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19 August 2005

Pinkham Notch

Sorry I haven't posted in so long, but we've either been gone or we've been working - either way, there hasn't been much time to blog!

A few, we decided to spend the weekend hiking in Pinkam Notch, just outside of North Conway, NH. We couldn't get into any of the park campgrounds, so we ended up camping in some godawful "family" campground in Brownfield, ME, about 20 minutes from the state border. Not only was it horrible (no privacy, loud children screaming and running around, etc), it was insanesly expensive. They charged $27 per night, plus $5 for each dog PER NIGHT! With tax, two nights came to around $77. I have never paid this much for camping in my life. It was insane, but gas prices are so high that going back and forth to Portland would cost more or less the same, so we stayed. The campground was right on the Saco River, a great Level I river for canoeing and kayaking, so it was packed that warm weekend.

We got there Friday afternoon around 4 and quickly set up the tent. We then zoomed into North Conway for a quick swim at Echo Lake, which was lovely. After that, we stopped at the Hannaford grocery store before heading back to camp, where we feasted on bratwurst and potato salad.

We awoke early Saturday morning and were on the road by 8:30. We wanted to hike a trail called the Pine Mountain trail that I had read about a few weeks earlier in The Ear, a White Mountain weekly for hikers. The climb purported to be about 6 hours roundtrip with spectacular views. I had picked up the AMC White Mountain Trail Guide, and we had directions, but alas, things are never that easy.

We drove up Rt. 16 until it merged with Rt. 2 in Gorham, and then we head west for a while, until we realized we must have missed the trailhead. We drove around and around, futilely looking for the small cemetery landmark the book gave, and then finally stopped at a hotel to ask directions. Unfortunately, the woman at the counter weighed over 300 pounds, and she had no idea of where the trailhead might be. We finally got a lead from her husband, and set off to find it. We reached the small cemetery, and then we looked for the gravel road leading to the gravel pit, and voila! We found ourselves in the gravel pit. But still no trailhead. It was just a gravel pit. We backed out, and asked directions from a guy standing beside a yellow backhoe waiting patiently for the funeral to end. We supposed he was planning on either burying a coffin or making space for the next tenant. He got in his truck and led us back into the gravel pit. He got out, and walked towards the woods to the trailhead - the sign was hidden to us by piles of gravel. We thanked him, he warned us to lock our car despite the isolation, and we were off.

The trail was very overgrown. It was doubtful anyone had hiked it recently. I remembered that the book gave alternate trails to hike to the summit. What can I say? The trail, ultimately, was dull. Yes, it was difficult, and parts were pretty, but we were constantly in the canopy, and we never had any views. We saw a white-tailed deer, which was neat, and Raf saw two russet grouse that the dogs flushed (I missed them). Raf saw bear scat, and the dogs seemed particularly excited, so after an hour of drudging upward in darkness, we decided to head back. We ate lunch in the car, and decided to try another way to reach the summit.

We drove about 20 minutes to the Dolly Copp campground near the Crawford Notch Ranger Station on Rt. 16. I asked the attendant how we could find the Pine Mountain trailhead, and she gave me good directions.
"Is it a nice trail?" I asked.
"I'm 72, sweetie. I just stand here and hand out maps," she replied.

So we were off again. Once we found the trailhead, we started out on the gravel road, which climbed and climbed. And climbed. It was just a gravel road, closed to traffic, except those going to the Horton Center. Very boring. Occasionally, cars would pass us to go up to the Horton Center, a religious camp at the top run by the United Church of Christ. After 60 minutes, we reached the center, and then we followed the signs to the more interesting part of the trail. That was a pretty trail, and it led us to the summit, giving us nice mountain views, but at this point, both Raf and I were sort of pissed. We put out a lot of energy that day, and the view was too little too late. So instead of enjoying the vista (Seamus was freaking out on the summit, anyway, so we needed to get down), we scrambled down, and decided to follow some trails down an alternate route. We followed a trail called the ledge trail for about 40 minutes, but then we lost it, and because it was around 5:00, and we were hungry and low on water, we decided to turn back and go down the boring way. Once back on the gravel road, we decided the day was a hiking flop, despite the fact that we at least got some great exercise. Furthermore, the dogs seemed happy - they aren't much into vistas anyway.

Once back in the car, we drove down 16 toward North Conway, taking a detour in the small town of Jackson, full of "Indian Killers," as Raf likes to say. All the houses are really old. We ate a Chinese restaurant on our way back to camp. It was of the "cheap and filling" variety of Chinese restaurants, not of the "terrific food" variety.

The next morning, we broke down camp, and stopped in North Conway for a coffee for Raf and walked around a bit. Then we visited the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, which had some neat maps and books to look at. We were VERY tired from the hike, and the dogs seemed stiff as well, so we decided to TAKE IT EASY. Famous last words. I found a short trail that headed off from the visitor center, but, as I'm learning, "short" does not equal "easy." We did the Liebeskind Loop, which uses parts of several other trails (Crew Cut Trail, George's Gorge Trail, ). Basically, you climb up a ravine and back down again really quickly. It was super steep. Seamus loved it. Sometimes he pulls so hard and so fast on the descent that one has to let go of the leash and hope he waits at the bottom! For going up, though, he is a dream dog. He is truly a sled dog, and he never tires on the trail. He's great to be behing when the climbing gets steep. Whoever has Seamus is way up front - usually Raffi. Gamma Ray, on the other hand, is the most sensitive creature. I usually am with her, and she doesn't pull so hard when she sees me struggling b/c of my knees. She stops, looks, assesses my situation, and acts accordingly. A true friend!

We saw fresh bear scat on the ascent, and the thunderclouds were rolling, so we really pushed our way back. Although it would be extremely unlikely for a bear to approach us, We DO NOT want to meet a bear with the dogs. That would not be fun. I turned my ankle a little on the way out running through some boulders with Gamma. It was one of those stupid things that could easily have been avoided if I had been using my brain at all. It hurt intensely for 10 minutes, and then I was pretty much good to go, although I milked it for about 30 minutes worth of sympathy, blaming Raffi for going so fast and not waiting for me. An old boyfriend in Alaska used to take me hiking up to Angel Rocks all the time, but then he'd leave me at the top, and race down to the bottom, showing off his woodsman skills, I suppose. I used to have to hike down alone, and my bear phobia is higher than most, so I don't savor being alone in the woods. Especially not in Alaska. Anyway, I have issues from those experiences which Raffi suffers for occasionally!

After the hike, we loaded into the car and head toward Portland, stopping only at the Bavarian House of Chocolate in North Conway. It's a cute-looking shop, and since Raf is Bavarian, I thought it would be neat to see what they had, though she protested, we Bavarians are not chocolatiers! Once inside, this proved to be true. A real chocolatier would happy to see customers, and not act like we were rude intruders - no, we didn't show up 5 minutes until closing. There is no excuse for her behavior, and we left quickly. I work too hard for the little money I have to surrender it to the likes of her, even for the tasty-looking treats in her cases.

The dogs were fast asleep by the time we got back to the car, and they slept all the way to Portland - about an 1 1/2 hr drive.
It was a good weekend overall, despite the fact that we picked horrible hike after horrible hike. We'll be back soon!


Blogger PapaCool said...

Look at MommyCool.com for a great cartoon about what happened to one mom's piggy bank when adding gas to her minivan yesterday.

1:07 pm  

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