a week in Intervale

Posted: September 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: fun, nature, tourism | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


We took a week off to catch our breath and chill out with some friends in the family cabin in Intervale, the white mountains of New Hampshire. Way back when we first saw this house for sale, I remember thinking, “Limington — that’s close to Intervale! Let’s move there!” so it’s been really great to actually spend some more time there this season. We had ambitious plans to do lots of hiking and brought along our newish AMC hiking guide with the intention of checking out some new trails. It turned out to be a little difficult because of the recent hurricane. Our first hike was going to be Sugarloaf mountain, near Crawford Notch area, but it turned out that Route 302, the only road through the notch area, was closed because of a bridge washed out in the hurricane! With no real detour route available, we resorted to taking a much shorter hike, to splash and wade in the icy pools at Diana’s Baths, a perennial favorite.

diana's baths


with friends at Diana’s Baths

Next day we picked out another new hike, Champney Brook Trail, which follows the brook partway up the back side of Mt. Chocorua, from a trailhead off the Kankamagus highway to a series of waterfalls with some mountain views from the top of the falls. Since the rivers were all running high after the hurricane, we thought it would be a good time for a waterfall trail, and with an unseasonably warm afternoon it was perfect for splashing in the stream a bit. The trail was a pretty gentle ascent at first, with an astounding array of beautiful mushrooms and toadstools and fungi growing everywhere, and the first bright-colored sugar maple leaves on the ground, in contrast with the balmy weather.

mushrooms first fall leaves

crazy bright mushroom mushrooms tall mushroom


It was about 1 hour gentle climbing through mossy pine forest, alongside the brook the whole time, until we reached the upper loop of the trail. You’re supposed to go up the left side of the loop, alongside the falls, where the path becomes a fairly steep rocky staircase. We stopped at the lower part of the falls and explored off to the left, beyond the main brook, where big rock cliffs rise up on each side of a little gorge with a tall, slender little waterfall at the back.

canyon laika dan and mike

from the top of the falls

Climbing further up the rocky steps, we came up on top of the bigger falls. You have to clamber across some big boulders to get into the middle of the brook before you can see a lovely sliver of mountains between the trees.
I think you can continue further up the trail from here, probably to higher falls and wider views, and eventually I think this path leads to the summit of Mt. Chocorua, but we had to get Kristi back to the airport in Portland that evening, so we didn’t linger to explore further – pretty much jogged back down the trail, to the puppy’s delight. This was a fun hike, pretty quick and easy if you don’t mind a very little bit of steep, scrambly ascent.

clouds and white mountains. from the Intervale scenic vista.

Friday we planned a bigger hike, and found a beautiful trail description of an 8-mile hike accessible from a long dirt road in the Evans Notch area, right on the Maine/NH border in a much quieter, more remote part of the White Mountain National Forest. Woke up to bitter cold, grey and cloudy skies. We stopped in town to buy me a warm wooly winter hat – I figured that was the least bulky way to keep from getting chilled on the trail – and then drove on over Hurricane Mountain towards the Maine border, as the grey skies turned to rain. It was a gorgeous drive up 113 into the park, as the road became a winding single lane. When we got to our turnoff to the dirt road, it was closed off due to hurricane wash-out. We would’ve had to walk an extra 5 miles in rain to reach the trail head, so instead we reconsidered and picked out a plan B, which was The Roost trail, just a few hundred yards down the road, a very quick 1.8 mile loop trail, very steep scramble up to a high bluff with a lovely view. It took maybe 20 minutes to scramble straight up to the summit, and then we had a leisurely snack and enjoyed the cloudy view. (Our sandwiches were notably super delicious, from the Local Grocery in North Conway which I would highly recommend!)

steep trail stream

top of the Roost

Thankfully the return leg of the loop is a gentler pitch, easier on the knees for descending. We crossed a tiny stream and saw some kind of old stone foundation right on the banks – probably the remains of a little mill, I guess? Soon we passed a few apple trees, mixed in among the pine and beech. We didn’t see any other signs of human life, but it must’ve been a farmstead with an orchard or something. Amazing that the apple trees were the longest lasting sign that somebody had once lived there, in the middle of what is now an utterly remote forest. The apples looked big and beautiful, but I tried one and it was awfully sour!

apples river
sour apples, wild river?

It was a lovely hike, but felt a little short, since we’d been thinking to do a whole big day-long expedition. On the way home we stopped at the top of Hurrican Mountain and hiked up to Black Cap, which is another familiar favorite! Even with clouds it was spectacular.
Mike and Dan decided to go back to Limington that evening, both because it had gotten quite cold, and because they needed to get some work done and wanted a better internet connection. And Laika and I decided to stay on in Intervale by ourselves! It wasn’t too awfully cold, with the electric blanket and some warm PJ’s.
Next day Laika and I picked out a few hikes, plans A, B and C, since we didn’t know which trails might be closed due to hurricane damage. We were tempted to try a big hike up Mt. Chocorua but decided to put it off til later (maybe next year?) and ended up just taking a walk along Sawyer River in Crawford Notch near the bridge that had washed out on 302. It was a dirt road, again closed off with a sign about hurricane damage. I thought it might not be safe to drive, but it looked perfectly walkable and delightfully deserted, perfect for letting the dog run off-leash. So we set off into the woods and had a nice hour-long walk before we abruptly came to the very edge of the world! The road had washed out almost completely. We didn’t even think about trying to go on any further, let alone going anywhere near the edge! Just turned back home. On the way we stopped by the river to splash a bit. No scenic vistas on this walk, but a nice quiet time in the woods, with the sound of the rushing river nearby.

the road washed out!

leaning giant mushrooms

fluff balls!

hurricane damage, woodsy delights

Next time we plan hiking adventures in the white mountains we’ll definitely have to research trail and road conditions, since it seemed like almost every dirt / gravel road was damaged or at least closed off. Hopefully it will be easier to get around by springtime! The missing bridge on 302 had been replaced by the end of the week.

replacement bridge after wash out
temporary bridge on 302

It was great to have a long quiet weekend in Intervale with just me and the dog and the birds outside in the trees. I got to do some sketching, and some reading, and some good relaxing by the fireside.

night time

Local Attractions: Mid-Coast Maine

Posted: January 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: fun, Local Attractions, nature, tourism | 1 Comment »

Pemaquid Lighthouse Port Clyde 

Wild Flowers On The St. George River Schooner Steven Taber in the fog

Mount Megunticook LookoutIsle au Haut, Maine 019

View Mid-Coast Maine for visitors in a larger map

I wish I got to spend more time in Maine’s mid-coast area; it’s beautiful and filled with interesting stuff to do – nature, history, art, craft, food, museums, concerts and festivals, antiquing and flea-marketing, beaches and boating, hiking, rugged and remote stony coastlines and pretty little seaside towns filled with victorian mansions. Here’s a quick overview of the region from Downeast Magazine. The Maine coastline is a convoluted fractal landscape of fjords and islands and peninsulas, and a lot of the interesting stuff is way down at the end of peninsulas so it can sometimes take a long time to drive a short distance. Route 1 is the coastal route that heads from Portland all the way up towards the Canadian border; it passes by some gorgeous scenery, salt marshes and busy harbors as it hugs the contours of the coastline and passes through dozens of amazing little seaside towns and tourist stops, but it’s a two-lane road that tends to get brutally congested during summer weekends and basically for the entire month of august and anytime there’s some event going on, plus especially backed-up at all the bridges where it crosses from one peninsula to another – we’ve sat in some epic traffic jams on both sides of the bridge in Wiscasset. So either bring some snacks and good tunes and be ready to take it slowly, or else consider strategic use of 95 or 295 to get up to Augusta and then head east to the coast. You’ll miss some lovely scenery but in the busy season it’s often the faster way to go. If you do pass near Augusta, it’s seriously worth stopping for a meal at A1 Diner in Gardiner, a cute and colorful classic diner with excellent eats including some great sweet-potato fries.

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Local Attractions: White Mountains

Posted: January 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: fun, Local Attractions, nature, tourism | No Comments »

full sweep

Crawford Notch, New Hampshire misty lake chocorua

alpine zone trail signpost mossyrocks

Jackson, NH Barn Diana's Baths

Franconia Ridge / Crawford Depot / Lake Chocorua / Franconia Ridge / Imp Trail / Rattle River Trail / Jackson barn / Diana’s Baths

View White Mountains for visitors in a larger map

Limington is almost in the foothills of the beautiful White Mountains! North Conway, New Hampshire is only 40 minutes from our house, and while North Conway itself is basically just a big traffic jam with hundreds of strip malls and discount shopping outlets, it’s also the “gateway” to mountain fun and outdoor adventures in and around the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail. In early September the air should be crisp, the sunshine warm and clear and the earliest leaves will be starting to change color – really a perfect time for hiking and exploring in the White Mountains. Clear days will give glorious views of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast (6,288 feet), famous for some of the earth’s highest recorded wind speeds at its summit, which is accessible by the Mount Washington Auto Road as well as by (a tough) hiking trail. The Kancamagus Highway is a really famous pleasure-driving destination for fall visitors to see the bright fall leaves covering the mountainsides in autumn colors. It takes about an hour to drive the winding, twisty Kancamagus from one end in Conway, NH to the other end in Lincoln, NH, cutting through the remote White Mountain National Forest. It follows along the rocky Swift River bed up into the mountains and takes you over high passes with sweeping views of the white mountains all around and lots of pull-offs to admire the scenic vistas. In the fall the Kancamagus gets kind of busy with lots of sight-seers and leaf-peepers, but it shouldn’t be too filled with traffic, even in fall foliage season.

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