Free at last from the congestion of the commuters, I speed towards the mountains, a cool wind in my face gives me goosebumps, but if I roll the window up it’s instantly too warm for my taste on this midsummer eve. I yo yo back and forth with a full size pickup truck hauling a fuller size camper trailer as the sun begins to set over the rising land. I can’t help but stare into dusk for a few seconds longer than advisable, gently correcting my trajectory on the now empty interstate. I blindly reach around the back seat and come up with my camera and do my best to capture the sunset with a few no look snaps on the shutter.
It’s 7:40 PM when I pull into our rendezvous location, an extra 45 minutes travel time thanks to Dick & Jane 9 to 5, but not unexpected. I’m still the first to arrive, so I hit the store for some snacks, beer, and cash and head out on to ole Kancamagus to secure a camp site for the evening.
It’s all in the details, in a few months these camps will be empty, but now there is not a spot to be found. Should have known better, but I’ll let these confused people enjoy their hot and buggy summer camping trips as long as they leave the mountains quiet and uncrowded in the fall. No luck at the first couple locations Kanc has to offer, and the Suby is getting dangerously thirsty- time to turn around. Back to the rendezvous. Good timing as my compatriot is just arriving. Returning to the kanc, the miles pass along with the FULL campsites, six in all. While there may have been an open spot within one of them, I choose to not wake up every campground with my headlights and noisy leaking exhaust. We are down to two options, sleep in the car or hike into the wilderness and make our own campsite. The latter option was decided upon, so we pack up our things, playmate plus cooler and all, and we go, go into the dark.
The damp deadfall proves a worthy adversary to my fire building skills. There is just enough birch bark lying around to get us in business. By midnight we’re enjoying mac n’ cheese n’ basa in solitude save for the hopping creature that nearly lands dead center in the pot containing our scrumptious supper. This is after I pull a Daddy Long Legs or five off of the pot. Having seen more than enough creepy crawlers, we quickly clean up dinner and head to the protection of our tent. The ground covered in decomposing organic material provides a wonderful cushion for our tired bodies. Sleep came quickly.
The predicted scattered showers scattered right away from us leaving our fire wood prime for breakfast cookin’. Of course it was totally worth hauling in a full cooler and the heavy cooking gear for our morning feast of blueberry pancakes doused in some of that pure maple syrupy goodness. Aunt Jemima and her corn syrup friends won’t ever be getting a whiff of my pancakes, thanks for asking. As we enjoy lapping every last bit of batter, berry and basa bits I realized how close to the trail we had actually made camp.
Not wanting any attention from hikers passing by, we quickly break down camp and head back to the car to regroup and determine the day’s remaining activities. Since we were already at the trail head for the scenic Champney Falls we elect to investigate. A quick jaunt up the well beaten path reveals Champney falls in all her underwhelming glory.
The flies buzzing around make for more interesting photographs at another stage of the trickling Champney.
Walking across the falls proved to be perilous, as I daydreamed of a roaring wave taking me down over the rocks instead of paying attention to where I am walking and step in some mud. We head further up the gorge and stand under the majestic Pitcher Falls as it spits at up from over the cliff.
After playing with my camera for far too long as per usual we head back down above the falls’ drainage, stepping carefully not to trip ourselves on the root system straight outta Fanghorn Forest.
Well into our day, almost back to the cars, we are swarmed by a curious looking group of tourists. It’s like a magic greyhound bus picked up everyone from the city and dropped them off at a random trail head 100 miles away. I’m curious to see how these destinations are decided upon.
Back at the lot, still without a campsite we head back west along kanc hoping to snipe a spot as it’s right around check out time. JIGGER JOHNSON campground comes through in the clutch. We set the tent back up on an unfortunately much harder densely graded gravel surface than the previous nights lush forest mat. We must rely on our sleeping pads to get through the night this time. With the campsite reserved we head back out to kanc for the umpteenth time towards Lincoln to purchase some food to cook on our evening camp fire. Always a chore to decide on anything when both people are indecisive and like everything. After waffling for a few minutes we finally settle on our camp fare and once again head out on that kanceemangee. On this occasion we take our time, stopping at all the pretty picnic pulloffs and scenic overlooks.
At otter rocks we observe overweight drunken hillbillies tempting the slippery rocks to toss them on their heads. They keep loosing their footing but those hillbillies have uncanny balance recovery powers. In the pools beside the rushing water, yes the water is actually rushing here unlike the ironic falls from this morning.
So in those calm pools lots of little water bugs could be found zip zapping around the rocks.
Enough of these obnoxious folk,next stop hancock overlook. Summer flowers in bloom, dancing in the breeze, kept watch by the towering peaks above.
Even those dreaded golden rod put on a nice show in front of the Osceola.
For at least the third time of the weekend the Suby passes over the pass. I suppose that if there is a road that must be traveled back and forth the Kancamagus is an attractive option.
We pull over at one more overlook descending towards the campground and take a step out of the car before we are back on the road. The area has turned into a truck stop smoker’s lounge. Thinking that these people consider driving along a highway snapping picks while smoking a butt “spending time in the mountains” leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. Fortunately the skies open up and the rain comes down with authority and quickly washes away those aggravating thoughts. A very isolated system, the campsite is just as dry was we left it, and we quickly have a cooking fire ablaze while the Suby dries in the sun.
Afternoon light turned to dusk turned to darkness and we sit around the campfire light drowsy from too much food.
As the food coma wears off the muggy air from the earlier passing storm consumes us. Sleep would be impossible in these conditions and the showers are out of order so I scout a sweet spot in the ironically lazy flowing Swift River for a cool rinse before retiring.
The evening brought the rain, a non stop suffocatingly humid rain. The cool waters of the river are soon forgotten. The tent did it’s job and we stayed dry on the inside, however, anything left uncovered was quickly saturated, including our firewood. There will be no blueberry pancake breakfast this Sunday morning.
Unwilling to let water falling from the sky and mud on the ground ruin our plans we pack up and head east for the final time stopping at the Sabbaday Falls trailhead. Rewarded for our efforts these falls roar from the overnight soaking.
The stormy skies provide a natural neutral density filter.
We continue up the valley towards the base of the Pyramid Mountains. The trail takes us back and forth over the river and it’s funneling brooks. Hopping from rock to rock, hoping that each impact provides enough friction to keep us from sliding into the water. Not that we are dry, but soaked socks would cause immediate misery. The rate of rainfall varies all morning. We constantly debate whether to be clammy, but drier with the rain jacket on or just say screw it and tempt the rain to do its worst. Flip flopping several times, each strategy is determined to be equally as uncomfortable as the other. The upper reaches of the river valley feel like I would imagine walking through the jungles of Isla Nublar instead of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Everything is the lushest green I’ve ever seen. Only green vegetation and water exist in these parts. If we aren’t quick, we will be consumed by our surroundings.
At some point we reach the summit of North Tripyramid, still below tree line the north east face of the mountain has a gigantic scar, which I’m guessing would provide some nice views, however, we were in a cloud so there would be no such luck this day. We descended quickly and quietly, in somber moods from our soaked and sore state. Staying dry on the river crossings was no longer much of a concern and we haphazardly tromped across them. Reaching the falls once again we realized that the sun was starting to peek out and it had not been raining for some time. A few minutes later shoes packs were tossed to the ground and boots and socks seemingly ejected themselves off feet. Nothing feels quite so nice as bare feet breathing fresh air after a long hike, but that IPA waiting in the cooler would like to disagree with that statement. Thirst quenched, Suby’s tires make contact with the kanceemangee for one last stretch- this adventure!