Located close to my home in New Hampton are a series of cliffs known as Bald Ledge. These cliffs sit high above Winona Lake and offer outstanding views of Lakes Winona and Waukewan, as well as the Sandwich, Ossipee and Squam Mountain Ranges. The trail to the ledges can be easily reached via a trail starting from Sky Pond, a spring fed pond that is well known by fly fishermen.
The other day I received a phone call from an old friend wanting to get together for a short hike in the area. Bald Ledge was the perfect answer to his request. These ledges are part of the Beech Hill ridge that extends from close to the Pemigewasset River to Winona Lake. In precolonial times, this ridge served as a transportation route for Native Americans. It allowed them a safe and direct pathway between the Pemi and Lake Winnipesaukee to trade and barter for food and clothing at the fishing weirs, located at what is now Weirs Beach. Along this ridge, in an area that was known as Indian Mortar Farm, is a mortar sunk into the surface of a rock cliff. The mortar was used to grind corn or other plants and seeds into useable food. The mortar's pestle is said to have been destroyed when some ruffians threw it over the cliff and it shattered it into a several pieces. I have also read, to the contrary, that the pestle was put on display at the now closed Indian Head Bank in Lakeport, where Fratello's is now located. However, after speaking with Warren Huse of the Laconia Museum & Historical Society, this could not be confirmed.
Legend also has it that an Algonquin princess, Winona, was sitting atop of Bald Ledge one winter's day, when members of a warring tribe found her and tried to take her prisoner. She escaped down the cliffs and began to run across the frozen lake. But to her misfortune she fell through the ice and drowned. As this story became more commonplace, the lake, known as Long Pond at the time, was renamed Lake Winona in honor of the fallen princess.
Bald Ledge also holds an important place in local history, especially for the town of New Hampton, which celebrated its 117th Old Home Day this past Saturday. The ledge was the site of New Hampton's first Old Home Day in 1898. In these days, before autos ruled the transportation world, people walked or drove horse-drawn wagons to the site. So on that First Old Home Day, townspeople made their way to Bald Ledge on foot or in wagon. Today, Frank and I would be walking the same route.
So enough of these history lessons, and back to the hike. Frank and I met in New Hampton and drove up Dana Hill Road to Lower Oxbow Road. At the intersection there's a canoe launch sign that directs motorists to Sky Pond. Follow Lower Oxbow Road to Sky Pond Road on the left and after a short distance you will find a well maintained parking lot. The pond is well regarded in the fishing community as a premier trout pond, for fly fishing only.
After parking the car Frank and I began our hike by heading up the woods road that leads to Sky Pond State Forest. This woods road was once a section of the Old Province Road, built by Benning Wentworth around 1770 to transport goods between the Seacoast to the Upper Valley. Sections of this Colonial highway are still used today as Routes 4 and 107. Other sections have been lost to farmland and the wooded country side. However, this section of the road can still be used by hikers and leads to Beech Hill Road in New Hampton.
Within a quarter mile the trail takes a sharp left at a gate. On the corner we found a substantial cellar hole and barn foundation that was once the farmstead (1828-1880) of Orlando Huckins. Following this woods road that is being overtaken by vegetation Frank and I then entered an older stand of trees and began looking for the small trail sign nailed to a tree. Upon finding the sign we "hung" a right on the well- groomed path that led us to the overlook and Bald Ledge. Frank was amazed at the views we had after hiking for less than a mile. Directly below the ledge sits Winona Lake and further out we viewed lakes Waukewan and Winnipesaukee. To the north the vista provided a view of Squam Lake and the entire Sandwich and Ossipee Ranges. After a brief respite for a snack and water, we headed back and within a less than an hour we completed our short hike.
The Bald Ledge area can also be reached by the Lake Road that runs off of Winona Rd. Follow the Lake Road along the perimeter of Winona Lake. As you near the end of the road there is a small sign that directs you to the trail, taking you to Bald Ledge. This trail is somewhat longer and steeper, and not recommended for a leisurely walk. Either way you choose to hike to Bald Ledge will be a memorable experience. This is a gem in the Lakes Region that should not be missed.
The Bald Ledge area is owned by the Town of New Hampton and managed by the New Hampton Conservation Commission. We owe a great deal of thanks to the town and the commission for preserving this beautiful piece of land for all to use.
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