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.

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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!