, and then headed up Birch Hill. By this point the forest was a birch-dominated deciduous forest. Most of the elevation gain is in the hike up Birch Hill. We crossed a snowmobile trail after Birch Hill. After crossing the snowmobile trail, the trail started to deteriorate noticeably. There had been a surprising number of logs on the trail on Birch Hill, and this only got worse. It looked like it had been some years since the trail had been maintained. It made us appreciate the importance of trail maintenance. This continued until we got close to Sawyer Pond.

Although the birds were all familiar ones, we did finally see some Ovenbirds, including a youngster. On our return through this segment, we found a family of Winter Wrens, with the parents feeding the young. We also saw numerous frogs, probably including at least 3 species.

Eventually we arrived at Sawyer Pond. We spent about an hour at the pond before returning. On the way back, we added a heard-only Scarlet Tanager to our trip list.

Sawyer Pond Barn at Russell-Colbath Site
Sawyer Pond Barn at Russell-Colbath Site

It was around 3:30 when we left the trailhead. We had noticed what looked like an old barn a couple of times before when we drove the Kancamagus highway. This time we realized it was part of a historic site, the Russell-Colbath Historic Site. The site also contains an old house that turned out to be open. They have managed to acquire most of the original furniture. It was an interesting little stop.

By then it was 4:30 and we hadn't had lunch! We drove to North Conway where we ate at the Bangkok. Afterward, we checked a duck pond, then went for ice cream to finish the day.

We found 35 species today. Our current total for the trip is 116 species of bird, and 10 species of mammal.

Golden Gables Inn, North Conway, New Hampshire