We’ll Be Back!

Hi, everyone!

Autumn’s arrival heralds many spectacular gifts: crisp breezes, the scent of pumpkin spice, and the satisfying crunch of dried leaves beneath our boots. It is also the time of the year where we, as students, dive headfirst into our textbooks and practically live in the secluded cubicles on our library’s designated “quiet floor.” This year is no exception. As always, both Colin and I will be chasing after some exciting goals of our own. But this time, we will be continents apart.

Colin will be embarking upon the adventure of a lifetime by studying abroad for three months in Kenya and Tanzania with The School for Field Studies. He’ll be going on awesome backpacking expeditions, aiding local villages through his research, and gaining valuable insight and experience that will ultimately make him an awesome wildlife conservation biologist. I’ll remain in the United States to continue pursuing my own research interests and projects, achieve my Level 1 Kingian Nonviolence Trainer certification, and fully immerse myself in our university’s Peer Advocacy program, amongst a thousand other things. Needless to say, we’re both very excited!

With us being on two different continents and being busy as ever, our hiking trips will unfortunately be put on hold, but only for a few months! We will post intermittently about our own experiences during this time, but as of now, the regular schedule won’t be back in place until the semester ends. When life starts back up again in the spring, you can find our new adventures right here on Mud, Sweat & Mountaineers!

Infinite love, hugs, and successful adventures,

Katie and Colin

Mount Pierce via Crawford Connector, Crawford Path, Webster Cliff Trail, and Mizpah Cutoff

Because our summer breaks are quickly coming to a close, we decided to try another group hike in the Whites with Colin’s dad and Uncle Paul to give them a better view into what we’ve been doing pretty much every weekend this summer. We wanted to find an easier hike because we knew how much we had hurt after our first of the 48, and we wanted our guests to actually enjoy themselves and not die of exhaustion. So, in the end we settled on taking an easy rout up to Mt. Pierce and looping back around to see the Mizpah Spring Hut on our way down.

Because Colin’s dad doesn’t like camping all that much, we woke up in the wee hours of the morning so we could head up and start the hike at around 8:00 AM.  The plan worked almost perfectly, and we began our hike only a half hour late, starting on the Crawford Connector and heading over to take the Crawford Path nearly to the summit.

After taking a left off the Crawford Connector, we headed uphill for about a quarter mile where we took a side-path down to Gibbs Falls. We snapped some pictures, took a quick water break, and continued at an easy grade up to the junction with the Mizpah Cutoff (our return rout). We were surprised by the amount of people that were out on the trail. Many of them were simply going up to see the hut. Thankfully everyone we met was extremely nice and eager to talk about how beautiful the day was and where we were headed.

We stayed straight, leaving the Mizpah Cutoff on our right and continued for another 1.2 miles where we met up with the connection to the Webster Cliff Trail. From here, we got some amazing views of Eisenhower and Washington and Colin’s dad and uncle finally fully understood why we enjoy hiking so much.

We soaked up the views for a bit and then took a right onto the Webster Cliff Trail (which is part of the Appalachian Trail) and after an easy 0.1-mile climb, we reached the summit of Pierce at 11:15 AM, number 10 on our list, WOOHOO! We took another look around and began our descent on the Webster Cliff Trail to the Mizpah Spring hut.

The Mizpah Spring Hut reminded us a lot of the Greanleaf hut we had visited the week before. It was filled with hikers of all ages, fresh water, food to purchase, and some awesome pictures, trail guides, and maps. We ate here and took a decent rest (much needed by Colin’s sweaty dad) and after about a half-hour we started back down on the Mizpah Cutoff (which began to the right of the Webster Cliff Trail, 200 feet into the woods), eventually connecting back up to the junction with the Crawford Path. We took a left and retraced our steps back down to the car, completing the hike at 2:30 PM.

Overall, we agreed that it was probably the easiest hike we’ve done so far, so it’s a great option for families or anyone with inexperienced hikers. The views were spectacular and as usual, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our company. And of course, just as we pulled away it started to rain… thanks for giving us a break for once, weather!

Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, and Little Haystack via Old Bridle Path, Franconia Ridge Trail, and Falling Waters Trail

We finally redeemed ourselves! Last weekend, we dragged our friend Dan back to the White Mountains in an earnest attempt to convince him that our camping and hiking trips don’t always suck. Things could not have gone any smoother (except for the part where Dan got sick after eating too much ice cream, but he brought that upon himself). The weather was clear and warm for the duration of our stay, not a single chicken sausage fell into the ashes of our campfire while we cooked them, and we got to take Dan along on one of the most beautiful hikes in New England: a gorgeous loop through Franconia Notch, which gave us the opportunity to bag Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln.

After a quick breakfast, we set out on Old Bridle Path at 6:30 AM and began hiking our way to Lafayette. The grade was surprisingly moderate, with only a few steep stretches scattered in between. The trail was well maintained and conditioned to accommodate even the most novice hiker. The abundance of rock stairs were a nice treat, but we also worried their presence indicated that we would encounter crowded summits and congested trails due to the popularity and accessibility of this hike. To add to our concerns, it was a gorgeous summer day—clear skies, comfortable temperatures, and a mild breeze. It was difficult, but we had to remember that the mountains are for everyone, not just us!

As we ascended the ridge and weaved through the timberline, we encountered breathtaking views of the sun rising over Lincoln and a light cloud-layer covering the valley below us.  We looked over the edge of the ridge in awe, not just to admire the verdant valley below, but also to see how far one misstep could send us tumbling. With some perspective, we continued carefully marching up the trail at a gradual pace, stopping at many of its abundant viewpoints, until we reached the Greenleaf Hut.

Greenleaf Hut was bustling with enthusiastic hikers when we reached it mid-morning. We poked around just for a little bit. Our original plan was to travel through the entire notch, all the way from Lafayette to Flume, so we were cautious about our time (we ultimately decided to turn around at Little Haystack and save Liberty and Flume for another day). On our way out of the hut, a hiker commented on how the two of us were polar opposites when it came to our hiking attire. Katie was bundled in a heavy sweatshirt, paired with shorts and ankle-length leggings. Colin was shirtless and in shorts. We took advantage of the water refill station, inhaled some delicious home-made coffeecake, and set out towards our first summit.

The rest of the way to Lafayette seemed within reach. We hiked on the ridge for a short while before we reached the open, completely exposed trail on the side of the mountain that led to the summit. The way up from there was nothing short of agony. We took probably a thousand breaks, and we kept thinking we were at the top when, in reality, we still had a ways to go.

Eventually, we reached our first goal. It. Was. Glorious. The views were incredible and crystal clear—no clouds, no mist, no summer haze. We could see Greenleaf Hut, which looked about as large as one of those green and red house pieces from Monopoly. We saw Lonesome Lake, which did in fact, look lonesome, as it sat stagnant and alone about 2,000 feet out-of-place in the air. We saw the observation tower atop Cannon Mountain, and about a million other things. After a short rest, we began our traverse to Lincoln.

Mt. Lincoln was deceptively farther away than we thought, but we had an amazing ridge hike in store that led to its summit. The one downfall of such a scenic trail is that we eventually began to lose interest in the unique beauty of our surroundings. The rest of the way to Lincoln, and eventually Little Haystack, was punctuated by brief moments of wonder, but ultimately was overpowered by the drive to get to the top as soon as possible so we could make good time. About an hour after we left Lafayette, we reached Lincoln’s summit, which boasted a decent crowd of hikers. We took some pictures, glanced back at Lafayette, and collectively realized that we should be proud of our progress. And we totally were.

We continued on the easy grade to Little Haystack, where the Falling Waters Trail (the trail we would be taking down) sloped down to the left. Here was where we began debating weather we should continue on, all the way to Flume. Initially, we decided that we would continue along Franconia’s Ridge for a short time and see just much more difficult it would be to continue. After about a half hour we reached a viewpoint that showed us what we were in store for and we grudgingly determined that Liberty and Flume just weren’t in the cards for us if we wanted to make it back before sundown. So, we headed back towards Little Haystack and started down the Falling Waters Trail.

After a short but steep decent down the side of Little Haystack, we were engulfed again by the treeline and continued our long, grueling descent down to a junction that split between a continuation of Falling Waters, and a 0.1 mile path to see Shining Rock. We decided that it would be fun to use some of our extra time and see this so-called shining rock, so we left our backpacks behind and took the Shining Rock Spur down to a nice rest-spot at the base of a water soaked rock (spoiler: the rock wasn’t really shiny, just wet). We took some time to catch our breath before we headed back and continued our decent.

Falling Waters Trail probably isn’t ideal for descents. The waterfalls we encountered were stunning, and it was nice hiking to the sound of rushing water, but the trail proved to be slippery, steep, and in our opinion, a little dangerous. Maybe we were just tired out, or maybe we’re babies, but we had to catch ourselves from slipping on the rocks more times than we can count. With the steepness of the trail, and all those brook crossings, and we were exhausted by the time we reached our car at around 4:30 PM, and no longer regretted our decision to head back down when we did. Despite all our whining, it was an amazing hike, probably one of the best yet view-wise (minus the hoards of other hikers), and we’re so glad that Dan doesn’t hate us anymore!

Cannon Mountain: The Eleven Mile Hike!

We have this theory that we are cloud-magnets. But for some unknown reason, we selectively attract the grumpy and the overemotional ones (read: thunder and rain clouds). We also believe our cloud magnetism powers only work in the midst of mountain ranges during the most inconvenient times. Two weekends ago, our theory proved correct once again during our attempt at a twelve-mile hike to bag Cannon Mountain and the Kinsmans. While we’re not ones to shy away from a little rain or mist in ordinary circumstances, it’s certainly wasn’t ideal for us to be hauling up boulders and slippery slopes while the sky was having an emotional breakdown.

The one thing that makes us feel better about hiking in the rain is having a nice, sit-down breakfast beforehand. We walked into Flapjacks right when the doors opened, and lingered at our table for a long time in hopes that the clouds would clear. No such luck. After downing some fabulous omelets, we mustered up all the optimism we could manage and headed over to Lafayette Campground, which hosts the trailhead for hiking the Kinsmans and Cannon. Parking was free, so that made us feel marginally better. With our gear packed and water stores filled to the brim, we embarked on the Lonesome Lake trailhead to conquer the Kinsmans first, or so we thought.

Our yellow-blazed trail lead us up through the Lafayette campsites and into the woods. The first half of the trail was an easy grade with great footing. We met a good number of families with small children heading down from the lake and its hut. One precious little boy shyly asked if we were hiking mountains (his jaw dropped when we told him we were climbing three!). We passed the fork to Hi-Cannon Trail on our right and eventually emerged at a crossroads right at the shore of Lonesome Lake.

The lake was shrouded in an eerie mist that clouded the water’s characteristic glassiness (we’ve seen many a photograph of gorgeous Lonesome Lake during autumn’s peak). Substitute the towering pines for robust redwood trees, and we would have believed we were teleported to the Northwest. We both stood silently in awe for a long time. There was so much beauty to take in–had our pupils widened any further, we both would have gone blind. As much as we didn’t want to leave, we determined it would be best to keep going, seeing as the forecast for rain was approaching quickly.

At the junction we headed right to continue down the Lonesome Lake Trail, following it around the north shore and diverging right after a short period. The fun, easy grade ended here, as we quickly began to head upwards towards the Kinsman Ridge Trail. At this point, we realized that we had, in fact, started ascending the trail for Cannon Mountain instead of the Kinsmans. We were a little bummed that we screwed up, but ultimately, our mistake turned out to be for our benefit (more on that later). So, off to Cannon we went!

In about a mile we gained around 700 feet in elevation and were pretty tired once we reached the end of the trail. Nevertheless, we continued down to our right to follow the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the Coppermine Col, at the base of Cannon Mountain. The path was gradual at first but soon became extremely strenuous thanks to the huge, slippery boulders blocking our path. It made for a fairly arduous journey up to Cannon, but it was also cool hiking in the mist, which we presumed was a wispy cloud resting by the mountainside. Upon reaching the top at around 11:00AM we were engulfed by a glorious panoramic view of, well, absolutely nothing! The summit and viewing platform were both completely veiled by mist and cloud, and the fog was so opaque and dense that we couldn’t see five feet in front of our faces. The viewfinders at the observation tower were pretty much rendered useless. Despite the white in all directions, we were happy to add 4,000 Footer Number 7 to our list! After marveling briefly at the powerful gusts (Katie was convinced and terrified she would be blown off the summit) and the fact that we were literally hanging out in a cloud, we headed back down and retraced our steps to the connection with the Lonesome Lake trail.

From here, we left the Lonesome Lake trail on our left and began climbing the first of the three “Cannon Balls” on the Kinsman Ridge Trail. Our views were still obscured by the fog, but we still admired our surroundings as we sloped up and down several times at an easy to moderate grade over all three of the Cannon Balls, which were sizable mountains themselves. There were several, sharp upward climbs here, but they were short bursts with fairly good footing. After about two hours of traversing, we entered Kinsman Junction. The clouds were thinning enough for the sun to occasionally break through, so we decided to try our luck and continue on the Kinsman Ridge Trail and, hopefully, at least bag the first Kinsman. Bad idea.

At 4:00PM, the rain poured down on us in sheets, and thunderheads started rolling in quickly. Colin must be a little psychic, because not even 5 seconds before the rain started, he simply stated “It’s going to rain soon. I’ve got a feeling…” So we grudgingly aborted our journey and headed back towards the junction. We took a very short break at Kinsman Junction on the way back, which provided a perfect time for a much needed rest and for Colin to take some pictures of the clouds rolling over the mountains, truly a magnificent sight. But the break was brief and we continued on back to the junction where we began our journey back down to Lonesome Lake via the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail.

This was an interesting decent, and by interesting, we mean torturous and awful. The rocks were soaked and slippery and provided little to no footing. Butt-sliding became our main method of descent for the steeper parts of the first half of Fishin’ Jimmy, which didn’t matter much to us anyway since our pants were already soaked from the rain. Unfortunately, it added a lot of time to the total amount of hours we spent hiking. Eventually the rain let up (for the most part) and we crossed several misty brooks before eventually reaching the Lonesome Lake Hut, a beautiful little hide-away that we would love to stay at someday (if we ever become rich or really feel like splurging for a night or two). From here, the trail was an easy, yet muddy, stroll on a trail of bog bridges around the southwest corner of the lake, which ultimately led us to the Lonesome Lake Junction we visited earlier that day.

Now, it was simply time to backtrack down the Lonesome Lake Trail to the car, where we finally collapsed at 8:00PM. Our legs were eager to abandon their abusive bodies (sorry, legs—we love you!). And so we began the ride home, trying to look back at the bright sides of the hike. If this had been a nice day, it would have been a hard but definitely doable loop. The weather may not have been in our favor but we still had an amazing time together and, as always, pushed ourselves to our limits. We have no regrets about the hike. Heck, admiring Lonesome Lake in the mist was satisfying enough, and experiencing the raw power of nature on top of Cannon was pretty awesome, too. Another great thing about hiking on cruddy days is the lack of people on the trail. We enjoy the solitude together, which totally sounds paradoxical but it makes sense, we swear! Even though we ended up hiking eleven miles total just to summit one mountain, the journey was just as adventurous, beautiful, and rewarding. If mountains could laugh, North and South Kinsman would be howling as they ridicule the crap out of us for turning back 0.2 miles away from NK’s summit. Even though we didn’t accomplish our original plan, we’ll have the last laugh when we’re standing atop their summits after a safe ascent. Oh, and Mt. Tom? Don’t you even think for a second we forgot about you.

Katie and Colin Try Being Tourists: Flume Gorge

We already know what you’re thinking. And no, we won’t stop kidding ourselves into thinking we’re a different breed of tourist (we prefer “frequent visitors”). However, reality points to us being guiltier of tourism than we’d like to admit. Neither of us permanently lives in New Hampshire. We’ve shamelessly dined in cute, bear-themed breakfast places, hoarded souvenirs from the many gift shops scattered across the neighboring mountain towns, and very briefly entertained the idea of taking a moose-sighting tour. The one thing we swore we wouldn’t do was to pay money to see something shaped by nature itself. We personally believe everyone should have access to these sights and places free of charge. But on our non-hiking day, we had arrived at our campsite unusually early and had an entire day to kill. So, we caved to hypocrisy and headed over to Flume Gorge to see what the fuss was about.

Outside the huge, wooden lodge guarding the entrance to the Gorge, we were invited to play a guessing game in which had to we match the animal to its correct footprint. It wasn’t enough for Colin just to guess the common name of the animal. He gleefully provided the genus and species of nearly every animal he guessed (typical, passionate wildlife major). We talked with the guide, Andrea, who was super nice, and learned we were both hiking the Kinsmans the next day! After some talk about the area and hiking, we said goodbye and ventured into the lodge. A fake stuffed moose greeted us, along with a (real) stuffed bear, and an old carriage amongst other things. Although the building is spacious, it seemed much smaller due to the swarms of people inside. Fifteen dollars later (each!), we embarked on our walk through Flume Gorge.

The walk itself was pretty. We picked up a scavenger hunt (provided by Andrea and clearly intended for children) to make the trip more entertaining. Colin even scared away a poor little boy by waddling like a penguin behind him (we had to walk like animals across the street!). The sights were well marked and interesting. Along the way was a glacial boulder, a covered bridge, and various viewpoints that showcased cascading waters and unique rock formations. After weaving through groups of families, we finally reached Flume Gorge.

It was a sublime feeling to stand between two colossal sheets of prehistoric rock, and look down at powerful streams water surging in graceful swirls below. It was amazing to ponder how the gorge itself came to be, and to see evidence of its age through the dark streaks of the main basalt dike. Flume Gorge was majestic. The clusters of tourists were not.

We completely acknowledge that if your family is not the rugged, mountaineering type (or if you have younger children in tow), places like Flume Gorge are an amazing way to experience nature’s masterpieces on a limited schedule and without the exhaustion. But in all honesty, we felt trapped in a tourist’s nest. We couldn’t get any good pictures of the Gorge without at least one person in the shot. While we tried to stop and admire the scenery for two seconds, we were interrupted when we had to make room for lines of people who wanted to keep crossing the narrow bridge. And worst of all, we witnessed parents allowing their children to go behind the fences that guarded potentially dangerous parts of the area (something that hit home for us, especially because of last weekend). One boy was playing directly on top of a waterfall! WHO LETS THEIR KID DO THAT?! Maybe it was just the day we were there, but a potentially enjoyable experience was dampened by too many people.

Flume Gorge’s beauty is not worth fifteen dollars–it is priceless. However, we were both a little bitter about forking over $30 total to not even have an opportunity to fully appreciate its beauty. We walked back, trying to conquer our disappointment before we reached the lodge. Sure, we realize that we were also part of the congested walkways, the narrow footpaths, the small wooden staircases. We were tourists, too. There’s no denying our hypocrisy. Flume Gorge is a stunning testament to the glory of nature, and we’re so appreciative that it is open for anyone who wants to see it. We even excuse the expensive admission fee, since a lot of people work hard to maintain its beauty. But for now, we’ll just stick to the mountains, where the people are sparse but friendly, the surroundings beautiful, and the admission fees non-existent.

Best Weekend Ever! Only Not…

After last weekend’s trip, we wouldn’t blame our friend Dan if he never wants to go camping with us again. We promised him clear views of the ruggedly pristine White Mountains, a relaxing campsite by a river complete with a roaring fire and jolly camaraderie, and a hike through gorgeous Franconia Ridge. Who wouldn’t want to go after hearing that? Our reality turned out to be quite different. Murphy’s Law plagued nearly everything we did over the stretch of two days. Long story short? We hate basins and thunderstorms.

We all packed into the car Saturday morning, breakfast sandwiches in hand, and began the drive up. Thick clouds covered the sky from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, but the possibility of storms didn’t register in our minds. We claimed a nice gravel patch by the river at Hancock Campground—a site Colin has sought after since we first tried to stay there. As we set up our tent and Dan secured his hammock, the sky darkened to an ominous gray and gave us a preview of the weather to come by splattering with sparse, yet heavy raindrops. No big deal, we thought. After setting up everything, including a protective orange tarp over Dan’s hammock (which reportedly smelled like vomit), we eagerly raced down to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill before they closed.

Polly’s was probably one of the best parts of our weekend. The inside was reminiscent of an old, cozy, New England farmhouse, and our table was adorned with cute touches like red maple leaf shaped placemats and local goodies like maple spread and maple-infused sugar. The adorableness was overwhelming. We all enjoyed some unique, afternoon pancakes and buzzed with anticipation about the next day’s hike (and naturally grew more concerned about the weather). By the time we left, it was pouring, but at least there was a pony we could visit across the street! What’s better than pancakes? Pancakes and ponies. What’s better than that? Nothing.

Before settling at out campsite for the night, we stopped at Abbey Cellars to buy our ritual wine and cheese. Dan, being on the cusp of twenty-one, was not allowed to come with us. Inside, we were surprised by a free wine tasting, which took up a good fifteen minutes before we actually set out to find the perfect pairing. Meanwhile, Dan fell asleep in the backseat of the car while the thunderstorms intensified (Sorry, Dan…). We emerged with a bottle of Merlot and a cheese with a black tea leaf film. We then stopped at Rite-Aid for some rope to hang the tarp we brought for over the picnic table, and we were off.

Upon our return, our site was nearly flooded. Dan’s hammock and his pillow, despite the tarp, were soaked (our little pumpkin tent held up, though!). The fire pit was almost brimming with rainwater. It was dismal. The rain continued plummeting down on us at full force, so we donned our raincoats and went to work.  We rigged the tarp so it hovered over the picnic table, and relocated the fireplace to halfway under our makeshift shelter. Somehow, we started a fire, attempted to dry out our clothes and raincoats (to no avail, naturally), cooked up some weenies, and indulged in some wine before heading to bed obnoxiously early. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we now know how to equip our campsite to handle heavy rain!

The next morning, we found the rain had stopped—a fantastic sign! Except for the thick fog surrounding most of the mountains we saw on our way to breakfast, and the dark thunder clouds looming over some of the summits. We had to make a decision. We figured safety is priority, and it would really suck to get caught in a storm while hiking. Plus, the trails would likely be slippery and the mud thick and abundant. So, we opted out of Franconia for the weekend in favor of experiencing New Hampshire’s other natural wonders, like The Basin! This turned out to be a terrible idea. Also, remember that time when we wrote “safety is a priority” a few lines up? We lied.

Here’s the Sparknotes version of what happened. Dan and Colin decide to jump the fence in front of the Basin that specifically says “Do Not Cross Fence.” Katie decides to join them. Colin and Dan jump between high slabs of rocks and over a rushing stream to get a better view of the pool. On her way over to the other side, Katie falls right into the Basin itself (as only she could do), which was much deeper than anticipated. Fun fact about Katie? She can’t swim. Colin booked it down to the pool from where he was standing and dragged her out, essentially saving her life. A near drowning pretty much killed the mood for the rest of our time in New Hampshire, so we left as soon as we could, leaving The (Stupid) Basin and our stupid decisions behind.

So, that was our trip. We formally apologize to Dan for the terrible culmination of disaster that was last weekend. We’re sorry we promised you such an awesome trip and it failed so miserably. We’re sorry your hammock and pillow got soaked, and we’re sorry for laughing when you recounted how you fell out of your hammock while you were sleeping. We’re sorry you had to spend two days in wet clothes and shoes (on a related note, we’re sorry we forgot to advise you to bring a change of clothes). We’re sorry we left you in the car for so long while we were getting wine that you ended up not liking. We’re sorry we accidentally dropped your chicken sausage in soot while it was still cooking. We’re sorry we canceled the hike. We’re sorry you had to witness an almost-drowning. And most importantly, Katie is very sorry she asked you to sing that penguin song so many times. At least you got to hold Captain Feathersword for a while.

All jokes aside, please don’t be stupid like us and pretend signs are just there to protect stupid people from slipping, because not just stupid people encounter danger (although we’re certainly the poster children for dumb kids doing dumb things). The most experienced hiker in the world is still always at risk for danger, especially if they are tragically overconfident in their abilities. Thankfully, the situation ended far less worse than it could have. A lesson well learned in safety that we surely won’t forget for the rest of 48, or ever.

Adventures in New Hampshire: North Woodstock, Lincoln, and Beaver Brook Pond

Whenever we haul up to New Hampshire for the weekend, we reserve Saturdays for exploring the surrounding towns, making spontaneous stops at waterfalls, ponds, and scenic overlooks, and occasionally visiting a historical place. Given our typical late-afternoon arrivals, we find ourselves left with only a few hours of daylight (especially after scrambling to find a campsite, which we somehow always manage to do), so it works for us. It’s a great way to relax and soak in the state before setting out to the heart of the mountains. Last weekend, we took some time to get better acquainted with North Woodstock and Lincoln, the closest towns to our campsite, and sought some sweet tranquility at Beaver Brook Pond.

The stress of finding a vacant campsite at four o’clock in the afternoon can be a little overwhelming. The stress of watching people in an RV snatch the site you were two seconds away from pulling into absolutely transcends frustrating. So, when we finally set up our tent and deposited our money, we went searching for a place to just hang out. On our way into town, we stumbled across a glistening pond half encircled by mountains. Sights like these are pretty common (but certainly not unappreciated by us!), but what compelled us to stop and walk around was the trail to a large rock that jutted out into the water. Off went our shoes, and we crossed a shallow stream to reach the little trail. After a minute’s walk, we reached the rock, sat down and basked in the scene surrounding us. Since we were right next to the Beaver Brook Trail, we thought we could see Moosilauke from the pond (we were wrong, oops!). Colin and his camera had some fun, too, as evidenced by the pictures in the post!

After unwinding, we hopped back into the car and traveled a few miles down to North Woodstock to ogle at the cute shops. Much to our delight, the first thing we saw was the Cascade Coffee House. Obviously, we had to go in and we weren’t disappointed. We both got shots of maple syrup in our iced coffee, which was surprisingly delicious. Fuel in hand, we perused through many (if not all) of the charming local gift shops. Katie emerged from one with a wooden bear keychain that now guards her keys, while Colin found another shot glass to add to his travel-themed collection. The day began to wind down, so we journeyed a few minutes away to Lincoln.

Among all of its stores on the main drag, Lincoln has a little wine and cheese shop called Abbey Cellars that both of us were curious to explore. It’s been our tradition for a little while now to try a new wine and cheese when we’re together during the weekends. We had just narrowly missed out on a free wine tasting, but the staff was so helpful in finding us the best wine and cheese pairing (we ended up with a Pinot Gris and some delicious triple-cream cheese). We ambled in and out of a few more shops, one of which we discovered 65 cent plastic wine cups, how convenient! As the sun was setting, we settled down at our campsite, cooked some weenies (chicken sausage for us, though), and indulged in some wine, cheese, and soft acoustic music under the stars. Pre-hike perfection!

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