Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Boulder Loop Trail - A Perfect Family Hike in the Whites

Fall View from Overlook on Boulder Loop Trail, White Mountains, NH

Now that I have a little one, I find myself trading out some of my 4000-footer hikes for shorter, less strenuous climbs.  My one-year-old son has been "hiking" since he was a week old, but understandably, after a few hours on the trail, he gets restless. As a result, I've tried hikes that are less than 5 miles with little to no technical climbing involved.  Most of the hikes have already been written about on this blog such as: Mount Major in Alton, White Ledge in Albany, Blue Job in Farmington, and Mount Willard in Crawford Notch.  I was searching my blog to see if there are any I should add and I realized I had not written about one of my favorite family-friendly loop hikes in the Whites - Boulder Loop off the Kancamagus Highway!  

This 3 mile easy-to-moderately difficulty hike is perfect for a taste of the Whites.  It provides excellent views, moderate strain, and is easily accessible with a parking lot and bathrooms near the Covered Bridge Campground.  I especially enjoyed it this fall when I took my parents who were visiting from Oregon to see the fall foliage.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:
Trail Sign

Adventure: Boulder Loop Trail in Albany, New Hampshire

Getting there:  The trailhead is easily accessible just off the Kancamagus Highway.  From Conway, New Hampshire, take the Kancamagus Highway (Rt 112) about 6 miles to Dugaway Rd on the right.  You should see signs for Covered Bridge Campground.

There are two parking options.  In the off season (winter and early spring), I park in the parking lot on the right before the bridge.  Then walk across the bridge and follow signs to the trailhead.  In summer and fall, you can cross the covered bridge and park in the Boulder Loop parking area on the right of the road.  The trailhead is across this road from the parking lot.  Since it is National Forest, you need to pay a parking fee (cash or check) at the kiosk or have a WMNF parking permit.

Boulder Loop Trail
Trail: The trail is well signed.  Start by going 0.2 miles to the loop.  You can go either clockwise or counter clockwise (I always go counter but I'm not sure why).  If you go counter-clockwise (to the right), there is 1.3 miles of gradual uphill ascent.  It is continuous but not strenuous.  About half way up the trail veers left and has a steeper ascent (still moderate) until you get to a spur trail (marked) for the outlook.  Take the 0.1 mile spur to a series of viewpoints and ledges.  In fall, these views are spectacular.  Nestled in the hardwood zone, you get a superb view of the foliage.  

I usually enjoy a break or snack at the ledges before heading back to the loop.  Continuing on, the trail descends at a moderate difficulty, weaving a little back and forth for 1.1 miles before reaching the spur trail again.  

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate - By White Mountain standards this trail is on the easier side, however, it does involve some large boulder steps.  To preserve my knees, I always bring trekking poles on White Mountain hikes since it's a guarantee that it will be rocky and in some places steep.  It's shorter length makes it a great option for families or anyone wanting a shorter peak but still great views.  

Distance: About 2.8 - 3.5 miles depending how far you explore the spur trail/overlook.
Beautiful Fall Leaves


- This is on White Mountain National Forest Land so you need to pay a cash or check fee in the parking lot.  Don't forget your money - exact change ($3 when written).

- There are privey bathroom facilities available near the trailhead.

- This hike is very popular in the summer and can get crowded.  Consider trying it in early spring, winter, or fall!

- Dogs are allowed on leash.

- Careful at the overlook ledges - there are steep dropoffs.  Watch children and pets.  Do not throw rocks or items over the edge as their could be rock climbers below.

I enjoy Boulder Loop Trail with my mom and son
I've enjoyed this hike at least twice this year and will probably visit it again this summer.  It's long enough to be worth the drive, but short enough that my little one won't be too bored in the pack.  Happy hiking!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Willand Pond Nature Walk

Willand Pond
I literally drive past this walk everyday and up until last week, I had never actually gone.  I've mostly ignored it before because unlike my usually mountain hiking, it's a flat, easy nature walk.  This turned out to be the perfect outing with my friend Courtney and her 2.5 year old.  With the easy trail, and things to see like trees, beach, and bridges he (and we) were entertained.

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Willand Pond Trail

Getting there:  I accessed the trail on Rt 108 on the Dover/Somersworth Line.  The trail starts at the Willand Pond Boat Launch that is located across the street from Strafford Farm Restaurant.  There is a parking lot at the trailhead/boat launch but no bathroom facilities.

Bog Bridges
Trail:  The trail is a flat dirt path.  I would say it is fairly wheelchair accessible (and stroller accessible).  The trail winds along one side of the lake.  It is not a loop.  There are benches along the way as well as calisthenic stretching/exercise stations.  After (my guess) about a half mile, there is a picnic area on the lake.  We weren't able to travel the whole trail since the toddler got tired, but we crossed paths with families, singles, and dog walkers all enjoying the trail.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.0 miles one way (2.0 miles out and back)


- Dogs are allowed on the trail if they are leashed, however, be prepared to see unleashed dogs.

- It is a popular local fishing spot.  Be prepared to see boats, fishermen, and recreationalists.

Photo courtesy of Willand Pond Facebook Page
- It can be crowded in the summer but was pretty quiet on a cool, November day.

- Consider enjoying breakfast at Strafford Farms before your walk - that's what we did!

- Parking is free. There are no bathrooms.

I enjoyed exploring this nature walk close to my house.  It's always refreshing to get a respit from the town/city with a little patch of nature.

Enjoying the beach

You might also enjoy these similar adventures:

- Winnie the Pooh Trail in Barrington, NH

- Stonehouse Pond Loop in Barrington, NH

- Stratham Hill Park in Stratham, NH

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stonehouse Pond Loop

Stonehouse Pond and 150 foot cliff face.
My parents were in town visiting last weekend from Oregon.  When I asked my mom what she wanted to do for the day, she replied, "I don't know.  Walk around a pond or something?"  Matt new the perfect place to go on a summer day - Stonehouse Pond in Barrington, New Hampshire.  
Matt is very familiar with this piece of NH Fish and Game property because he has frequently climbed and ice-climbed the 150 foot granite cliff on the far shore.  It's also a well known spot for anglers as it is stocked with brook trout.  The hike around the pond is a short one (my guess is about a mile) and provides views of the pond and surrounding area from the top of the cliff.  It was just what my mom was looking for and we all enjoyed this local little hike.
View from top of Stonehouse Pond Cliff
Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Stonehouse Pond Loop Hike in Barrington, New Hampshire
Sign from Route 9/202

Getting there:  The Pond is located on Route 9/Route 202.  From the Lee Traffic Circle, take Route 4- East for seven miles.  Take a right onto Cooper Hill Road.  After about a mile it will connect to 202 East.  Turn right onto 202 East.  After a mile, turn right onto the dirt road.  There is a large wooden sign marking STONEHOUSE POND.  Drive to the end of the dirt road where there is a parking area.  There is no cost to park and no bathroom facilities available at the trailhead.  Stonehouse Pond can be found using an iPhone or Google Maps as well.

Matt checks out the view on our hike.
Trail:  Unfortuantely, the trail is not well signed or marked.  There are many footpaths, offshoots,
and choices when going around the pond.  It's sort of a choose-your-own-adventure.  We stuck to the most well worn trails, keeping the pond always at our right.  The trail is fairly easy until you start "climbing" to the cliff.  Here, the trail got steep and uneven.  After about a half mile, we emerged at the top of the cliff.  **Be careful not to throw rocks or objects off since it is both a popular climbing and swimming area below!

After enjoying the view, we again had to choose a trail to decend.  Our first choice turned out to be quite steep so we returned to the top and then hiked down another one.  I could see it being easy to get a little lost since non of the trails are signed or blazed.  Take are to look for landmarks and give yourself plenty of time and provisions to return.

Difficulty:  Moderate.  There are some steep areas when climbing up and down the cliff.  Because of the numerous trails, it's possible to take a steeper or more challenging trail.

Distance: About 1 mile loop.

Enjoying the view from the summit of the cliff.

- Even though this is a short hike, bring proper hiking footwear and provisions (water, snack, and rain gear).  

- Take care around the cliff.  Do not through objects from the top.  The cliff face is a popular climbing spot and there could also be swimmers or boats below.

- There are no bathrooms or water at the trail.  Plan accordingly.

- The dirt road to the parking lot is covered in deep pot holes and can be difficult terrain.  Take care!

"Walking around a pond" was the perfect family weekend activity and Stonehouse Pond was the perfect place to do it.  On the way home, we stopped at Calef's Country Store  on Rt 9/125 intersection for a giant pickle and Moxie. What is more New England than that?

Three Generation Selfie at Stonehouse Pond
You might also enjoy these adventures:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Winnie the Pooh Trail - Perfect for the little ones

Views from parking area at Winnie the Pooh Trail
I heard about the Winnie-the-Pooh trail in Barrington, New Hampshire a few years ago.  Without kids at the time, I didn't have an incentive to visit the child-focused interpretive trail.  Now that many of my friends have traded their subarus for minivans, it wasn't hard to find a friend to explore the trail with a toddler.  The well signed and maintained nature path turned out to be the perfect way to spend a summer morning.  The visit to the hundred acre wood and the "homes" of Pooh and his friends kept the interest of the two-year-old and the my friend Courtney and I enjoyed the views and hike.

Sign from Route 9
Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Winnie the Pooh Trail in Barrington, New Hampshire

Getting there:  The Winnie the Pooh Trial is located on Goodwill Conservation Land in Barrington, New Hampshire.  To get there from Rochester, New Hampshire - take Route 125 South to Route 9.  Take a right on Route 9.  The parking area for the trail is located about 1.5 miles down Route 9 on the left.  There is a sign marking "Goodwill Conservation Area" but it was hidden behind trees.  Drive slow and look for Richardson street.  It's right after.  Parking is free and there are no facilities at the trailhead.

Trail Map
Our little hiker visits Piglet's house!
Trail:  The trail sign at the parking area provides a signed trail map.  The Winnie-the-Pooh trail is marked by white blazes.  It's well designed so that every 20-50 feet, there is a new "stop" for children.  From the parking lot, you'll see a beautiful pond.  Cross the stream on the bridge and start traveling to the "homes" of Pooh's friends.  Our first stop was Christopher Robin's house.  There is a child-sized door nailed to a tree.  Courtney's son enjoyed knocking on the door to see if he was home.  We decided it was such a nice day, he must be out playing with friends!  The walk continues, visiting characters and scenes from the Winnie-the-Pooh trail.  Although our toddler wasn't familiar with the story, he still enjoyed visiting site to site.  At the end of the trail, you reach Pooh's house with three "honey jars" up on a rock.  The little guy loved climbing the rock to the jars. We decided to return the same way, although according to the trail, it looks like we could have taking the Goodwill trail back.

The actual trail had an easy, soft terrain with a few roots and rocks.  We saw other families and children on our walk back.  Although the mileage wasn't marked or posted, I'd estimate it was about a mile out and back.

Knocking on Christopher Robin's door.
Difficulty: Easy - our two-year-old hiker handled it just fine!
Pooh's Honey Jars


- There are no bathrooms or water at the trail head.  Bring water, snacks, and rain gear.

- I have had a friend try to return on the Goodwill trail and end up getting lost.  I recommend taking a photo of the trail map with your phone and be careful to follow the signs and blazes.

- Parking is free.  We showed up at 9 am on a Thursday and were the only ones in the parking lot. When we left at 10 am, there were four cars.  I'm not sure how crowded it gets on weekends.

Signs for trail
Even though the trail was easy and short, I still enjoyed getting outside and the scenic pond and forest views. I look forward to enjoying this trail again in a few years when Lucien is old enough to walk it!

You might also enjoy these adventures:

- 3 Family Friendly Nights in Acadia National Park  

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

- Winter Walk on Gonic Trails

Baby Lucien loved the Winnie the Pooh hike!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sisters Wilderness - Green Lakes Trail near Bend

Waterfall off spur on Green Lakes Trail
On my recent Oregon trip, I was lucky enough to spend three nights outside of Bend.  My family rented a beautiful home on the Deschutes river.  We spent most of the time sitting on the porch, watching the lazy river take tubers and paddlers by our deck, and sipping on a glass of wine.  It wouldn't be a real Freelance Adventurer vacation, however, without a sturdy hike.  This time I went with my parents, husband, and baby to hike the Green Lakes Trail.  This 9.3 mile out-and-back trail was a little too much for a 90 F afternoon, but we did enjoy over two miles in with views of river, waterfalls, and mountains which made the perfect hike.

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Half Way Up the Green Lakes Trail (and back).

Getting there: The Green Lakes Trailhead is located 27 miles west of Bend on Century Drive.  It has a large parking lot (and overflow lot) but the lot is not marked.  There is an outhouse and well marked trailhead at the end of the parking lot.  Visitors must have a national forest parking pass.

Trail: The trail starts from the parking lot.  There is a sign that marks the way.  We initially crossed Fall Creek on a log bridge and then steadily walked uphill.  The moderate trail was dusty and graded.  There were few obstacles.  It winds through a pine forest and stays parallel to the river.  After about 30 minutes of walking (maybe 0.5-1 mile up), we took a spur path on the right to see an impressive waterfall.  The spur was not marked, but listen for the water noise increase (it wasn't visible from the trail).  The steep 50 ft spur trail takes you down to the base of the falls.  The spray felt AMAZING on the hot day.  Continuing back up, we reached the intersection of Moraine and Green Lake Trail at 2 miles.  We went a little further and were rewarded with views of a meadow, wildflowers and nice views of Broken Top Mountain.  After a water and snack break we decided to head back.  All-in-all I think we did about 5-6 miles.  It was a wonderful hike and I'd love to go back and make it to the lakes!

Horses and Dogs are allowed on the trail.

Log Bridge at start of trail
Difficulty:  Moderate


- Bring lots of water!  We traveled on a July day that started in the 60s and ended in the high 90s.  It was dry and hot!  There was no water available for refill at the trailhead.

- Get to the trailhead early.  It was a popular hike and even at 10 am the parking lot was packed.

- Dogs and horses are allowed.

We loved our family hike with three generations!  It was a great way to enjoy central Oregon Cascade views and get outside!

Fall Creek and South Sister in the Background
View of Broken Top Mountain

You might also enjoy these adventures:
Crossing another log bridge

- Crossing the Cascades

- Oregon Coast Day Trip

- A Day at Cannon Beach

- Portland, Oregon - Bikes, Beers, and Baristas

Fall Creek Cowboy