It’s been a week since we came back from vacation. It is really hard getting back to the full swing of life, but we find ourselves in a more serene state of mind. Our vacation was wonderful. My wife Beth and I spent a week hopping between New Hampshire and Maine hiking and kayaking. Following are highlights of our trip.
The Highland Center is located at the foothill of the White Mountains. Here you can get excellent bunk style accommodations and incredible food before hitting the trails. This or the center at Pinkham Notch are perfect stops for hikers venturing in the Whites who are in need expert advise, directions, update on mountain weather, maps, etc.
That first evening, after dinner, we went for a short walk on a trail around the Ammonnoosuc Lake while waiting for the Perseid meteorite showers.
Back at the Lodge, students from the Carthage Institute of Astronomy had an array of high power telescopes and were giving great explanations on the what we were seeing. By far the most interesting thing I saw was the planet Saturn, the rings around it showing perfectly, just as if it was one of those glow in the dark cut-outs. The Perseid shower that night turned out to be no more than a trickle.
Early next morning we headed towards a section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) that we had not covered in our hike the previous year. We climbed the Crawford Path to the Mizpah Spring Hut, one of the AMC mountain huts located mid trail where hikers can take refuge, get some rest, food and water before continuing on their journey.
From Mizpah we followed on the Webster Cliff Trail to summit Mount Jackson and Mount Webster where we got incredible views of the Presidential Mountain Range, and the ridge trail we had hiked in 2012.
We descended Mt Webster on the Webster Jackson Trail, which ended up being very steep and rocky. It was not an easy trail to hike down, but it went by a couple waterfalls well worth the extra strain on the knees…or maybe not.
At day 3 our original plans called for a start to our kayaking and camping trip down the Saco River. However, the day came in with copious rains, and since there was the chance of parts of the river getting shut down due to high water level, we decided to spend a day visiting Portland ME. The detour was well worthwhile, we walked around the city harbor, had great chowder and lobster for lunch and visited some stores. That evening we were lucky to find a place to stay at a bed and breakfast in Naples ME. The Augustus Bove, a well kept and very comfortable B&B, attended by their owners Arlene and Dave. Great country atmosphere, fantastic breakfast, and you are sent off in the morning with a hug and a kiss, it does not get any better than that.
The fourth day came in and the sun was shinning high in the sky, a perfect day to the start of our kayak/camping experience. We drove back into NH to Center Conway, and after stopping for some last minute supplies, went to Saco Valley Canoe to leave our car and get transferred with our kayaks and camping gear to the put in place on the river at Swans Falls over the ME border.
With the boats fully loaded with gear, supplies and firewood we headed out towards the Broomfield Bridge, a point 19 miles down the river where we could be picked up from and transferred back to our car. The rules of the river are simple and reasonable, one can land and camp anywhere it is not posted as prohibited, campfires are only allowed on sandy beaches and after obtaining a permit, no out of state firewood and pack in pack out rules apply.
From the point we put in to our destination the Saco is a gentle, wide river flowing at about 2.5 miles an hour. The water is super clear, the scenery is fantastic, and at least during the week you can get away from crowds.
That night we camped by a beach we had all to ourselves about 8.5 miles down river. At the time we set up camp the sun was about to go below the tree line so it started getting dark and chilly pretty fast.
In spite of the damp fire wood and kindling we managed to have a roaring fire on the beach. Our dinner that night was simply delicious, or should I say “simple but delicious”? Mac and cheese always tastes great when shared with right person and under the stars.
Next day after tearing down our camp we had some breakfast, hot instant oatmeal. I had forgotten I do not really like oatmeal, “but it is good for you and it fills you up for a long time” said Beth, so I went along.
We paddled and drifted for a few hours stopping to see whatever caught our attention that day, had lunch at another beautiful sandy beach, and ventured into two large ponds that connect with the Saco. In the latter, Lowell Pond we saw a bald eagle and a fledgling perching at our path.
Our intention to camp on the river a second night was abruptly changed when a post at mile 17 indicated that overnight camping was not permitted between that point and our destination at mile 19.
After being picked up and brought back to our car, that afternoon we headed Northwest towards Franconia Notch. The next morning we hiked up to the Lonesome Lake, where AMC has another mountain hut.
The trail takes you up from the parking area on a gentle switchback. At the top there is a beautiful lake encircled by high mountains, the view is certainly incredible.
We had hoped to have lunch at the hut, but were not hungry then. To get back to our car we chose the longer way down following the Cascade Brook Trail, a very nice section of the AT with a very fit name.
We stopped several times to admire the dozens of cascades that form on this rapidly descending river, as well as the massive granite formations on which it flows.
That eve, tired but very happy, we started on our way South. We met with our friends Maureen and Brian had dinner with them, and spent the night at their beautiful cabin near Holderness NH. Next morning, we picked our son up from camp and spent the rest of the day driving around and sightseeing the lakes region of NH.
At the Lonesome Lake there is a memorial plaque that sums up how we feel about this week, it reads: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away”. I don’t know about you, but I am already planning our next adventure.