18. END LOOP TO BIRCH LANE
END LOOP. In 1915 most of End Loop was pasture, not woods as today. Included was the area of Site 169 and Sites 171-179. Site 177 was at the edge of the woods then and remaining Sites 178-180 were forested.
The 1915 map is detailed enough to show the small stream along the rear of Sites 171-174, with the land cleared for pasture extending slightly beyond it.
End Loop was not present as a distinct loop road on the 1935 map, instead characterized as an open field. George Brackett confirms that the land it occupies was available for unrestricted, unsited camping in 1935, with no loop road configuration until constructed by the CCC's in the late thirties.
Early view of area that was later formalized as End Loop.
Brackett Family in
1930 at what became
Field of future End Loop in 1931.
Field of future End Loop in 1933.
Perhaps this loop was unnamed in its early years. Like nearby Birch Lane, it was lumped in as part of the “Play Field Area” on the 1940 map.
When you think about it the “End” in
the title would have made no sense until after the old bridge
was removed in the early fifties, and the entrance shifted north,
so perhaps it was named then. The name “End Loop”
was well established by 1958.
Can we speculate that before the Administration Building was built in 1934, perhaps this was the location of a tent for on site USFS headquarters?
Early End Loop area view.
An early photo shows such a USFS tent on the Picnic
Area side with a ranger dispensing the mandatory camp fire permits.
The theory then is that the check in function moved to what would
become the End Loop area for the years 1928 to 1933.
On the south side of End Loop’s entrance is a wedge shaped open space area without campsite development. Oliver Brown told me that this grassed triangular area between two roads had one or more camp sites at one time, a fact also confirmed by George Brackett. Their permanent removal nicely enhanced the serenity of the nearby Play Field.
On the north side of the End Loop entrance a small spur provides parking for Sites 169, 170 and 171. Site 170 has the appeal of remoteness, on a height of land accessed by a foot bridge over a stream.
This configuration is identical to 1940, except that back then Site 170 was plotted as two sites rather than one. Perhaps this was a result of the major site reorganization near 1960.
In early years the front section of End Loop held 22 supplemental parking spaces, 11 on either side. The need for such extra parking for the nearby Administration Building seems hard to imagine now. But remember that in the thirties this area was the “front door” of the Campground, rather than the quiet back end that it became after 1951.
These two “overflow” parking lots on End Loop were due west of today's parking spaces for the Visitor Center. A path must have existed from the overflow parking on End Loop through what is today a lightly vegetated area, oriented directly to enter the flagstone walkway leading to the Visitor Center.
The location of the edge of trees on the 1940 map indicates that this short path was thru unwooded field at that time. A remnant of this walkway remains discernable and is still mowed.
The historic memos in the Forest Service file shed some light on the pressure to build the extra End Loop parking. Correspondence in 1936 to the District Ranger from 200 campers who signed a petition says “We appreciate the difficulty involved in keeping the parking area entrances to the Administration office clear, but feel that this can be minimized by a proper understanding and cooperation on the part of the campers.” The USFS response to the campers;
It now appears likely that the provision of additional parking space in front of the Administration Building, plus cooperation on the part of the campers themselves, will largely eliminate the inconvenience to incoming and outgoing campers which so commonly resulted this season from a congestion in traffic at the limited parking place in front of the Administration Building at the time of gatherings such as religious services.
As the little parking lot in front of the Visitor Center today has the same dimensions as in 1940, the reference above to additional parking must refer to the overflow parking on End Loop. We can assume that this parking was removed in the fifties as no longer needed after all check in activity was moved to the north end of the Campground.
A 1936 memory of Mr. and Mrs. Brown is of being harassed by a mountain lion at their camp site on what would become End Loop. The next day Ranger Smitty and Mr. Brown tracked the animal part way up Mount Madison but could not catch up with it. Today, when there are bears in the Campground, this section is often the most vulnerable.
End Loop Site Details: Driving into the Loop in 1940 the east side was without camping up until Site 175. However, a series of overflow parking spaces for the nearby Visitor Center were in existence in 1940 along this east side, across from Sites 172 and 173.
At this same point in 1940 the west side of
End Loop also contained parking spaces, near the location of Sites
172 and 173. There was one campsite
at or just north of Site 172.
Just after Lavatory #8 but before Site 178 is a path leading south to join with the Great Gulf Link Trail. While such paths around the Campground were not shown on the 1940 map, this one was well established in the thirties (GB).
Then as now it served as an important route of pedestrian movement to popular Rangers Pool. Today it is designated as part of the Hayes Copp Ski Trail.
View of Old
It is noteworthy that on Bradford Washburn's 1988 topographic map this pathway is given the same status as the nearby Great Gulf Link and Daniel Webster Trails. As already noted, George Brackett recalls it being of much more importance to campers back then than the Great Gulf Trail head at the old bridge.
A comparison of maps makes it appear that Site 177 may have been moved south to provide room for the lavatory building constructed in the mid-sixties, and that Sites 178, 179 and 180 are at or on their original 1940 locations. In 1940 a fuelwood yard serving the area was located somewhat west of Site 178.
As already mentioned, the original road took a direct routing from the old bridge northeasterly to a point near the intersection of End Loop and the Campground Road. According to the 1915 map, the Play Field consisted of field east of the original road and pasture to the west of it.
Looking northeast towards
tents on what became in
Old photos show the openness of the Play Field extending all the way to the Peabody River, without the buffer of trees along the embankment we see there now.
George Brackett and Dorothy Brown remember early camping right on the embankment of the River. Several photos document tents on this expanse up until 1939. The site side swimming and views must have made these sites popular.
Looking north at early
campers on eastern edge of
One access way ran north-south along the bank of the Peabody. Access drives also ran west to east across the area, imprints of these in the lawn of the Play Field may be discernable to some today.
Early north-south access
way along the bank of
The date of removing some camp sites to create the Play Field is best estimated as 1939. The 1940 map showed the Play Field as completed by that year, with all camping removed. Today, subtle ridges oriented east to west may be detected in the lawn here. It seems probable that these are a remnant of early cam site access.
George Brackett remembers that even though the Play Field area was open for camping in the thirties, it was large enough that a part was often the setting for impromptu ball games.
We can speculate that observing that activity, Forest Service planners chose this area to formalize as a green space for open space preservation and related light recreation.
It must have been thought that public usage here would also compliment the new and adjacent Administration Building, Council Fire Place and adjacent landscaped grounds.
A 1934 USFS file item hints that creation of the Play Field had been contemplated for some years. When the staff met with a UNH forestry expert in 1934 they viewed development plans for the Campground; “He suggested that some meadow land be retained for camp sites since obviously there are many people who desire an open location.”
Reinforcing his opinion may have been the fact that a big chunk of adjacent prime field had just been consumed that year as the site of the Administration Building.
A fieldstone water fountain relic, behind some vegetation at the southeast edge of the Play Field, probably dates from CCC days (GB). It is not remembered as being functional after the late fifties. Its cement work was observed as strong as of 2007.
A photo from about 1940 shows low log barriers along the Play Field’s road frontage. Examining that photo, Bob Brown suggested that after 20 years of allowing direct driving onto the field to camp, the new barriers were necessary as a forceful reminder that such access was no longer permitted. These log barriers remained in place through the fifties until the big rehabilitation near 1960.
THEN: Looking north
on main campground road.
AND NOW: Scene above as it looks today.
Decades after its creation the Play Field is still not full of swings, slides, or even a formalized baseball diamond. The only hint of recreation equipment was the presence from about 1985-2005 of two large diameter concrete drainage pipes, presumably for children's play.
The absence of intensive recreational development in Dolly Copp is consistent with an old policy, as evidenced by this eloquent 1939 letter from the Regional Forester to the Chief of the Forest Service in Washington:
This Region feels that the National Forests are eminently suited to provide a different kind of recreation, a variety largely undirected which permits the individual to enjoy as he sees it without guidance and supervision.
In the midst of an abundance of natural opportunities for spontaneous undirected enjoyment, it would be pitiable to introduce recreation that is duplicated in spirit in almost every urban center in the Region.
Because they represent one phase of this “guided” activity, swings, tetter boards, and other conventional equipment are conspicuous by their absence in our forest camps.
At Dolly Copp the entire gamut of opportunities for individual recreation exists in a gorgeous setting of mountains and forests.
Upon my first visit to Dolly Copp in 1962 the Browns took me to the Play Field after dark. They wanted me to experience a star show far brighter and more inspiring than that visible from our suburban Reading, Mass. homes with their nearby street lights and Greater Boston sky glow.
Since then Dolores and I have taken our own children Betsy, Becca and Joe, and their friends, including Sue (Ogle) Lord, to the Play Field after dark for this rural experience.
We can assume that the Play Field has always been an excellent location for such star gazing. At night here during such periods as the annual August Perseid Meteor Shower you are almost certain to see others peering up and awaiting movement in the heavens.
Writing for the 75th anniversary, the Shouldis Family recalls the sixties: “At the end of August and into September we have sat on the ball field watching the Aurora Borealis as late as 2 A.M. The colors are beautiful.”
View easterly to Imp
in 1928 with autos on
The Shouldis Family again speaks for many with this reminiscence: “In September you can sit on the ball field and watch how the leaves on Imp Mountain change color. It is a nice relaxing sight.
Sometimes we sit on the boulders by the river and watch the birds in the trees. We like to bird watch, animal watch and look at the wild flowers that grow along the camp road.”
Into the mid-eighties there was a sign at the front of the field by the road stating “Play Area, No Camping,” now removed.
Play Area sign in 1980s.
Looking north at autumn
To the rear of the Play Field along the bank of the river is a scenic path. Starting in back of the Visitor Center it proceeds north, on behind Birch Lane, then fades out at the base of the cliff beneath Riverside Drive.
Bob Brown remembers that in the fifties, prior to a shift of river rocks here, the path in a rough form continued on to the north, paralleling Riverside Drive, to connect with the path to Flat Rock Pool.
From the entrance of End Loop south to the original
bridge the Pinkham B Road of 1915 had a straight alignment. But
then by 1940 it was replaced with one bowed out to the west, as
seen today. The result of the relocation was more lawn and buffer
for the Visitor Center, perhaps an idea from the thirties development
This early roadway section “points out” over the Play Field, towards the old bridge crossing, and is a vestige of the original 1830's to 1930's alignment.
Looking south on the
BIRCH LANE. It is likely that what is now Birch Lane was just one of a series of informal lanes running west to east across what is now the Play Field. The theory is that when the others were removed in the late thirties to create the Play Field, this northernmost field edge accessway was saved and formalized.
View easterly down
Birch Lane. Before 1939 this route
It also may have been more important than the others in the thirties, for as a component of the roadway circulation around the edge of what is now the Play Field, provided access to sought after river bank camping sites.
George Brackett says that in its earliest years, Birch Lane did not extend as far toward the River as it does now. But by 1940 Birch Lane had dense campsite development at its east end along its Peabody River frontage. Perhaps this was due to demand for tent sites directly on the edge of the water.
Numerous riverside tent sites had been available up until about 1933 in the Picnic Area, and at the river side of the Play Field area until the end of 1938.
But by 1940 the far end of Birch Lane was the only section in the entire Campground with easy Peabody River access, perhaps the reason for the very high tent site density allowed there in the thirties.
Birch Lane in 1940
with its many
There has been significant change on Birch Lane since 1940, in the form of a major reduction in the number of sites. In 1940 it held Campsites 17 to 32, sixteen in all. Today it is host to Sites 162 to 168, a total of 7, for a net loss of 9.
Birch Lane Site Details: Turning
into Birch Lane from the main campground road, today on the right
are Campsites 163 and 166, while
in 1940 there were three. The site removed was between them.
The north frontage of Birch Lane offers Sites 162, 164 and 165. The thirties plan organized these three sites into four.
The greatest change has been at the Peabody River eastern end of Birch Lane, where there are just two sites, 167 and 168. As noted there were once seven sites in the vicinity of what are now just these two.
The communal water supply faucet in 1940 was at this far end of the Lane, probably due to the high concentration of sites there. It has since been relocated to the center of activity on the main stem.
The original sites at this low end might not have been as crowded together as we might assume by the size of the current open area, for the edge of woods as defined on the 1940 map has crept in during the six intervening decades.
Photo above courtesy
of Sue and Peter Wood, who like to camp at the end of
Between the end of the pavement on Birch Lane and the Peabody there is today a small gravel parking area for river access, acknowledged as such on the official campground map. To the south of it is an informal path thru a wooded area leading up to the Play Field and lavatory. This path area in 1940 provided parking with camp sites adjacent.
Hurricane Carol in August of 1954 devastated lower Birch Lane (CH). The memory of Elsie Ashworth documenting this has already been recorded.
According to Belvin Barnes a major storm in 1958 again flooded this area. He dates the closing of the dense patch of riverside sites here to that year, perhaps also a goal of the major site reorganization of that time.
For fear of future floods, all sites near the water here were closed for some years. Later, Sites 167 and 168 were opened on what had historically been a much more densely tented area. Many today rate these two water front sites as the most popular in the Campground.
After Site 165 the nearby stream makes a sharp turn to skirt Sites 167 and 168. Old maps show this was not always the case, that the streambed in its original state continued straight east to the Peabody.
It was a USFS installed 1958 berm along the bank of the River here, quite visible today, which now diverts the original stream channel (BB).