Salty's Wolf Trip Reports


Hiking Dates



Date Climbed: 05/31/2014

Distance: 10.1 miles

Low Elevation: 1483 feet
High Elevation: 3508 feet
Elevation Gain: 2450 feet
Elevation Loss: 2450 feet

Start Location: Reel Brook TH
Finish Location: Reel Brook TH
Route: Reel Brook Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, whack to Wolf and back, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Wolf outlook spur and back, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Reel Brook Trail

Weather: Overcast and drizzle, to clearing with a shower. 50s-60s. A little breeze on the ridge.
Companions: (none)


With plans to climb Katahdin in a couple weeks, I needed to step up my back into shape schedule and was looking for a 9 mile or so hike, with some decent gain. The Wild River Wilderness came immediately to mind, but the Wildcat River crossing gave me some pause, despite that I could bypass it. Then Reel Brook popped into the mix. Hmm. S. Kinsman? Nope, too far. With a mediocre forecast, going to Wolf would work, however. The WMG description made this trail sound like a mucky mess, and difficult to follow, but someone online said this trail was a treat. My mind was made up.

I missed the turn onto Reel Brook Road, being a bit out of sight coming from the east. A quick turnaround and I was greeted with a gravel road that was a touch rough in some places. Man, it had been a while since I've been on back roads. I've been on far worse, but this was still making me nervous. But I made it to the parking lot quickly enough, to be greeted by a ton of boulders sticking out. Yoiks. I gave it the old college try, making it about 2/3 of the way before a rock clunked on the undercarriage. Screw this. I backed up, seeing a clearing ahead, only to find it was someone's house. Oops. Back to the lot, I found a spot on the turn where I could jam myself in out of the way.

Starting off in a light drizzle, I was pleased at the soft footing of this trail. I love trails like this!

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The trail wasn't particularly wet, nor hard to follow, despite logging roads coming in and going. The stream crossings weren't bad, though they looked like they were higher than normal, making my decision about not going to the Wild River area a lot easier to take. I hit the powerline crossing, again with the way to go being quite plain. No real views to be had here, there was a low overcast, but no matter, I wasn't expecting anything today. I was just happy to be out on this lonely trail.

There was a nice cascade along the way, and a tiny but pretty fall where the trail crossed.

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The grades were easy for a good long while, and I was surprised at what great time I was making. The trail steepened to head up to the ridge, but even that 700' or so rise was going by quick, as I just kept a slow and steady pace. Hmmm, maybe I'm not so out of shape after all. And soon enough the trail flattened out, and a nice plateau walk ensued.

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It was a little wetter up here, with many puddles, but I didn't care. My pants were wet, my feet were dry, the temperature was excellent, and there was absolutely no bugs out. After a bit of tedium, I came to the Kinsman Ridge Trail, reflecting that in a few weeks, my SOBO brother would be passing along this way. I had not been on this side of the KRT. Much like as on the other side of Wolf, it was bumpy, and as promised in the guide, had rough footing. It was also very wet, but I it is one pretty stretch of trail, and the sun even came out from time to time.

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With 1.9 miles between the junction and Wolf, I settled in for a long walk, taking in everything I could when I wasn't busy watching my feet. I came to the Failing Waters Pond mentioned in the guide, which if it every was truly a pond, nature is doing a good job reclaiming it to woods. It was a nice breakpoint. Too bad no moose were to be seen, but signs of them were infrequent here.

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I came to a submerged bog bridge, and like a similar one I came to earlier, I just walked across the line of it without expecting issues. Floompf. #$%$&*!!!! Calf deep in mud, and water seeping up my pants to my thigh. Turns out it was TWO bogs bridges. I magically found the gap. Crap, now my right foot was wet. Ah well, I've had worse. Wait, where did this positive attitude come from?!

I chugged along the easy grades of the ridge walk, occasionally studying the woods on the left, shaking my head. Damn it was steep, and not terribly inviting. My first real bushwhack was off these slopes trying for Wolf Cub, and the woods were pretty bad, causing me to abandon that and head for Gordon Pond for an escape. I remember JS mentioning friendly woods more to the north, and again wish I had heeded that advice. I bypassed the Wolf outlook for now, meaning to go visit the true summit of Wolf for old time's sake. For some reason, I had though it was north of the outlook. Shows how crappy my memory is. I carried on, finding familiar territory and hit the summit which is just off trail. After a pleasant, nostalgic break, I headed back to the outlook, very surprised to see anything was out, but pretty much all but Lincoln and Lafayette were hidden.

The views here are much maligned, but I'm pretty easy where views are concerned. What I realized this time around though, was this peak has a unique and very nice view of Mt. Pemigewasset.

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Likewise, I thought the view of Loon and Scar Ridge, especially of the slides, was very worthwhile.

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I powered up here, getting ready for the long walk back. I had toyed with the thought of adding in some more miles with Gordon Pond and maybe even the Blue Ridge highpoint, but the thought of having to come up 700' back up to Wolf blew that out of the water. That'd be pushing it too far, and as I went over the various bumps on the KRT on the way back, I knew I made the right decision by far. This could turn into a slog. And about mile in, I couldn't help but get impatient for the trail junction when I could just go down. I annoyed myself by checking the distance on the GPS slowly ticking away. Ugh. But I came to the junction, and plodded along the plateau, finally spying a slope ahead. Woo hoo!

I then cranked it going down through here, in a lot of ways more because it was more energy to apply the breaks. The distance ticked away quickly, no need to look at a map now, and even the brook crossings went quicker. Wet boots probably were a factor there. It started to shower just as I hit the powerline opening, go figure. But I was greeted to a view of Cole Hill. Good enough!

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I saw a couple heading up for a backpacking trip, the only people I'd see all day. They liked the trail already, and I confirmed it was just as pleasant further up. After I left them, I wondered where they parked, and as I emerged to the parking lot, I had my answer. In the lot. Hmmm, what kind of high clearance vehicle is that? A Prius? PRIUS?! Astonished, I walked back to my pathetically parked car and headed out, stopping in to say hello to Steve in Lincoln, chat about the day, and pick up a copy of the Maine Mountain Guide, some 30 years newer than the only copy I had.

A great day, and after a few weeks of being straight out at work and being totally stressed out, exactly what the doctor ordered. Even better that I averaged 2 mph without particularly trying to move quickly. Guess I'm almost ready for the mighty Katahdin! And maybe O-J-I to boot. :-)

Date Climbed: 05/25/2008

Distance: 9 miles

Low Elevation: 1870 feet
High Elevation: 3478 feet
Elevation Gain: 2838 feet
Elevation Loss: 2838 feet

Start Location: Kinsman Ridge TH, Rt. 112
Finish Location: Kinsman Ridge TH, Rt. 112
Route: Kinsman Ridge Tr, with short trips to Blue Ridge & Wolf. BW to old AT (couldn't find) then to Gordon Pond. Gordon Pond Tr. To Kinsman Ridge trail.

Weather: Perfect sunny, upper 60s.
Companions: None


First part of trail is steep, not great for first starting a hike! After that, pretty easy stuff, especially as I was feeling pretty strong up to Wolf. Found the jar (first one ever!) on Blue Rige in about 5 minutes, Wolf was only about 1-2 minutes as there was a herd path to it. Beautiful trail, with ridge views, little glades, boggy areas. Trail was moist in spots up to Gordon Pond, but then got wetter. Nothing major._x000D_ _x000D_ Got down from the Wolf viewpoint, and started the 'whack to the first waypoint, SE from Wolf to the old AT. Was steep at first, with my foot occassionally going into a hole, but doable. Still, had doubts from the get-go, especially when I started slipping a little, realizing I'm completely alone out here. And then the spruce/fir hell began about halfway down. Once is a while would get onto an animal path, but other than that it was spread the branches, look where to step, grab on to something, take a step, repeat. Kept watching the mileage on the GPS go down extremely slowly. Finally got to the AT waypoint, and thought I might be able to pick out a trail, but very questionable. There were a lot of deer/moose beds there. Track shows I was pretty much standing on it. Not sure when it was relocated. _x000D_ _x000D_ Soooo, decision time. Got very concerned at this slow pace it would be pushing my luck to go on to Wolf Cub, especially not knowing when the spruce/fir might let up. Decided to bail, shooting for the low point, but no matter what, the spruce/fir hell wouldn't let up. Started getting despondant at that point. Hit the brook, and decided to follow that with still slow going for the same reasons. Considered walking the brook, but wasn't in the mood for hypothermia :-)_x000D_ _x000D_ And then I saw it. The orange flagging. There did appear to be a trail associated with it (as reported), so followed that. And that was the last orange flag I saw. Argh. Decided not to backtrack, as I had pretty much had it by then, and finally made my way to Gordon Pond. It was sure nice to walk (quickly!) on the grass out there. Sat there for a good long time looking back at Wolf and the Cub ridge. _x000D_ _x000D_ Headed out on the spur path to the pond, and ended up knee deep in mud before I realized I was heading south on the trail. Backtracked and then I just happened to spot the stream crossing. Sheesh. Trail was pretty wet. Went back without incident, although my legs pretty much had no more "up" in them. No complaints about the steep descent to 112 :)_x000D_ _x000D_ Snow above 3000' in patches. No more than 1' deep._x000D_ _x000D_ [From]_x000D_ So this would be my first multiple peak attempt in my goal of doing the NH 3000+. While a completing a list appeals to the engineer in me (like, in the worst way), I also see it more as a means to the end - the method of visiting peaks I might not otherwise, I love different viewpoints, and I'm becoming more interested in finding long lost natural and manmade curiousities. So seeing Blue Ridge, Wolf and Wolf Cub bunched together had an appeal to me. I've done a little bushwhacking in the Whites in the past, and plenty of it further south, including the Mink Hills preserve behind my house (ohhh, how convenient). I can readily use a map and compass to get where I'm going, so I figured this (ahem) little whack to Wolf Cub shouldn't be too horrible. Ahh, grasshopper, how much we still have to learn

_x000D_ _x000D_ I left the Kinsman Ridge trailhead on 112, and got the expected oxygen stealiing steep prolonged climb out of Kinsman Notch. On the bright side, I was feeling pretty good. Oh, bless ye lungs of cleanliness! What wonders ye bring! This to me is a really nice trail, with a lovely mixture of ridge walking, some nice little glades, and a bog crossing. The occassional views from the obvious herd trails off the trail were really nice. Towards Whaleback and Loon were particularly prominent. The trail up to Gordon Pond was mostly dry, with some minor moist areas. I hit the high point on the trail on Blue Ridge, and then headed off into the woods for the short walk to the register. This was something of a special moment for me, as this was my first register (see my avatar, although I was putting on a purposely ridiculous happy face). Yeah, I know, it's that close to the trail, but hey, little junk gives me immense pleasure. Remember the part above about a 43 year old little boy

_x000D_ _x000D_ There was some minor snow patches above 3k, but never anything over 1 foot in depth. Going up to Wolf was a little wetter, including a flooded rock hopping patch. I reached the Wolf highpoint, and in this case the way to the actual summit was obvious for another register sign in. Back to the trail and the lookout where the view was stunning towards the Franconia Range. If you don't care about the peakbagging and just stick to the trail, you will be happily rewarded going up to Wolf.

_x000D_ _x000D_ So I'm now sitting on Wolf thinking, am I really going down there to bushwhack to Wolf Cub? Well, yes. Yes I am. Right? Errr, sure. So I headed back down the lookout trail to the KRT, and from there headed roughly SE. The idea was to try to avoid the steepest part of the E and NE slopes, hook up with the old AT and follow that north to a point where the woods were reported to be more open. Then up to Wolf Cub and along the ridge where there were some viewpoints, going along to Gordon Pond.

_x000D_ _x000D_ The first part was still somewhat steep, and I had to be really careful where I was putting my feet. I was hiking solo, and my wife (my former hiking partner who unfortunately can no longer walk very far) needs me, and I started to wonder of the wiseness of this venture. I did leave an annotated map with her, with phone #'s and "panic" time, and I was set to make it through a night out there, but still, I wouldn't want to put her through that, and a twisted ankle (or worse) would not make for a quick exit. Yet on I pressed, albeit as carefully as I could.

_x000D_ _x000D_ Somewhere above the old AT, I then ran into it. Spruce/fir saplings from H-E-double hockey sticks. I'd heard about it. I've experienced it to some degree. What I was mentally unprepared for what the extent and length of it. No skirting around it, having to spread the branches to see what I was about to step (or slide) on, forcing my way through. The only high points was near the old AT there were a number of deer or moose beds and trails, but not in the right heading for long. By the time I hit the area of the old AT, I had to stop and re-evaluate. First dumb mistake was not checking how long ago the AT was relocated. In that area, I could "sense" there was an old trail there, but heading one way or another, I couldn't get a firm grip on "yeah, this is it." So that was pretty much out.

_x000D_ _x000D_ I finally made the decision to bail. For the length of time it took me to get that far, there was a chance it would be getting late before I got out going with the original plan. So I headed obliquely down to the col towards Gordon Pond, eventually hooking up with the brook that feeds the pond. The spruce/fir saplings did not abate the entire time excepting for short sprints. I did find the orange flagging (well, an orange flag) as someone else had reported, and followed what I thought was an obvious trail, but this petered out, and that one flag was the only one I saw. At that point, I knew I was close to the pond and didn't feel much like backtracking.

_x000D_ _x000D_ I hit the pond, took some welcome long strides in the grassy area on the banks, and sat and enjoyed the view for quite some time, mainly looking up a Wolf on one side, and the Wolf Cub ridge on the other. And back. And forth. It was at that point that I realized I had lost my fleece, which was... ahem.... firmly attached to the back of my pack. Dang it, that thing was mighty cozy. I'm 43. I'm liking cozy more and more. Anyway, I eventually made my way to the Gordon Pond Trail, and par for the course, missed the brook crossing to head back to the KRT. I only went about 200 feet beyond it, but did manage to find a knee deep mud puddle (surprise!!). Of course, I had removed the gaiters at that point. HA! This trail was considerably wetter, but generally the worst of it could be avoided. Hooked up with the KRT, and headed back the way I came. Only notable part was I couldn't help but notice my legs had much less "up" left in them. I could go down and level speedily enough, but where did all my up go? Maybe I lost it with the fleece. Maybe the fleece was my magic "up" thing! Oh no!

_x000D_ _x000D_ Heading out in the car, heard a siren go by the trailhead, followed by two ambulances and a fire truck. Haven't been able to dig up what happened, but that might be a good sign it was nothing horrible. Anxious to get home, the Border Patrol had setup a 15 minute delay of a checkpoint on I-93. I was used to these in Arizona, but this was a first!

_x000D_ _x000D_ In retrospect, the off trail hike didn't seem that bad (it certainly wasn't great, but just something I haven't become accustomed to yet). I think it was as I said, I was mentally unprepared for that level of it, and to continue in that state would not have been productive. So it'll be a slower break-in for me, or find the worst thickets up in the Minks behind me and endlessly keep wandering through it Basically I made some dumb mistakes, but I'm happy to look back realizing I didn't make any that were that serious, in my opinion, just something to move forward and learn from.

_x000D_ _x000D_ And that kind of learning, I've never had a problem with.