A weekend in New England while I was visiting family.
My original plan for this year was to thru-hike the lightly used Cohos Trail
in New Hampshire. Limited vacation time, change of hours and (most importantly) family obligations led me to scale back my plans and do a three day backpack in the Whites before visiting the family in Rhode Island.
The White Mountains are where I cut my backpacking teeth. The steep grades, above treeline exposure and expansive (for New England) views set the template for all my future hikes. I love the desolate , yet striking, places. Steep grades seem normal. And deciding where to go based on a map for my first backpacks, not a linear trail, helped me in my now current home of Colorado. It was where I first hiked and learned to appreciate the outdoor cathedral.
Joining me for this trip was my good buddy Tim. I’ve known Tim for almost thirty years now. We went to the same Catholic elementary school, started becoming close friends when we worked at Kent Hospital as orderlies, he took me on my first backpacking trip and even joined me for the last week on both the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails.
The plan of attack was to meet up in the airport Saturday night, drive up to New Hampshire and start an ambitious loop Sunday that would take in the some highlights of the Whites: Franconia Ridge, The Bond Cliffs and end by going over Mt. Carrigan. A wonderful way to see the fall foliage of New England.
Then Hurricane Kyle intervened. As we drove further north, the weather became worse. We stopped at a Staples just outside of Boston, looked at the weather and decided to shorten the trip to a two day one. The weather looked more promising Monday.
After recovering from a few too many “good to see you again!” beers on Sunday, we drove up to New Hampshire Monday morning.
The weather was indeed wonderful. Cool and crisp with sun shining. The kind of autumn weather we were hoping for.
We climbed up the increasingly steep Osceo Trail and made our way to the top of Mt. Flume. The views into the valley were like a colorful quilt thrown on the mountainside.
Tim and I enjoyed lunch, basked in the sun and loved having the summit to ourselves.
As we made our way to Mt. Liberty, the weather changed quickly. Cold, wet and foggy! The weather forecast was bit off it seemed.
By the time we made our way to the start of the Franconia Ride trail (and the Appalachian Trail), the weather was all socked in.
Being stubborn, we said the heck with it and pressed on.
Brief sunlight would show through the clouds, but then it would be all socked in again. As we approached the top of Lafayette, it started to lightly rain.
Up until Lafayette, we have not seen anyone all day. For the remained of the trip, until almost the Lincoln Woods ranger station, we’d see only four people! The busiest trail in the northeast, if not the country, and hardly a soul. Of course, being after Labor Day, and on a weekend (and crappy weather!) probably helped.
After Lafayette, I became reacquainted with just how steep the AT can be..VERY! More like a set of stairs than a trail. With rocky, slippery trail and exposed roots it made for an interesting time. Often times the “trail” was really a steep rock slide with a stream flowing through it.
We gratefully reached the Garfield Ridge campsite. No one was in the tent site, or the shelter.
Being lazy, and having it all to ourselves, we decided to use the lean to. Shelters suck…unless it is cold, rainy, foggy and you have it all to yourselves.
Dinner was made, tea was consumed, and we both fell asleep quickly.
When we woke up in the morning, it was still foggy and cold. Rather than attempt to go to Galehead hut and then over the Bond Cliffs, we decided to cut the trip a little short and head back early.
We dropped back into the valley and out of the thick fog.
The fall colors in the valley were stunning. Reds, oranges and green all glistening with the fresh rain.
We finally made our way back to the easy old rail grade of the Lincoln Woods trail. Quick, if repetitive, hiking. What a contrast we had with other people on the “trail”. I was envious of the morning walkers with no gear and a hot cup of coffee int their hands. (Seriously! Two people had coffee in their hands!)
It was good trip, if not quite the one Tim and I planned.
The foliage was everything I had hoped for. There was limited crisp and sunny weather, but I was out with a good friend. Overall, I could not complain. Here’s hoping the next time I visit the Whites, the weather will cooperate more…
After this trip, I did the family thing. Lots of food (too much!), catching up with family and friends and realizing I am no longer used to the rather different pace and crowdedness of the Northeast. I miss the food, I’ll always have a bit of the blunt east-coaster in me..but I am now a Westerner. I need the feeling of non-crowdedness. The feeling that it won’t take me half-an-hour to go five miles. I need the outdoors as not just something to see once in a while, but as a needed part of my life.
Feeling the need to reconnect with the outdoors, and have my own space for a little bit, I went to one of the few relatively wooded area left in Rhode Island: The Arcadia Management Area.
The weather actually was nice that day. I pulled up to the trailhead I remember well (even though I have no been there in almost ten years), spoke briefly to a ranger who was doing some paperwork in the parking lot, and off I went on the hike.
It was nothing dramatic, but but very beautiful. The fall colors were just starting to hit this part of New England. The lakes shimmered with a slight breeze and the trees were moss covered. Several times I spotted old walls and rock structures so common throughout New England from farming days.
The most surprising part? I was in the second most crowded state in the country, and I saw NO ONE. Once past the trailhead, the road noise faded quickly. I could just enjoy the ponds, deep woods and quiet trails.
It was not Colorado, but it was just what I needed.
Some time spent by myself in an area that was quite pretty.