Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mackworth Island Hike - Easy Family Trail with Beach, Forest, and Fairies!

Lone fisherman enjoying solitude on Mackworth Island
 Just a short drive from Portland, Maine and you find yourself on magical little island with forest, cliffs, and beaches.  An easy 1.25 mile packed gravel/dirt trail loops around the island.  Children and adults alike enjoy the peaceful views as well as the communities of little "fairy houses" built by visitors in the woods along the trail.

I hadn't visited Mackworth Island in years, and when by friend Daneel suggested we take our little ones for a trip around the island I jumped at the chance.  The twin two-and-a-half year-olds were able to do the entire loop and my 2-month old snuggled in his soft carrier.  We also saw other parents complete the loop with sturdy strollers.  This was the perfect little outing for a sunny summer day.  It's a great options for families, joggers, or anyone looking for a little taste of 'vacationland'.

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Nature walk around Mackworth Island, Falmouth, Maine
Typical beautiful view along trail on Mackworth Island

Getting there: From the south, Take I-95 North to I-295 North toward Portland.  Take Exit 9 toward Route 1 North toward Falmouth Foreside.  Then, take Route 1 North for about 2 miles.  Turn right onto Andrews Ave, then left to cross the causeway onto Mackworth Island.
The only thing on the island beside the trail is the Baxter School for the Deaf.  When you enter the island, there is a gate.  The attendant will ask you if you are going to the school or the park. There is a $3 parking fee.  Get there early to ensure parking (the lot is small).  If full, you will have to wait for someone to leave or be turned away).

Fairy Houses like this one are hidden in the trees.
Trail:  The 1.25 mile trail travels around the edge of the island.  It is a narrow packed dirt/gravel trail that forms a complete loop.  The trail mostly travels through hardwood forest with peaks of cliffs and beaches along the way.  There are multiple places to drop down onto beach if you choose or break at a bench along the trail.  Another charming aspect of the trail is that visitors have built "fairy houses" at various places on the journey.  These little homes of sticks, shells, and rocks at the base of trees create a magical and lovable treat for young and old alike.  The trail pops you back out at the original starting point - a mowed lawn area - where we enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading back home.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance:  1.25 mile loop


Recommendations:

Beautiful beaches along the hike.
- The only bathroom facilities available to hikers and recreationalists is a single outhouse.  Plan ahead that there is no running water.

- Parking is limited.  Be prepared to wait for a spot.  I got there at 10 am and there was only one spot available at that time.  It costs $3 but your time is not limited.

- Bring sunscreen and bug spray.

- Dogs are allowed but be aware that there are many children and joggers on the trail.


Daneel and I enjoyed sharing this adventure with the children.  We kept marveling at how amazingly beautiful the Maine coast is.  It was a perfect taste of Maine loveliness.  I can't wait to go back!
Great hike with kids!

You might also enjoy these adventures:

Mt. Agamenticus in Snow

5 Best Family Hikes in the White Mountains

A Brisk Lighthouse Walk

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mount Kearsarge North - 360 Views in the Heart of North Conway

Summit of Mount Kearsarge North
I was just over a month postpartum and looking for White Mountain adventures.  My first venture was to tackle Mt. Willard in Crawford Notch which is just over 3 miles round trip.  Next, I wanted to try something with more mileage but no big ledges or rock scrambles (since we would have the baby in-tow and our balance/line of sight would be off.  Matt and I decided to try Mount Kearsarge North right in North Conway.  It was the perfect choice - longer mileage (6.2 miles round trip), no challenging terrain, and just minutes from Moat Mountain Brewery post-hike.  I loved this hike and would love to do it again soon!

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Mount Kearsarge North
Evergreen Forest at the start of the trail.

Getting there:  We took Rt 16 North through North Conway.  Just north of town you will pass the visitor viewpoint on the left.  Soon after, turn right onto Hurricane Mountain Road.  Take this road until you reach the trailhead (marked on left).  There are a few parking spots or park on the road.

Trail: The trail is fairly easy terrain but it is a constant uphill climb.  As a result, I was sore for days after!  The trail begins through an evergreen forest - rare to find in lower elevation in the Whites.  I almost felt like I was back in the West!  After a mile, you transition into the tranditional hardwoods.  In the last mile, we got back into boreal/evergreens and some easy slab with peaking views of the Whites and North Conway.

Although the summit is only a 3,000-footer, you can enjoy 360 degree views of the southern White Mountain range.  Climb up into the firetower for even better views and escape from the wind.  This was a wonderful hike with a fabulous view.  Since it is out-and-back, we returned the way we came.

Views from the trail.
Difficulty:  Moderate.  There was no tricky footwork needed but it was a constant and steady uphill for over three miles.

Distance: 3.1 miles one way/ 6.2 out-and-back total.

Recommendations:

- Get there early.  Parking is limited and because of its proximity to North Conway, the trail can be popular.

- There is no bathrooms or facilities at the parking lot.

- Plan ahead and be prepared. Weather in the White Mountains can change quickly and without warning.  Bring plenty of water, snacks, rain/sun gear, and first aid.


Slabby portion of trail near summit
We loved our White Mountain adventure.  It was a wonderful hike and gorgeous view.  After our hike, we drove down 16 to Moat Mountain Brewpub where we enjoyed brews and burgers before returning to southern New Hampshire.  Until next time...

360 degree views from the firetower.

You might also enjoy these adventures...

Welch-Dickey Loop - Amazing Views in the Heart of the White Mountains

Mt. Carrigan Loop - 4000 footer and More

Mt. Moosilauke - Moderate Hike for a Major View

Summit views on a cloudy day.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mt. Willard - Big Bang For Your Buck

I've mentioned Mt. Willard on this blog before.  It's definitely one of the best family hikes in the White Mountains.  This is because it's short, easy-to-moderate climbing, and has one of the most AMAZING views you will find in the area.  Don't let the easiness fool you...the view from the top rivals most of the famous 4,000-footers.  It had been years since I hiked this little mountain in Crawford Notch, but after giving birth weeks prior, I needed an easy peak for my first time back to the Whites postpartum ... and carrying a newborn.  My sister, Kelly, and I took off for an early summer hike- bringing along my baby son, Lucien, for his first White Mountain hike.

 Kelly stands at the summit of Mt.Willard with views of Crawford Notch.
Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Mt. Willard Hike

Getting there:  The Mt. Willard trailhead is located in Crawford Notch State Park.  From North Conway, take Rt 302 into the notch.  If coming from I-93, take exit 35 and follow Rt 3 North to Rt 302.

I usually park at the AMC Highland Center parking lot (to use the bathroom before heading out0, but you can get closer by using the Railroad Depot parking lot.

The trailhead is located just behind the depot (across the tracks).  Follow the trail for about 50 feet until you reach the official trailhead where you can choose between going straight to Mt. Avalon or turning left to Mt. Willard.

Crawford Notch Railroad Depot is a good place to park.

Centennial Pool
Trail:  This out-and-back trail starts with a stream crossing.  In summer, it's usually a fairly easy crossing, but I have experienced higher water (and wet feet) in the spring after snow melt.  The trail is an easy to moderate climb.  At 0.4 miles, you reach Centennial Pool - a little offshoot with a nice view of a small cascade and pool.  Continue 1.1 miles through hardwood forest.  Near the summit, the forest changes to short and crowded evergreens.

Final section of the trail
As the trail flattens out, you'll 'see the light' where the trail ends at a magnificent ledge looking down at Crawford Notch and Rt 302.  Although this is not a 360 degree view, it is by far one of the best in the area and definitely the best for such a short hike.  Pull out the map and try to identify all the peaks around you!  You can see multiple recognizable 4,000-footers - including Mt. Washington!

Difficulty: By White Mountain standards, this is an easy peak.  It is a great choice for everyone from families with small children to experienced hikers looking for an amazing view.  Be aware that there is a climb and that it involves a stream crossing.

Distance: 3.2 miles total (out-and-back)

Recommendations:

Summit View

- Although you can't see it, there is a popular rock-climbing route below the summit ledge.  DO NOT THROW ROCKS OR ITEMS OFF THE EDGE.

- Prepare for a stream crossing.  I use trekking poles to balance on the rocks to cross.

- Although it is a great family hike, adventurers should be prepared by bringing lots of water, snacks, rain/sun gear, and a first aid kit.  Anything can happen in the Whites.

- This is a very popular summer hike due to it's proximity to the Highland Center and its easiness.  Be prepared to interact with other hikers on the trail and summit.  Because of this, I didn't bring my dog Summit (although they are allowed).

Summit Selfie
- There are no bathrooms or water facilities at the trailhead, but you can get this (as well as advice, food, and lodging at the nearby AMC Highland Center.

- The summit/ledge is extremely dangerous.  Watch children and dogs carefully.


Although I'd hiked this trail many times, I still gasped at the view.  It is truly spectacular scene and a reminder why I love the White Mountains so much.  I can't think of a better hike to share with my infant son as his first "White Mountain Hike".




You Might Enjoy These Adventures As Well:

- 5 Best Family Hikes in the Whites

- Liebeskinds Loop, Lila's Ledge, and George's Gorge

- Welch-Dickey Loop


Monday, February 8, 2016

Liebeskind's Loop, Lila's Ledge, and George's Gorge in Winter


View from Lila's Ledge of Pinkham Notch, NH

I guess I should apologize... I've been off the blog for a few months.  For those of you who don't know, I'm in the third trimester of a pregnancy and that, combined with the poor snow season, has kept me out of the White Mountains and instead exploring hikes near home.  This weekend however, I did manage to get up north for a birthday hike.  Due to my current preggo-state, I opted for a shorter hike that still promises awesome views and a moderate challenge.  This approximately two mile loop provides great views of Wildcat Mountain, Pinkham Notch, and Tuckerman's Ravine.  In winter, you have the additional benefit of little to no crowds and clearer views between leafless trees.

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Leibeskind's Loop, Lila's Ledge, and George's Gorge
Trail through George's Gorge

Getting there:  The trailhead is located at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on Rt 16.  From North Conway, take 16 North.  At the 302/16 light, turn right to continue on 16.  Drive 20 minutes and the visitor center will be on the left.  Walk past the visitor center to the main trailhead sign and continue straight onto Old Jackson Road/AT.

Trail:  From the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, take Old Jackson Road (AT) 0.3 miles to the junction with the Crew Cut trail.  This is a wide, gentle incline and popular trail.  After the small footbridge, take a right onto Crew Cut trail.  The Crew Cut is a narrow offshoot.  It winds up for 0.3 miles passing the left hand entrance of George's Gorge trail.  Continue straight and follow signs to Lila's Ledge.  It is a 0.1-2 offshoot from Crew Cut.

From Lila's Ledge, you can see Wildcat Ski area, Pinkham Notch/Rt 16, and Mount Washington via Tuckerman's Ravine.  It's a GREAT view for such a short little hike.  Return back to Crew Cut and from here, take Liebeskind's Loop Trail to start looping back.  This 0.5 mile section winds up and down along tall rocks and on narrow trail.  You will pass a viewpoint named Brad's Bluff that give more magnificent views of Mount Washington before reaching the George's Gorge Trail.  From here, you can either continue 0.3 miles uphill back to Old Jackson Road trail or take a left and return via George's Gorge (0.5 mi) to the original Crew Cut/Old Jackson Rd section.
Icy Trail

On this day, we decided to get back to Old Jackson Road quickly since many portions of the narrow loop were very icy.  Back on Old Jackson Rd, we enjoyed the leisurely, wide trail back to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.


Difficulty:  For this area of the White Mountains, this trail is Easy-Moderate.  However, on this day, there had been little snow and the trails were sheets of ice in many places which made it increasingly difficult even with proper traction.  Be sure to come prepared with proper winter gear.

Distance: 2-3 miles (depending on which offshoot/loop you do)


Recommendations: 

- This is a great little hike near the visitor center.  In the summer, it's a perfect stroll for families or someone looking for a short hike with a great view.

- Lila's Ledge is a dangerous overlook - especially in winter.  Watch your dogs, children, and yourself when navigating onto the ledge.

- In winter, weather conditions can change quickly in the notch with little warning.  Even for a short hike, plan ahead and be prepared for ice, snow, wind, and rain.  We wore multiple (non-cotton) layers, winter boots, microspikes, ski poles, and packed a winter emergency kit, AMC Presidential Map (#1), water, and snack.

- Warm up afterwards in the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center with some hot chocolate or coffee. Get advice from the AMC guides and employees on winter conditions.

This was a great way to spend my birthday and finally get up to the White Mountains for a little adventure.  Even 7 months pregnant, I was able to get great views of notch and some of my favorite peaks.

Visit to Sabbaday Falls later that day

You might enjoy these winter hikes as well...

Carter Notch Hut in Winter

Skiing the Sherbie

Cold Night on the Mountain

Please leave comments or questions below or visit our Facebook Page.




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Welch-Dickey Loop - Amazing Views in the Heart of the White Mountains

View of Mt. Welch from Mt. Dickey on Welch-Dickey loop
I've been wanting to do this hike for a long time.  I mean - this is one of the most popular hikes in the White Mountains - and I'd never tried it!  So when my friend Sarah suggested we take the dogs for a late fall hike on the Welch-Dickey loop, I jumped at the chance.  It is easy to see why this trail is so popular - the 4.5 mile hike is a true loop that includes amazing mountain views without the need to go to 4,000 ft (the peaks are in the mid - 2000ft).  Late fall was a great time because the crowds were low and the weather still mild enough that we didn't need traction on our boots.  Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Welch-Dickey Mountain Loop
Leaf-covered trail in November

Getting there:  The trailhead is located off I-93 near the town of Waterville Valley.  To get there, I took I-93 North to exit 28.  Drive East on Rt 49 toward Waterville Valley.  Turn left onto Mad River Road then turn right onto Upper Mad River Road.  Follow the "hiking" sign and turn left onto Orris Road.  The parking lot with be on the right with a well marked sign.

Trail:  The trailhead is at the end of the parking lot.  This is a true loop.  Just walk 0.1 mile down the trail and you'll come to the fork.  We decided to do a counter-clockwise loop by taking the right fork first.  This appeared to be the more popular direction, but hikers could enjoy either way with equal challenge-level.
     We followed the yellow blazes up a gradual and moderate climb.  Soon we popped-out onto a ledge and viewpoint.  I could see the Sandwich Range to the south and behind us, the summits of Welch and Dickey. We continued up granite slab, all-the-while enjoying the views.  We were lucky to hike the trail on a dry day, but I imagine this trail could be very dangerous if it was wet or icy.  From the summit of Mt. Dickey, we descended down a slab ridge.  This is your last time above the trees.  We enjoyed a snack and staring at the loop hike that we had almost completed.  Continue down the trail and in no time at all, you'll be back at the parking lot.
      The dogs handled this trail with no problems at all and we came across many other dogs on the trail.

Be prepared to walk up slab near the summit of both peaks.
Difficulty:  Moderate-  This trail starts out easy and turns to a moderate slab climb near the summits.  That said, if it's wet or icy, this trail could quickly become dangerous above treeline.  The granite slab is great for open views, but hikers should be careful when climbing.

Enjoying the view of Mt. Dickey from Mt. Welch
Distance: 4.5 mile loop

Recommendations:

- Get there early!  Even in November, the parking lot and trail is very popular. At 9 am the parking lot was mostly full.

- You will need a National Park/Forest parking pass or $3 per vehicle to park in the lot. Bring exact cash or check.  There are envelopes to deposit your money in near the trailhead sign.

- There are pit toilets at the parking lot.

- There is no cell service in the lot.  Plan accordingly.
Final ridge walk down from Mt. Dickey

- Remember that the Whites have their own weather.  It might be 70 and sunny in Boston, but icy trail conditions up north.  For late fall hikes, bring microspikes or other traction options just in case.  A warm coat, gloves, and hat are a must.

I loved this moderate loop.  It would be wonderful to try it in every season.  I can see why it's a favorite for hikers in the area.

You Might Enjoy These Hikes As Well...

5 Best Family Hikes in the White Mountains

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Summit gets some love!

Please leave comments and questions below.