View of Mt. Chocorua and the Moats from the Fire Tower on top of Mt. Kearsarge North. One of my favorite hikes is the Mt. Kearsarge North trail to the fire tower on the top of Mt. Kearsarge which provides one of the best 360 degree views in the entire WMNF. This trail begins on Hurricane Mtn. Rd. and travels 3.1 miles to the summit at 3,268 ft. This trail is very popular and is a steady and moderate climb, but inexperienced hikers should not underestimate the 2,600 ft. elevation gain. The trail runs level for a short distance and then begins to climb steadily reaching a ledge area at about 1.8 mi. After following the yellow blazes on the rock, the trail makes a sharp right turn and then angles upward to the fire tower. The views make every step worthwhile! (The author is a member of the WMIA Board of Directors)
Easy Winter Adventures By Gary A Gustafson, MMH For those of us who claim the White Mountain National Forest as our playground, winter offers a special outdoor experience. Evergreens blanketed in white, bluebird skies, open vistas cleared of foliage, and no black flies, make this a magical time of year to be out in nature. It doesn’t take a pack full of expense gear to get out and enjoy the winter sun. A warm, dry pair of comfortable boots, and layers of polypro with a wind shell in your day pack, will help to keep your body temperature just right. Whether you are trudging up a mountain trail or standing at the top in the wind, this isn’t the time to work up a sweat. The secret to staying warm is to stay dry, so layer down when you get hot. Remember to bring different layers for your hands, as well. The more popular hikes become well-trod after a storm. By simply waiting over a weekend, you can often find these trails easy to navigate, even without snowshoes or micro-spikes. There are many adventures for all skill levels available along the Kancamagus Highway. The Albany Town Woods behind the Saco District Ranger Station offers miles of flat trails which include mountain views, open fields, woods and river walks. Six miles up the Kanc from the ranger station is the Albany Covered Bridge. The parking area just before the bridge is maintained in winter by the Forest Service. Park and walk over the bridge. To the left is the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail that parallels the gentle rise of the Swift River for miles. Besure to stay out of the ski tracks. The joy of tracked skiing is short lived enough for our back-country ski friends. For a more challenging adventure, turn right over the bridge and walk a few hundred yards down the unplowed Dugway Road to the Boulder Loop Trailhead. This trail climbs 900 feet in 1.3 miles to beautiful views of the Swift River valley and the mountains beyond. A scenic vista two thirds of the way up offers plenty of reward for a less adventurous destination. Four miles further up the Kanc is the Champney Falls Trail parking area. You may need to walk a few yards back down the road to cross over the brook. The first 1.4 miles of this trail is always well traveled by climbers heading up to test the ice on the falls. On the weekends, the beauty of the falls and the daring of these mountaineers, make for a worthy destination. Last on this list are two popular winter adventures. Fourteen miles up the Kank the Forest Service maintains the Downs Brook parking area. From here you can access the UNH Trail, 1.9 miles and 1,200 feet to the summit of Hedgehog Mountain; or, the Mount Potash Trail, which is about the same distance, with an extra 170 feet of vertical. Both mountains offer great views of Mount Passaconaway, the Tripyramids, and across the Albany Intervale toward the Presidentials. So chase away that cabin fever and head out for a “wee stretch of the legs.” It will make that hot-toddy taste even better at the end of the day. (The author is a member of the WMIA Board of Directors)
Places to Visit: Ripley Falls Distance: 1.2 miles • Time: 1 hour Side road off Route 302 in Crawford Notch, 1 mile south of Willey House site. Start on Ethan pond Trail, then follow Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail 6/10 of a mile and 400 vertical feet to the gorgeous 100 foot waterfall. Ripley Falls is the kind of waterfall that will stand on its own as a destination, but has so many other good waterfalls nearby that it doesn't have to. Ripley Falls is a neighbor to Arethusa Falls, Coliseum Falls, Bemis Brook Falls, Kedron Flume, Nancy Cascades, not to mention the waterfalls at the Gates of the Notch. Ripley Falls has a signed trail head, ample parking, and the hike is pretty easy.
Radeke Cottage In the Passaconaway Valley there is an old cottage rented by the Forest Service to the public. Unknown by most, this was the location of an artists colony for may years, owned by the President of the Rhode Island School of Design. Eliza Greene Metcalf Radeke (1854-1931) was the president of the Rhode Is-land School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island from 1913 to 1931. Charles E. Beals Sr. sold the Tibado farm (about 1916), to Mrs. Eliza G. Metcalf Radeke, of Providence, R.I., “a philanthropic woman of means and unusual ability”. Mrs. Radeke had three bungalows built on the property for herself and her students, with the back cottage assigned to the chauffeur. Local stories tell of how Mrs. Radeke would spend time each summer in Passaconaway and invite some students to accompany her and stay in her guest bungalows. They would sketch and paint in the “pleine air” tradition under the encouragement of Eliza Radeke. Facilities:The cabin is rustic with limited amenities. Ten wooden bunks are divided into 3 rooms. A table, chairs, couch and a wood stove are provided, along with firewood. An accessible pit toilet is located a short distance from the cabin. A campfire ring is outside. A wheelchair ramp is installed for accessibility. No potable water, running water or electricity are available. Guests need to bring their own water, as well as garbage bags to pack out their trash. The firewood at the cabin is only for the indoor woodstove; guests must supply their own firewood for the campfire ring. Bedding, cooking equipment, matches, kitchen utensils and emergency supplies like flashlights and first aid kits are not provided. The cabin is uninsulated and can be cool during the winter months, so guests must plan accordingly. Nearby Attractions:The Kancamagus Scenic Byway offers one of the most beautiful routes through New Hampshire's White Mountains, especially during the fall foliage season. A trip across the "Kanc" is a highlight for most visitors to the White Mountain National Forest. Rushing rivers, a covered bridge and scenic vistas are part of the 34-mile trip. What’s the Difference? Many visitors to the National Forest want to know what is the difference between the Forest Service, the National Park Service, and NH Fish and Game Department and State Parks? The Forest Service manages the national forests and grasslands, forestry research and cooperation with forest managers on State and Private Lands. The Forest Service is dedi- cated to managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the environment. The National Park Service focuses on preservation. They preserve, unimpaired, the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations. State Parks are similar to National Parks but are managed on a state level and can have fewer restrictions. The NH Fish and Game Department han- dles fishing and hunting permits and works to conserve, manage and protect the state’s fish, wildlife and marine resources. Federal wildlife agencies, such as the National Marine Fisher- ies Service, manage wildlife that crosses state boundaries such as migratory birds and whales and some fish species.
A Walk Back In Time By Gary A Gustafson, MMH Early spring, after snowmelt and before green-up, offers the best time to explore the woods of the White Mountain National Forest. The lack of foliage provides long views into the woods, not otherwise available in the warmer months, and the winter’s snowpack has matted down the leaves, revealing a more accurate impression of the ground. This is the perfect time to bushwhack through the open foliage to lesser-known summits, or dis-cover some of the interesting historic sites buried in the now dense forest. Early last month, I was joined by fel-low historian, Joe Phillips, Visitor Information Supervisor with the WMNF, in exploring two homesteads that are not easily found during the remainder of the year. A half hour hike in from the road, we came across the first of these sites, the farm of Alvah Head. The first hint that we were on the right track was the massive stonewalls that mark the boundaries of his fields. Contrary to popular belief, these walls were not built to keep animals in, but rather to keep them out of the crop fields, while they were free to roam and graze at will. The open hardwoods provided us with long views of the thousands of yards of wall built by farmer Head. Further on, we came across the simple foundation and root cellar that lay under half of the house. Root cellars were used to store “root vegetables” throughout the year, as they offered consistently cool temperatures with stable humidity that helped keep foodstuffs fresher longer. By the looks of it, Alvah’s house was a well-built center chimney cape, very typical of a modest New England home. The root cellar, mostly filled in now, had walls of fieldstone with a granite split-stone sill on top that continued on to mark the footprint of the house. The mound of rubble in the middle with several bricks sticking out is all that remains of the chimney and fireboxes. Alvah Head was born in Freedom, NH, in 1856. As a young man, sometime before 1876, he acquired the 263.5 acre farm of A.C. Brown. We know that he married and had at least two children, Harold and Caroline. Alvah is on the 1876 list of 80 or so resident taxpayers in the town of Albany. He is also listed in the 1893 town report as having received $9 for the work he did repairing town roads, something every male resident was expected to do during the year. Mrs. Head is believed to have been a country mid-wife/doctor, as some of her home remedies have survived in the Albany Historical Society rec-ords. Her remedies included cures for burns, stomach pain, “cansor,” asthma, headache, rheumatism, and constipation. What happened to Alvah and his wife is unknown. A search of the cemetery records reveals that they are not buried in Albany nor any of the nearby towns. We do know that the house lay empty for many years. After a long search for Harold and Caroline, the parcel was finally sold to the Forest Service in 1937 for $7.00 an acre. They had moved on to Brooklyn, NY, and Sacramento, CA, far from the simple life of their youth on the small farm in northern New Hampshire. As we progress up a trail following farmer Head’s stone walls, we pass through what the 1931 AMC Hiking Guide called, “a beautiful meadow.” The mature hardwoods that now hover over us give testimony to the marvelous regenerative ability of the northern New England woods. After a half hour hike, we reach the height of land and begin to head down the opposite slope. Soon we encounter piles of rocks stacked neatly on boulders, a sign that we are getting close to our next destination, the Ross farm. In the early stages of a farmstead, the farmer was busy clearing the land and did not have the time needed to build long walls with the rocks he gleaned from his fields. Instead he would stack them neatly on the larger boulders and plow around them. Before us piles of rocks stacked on boulders cover the landscape, attesting to the diligent efforts of farmer Ross. Many still hold their neat shape after nearly a century and a half of defying gravity and the elements. We do not know much about Mr. Ross or how long he worked this land. His farm does not appear on the 1860 Walling Maps of NH, nor on the 1892 NH State Atlas. His short tenure is typical of thousands of farms in northern New England that were abandoned after the Civil War. Thousands of young men from New England went off to fight, where they met Midwestern farm boys who astonished them with the claim that they could, “plow all day without hitting a rock.” Looking at the rocks that still cover the landscape, it is hard to imagine the backbreaking labor, day after day, needed to make this soil tillable. This flight from New Hampshire inspired Governor Frank W. Rollins to propose the concept of Old Home Days in 1899. The purpose was to bring native sons and daughters, and their money, back into New Hampshire, if only for a week or two. The idea caught on and spread to other New England states, where it is still practiced today in many rural communities. An extended search for an old hiking trail that continued down the slope proved unsuccessful. But on our way back, we spied a depression in the landscape revealed by the matted leaves and lack of foliage. What we thought might be an old farm lane did indeed lead us, within a few hundred yards, to the Ross cellar hole. It was a crude structure compared with the Head farm. This small cellar hole had only field stonewalls with no evidence that the house continued beyond. The small structure combined with the extensive labor of running the farm must have made for a hard life for the Ross family. By the late 1880’s, the Conway Lumber Company was buying up all of the land it could. No doubt farmer Ross gladly sold out. This parcel was completely cut over and part of a 46,000 acre tract conveyed by the CLC to the National Forrest Service in 1914. In many ways, these abandoned farms and the clear-cutting of the 19th century lumber barons made the White Mountain National Forest possible. The Week’s Act of 1911 provided the funds to acquire hundreds of thousands of acres of unwanted land at an affordable price. For Joe and me, our walk back in time and the subsequent research was a pleasant experience. These historic sites are a precious and delicate re-source that is protected by Federal Law. If you are fortunate to find one on your excursions in the woods, be careful not to disturb anything, leave only foot prints, and of course, no relic hunting. (The author is a member of the WMIA Board of Directors)
New Book Brings Stories of the White Mountains Two local authors, Doug Mayer and Rebecca Oreskes, recently published a new book, Mountain Voices: Stories of Life and Adventure in the White Mountains and Beyond . Mountain Voices is a collection of 15 profiles that capture the stories and spirit of the people who choose to live in New Hampshire's crag- gy, remote North Country. Over nearly two decades, authors Mayer and Oreskes interviewed extraordinary people whose lives are intricately linked to the history of the White Mountains. With humor, wit and unforgettable personal style, these trailblazing pioneers describe the foundation they laid for today's outdoor adven- turers. In their own words, Brad and Barbara Washburn enumerate their groundbreaking mountaineering exploits, and Rick Wilcox discusses search and rescue efforts. Woodsmen like Ben English tell of their work on hiking trails, and George Hamilton recounts his career in Appalachian Mountain Club's high huts. White Mountain icons such as boot maker Karl Limmer and Ellen Teague of the Mount Washington Cog Railway offer accounts of their esteemed careers in the mountains. Guy and Laura Waterman detail the development of their backwoods ethics philosophy. As an extra bonus, historical photographs ac- company each interview. Courtesy of The Conway Daily Sun