Vermont and New Hampshire Adventure, Day 5 | September 10, 2016 | Hiking in Crawford Notch State Park to Arethusa Falls
[Written by Curtis]
Following our grand hike of Mount Washington the day before, we were really torn on what we wanted to do for the remained of our time in the White Mountains. On one hand, the location is absolutely beautiful, so doing another peak hike would be very worth it. On the other, we had hiked 8 miles the day before and although we were feeling pretty good, we were concerned that Charlotte might not be up for something quite as extensive.
So rather than pick any one thing and set our minds to it, we decided the night before that we would just wing it. We’d wake up when we felt like then take US 302 down towards Crawford Notch and Crawford Notch State Park. Based on our maps and my previous research, I knew there were some “easier” 4000 footers that we could potentially hike along with some waterfalls if that was more to our fancy.
Saturday morning, we slept in pretty late. The bear hunter came through maybe around 7 and then back through around 9 and we were still just lounging around. He probably thought we were just a bunch of lazies…which we were. After he came back through the second time, we decided to get up, make some sausage and granola for breakfast and hit the road.
We started heading south on the 302 and almost immediately pulled over to get one of the few pictures of Mount Washington’s peak. We couldn’t help but wonder if maybe we had jumped the gun by hiking it the day before. But “What if’s” are silly questions, so we continued on our way. Our first potential hike was to do some of the 4000 footers in the Wiley Range, but once we passed the trailhead, the AMC Lodge, the parking lot was packed and cars were lined up along the side of the road. I thought I saw a group of people in matching t-shirts so there may have been some type of event going on. As much as we like hiking, hiking with crowds, even dispersed ones, just isn’t our cup of tea. So we continued down into Crawford Notch in search of quieter lands.
Crawford Notch is a very steep gorge that contains the Saco River (which goes South-East and straight into the Gulf of Maine) and divides the Willey Range in the west (the 4000 footers we were going to hike) from the southern reaches of the Presidential range in the east. Because it is so steep, the Notch has many waterfalls and cliffs to enjoy. So after driving for a little we decided to stop and see Arethusa Falls and the Frankenstein Cliffs.
Although more popular than not, we decided on this hike because we figured that if we made it a loop hike, once we got past the waterfalls we would be pretty much alone. The hike to the falls itself is just under two miles and moderately steep. Fortunately, because of its popularity I imagine, the trail is well maintained. The falls themselves were “pretty” and reminded me a lot of Rainbow Falls in SC. What I learned afterwards from Jessica was that Arethusa Falls was only flowing at a fraction of capacity. Apparently fall is considered to be a dry season in these parts, or at least dry as compared to “mud season” during early spring when all the snow melts.
After sitting and watching the falls for some time (we didn’t bother getting right up next to them like all the other people), we continued on our loop and left the crowds behind. We did pass two couples and a larger group going the opposite direction, but otherwise the trail was ours. Since we had gained most of the elevation going to the falls, the first section of this half of the hike was gently rolling through the forest. Eventually though, what goes up must come down. And down we came. Unlike the direct route to the falls, this part of the trail was not well maintained. Loose dirt and rocks, trail erosion. Hiking bad trails really makes you appreciate the effort that forest and park agencies and hiking societies/clubs put into to maintain trails. Whether it is actually building durable and sustainable trails or just clearing fallen trees, it makes a whole lot of difference. When (read: if) we become more sedimentary, I would like to see if I couldn’t volunteer and join some of these groups. (Really I should probably just look into it right now).
On the way down, we were able to see the second attraction of the hike: Frankenstein Cliffs. I read at the trail head that the cliffs weren’t named for Mary Shelley’s doctor or monster, but I can’t actually remember who. Maybe a poet or painter? Regardless, the cliffs offered a nice look down south along the Notch and Saco River. Apparently the cliffs on Mount Willey are even more spectacular. I guess we’ll just have to come back and hike even more!
We finished up our hike, passing a very tall railroad trestle (the simple concept, yet complicated engineering that had to go into making and planning those astounds me). And then decided to head back towards camp. But, as we drove back through the Notch, it began to rain and when we passed that overlook of Mount Washington, we decided that hiking on Friday really was a good idea. Seriously, I do not want to be on top of there while it’s even sprinkling.
We lazed around camp for awhile, waiting out the rain. Bear guy passed again still with no luck. I metal detected for awhile and then we made some sausage and potato hash and went to bed, content in our accomplishments for the day.