Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Hampshire - View from the Cheap Seats

Vox Clamantis in Deserto

I have a strong connection with Dartmouth's motto "a voice crying out in the wilderness", often recalling it over the past 30 or so years while hiking and photographing in and around the Northern New Hampshire wilderness. Having worked here at Dartmouth for more than 20 years, many new students, staff and visitors to the college often ask the question - "What is there to do up here in the woods?" Well, I think I have an answer for these folks. Having built up a rather large collection of outdoor photographs over the years reminds me what an excellent place NH is to live and explore. I'd like to share a few of these photos with those new to the area (or not so new) and provide commentary on them for anyone who may be interested in such things.


Champney Brook at Pitcher Falls gorge as seen from
the brook looking into the gorge from the
bottom of the falls.

Champney Falls Trail - The hike up Champney Falls Trail to the summit of Mt. Chocorua is approximately 3.5 miles. It is relatively moderate throughout, with the assistance of a long set of switchbacks, and includes a waterfalls edge climb at Champney Falls near the halfway point of the hike. The narrow and elongated summit area is open and rocky with easy footing and beautiful vistas in all directions. The trail head is located a few miles east of Bear Notch Road on the Kancamagus Highway.

A reverse angle of the same gorge
looking back towadrs the brook.

The early part of the hike is through open woods following the lower section of Champney Brook. The walking is at an easy grade, turning more moderate as you arrive at the point where the brook levels off. About halfway to the top is a side (loop) trail which leads to the base of Champney Falls, follows the main waterfall up and eventually reconnects with the main trail. Here you come to a wonder of nature that I never get tired of seeing in any season, called Pitcher Falls. The gigantic split in the rock and the soaring walls are best appreciated while standing at the bottom of the crevasse, or from the top looking back down towards the brook - if you dare! It is a great place to cool your heels on the way up, on the way down or perhaps just a nice spot to have a cold beer (in the winter months, warm beverages are OK too). The loop trail continues up the side of the waterfall for about a quarter mile with many interesting views of brook worn rock formations.

View from the summit of Middle Sister south
to Mt. Chocorua.

Shortly after the loop trail rejoins the main trail, there begin a series of switchbacks along a rather steep area, making the hike much more gradual. One can continue on up the main trail to the summit, or near the end of the switchbacks (about 2/3 of the way to the top), take a side path to Middle Sister, a lesser peak which has fine views of the summit from an interesting angle. Also providing fine views to the north and west, as well as a broken down foundation that was perhaps part of a tower or summit house once upon a time....?

View from Mt. Chocorua Summit looking south.
This second side trail continues on and rejoins the main trail to the summit as well. The summit area is totally open, although a bit narrow and rocky, which can be intimidating if there are high winds, this due to the steep drop-off from the summit cone and a lack of trees for protection.

View from Mt. Chocorua Summit looking west.

All in all, it is a spectacular hike with a bit of something for everyone that is well worth the effort.
Pitcher Falls in winter, from the top.

Midway up Pitcher Falls during the winter.
Amazing ice formations at Pitcher Falls

I hope this blog post along with the photographs will encourage one to get out there and enjoy the natural wonders we in New Hampshire have fallen in love with.

By Brian Markee

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