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!

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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.

Mt. Moosilauke via Gorge Brook Trail, Carriage Road, and Snapper Trail

Sometimes, weather forecasts lie to you. The day we hiked Willey and Field, and ultimately turned back from Tom because of a passing storm, we were promised clear, sunny skies. Last weekend, we learned that meteorologists really are the best liars (even if it’s unintentional). The weather forecast for the Mt. Moosilauke area threatened a 60% chance of thunderstorms the day we planned to hike it. We hauled up to New Hampshire anyway, set up our little tent at Wildwood Campground, and resigned to skipping Moosilauke if the weather was terrible in the morning.

We awoke to unexpectedly clear skies. Excited, we checked the forecast one last time to find that the storms weren’t expected to start until the early afternoon. We grabbed breakfast in North Woodstock (which is the cutest little town ever), and set out for the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. Much to our disappointment, the lodge was closed for a private event. On our way to the trailhead, we encountered some fun, snarky signs presumably made by the Dartmouth College students who run the lodge. Thanks for letting us know that we can’t bring our “Ford Model-T” or our llamas on the trail!

At the end of the road, we reached the starting point of our hike at 7:30 AM. The first small stretch was a gravel and dirt road, which led us to a fork in the path where we turned left. Thankfully we had our trail guide since this part wasn’t marked, but it would have been easy enough to figure out. At this point, the trail descended for a bit and took us down to Baker River, where we crossed an adorable bridge. A group of signs indicating which directions the trails started, so we followed them right towards the Gorge Brook Trail. We turned right at the intersection with the Hurricane trail (which continued straight) and continued following the well-marked path. According to almost every hiking site we researched, Gorge Brook is one of the more popular and easier paths up to the summit. The grade ranged from easy, to moderate towards the top. We encountered the typical rocks and roots (and a thousand frogs hopping about), and the trail was wooded for a majority of the way up.

We crossed our second bridge after a short while and then were met with some trail damage. It was mainly a bunch of up-rooted trees falling over the river we were following, but it was easy enough to get around after a little thinking. We followed the trail for 1.3 miles until we crossed a third bridge, which was noticeably wobblier than the first and second. In another 0.3 miles, we reached a plaque for the Ross McKenney Forest. What cooler way to be honored after your death than to have your own forest? After a rest and some speculation as to whether dead people haunt the memorial places dedicated to them, we pressed on to a gradually ascending, yet moderate grade. At 2.1 miles, our trail guide told us we would veer left onto an old logging road, so we did even though we had no idea what constituted a logging road. It looked like a normal trail to us. Along we way, we passed two cleared viewpoints that offered scenic views of the mountains surrounding us.

Past the viewpoints, we began to weave in and out of the treeline on a moderately steep and rocky path. The guide we took with us described this section as the trail “flirting” with the timberline, so naturally the conversation up consisted of us personifying the trail and trees making passes at each other (we find ways to amuse ourselves). We broke past the timberline to a false summit with beautiful views, which we later found out were of South Peak. From there, we hiked straight 0.5 miles to the summit on a completely exposed trail that stretched across the lush, green ridge of Moosilauke. The stone tower trail markers dotted the side of the path all the way up to the summit.

We reached the top at 10:30 AM and were engulfed in a full, 360 degree view of our surroundings that took our breath away. Although a thin summer haze shielded some of our views from the top, we could still see miles ahead since it was a clear day. We had some fellow hikers (AT hikers! With a puppy!) take our picture by the Mt. Moosilauke elevation sign. A light breeze kept us company as we ate our sandwiches, took pictures, and scouted out the small, circular summit marker. We relaxed and soaked in the views for a good half hour, and then embarked on our descent via Carriage Road.

While we definitely appreciated the easy way down Carriage Road, we both found it monotonous and eventually just plain boring. A majority of the descent was spent wondering aloud how the heck a horse and carriage successfully maneuvered up and down this rocky road. After 2.1 miles, we merged onto the Snapper Trail, which was pretty much the same difficulty and grade as Carriage Road, but located in a more wooded area with plenty of exposed roots snaking in and out of the dirt. It was very similar to Gorge Brook, which we eventually turned onto after 1.1 miles on Snapper. Luckily, we bypassed the washed out parts of the Gorge Brook Trail on the way back, and after a final 0.6 miles, we found ourselves back at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, making our hike one large loop.

The thunderstorms were nice enough to stay away from us until after we were safely in the car driving home. Strangely enough, the U.S. Border Patrol was pulled over on the highway to briefly inspect every car that passed. We know they’re required to ask questions, especially if they spot something suspicious, but we couldn’t help but laugh after the officer asked us what was in the garbage bag (which was full of our camping garbage) in the backseat. Overall, this was a successful trip, and we crossed off another peak on our list. The only problem we still have is that we never learned how to correctly pronounce “Moosilauke.” Guess we’ll just stick to calling it “Mt. Moo”!

Ripley Falls via the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail (A Mini-Hike)

If you ever find yourself in the Crawford Notch area with too much time to spare, but not enough time to climb an entire mountain, then get your butt over to Ripley Falls. After pitching our tent at Dry River campground for the night, we were left with a good few hours before we could reasonably start a fire for dinner. We saw a sign on the way to Dry River for a short hike to a waterfall, so we decided to check it out and we’re glad we did!

We reached Willey Station House Road and parked at the very top lot right in front of the trailhead. Interestingly enough, this would also be our starting point for hiking Mount Willey, Mount Field and our attempt at Mount Tom. Like our hike for those mountains, we crossed the railroad tracks to get to the trail, but this time we bore left onto the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail instead of Ethan Pond. Most of the trail was uphill, and the grade ranged from easy to moderate in certain places. After about 0.4 miles, the trail ended and we reached the bottom of Ripley Falls, which allowed us to look up and see them in their entirety. A few families had the same idea as us. Young children played in the water as their parents watched them carefully. We witnessed one kid get in trouble for venturing too far out and almost forgetting his towel. Katie laughed, half because she was uncomfortable watching him get chastised, and half because she has a terrible sense of humor.

We lounged on the rocks for a while. Colin took pictures using his tripod, which he lugged along for the hike (he got some stunning shots, too). Katie found some fun in ogling the puppies belonging to other hikers, and trying to get their attention when their owners weren’t looking. It was a good time. The sound of the water crashing on the rocks and the crystal clear cascade was soothing and relaxed us before our anticipated three-mountain hike the next day.

The way back was a leisurely walk downhill. It only took us about twenty minutes to hike each way, making this trip a total of forty minutes, or about 0.6 miles each way. This was a short, yet rewarding side trip for us, especially because we wanted to hike somewhere cool, but didn’t have the time to devote to a long hike. If you ever happen to be in a similar situation, try doing this. And if you don’t feel like using your legs, the Willey House was a fun place to visit. Just don’t provoke the ghosts!

Mt. Willey and Mt. Field via Ethan Pond Trail and Willey Range Trail

Last weekend, we decided to be overly ambitious and try our luck at bagging three peaks: Willey, Field, and Tom. Hikers in pursuit of conquering the 48 usually climb them in one go, since they all belong to the same range. However, our plans were thwarted by an unexpected thunderstorm, which prevented us from getting Tom. Rain sucks.

We started our day around 9:00 AM by parking at the bottom of Willey House Station Road, where there is no suggested fee for leaving your car there. We walked uphill on a paved road for a short time until we reached the Ethan Pond Trailhead. Early on in the hike, we crossed railroad tracks and followed the sign for the Ripley Falls Trail. Eventually, we were led to two diverging paths at 0.3 miles. The one on the left traveled to Ripley Falls (a easy twenty minute hike we did the day before), and the right was a continuation of Ethan Pond Trail. One of the cooler things we encountered was a faded, carved sign nailed to a tree that signified that we were hiking on the Appalachian Trail. We even met a hiker who had started his journey three weeks ago, a bulging pack strapped to his back and his beard fully grown in. The grade was easy for this section of the trail. We walked at a gradual incline and the terrain wasn’t too rocky or root-covered. After about 1.3 miles, we turned onto the Willey Range Trail to make our ascent.

The Willey Range Trail offered us a much harder grade than Ethan Pond. For 1.1 miles, we trudged up a steep path of rocks, which were often slippery due to the many brooks crossing the trail. We didn’t think it was strenuous as the ascent to Osceola, but we also weren’t sore from climbing other mountains the day before. There were a good amount of rock-stairs that made the climb easier on us, but overall, there were many parts where the footing was unstable, due to a lack of supportive rocks and roots, and the damp ground. Eventually, we reached an entire section of ladders (literal, man-made wooden ladders) that carried us over steep, wet terrain. After this, it was a short, rocky, and sharply inclined ascent, so we reached the top around 12:00 PM. While the marked summit of Willey offered limited views, a path that veered to the right before the summit delivered a stunning panorama of the mountains around us, the valleys below, and the awesome vastness of our surroundings. After a quick high-five at the top to celebrate our fourth 4,000 footer, we resumed our hike on the Willey Range Trail and began our journey to Field.

The hike to Field was refreshingly short and relaxing. Overall, we only lost about 300 feet in between the two mountains. We rolled downhill at a gradual pace for a majority of the path, until we reached another sharp, rocky incline which indicated we were on the final leg of our trek to the summit. The climb up was easier than Willey, and the gaunt, ash-colored trees were a refreshing change from the thickly wooded paths from which we came. We reached the summit of Field at 1:30 PM. The views were infinitely more scenic than those at Willey. We stumbled across a cute father-daughter pair feeding the resident grayjays cheese crackers out of their hands. We whipped out the banana bread we brought specifically for this reason and began doing the same. Colin thought it would be a fabulous idea to place the bread on his head, and sure enough, a greedy little grayjay swooped in and perched on there for a bit.

At this time, the sky began to darken and the clouds rolled in ominously over our heads. On our way to Tom (luckily not too far along), we ran into a mother hiking with her kids, who asked us the way to get back to Route 302. She told us that the weather was probably going to worsen and she wanted to make her way down as soon as possible. We decided to follow her advice (her mommy senses were definitely tingling), and we took the same trail down, and eventually merged on to the Avalon Trail. The first half of the decent was a difficult, due to a steep grade and rocky path. We heard the first crack of thunder immediately after we got through the hardest parts of the trail, just after passing the trail to Mt. Avalon on our right and the sign for the Mt. Tom Spur Trail, working off to our left. It suddenly began to pour. Had we foolishly decided to bag Tom, we would have been screwed. The storm was merely a passing thing, and soon after we were pelted with heavy rain, the sun began to peek through the trees.  At this time, we reached Crawford Brook, which was shrouded in a sheer mist—it was gorgeous. We stopped to take a few pictures and consult our guidebook, and we were on our way. We continued straight on our trail, ignoring the two loops that ran off to our right, and eventually crossed Crawford Brook for a second time.

We arrived at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Macomber Family Information Center on Route 302 at 4:00 PM, soaking wet, sore, and with dried mud caked on our shoes and legs. Our final mission was to try and hitch a ride back to the Ripley Falls parking lot—a good few miles away from where we were. After asking a few families who politely declined (we don’t blame them), we met a super sweet mother and daughter who were generous enough to drive us back right after they arrived at their lodge for the night. They weren’t even planning on going anywhere, let alone in our direction. It was a lovely reassurance that selfless, genuinely kind people still exist in the world.

No, we didn’t accomplish our goal of getting all three mountains. And sure, we could look back on that hike with disappointment and call it a failure. But we decided to relish in what success we had, and the fun experiences we encountered. Breathtaking views, a beautiful hike in the woodlands, friendly (albeit, super greedy) birds, nice people, and a hike that didn’t kill our legs made it all worthwhile. The thunderstorms deterred us for a little bit, but watch out, Tom. We’re still coming for you.

Slocum’s River Reserve: A Whole Lot in One Small Package

For Colin’s first weekend home (the first weekend in June) we had originally planned to run up to the Whites to start our long-awaited crack at the 4,000 footers. This plan was sadly washed out by an obnoxious storm that decided to roll in exclusively for the weekend. Normally we wouldn’t mind hiking in the rain, but we figured it would be poor judgment to try our luck on one of the 48 during a storm (we like our legs un-broken and our bodies un-dead). So, as an alternative, we opted for a woods walk in the beautiful Slocum’s River Reserve in Colin’s hometown of Dartmouth, MA.

Slocum’s River Reserve is a 47-acre patch of forest, marsh, and fields with a mere two miles of trails on one side, and a 3.6-mile route on the other, split down the middle by Horseneck Road. We decided to go for all 5.6 miles. This was a poor decision, as the two sides of the reserve are in stark contrast with one another. One side has its beautiful, well-kept trails, complimented by the river and beautiful artwork. The other has poorly maintained, hard to navigate trails full of ticks and electric fence borders (bad-news-bears).

We’ll start with the nice side (closest to the river). This area is a perfect spot for a quick walk to get back in touch with nature, or to simply de-stress from a hard week. We would highly suggest heading in around lunchtime and sitting by the river for a picnic while enjoying the surrounding sights and sounds. The area’s beauty was enhanced by the amazing in-nature sculptures set up by local artists throughout the year. We were lucky enough to come across a massive cornucopia sculpture big enough to fit the both of us, and it reminded Katie of the Hunger Games. On one path we came across an orange rock that we originally thought was trash, but turned out to be the beginning of a large, fairytale-like mushroom forest filled with mushroom sculptures in various sizes and colors. Incorporating art into a small reserve like this is a great way to attract a greater audience onto the trails and, hopefully, instill a higher respect for nature.

The second side of the walk (the side surrounding Dartmoor Farm Wildlife Management Area) was a far leap down in quality for us. As we crossed the road the trails quickly became indistinguishable from the farmland surrounding and for a good portion we had to follow alongside an electric fence bordering a property (not very nature-tastic). Although the trail map had told us there would be only one trail leading in a loop from and back to the road, we found ourselves stumped many times as the trail split off in three or four different directions, many-a-time leading us to a dead end or back to an electric fence. Several stops had to be made for tick-checks and many ticks were found, mostly due to the seldom-traveled trails being covered with a dense growth of ferns and grass. There were a few spots that we thought were nice, and even an interesting old storehouse foundation, but we didn’t feel it was really worth the confusion and tick-attacks to get there.

Overall, it was still a great day (about 85% of the greatness attributed to the first half of the walk). Although we prefer hiking, a woods walk was an excellent way to get out of the house for a portion of the day and a nice way to spend some time together talking about sloths. Stay tuned for an exciting post next week because the 4,000 footers adventure has officially begun!

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