Posted: September 18th, 2011 | Author: eliza | Filed under: fun, nature, tourism | Tags: fall, hiking, intervale, travel, vacation | 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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.
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.