Monday, August 8, 2011

White Mountains

I woke up last Monday, finally feeling better, with a yen to get out of town. We deliberately set up the summer for this very thing: being able to hit the road at a moment's notice. No regularly scheduled camps or classes for anyone. We all needed to get off the schedule treadmill. We all needed to take a breath.

The only glitch to our get-up-and-go lifestyle this summer is the pets. With a dog, a cat, 2 guinea pigs, 3 ducks and a bunch of chickens coming soon, finding pet sitters with one day's notice is a bit like pulling the proverbial rabbit (no rabbits here!) out of the big black hat. But we did it. Dog to grandma's, ducks to Terra Firma Farm, and our ever obliging neighbors Mary and Max to handle Annie and the Pigs here at home.

(That Annie and the Pigs business always gets me going on Elton John's catchy but terribly annoying song, B-b-b-bennie and the Jets. Nice.)

SO in one strenuous day, we shuttled the pets, stormed the grocery store, stuffed clothes into our packs, grabbed games and books, jammed all the camping gear into the Rocket Box on top of the car, and zip, zoom, zam.......we were off to the White Mountains!

Four hours later, we found an open campsite at Sugarloaf 2, a somewhat remote, $16/night campground on the Zealand Road, a couple of miles from the crossroads at Twin Mountain between Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch. Our site was nice and big, close enough to walk down to the Zealand River, directly across from the only water pump (an ancient thing that provided the water-getter with an excellent morning workout), and not too close to the pit toilets, which, while clean, did not smell 100% pretty.

Not wanting to overwhelm and exhaust the kids on the very first day (I have made that mistake one too many times already), our first hike was a modest 6-mile out-and-back to the Zealand Falls Hut on an easy trail. I wanted them to see an AMC Hut and to have plenty of time to eat a leisurely lunch and hang around at the falls.


Here's Ben testing out the bunks. He had never seen a triple bunk before. Big stuff!

And here are the kids heading up to the falls.

Day 2 was our epic day. Brian and I decided (and hoped to heaven we were right) that the kids were strong enough to give Mt. Washington a go. Brian spent a long time looking at the topo maps at Zealand Hut and figured our best bet was to take the Ammonoosuc Trail up to Lake of the Clouds Hut, which sits on a shoulder between Mt. Washington and Mt. Monroe.

Lake of the Clouds as seen from Mt. Monroe.

The Amonoosuc Trail is only three miles up, but it's steep and somewhat treacherous, winding up through waterfalls on exposed, often windy ridges. We were lucky with the weather: calm and mostly clear, with only the peak of Mt. Washington lost in the clouds.

The kids were troopers. Brian and I carried all of the food, water and extra clothes on our backs, which somewhat leveled the playing field. Free from carrying packs, the kids scampered ahead of us and I had to really move to keep up. After years of coaxing and cajoling slow little feet, this felt like bliss. We have arrived!!

Here are a few shots heading up the trail.

We stopped for a couple of hours at the hut. We had lunch, explored the bunks (quadruple bunks here!), and Ben took on all comers at Uno while Nell, Simon and I scrambled up to the summit of Mt. Monroe, about 500 feet above the hut.

It was so beautiful being up there above treeline looking down on the mountains rolling off in every direction. I don't say this lightly: I was so proud of the kids for making it all the way up there. And they were truly thrilled by it all. They'd never seen anything like it.

Here we all are outside the hut just before starting the descent.

I don't have any descent pictures because everyone took off without me. Brian and the kids are fearless descenders. I am more of a picky-pants, inching my way over the wet rocks, trying not to look as the little ones sprint and jump over the slippery boulders, courting destruction at every turn.

I held Ben's hand during the last mile because his little legs were getting tired. He kept trying to run to keep up with Nell and Simon, which made him fall. A lot. Lucky for him, he's fairly close to the ground and bouncy. He was fine.

On the way back to the campsite we stopped at the Mt. Washington Inn, an old hotel that has been recently remodeled and re-vamped. It's gorgeous. Trooping in all muddy and smelly, we felt like peasants crashing the castle, though that didn't stop us from wandering around and partaking of the amenities.

Back at the campsite, much at Ben's urging (Ben, unlike the rest of us, does not have an introverted bone in his body -- he keeps us on our toes), we played games and roasted marshmallows and once it got dark made weird shadows in the tent. (So much for reading my book....)

Everyone was tired the next day. We did a mellow hike up the Falling Waters trail in Franconia Notch, stopped at Echo Lake for a swim, and headed home.

All in all, it was a great trip.

Next up: TARC 12-hour run on Saturday in Medfield, MA.


  1. I love it! I'm so impressed that everyone made the climb! What a wonderful family you have.

  2. Your kids have the COOLEST parents! What lucky ducks they are! :) Yet another post of yours that makes my heart sing. It makes me want to move to CT so we can have chickens, and beautiful NE hiking and views like you guys have. Love it, love it, love it.

    I am so glad you are on the mend!

  3. Thanks, Karen!

    Paige, you'd like it here.....

  4. Pam, what a great day. I miss the Whites!

  5. Steve, hi!! Yes, there is something magical about the White Mountains. My friend is living in the Alps for 2 yeas (The ALPS!!) and even she misses them.

    I read your Hardrock report. I have to get out there some year. At least to see Silverton. My mother in law gets similar dizzy spells from crystals in her ears. She goes somewhere and gets her head/neck snapped and that takes care of the problem. I can get you more details if you like.

  6. Awesome!!! Your kids are so lucky to have these experiences and to share them with you! There is nothing like making it above treeline in the Whites. What a wonderful family.

  7. Great update on your family's summer fun. I miss the Whites myself, even though they are not that far away. Just never have the time to get up there. Hopefully I will be able to make some plans to get up there this fall, maybe in October. It looks like everyone had a great time.


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