Day 27 – White Mountain Wonderland Part 2

Yesterday’s Post – New Hampshire/Maine

Outside of waking up in a house and going to bed in a house, today was like a bad day at the office when the task list remains untouched due to other challenges that arise throughout the day.  The good news:  an irritating day on the road is still better than a good day in the office!

From the outset, today entailed a significant amount of driving.  The end of the drive yesterday took me to the northern part of New Hampshire which is how I scored the house in northwestern Maine, but the drive today began in Littleton, NH around the middle of the state and headed east to Conway, NH before I turned southeast to stay with my stepdad’s cousin George in Prouts Neck, Maine which is south of Portland.  I basically completed a giant U-turn.

After about 2 ½ hours of driving, I began the “scheduled” scenic tour in Franconia Notch State Park.  The Reader’s Digest Book suggested to ride the Aerial Tramway, the first of its kind in North America, across the highway at Cannon Mountain for a picturesque view of Echo Lake.  Since it was almost noon, and I hadn’t taken the dogs for their morning walk, I decided to take a 1.5 mile loop hike.  Little did I know that the loop went up and over the mountain.  Parts of the path were so steep that I could have used the ropes the climbers were using to scale the cliff above!  I was able to catch a glimpse of Echo Lake including the parking lot behind it, which seemed to tarnish the beauty in my opinion.

I intended to make my next stop at Old Man of the Mountain, a rock ledge that resembles a human profile and dubbed Great Stone Face by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Given it was the first sunny day of the last week and it was a holiday weekend, everyone in New England fit in their last outing for the summer.  Overflow parking for main park attractions lined the two lane highway for several hundred yards in every direction.  A steady flow of traffic created a parking lot along Kancamagus Highway which is one of the highest roadways in the Northeast.  According to Reader’s Digest, the corkscrewing route is also one of the prettiest.  I must have arrived a day too late.  The leafless trees provided one of the most barren of all the drives I have taken thus far.

I chose to plug along, skip seeing Sabbaday Falls, and dodge the cars pulling in and out of the scenic overlooks and trailhead parking areas until I climbed the pass and arrived at the Russell-Colbath House.  I’m not quite certain what the draw to this house is except it is the valley’s earliest remaining historic farmhouse.    The house was built in 1832 by Thomas Russell and his son Amzi after Russell purchased five 100 acre lots the previous year for $5.25.

Amzi and his wife Eliza raised five daughters in the home and lived off their garden crops and fruits of the surrounding forest and stream.  For the next 40 years, Amzi continued purchasing forest land nearby presuming the railroad would come to the valley.  Eventually, the railroad arrived, but not until after Amzi died and the family had to sell most of its land to meet financial obligations.

In the 1880’s, Eliza deeded the property to her daughter Ruth, married to Thomas Colbath, who continued farming the land.  One day, Thomas left the house, telling Ruth he’d be back in a little while to never return during her lifetime.  It is said that Ruth placed a candle in the window each night awaiting his return.  Thomas finally returned 42 years after he left, 3 years after Ruth’s death.

After a quick visit to the house and cemetery and a walk around the surrounding nature trail, Scout, Petey, and I traveled to Maine to meet Moxie, Arrow, and George.  George and I chatted until about 10:30 when we finally sat down for a flank steak and broccoli dinner.  His friend Pharibe came by too.  Pharibe and George have known each other since they were kids from spending summers in Maine.  Pharibe has three girls all in boarding school at Miss Porter’s.  She recently sold her house in Massachusetts and plans on moving to a small town in Virginia.  Uniquely, her college roommate at Duke was from Highland Park, Texas…small world!

George, when not in Maine, spends his time in Denver.  He owns several rental properties that he leases to DU kids.  His house in Maine is seven bedrooms with a view of the ocean and sunset…fantastic.  He has two great dogs, Moxie and Arrow that were probably disappointed that Petey and Scout are so OLD!  We enjoyed an evening of good times, good food, and good spirits. While the day was a bust in terms of enjoying the nature, the night of good company made up for it! ETB


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Day 26 – White Mountain Wonderland

New Hampshire…White Mountain Wonderland

I read in the Reader’s Digest book that the highest wind speed ever recorded on land (231 mps) was at Mount Washington.  I was having a difficult time believing it until I camped about 20 miles from it.  The wind was so forceful last night that it blew my tent right off the stakes which I had hammered into the ground.  Also, it was so loud that I wondered if there would be any fall foliage left to see or if all the leaves would be on the ground.  Thankfully, it blew away the rain, but wow was it a bitter cold breeze!

I awoke around 7 and wish I took a picture of the clouds…they were pink like it was sunset instead of sunrise.  Scout, Petey, and I went for a walk on a trail called Dry River Connection that went all the way to Mt. Washington, but it was only about six tenths of a mile before I had to cross the river.  I thought, my damp shoes finally have a chance to dry…think I’ll turn around!  The walk took the edge off the dogs who I had hoped would be tuckered out from the walk yesterday and also gave me a good photo opportunity of mushrooms growing inside a hollow log…kind of cool.

I moved on to White Mountain National Forest nearPinkham Notch where the dogs and I hiked a short trail to Glen Ellis Falls.  Dating back to the Ice Ages, the grinding action of ice steepened the valley cliffs.  It is thought that the falls was created by a series of avalanches from the east side cliffs.  The falls are 64 feet high and the volume is such that it could satisfy the daily needs of a 25,000 person town.

Next I attempted to take the Auto Road to Mount Washington, known as the

Base of Mt. Washington

most dangerous small mountain in the world.  While it is only 6,288 feet, due to high winds and unpredictable weather, Himalayan climbers use it for survival training.  The mountain’s summit can be reached by car, train, scheduled van rides, or by hiking.  By car, it is 8 miles to the top; however, today autos were only allowed up to mile four for $14 and no view!  Regularly it costs $28 to drive oneself to the summit and $62 to take the train.  I suspect the van ride falls somewhere in between…expensive 8 mile stretch of road!

I had set aside a few hours for Mt. Washington, but since summiting wasn’t an option, I noticed I had cell service so I stopped at Molly Copp Campground in the White Mountain National Forest to do some hiking and caching.  The dogs and I walked along the river for a couple of miles and picked up two caches around the campgrounds.  The first was an ammo can hidden in a stump and the second was a camouflaged container hidden beneath some rocks near the river.  The second cache called “Pebbles” was home to a geocoin.  The geocoin was from Utah with a goal to share the state’s beauty far and wide, so I took the coin with me and will drop it in another cache soon.  Geocoins are trackable items by way of logging the number printed on the coin into the geocaching website.  The owner as well as anyone who has logged finding the coin may track its travels around the world.

The only other stops along the Reader’s Digest scenic drive were a few state parks, and I had hiked enough for the day, so I determined my time was best spent out of the freezing wind in a nice, warm house in Rangeley, Maine.  Along the way, I came across an interesting historic marker…small man-made islands used to secure a chain of boom logs which divided the Androscoggin River during annual log drives.  Both the Brown Paper Co. and the International Paper Co. shared the river to float their logs from the forests to the mills.  The logs were marked to identify their ownership and sorted further down the river.  The log drives ended in 1963.

Five miles south of Errol, NH where I was to turn toward Rangeley, Maine, a power line had fallen across the road, and the firemen suggested that the two lane highway would be closed for hours…  I’m told there was a dirt road that could be navigated into to Errol, but only for those familiar with the area.  As tempted as I was to rely on Gina the GPS, I thought better of it given Gina wanted me to turn on T.H. 51 a few days ago.  For the life of me, I couldn’t determine what type of road T.H. was (Hwy., Rte, Interstate) until I saw it…Trail Head…I’m not on a 4-wheeler…I’m in VANilla.  Thus, 50 miles later, I knew when I was almost half way as Gina stopped trying to U-turn me, I detoured the fallen power line!

Jody’s five bedroom, white planked home with a view of a lake from the front porch and a view of a golf course from the back porch was a welcome sight!  Jody, who I’ve never met, is the son of one of my father’s best friends from college, Shaky, and I’m thankful he was nice enough to let me stay for the evening, especially without him being here.    While the house is fantastic, the biggest treat for me after switching on the breakers, was to enjoy a hot shower and know when I finished the inside temperature would be above 45 degrees!

A two mile drive took me into to town to Parkside & Main for a burger and beer (I’m going to have to get back to salads soon).  The place was packed.  At 6 O’clock patrons were waiting to be seated…Saturday of a holiday weekend I guess.  With a content tummy, I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table next to a wood burning stove enjoying the toasty warm heat radiating throughout the room.  I’m going to sleep well tonight!


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Day 25 – New Hampshire Highlights

Mostly White Mountains, New Hampshire

The night was extremely windy.  I began wondering if the wind were ever strong enough, would the pop-top on VANilla fall down on top of me or would the van would just get blown over due to being so top heavy.  I learned the top falls down a little anyway.

We started the morning with an hour hike in our campgrounds.  I wanted to make sure to get a good one in since yesterday was full of short stops only.  First we walked leash free around an interpretive trail through the woods and by the stream.  The dogs bounced through the chilly morning air.  Upon completing the loop, we took an out and back walk on Beaver Trail…again through the woods and across a few streams.  We also passed remains of a work area that housed men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corp, a national work project during the Great Depression.  Fireplaces as well as a water storage building stood nearby the path.

My next stop was in Bath, NH to actually drive across one of the covered bridges I’ve been photographing.  I simply drove across, took a few pictures, and drove back.  I arrived just as the tour bus did, so several people were walking across the bridge as well.  I suspect the locals appreciate the end of the tourist season so they can drive home without dodging picture happy pedestrians.

In Littleton, I stopped at Chutters, home to the World’s Longest Candy Counter.  Yes, it is in the Guinness Book of World Records.  I grabbed a handful each of gummy coke bottles, cherry balls, chewy sprees and hot tamales.  I also helped myself to a few pieces of Bazooka and a GIANT Pixie stick!  While I have fond memories of my brothers (Bart and Ed) and me licking on giant jaw breakers and stuffing Big League Chew in our mouths like tobacco, I decided to pass on the potential mess.  Don’t worry, the dogs weren’t left out, they got some homemade peanut butter dog treats.

Littleton was quite busy too.  In order to cross the 2 lane highway, you “stop, look, [and] wave” at the cross walk according to the block lettered paint on the side of the street.

Given the holiday weekend, I continued on to find a campground early.  Also, the White Mountains are host to a plethora of trails, so I wanted to get one more good hike in for the day.  I found one of five remaining sites at Dry River Campgrounds.  I set up my tent for the first time to reserve my spot, as I planned on driving to Arethusa Falls.  The weather forecast called for mostly sunny with a slight chance of rain.  I hadn’t seen the sun since early this morning as it was rising over the mountains in Vermont, and yes, by the time I got to the trail it was sprinkling.

The ranger at the campground described the 1.4 mile trail to the falls (2.8 miles roundtrip) to be moderate and that it would take two hours to complete.  With the old mutts, a weak ankle, and the time around 3 pm, I filled my pack with a few Reese’s, water, bear mace, and a rain coat and began climbing up the mountain.  As expected we scrambled over large rocks and trees roots as we ascended upward.  The path leveled out enough to capture the rain and create a boggy mess.  Regardless, it was worth the trip.  The falls are the single longest drop in New England.

Along the trail, I met Ruth and Terry from Florida near Palm Beach.  They were traveling around New England enjoying the foliage as well and will be in Maine around the same time I am.  Who knows, maybe I’ll run into them again!  Terry is a vet in Florida…nice to know in case I need anything for Scout in the South.  Ruth is a physical therapist, and I needed her right then and there!  My hip has been on fire from driving in the car all day long.  I’m not sure what stretches to complete, not to mention, it’s not like I could even lie on the ground and do any during the last week unless I wanted a river to flow over me.

As I completed the hike, the rain just kept falling harder.  I kept being optimistic and hung on to the weather forecast of only a chance of rain, thus I never removed my raincoat from my pack.  By the end of the trail, the dogs and I were soaked, but I still stopped to get a picture of the Frankenstein Cliffs…they were enormous.

Going back to the camp at five to be cold and wet was out of the question, so I drove 8 miles down the road to Bart’s Deli in Bartlett, NH.  After a Philly cheese steak sandwich and a decaf coffee, I’m luke warm!  The deli has Wi-Fi, so I’m hanging here until it closes to try to finish blogging for the night.  I noticed the cell service in the White Mountains has been virtually non-existent!

While I’m tired of being cold and wet, I enjoyed getting a long day of hiking in, and I get to enjoy a house the next two nights I think!!!


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