Thursday, April 8, 2010
When a walk is more than just "a walk" - hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains and Vermont's Green Mountains
There is something about walking in the woods of northern New Hampshire and Vermont that transcends the average jaunt into the countryside. Exploring the White Mountains of New Hampshire or the Green Mountains of Vermont can be rewarding on many levels. First and foremost, it's quiet...real quiet. I love that you never know what you will see or experience. I've heard about people practicing the art of walking meditation, I can't imagine it being much different than the hikes my boys and I take into our local mountains. From the first steps on to the trail, to summiting the mountain's crest, each step along the way is rewarding and an experience unto itself.
Just over a week ago, while we were experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, my oldest son and I decided to go for a hike. I swear his obsession with the woods has been there since birth. He's grown up wanting to spend his life outdoors. Hiking, mountain biking, cycling, skiing, fishing, hunting or four wheeling...doesn't matter what the season...he's in the woods. Over the years, I've given him the responsibility of deciding where we are going and leading the way. At an early age he loved the responsibility of choosing our trail and being the "guide". In my book, "guide" translates to the person carrying the most amount of weight in their backpack. Personally, I loved the fact that I didn't have to think and someone else was in charge. Early on I decided we make a good team. For our first hike of the year, he chose an old favorite located in the White Mountain National Forest. We started the hike shortly after noon. Approximately two hours into into a 3+ hour climb, he stopped abrubtly and I ran square into his backpack. After blurting out some random "thoughts/suggestions", I saw what had him "hitting the brakes". Just off to our left in a marsh was a HUGE moose and her calf. Now I've seen moose before, most of the time they are grazing at sunset on the side of the New Hampshire and Vermont roads. Never had I been face to face with a moose in the wild. Fact #1...Moose are big (think "Clydesdale big" with funny skinny legs)! Only to make me more nervous was the fact that said moose was with it's baby. Fact #2...Mothers are protective! I should mention that every moose I had ever personally seen looked like they were posing for a postcard. The males were monstrous and always had amazingly large racks/antlers.
Well, one lesson learned that day is that moose are "scary ugly" in the spring. These were not "postcard moose". Fact #3...Moose are REALLY UGLY in the Spring. Both the mom and baby had survived the winter by growing a thick dense fur. Due to the warmer than usual weather, they were well into the the process of shedding their winter coats. The end result was two moose that looked like they were wearing camouflage. The mother was never aggressive and the calf never strayed more than ten feet from mom. They allowed us to sit on a rock and watch them for almost fifteen minutes before deciding to mosey on into to forest. It was an amazing experience.
If you are planning a vacation to my Hampton Inn, Littleton, New Hampshire or the Comfort Inn & Suites in St. Johnsbury, set aside a few hours to go hiking. Fact #4...you and your family will love the experience. No matter what trail you choose, you'll need good footwear and at minimum a small backpack for water, snacks, camera, etc. Please hike responsibly and make sure that whatever you bring in comes out with you..."leave no trace" is our family's motto when in the woods.
I'm proud to say that my son, Matthew who will be graduating high school next year is planning on a career in the great outdoors. He plans to attend college in pursuit of a game warden's job as his life's ambition. Who would have ever thought... we actually found a career in the woods (just wish I had been able to get a picture of it).
New Hampshire hikes closest to the Hampton Inn, Littleton, New Hampshire