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Back before Sept 2011 we were trail adopters of the Rocky Branch Trail between Shelters # 1 and 2. This was one of the lesser-traveled trails in the Whites, and had been pretty neglected, except by the moose, and even they had let quite a lot of the trail get brushed in.

We did quite a lot of brushing and clearing of blowdowns and drainages, and had the trail back in pretty good shape. Then along came Irene aka "the storm of 2011".


The RBT, like several other trails, roads, camps and houses, suffered serious damage. Our section of trail was closed; in fact I think it was a year or two before the section from Jericho Rd to Shelter 1 ( a much more frequently used section) was reopened.

Odd to think that we were sad - I mean, sad over what had become a significant chunk of work? But, yes, we missed the trail.

There have been rumors of the WMNF reopening the trail for a while, then a SOPA, then we heard work had started.  A couple of weeks ago we had a chance meeting with Bailey, the ranger in charge of the RBT rehab, and she told us it was open again!

So ... obviously, we had to plan for a trip to see how the rehab had worked out...
Gallery / slide show

There were a couple of ways to handle this ... one would have been to mountain bike in , then hike out-and-back over the reopened section. Or do an end-to-end via a car drop. We opted for a car drop, despite the fact that it would require us to traverse the dreaded upper section of the RBT ( IMHO a very dull trail section ... basically a PUD, almost viewless and wet to boot,  from Rt 16 to the old Shelter 2 site. Ugh. )

So , we did a car drop on Jericho Rd and drove up to Pinkham. Glorious day! Normally I'd be all about getting some elevation on such a day, but I was pretty excted to visit  our old friend. I took a picture at trailhead and immediately after stowing my camera an absolutely magnificent pileated woodpecker swooped by, landed in a tree 20 feet away , gave me the eye and took off before I could even react. :)  Not bad, as omens go. What a beauty he was !

We moseyed up the trail, and appreciated the fact that the dry weather kept the trail from being too wet, and eventually reached the RB river.

With the water so low, the crossing was pretty straightforward, though I am very cautious in crossings. I hate when I slip and have to listen to my boots squish for the rest of the walk ...

After crossing , we walked past the former shelter 2.  This is now an unsightly pile of old boards; presumably these are to be removed at some point ...

The next several miles were very interesting. We had a great time spotting sections of the old trail that had survived, and following the new reroutes. Most of these are excellent, some are improvements, getting well up above the river. Between the height of the reroutes and the scouring of the river by Irene, the trail has some very interesting vistas that the old trail never had. 

Bailey told us they did 17 reroutes. I have to defer to her count, I lost track somewhere around 7 :)

Some of the old trail's 4 river crossings were challenging even in low water; the new crossings are all easier than the originals. Irene widened the river in a lot of places; much of the river bed is changed. Looking at the banks in some spots you can imagine the roaring water sloshing from side to side, finding new channels and digging new slides.....

Mostly the trail is easy to follow; there was one crossing where we were puzzled for a little bit. No blazes or cairns, but eventually we spotted some cut logs so that was solved.

There is one spot where the trail requires a little agility to get around a bit of ledge, with no really good handholds ... I really didnt like that spot. I'm averse to falling. Fortunately, neither of us fell in :)

I think upstream it would not seem so sketchy.

SO ... the RBT is open again! The reroute work is extensive and well done; there are some pretty impressive switchbacks and other constructs, and a LOT of trail cuts to get around old sections that are just ... gone someplace downriver !

Go check it out, it is an unusual riverwalk with some cool history from the railroad days, and some interesting physical features , especially after Irene!

Thanks WMNF and thanks Bailey & croo!


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