This week’s adventure took me north. A couple of friends from Rhode Island were up visiting and I wanted to show them some of New Hampshire’s natural beauties. The plan for the day altered the night before due to a clumsy fall of mine on a patch of ice. With a sore ankle, I decided to lower the level of difficulty for our hike. Stephanie, Lisa, and I loaded up the car and drove north on I-93. The forecasted high for the day lingered around 18 degrees. My friends were not as acclimated to the cold weather as I was.
Once in Franconia Notch, we pulled off the highway to hike down the Basin – Cascade Trail. I gave each of my friends a pair of microspikes and we were off. With the smell of gasoline lingering in the air, the beginning of the trail was littered with snowmobiles. We quickly made our way off of the snowmobile trail and deeper into the woods. As we came upon the Basin, my friends were amazed at the blueish-green water rushing into the deep pool.
The trail continued on an even grade through the snow-covered forest and to our left ran the Cascade Brook. Although my ankle was in rough shape, I was happy that I got to show my friends some of our natural treasures here in New Hampshire. I wanted to show them some of the places that have inspired me to pursue an education in the environmental sciences. Coming to New Hampshire and experiencing the beauty of the nature that surrounds us, has shaped me into the person I am today.
Around 4:30 AM I was awoken by a throbbing toothache, a commonality between the last few nights. I laid in bed for a few hours and watched the sunrise. It looked like the beginning of a beautiful winter day. By 8:30 AM I was up and moving around. I emptied out the notebooks from my backpack and threw in some snacks, microspikes, and extra layers. The forecasted high temperature of the day hovered around 20 degrees. I texted my hiking partner for the day and finished getting ready. By 9:30 we were in the car and on our way to the trailhead. Once there, we stepped out onto an icy dirt road and absorbed the mountainous view that surrounded us. To our left was a farm with an idyllic red barn and a mountain looming overhead. We started on the trail and to our surprise a packed trail with little ice. A few days before, the area received vast amounts of rain and a flash freeze, so we expected much different conditions.
Within five minutes of hiking, we came to a stream crossing. The stream was roaring and you could see how high the water had been the past few days by the chunks of the snowbank missing. Across the stream were a couple of rocks and a narrow ice bridge. At this moment, I had regretted not bringing my poles. After intricate maneuvering, we had made it across. The trail quickly picked up in elevation and just as quickly, I was reminded of how out of shape I am. The forest was breathtaking (from the view and from the freezing air). The sun danced between the trees as we walked the ridge. Time seemed to drag but also fly as we continued up the mountain.
We reached the summit within two hours and stopped at an outlook to admire some lenticular clouds. The physical summit was less than exciting, it was a simple cairn in the trees. We started down the trail and it seemed that in no time we were back to the tricky stream and then back to the car. I took off my microspikes and sat in the passenger seat to try revitalize my frozen legs. I took a deep breath and savored in that post-hike feeling. The feeling of success with a hint of tiredness. A feeling that I intend to feel again next week.
Last Saturday, the weather forecast looked bleak. New Hampshire was about to be slammed with a nor’easter and accumulations could reach 24″. That morning, my roommates and I decided to go snowshoeing at Rainbow Falls in Plymouth, NH. This trail is pretty popular and due to the lack of fresh powder, I opted for the use of microspikes instead of snowshoes. My roommates, Darcy and Teresa, still planned on using their snowshoes. Teresa was immediately interested in going but Darcy was apprehensive due to the fact she had made plans with her male counterpart. We estimated that it would take roughly two hours at most, due to the short trail length. Before we even got in the car, Darcy stated that she was in a rush and hopefully this won’t take long. We took Teresa’s blue prius through a snowy winding road to find that we had made it to the trailhead. I’ve been to the falls a couple of times, but never in winter. Once we arrived, I helped my roommates into their snowshoes and stretched my microspikes on to my hiking boots. The trail was nicely packed and we quickly found that the snowshoes were kind of overkill. My roommates bare booted and found that for the most part, this was enough. We made it to the falls and could hear the bubbling water below the vast layers of ice. I usually use the trail as an in and out but I looked at the map and saw that it could actually be a loop. We continued on past the falls and noticed that elevation gain picked up quite a bit. It seemed like hours and that the way that we were going was much longer. I kept checking the map but we were on the correct trail. Darcy started to get anxious and annoyed that we weren’t out of the woods; this made the atmosphere between us all tense. Based on the topographic lines, I could tell we were getting close. Teresa and I stopped to admire a tiny stream while Darcy continued on full-steam ahead. Once we could see the parking lot, the air seemed to lighten. She couldn’t wait to leave and honestly, I felt the same because this wasn’t the relaxing walk I wanted. The people that you bring with you on a hike or adventure can seriously impact your own experience. The nature was beautiful but the experience was not all of what I had hoped for.
The mountains and rivers are my therapist. When I go on a hike, I feel every emotion and release all of my bottled thoughts out into the forest. The act of hiking is physically exhausting but mentally rewarding to me. When I don’t get to hike frequently, I almost crave that exhaustion. I have decided to focus this blog on my hiking and nature adventures. This blog will give people an inside look into the trails and also my life. So, hello world and welcome to your journey through the mountains.