After last week’s stressful hike, I decided to return to the Whites for a little peace and quiet, and hopefully no police. (See story: Nutts Pond Trail and an encounter with the boys in blue)
Since I had only Sunday afternoon at my disposal, I decided to tackle a hike I’ve had in my head for a long time: the Flume Gorge Loop. During the summer, this pricey tourist attraction in Franconia State Park is $14. During the winter it’s, well, free!
I’m ashamed to admit that after living in New Hampshire for 12 years, I’ve never visited Flume Gorge. I suppose the thought of battling tourists and spending that kind of money on a less than two-mile loop has always kept me away. But now, with the twins next door itching to do some snowshoeing and my hernia preventing me from doing any big miles, the time was right.
When I set off from the Visitor’s Center parking lot, the temperature was a balmy 13 degrees! Winter has arrived, even if the snow has not. Speaking of which, there was only about an inch or so of crunchy hard pack, so though I brought Stablicers with me, I never needed them.
I was concerned at first about being able to find the trail as I’d never been there, but it wasn’t an issue. A herd trail of foot prints led up to the boarded up center, then either turned left and over a low wall, or turned right, headed down stairs and around the center. Either way will put you on the service road that leads down to the covered bridge and Boulder Cabin.
I decided to go clockwise on the loop and turned left at a crossroad to search for the trail that headed toward The Pool. After a quarter-mile or so, I reached the notch bike path and realized I had missed the actual trail. So not wanting to turn around, I took a right and headed north on the bike path. After another quarter-mile or so, I noticed what seemed to be a clear area about a 100 feet off the path, and bushwhacked into the woods. Sure enough, it was the Flume Gorge Loop!
Another few tenths of a mile and I was at the Sentinel Pine Bridge looking down at The Pool, a natural formation about 40 feet wide at the base of a small falls. Like most tourist attractions in the Whites, every stop has a history and The Pool is no exception.
The bridge is named after the enormous 175 foot pine that stood on the cliff above until the hurricane of 1938 toppled it over and across the gorge. The pine now forms the main beam of the bridge.
Meanwhile, at the foot of the pool, for about twenty years, a fellow (whose name slips my mind) would give tourists boat rides right up to the foot of the falls. A short side path leads to an overlook where you can still see the bolt he used to dock the boat.
After crossing over the bridge, the trail wraps around a slight ridge and makes its way to the gorge proper. Legend has it that the gorge was discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old “Aunt” Jess Guernsey when she accidentally came upon it while fishing. Apparently it took her a long time to convince her family of her discovery. And it is quite something, more so in the winter I think.
I carefully made my way down to the boardwalk near the falls and marveled at the ice formations created by the gorge and falls. Giant icicle walls surrounded me in a variety of blues, whites and grays. The boardwalk directly in front of the falls is closed and disassembled making passage to the other side impossible without crampons. Even then, it would be a tricky twenty feet.
So, I turned around and called it a day. It only took about half an hour to get back to the center. And along the way, I passed through the Pemigewasset River Cover Bridge, an icon of New Hampshire tourism. I’d seen pictures of the bridge dozens of times, but never knew where the darn thing was!
If you go: For a short hike with easy grades and high scenic pay off, the Flume Gorge Loop is really worth the two hours. When the real snow arrives, it’s going to require snowshoes, and any exploration of the boardwalk in the gorge itself should need some kind of traction. But this is certainly a hike that will hold a kid’s interest and I plan on taking the twins here as soon as they learn how to use their new snowshoes!
Here’s a link to the full album of pictures from the hike: Flume Gorge Loop
Nutts Pond Trail clean up in the works
After last week’s story was posted I received several offers from readers volunteering to do an afternoon clean up of the trail. Thank you all for your notes, encouragement and offers.
So, I have tentatively scheduled an afternoon clean up for 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 7. Remember, this is strictly voluntary and it’s a bring your own bags and gloves kind of thing. I’ll poke around and see if I can find someone to donate some supplies.
This is also contingent on the weather. If we get a big storm before the 7th, we’ll have to wait until the spring.
If you have any interest in lending a hand, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This will be a light clean up of the trailside and I expect we’ll go no more than three hours. But it will be a nice start and make the bigger springtime cleanup that much easier. Stay tuned here for further updates!
Bizarre Snacks returns!
Finally, we’re pleased to announced that our popular feature, Bizarre Snacks will be returning next week, Thursday, Dec. 29. For our return we tackle the ultimate comfort food, and a trail snack that’s now so common, it’s almost no longer Bizarre!
In the meantime, here’s the link to our most popular Bizarre Snacks post: I’m a Cockta, you’re a Cockta, wouldn’t you like to be a Cockta too!