Evans a Hidden Notch Above

  • The Basin, in North Chatham, N.H., sits in Evans Notch, the easternmost mountain pass in the White Mountain National Forest.

Special to the Valley News
Sunday, July 30, 2017

The spot is a delicate White Mountain National Forest diamond easily found in the rough notch less taken.

There, at the base of the eastern edge of the Baldface-Royce Range in Evans Notch, sits the nearly 25-acre pond surrounded by a glacial cirque amphitheater. Sit long enough at one of the picnic tables and you’ll perhaps hear the haunting cry of a loon or the flapping wings of a blue heron. Maybe a trout will jump from the waters or a paddler will splash through the pristine pond also bordered by a good 43-foot high earthen dam.

Basin Pond reflects the wondrous bowl-shaped ravine that surrounds it. It is not well-known like Tuckerman, nor Huntington. It is not the popular basin in Franconia Notch that shares the same name.

It’s a scenic reservoir under the watchful gazes of West Royce and Mount Meader that feeds the rushing Cold River.

During the craziness of summer, Evans Notch is a good place to escape. Straddling the New Hampshire-Maine border along the wiggling Route 113, the mountain pass is the easternmost notch in the White Mountains. The narrow roadway is frequently covered by canopies of trees as it meanders between the two states. Pop into the brick farmhouse, Brickett Place, to get an idea of what 19th century life was like. The Federal-style building, restored in 2011, is the oldest building in the USFS Eastern Region.

Certainly paddlers and anglers can enjoy a quiet outing on the Basin. Fishermen can also tempt themselves along the Wild River in the notch. Road bikers can enjoy and be challenged by the swells along the meandering road which heads north from Fryeburg, Maine, through North Chatham, N.H., and back to the small Maine town of Gilead. From there, roadies can connect with U.S. Route 2 and North Road, which stretches between Shelburne, N.H., and Bethel, Maine, for a sweet spin.

But the pass is also prime camping and hiking territory.

Four USFS campgrounds call Evans Notch home, three of them in New Hampshire and one in Maine. Forget about wifi and showers. It’s book, cribbage and campfire domain. The campgrounds serve up basic necessities such as rest rooms and water, and water can range from pouring from the tap to some elbow grease with a pump, and toilets from vault to a basic commode.

Hastings Campground, near Gilead, is situated in what once was the town of Hastings set between the Wild River and Evans Brook. The logging town once had a 20-mile long railroad. Now there’s a campground for relaxing.

Wild River Campground is the most remote of the quartet, located five miles down the gravel Wild River Road, one that may also be a plus for old-school mountain bikers. Along the namesake river, the site is a launching pad for hikes along the Wild River Trail or into the jagged Wild River Wilderness.

The Cold River and Basin campgrounds are next to each other, the first campgrounds travelers come across heading north on Route 113 from Stow, Maine, with its belly-filling Stow Corner Store. Cold River has some open and wooded sites, while the Basin is on the shores of the pond and also provides easy access to the Basin Trail, which affords a glorious look down to the pond and a chance to visit the 30-foot horsetail Hermit Falls.

Each campground is close to an assortment of picturesque and heart-pumping hikes. Certainly the nearly 10-mile loop over the Baldfaces using Baldface Circle Trail and Bicknell Ridge Trail is a classic ridge trek. Combining Blueberry and Speckled mountains provides a sweat-inducing 8.6-mile circuit into the Caribou Speckled Mountain Wilderness, which was designated as a protected area by the 1990 Maine Wilderness Act. Head across the bare summit of Caribou Mountain on a nearly 7-mile lap along the Caribou and Mud Brook trails.

A 4.8-mile roundtrip highlight is staying at the Basin Campground and picking up the Basin Trail from your site as it follows the shoreline and then joins with an old logging road. Take the side trail to Hermit Falls and watch as it cascades down the rocky face. Rejoin the Basin Trail as it steepens to Rim Junction. Take those steps on the Basin Rim Trail and feel your jaw drop to stunning views to the south and east as the Basin shimmers below in the tranquil notch.

Marty Basch can be reached at mbasch@gmail.com.