On our recent trip to New Hampshire, we decided that this time we would hike for real. Not that we have gone crawling or limping along in the past, but we haven’t exactly challenged ourselves or the dogs.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire presented us with a perfect challenge. As we left the Lake District where we were staying and headed north along Route 93, the terrain became decidedly hilly and downright mountainous. A soothing landscape of fog and clouds masked the tops of the mountains and a light rain began to fall. Stores and houses and gas stations were scarce. Rocks and trees and picturesque streams predominated the scenery. It was gloriously primal and devastatingly beautiful.
We were in quest of the Nancy Cascades on the Nancy Pond Trail. If we climbed high enough on the mountain we would enjoy hiking in a rare old growth forest, well beyond the pale of loggers and builders.
Driving along on the highway you could easily miss the tiny parking area and brown park system sign for the trail. I happened to catch it as we drove past. After driving for a while we found a place to turn around and go back. There are understandably no u-turns on the mountain highway, but we managed to find a safe area to reconnoitre and get back to the trail entrance.
As you enter the trail there are warnings about snakes, bears and other such wildlife and a host of emergency numbers to call should you need them. For newbie hikers it was a bit daunting but with our three dogs in tow and visions of a waterfall and massive, ancient trees in our heads, we staunchly persevered. Our cell phones didn’t have much if any signal here anyway! This place promised to look like Middle Earth.
We’d brought along three large bottles of water and some granola to sustain us. Setting off we soon discovered that Lobo is very surefooted. He always found the easiest path! Who knew our boy was such a trail blazer?! He was the dog to follow when the going got tough.
At the first stream crossing we stopped short. It was a burgeoning stream dotted with rocks large and small. Some areas of the water were a bit deep. Would the dogs walk on the rocks? Would they swim in the stream? Would they pull us in for an unexpected baptism in cold mountain water?
We managed to cross the water safely after some trial and error. Secret balked and almost had to be carried at first. It’s typical of her, shall we say “difficult”, personality! But eventually the dogs came to love crossing the streams, leaping on the large rocks and dunking their paws in the cold, swiftly moving water. Lobo plonked right through and over like a trooper. Fiona often walked over completely on the rocks as she’s a true acrobat at heart, with a sense of balance a gymnast would envy. Secret learned to trust and to follow the other two dogs across.
The stream crossings became progressively wider and deeper. The trail grew steeper and steeper. The sound of rushing water was all around us. It appeared that the waterfall was in truth the whole mountain. Water flowed downstream in great cascades. It was a feast for the eyes, the ears and the soul.
The true nature of a Siberian husky comes out on such a steep trail. They love to pull and gladly helped us up the mountain. We were grateful for their power and drive and sense of adventure. It kept us going at times when, had we two humans been alone, we might have said “that was fun” and turned around to go back to the car. I’ve always been fascinated by small group dynamics and the same principles seem to apply to dogs and people as well. Our dynamic trio acted as a team, the true heart and driving force of this hiking party.
Our journey came to an abrupt halt as we reached a stream crossing that was simply too large to navigate past. We looked longingly over to the other side and the trail beyond. We had been hiking for over two hours which meant another two hours going back down. It was time to turn around. It had begun to rain again and the steep path downwards would be slippery. Our supply of fresh water and granola was almost gone.
We didn’t make it to the old growth forest this time. Yet the forest we hiked through was untouched and unpeopled. We were gloriously alone in the woods for over four hours, just us and the pups.
I can’t imagine ever being that alone in the woods in New Jersey! We love our state but it is densely populated and the parks are well traveled by hikers and mountain bikers and horses. It is rare to ever feel alone, to be beyond the sound of cars and people and the noise of civilization.
This hike whetted our appetite for adventure. I realized we had never truly hiked before this point. There’s a sense of wonder and independence about it, being alone in the woods, with your trusty dogs at your side. Far from a convenience store. Far from computers and cell phones – completely unplugged. Now we have tasted the untouched beauty of nature and are hungry for more! Stay tuned for further trail adventures.
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