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!

Advertisements

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.