Monday, October 19, 2020

Arethusa Falls - the highest waterfall in New Hampshire

"Arethusa Falls in the White Mountains is the highest waterfall in New Hampshire."

This remark was enough for me to want to hike to the Falls and to ask my son Tim and our friend Mark to join me.
There are a few options to hike to the Falls. The easiest is to hike from the Arethusa trailhead on Route 302, directly across the road from Dry River Campground, uphill over a steady plethora of rocks and roots for 1.5 miles, clearly marked with blue paint blazes.

The second option, which we took, is one-tenth of a mile from the trailhead, Arethusa Trail meets the junction of Bemis Brook Trail, where you bear left on a marked yellow paint blazed trail along the Bemis Brook, and you hike to the brook via short spurs to see Fawn Pool, Coliseum Falls, and Bemis Falls. Bemis Brook Trail is very scenic, but can be challenging with plenty of rocks and roots.

At six-tenths of a mile, the Bemis Brook Trail takes a right and goes sharply uphill where I had to use my hands and knees, with help from pull-me up-trees, to climb for less than a tenth of a mile to intersect back to join Arethusa Trail. Admittedly, I had heavy breathing as my body worked harder to get enough oxygen.

There on, Arethusa Trail is maintained with granite steps, two wooden footbridges over descending Bemis Brook, and walk-over wooden planks laid in muddy run-offs. At 1.3 miles, the steady uphill Arethusa Trail intersects the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail, but you continue left on Arethusa Falls Trail, climbing a steeper set of steps before descending to the Falls.

We relished the sights and sounds of the 200-foot waterfall. We returned 
directly to the trailhead on Arethusa Falls Trail. 
We could have taken Bemis Brook Trail on our way back down, but we wanted to take the most physically challenging Bemis Brook section at the beginning of the hike.

We savored the amazing New Hampshire foliage rainbow and sun soaked cornucopia of yellows, red, and orange-colored leaves.

The return hike was one hour.

On this mid-October weekday, we found the Trail somewhat busy, and I hear on weekends the Trail is enjoyed by families and leashed dogs.

Our overall time, with stops at the Bemis brook spurs, regular sips of water and energy bar stops, and time at the Falls was three hours.

Never say, "I wish I had hiked to Arethusa Falls.

The hike to Arethusa Falls was well-worth taking , and one can imagine that in the rainy season, the roar and spray of the waterfall would be even more awe-inspiring.

Click below and hike the Arethusa and Bemis Trails with Steve, Tim and Mark.


"Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends"

Steve’s books are available as hardcopy and e-Books at Kindle and hardcopy at Morgan Hill Bookstore, New London, NH, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Gift Shop, Lebanon, NH.

Outdoor Play has trip preparations, routes, and narratives of bucket list places to go. The book will motivate friends and family to make the outdoors a key component of their daily life. If you want 5 or more books signed, send Steve an email and we can work out the logistics.

Additional Sources of Books at:
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Monday, October 12, 2020

Scouting the Connecticut River for NFCT Section 7

In late September The NH Humanities Zoom presented The Connecticut: New England's Great River. The largest river in New England.  I hiked many times into the Fourth Connecticut Lake, the headwaters of the Connecticut River on the Canadian Border.

My self-proclaimed fame is straddling the Connecticut at its Fourth Connecticut Lake tiny trickle of a stream, as is begins its 400+ mile trip to empty into the sea at Long Island Sound. In one area of its journey, the Connecticut is nearly half a mile across.  The Connecticut is America's only watershed-based national fish and wildlife refuge. 

The very informative presentation was by Adair Mulligan, an environmental biologist and natural resource planner. Adair is currently Executive Director of the Hanover Conservancy.

Adair  mentioned the Northern Forest Canoe Trail Section 7, and an eye-catching aerial slide of the Connecticut's Maidstone oxbow segment. 

A section of the River close to Maidstone Bridge is called Maidstone Oxbow. Oxbow means the River has twists and turns similar to a letter U of an oxen yoke. The River between Maidstone Bridge and the Wyoming Bridge, an approximately eleven-mile paddle of the River, is about a 7-mile drive between Maidstone Bridge and Wyoming Bridge. 

Our Assignment

I have never paddled the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) Section 7 from the DeBanville Landing, Bloomfield, VT, to the Wyoming Bridge in Guildhall, VT.

I suggested to my wife and paddling partner, Catherine, that maybe we should take a foliage ride to northern New Hampshire and while there, scout this Connecticut River section. And, while we were going in that direction, why not bring our canoe with us. Yes, was her response. 

Maidstone Oxbow identified in Red from Maidstone Bridge to Wyoming Bridge

Enjoy the below video as Catherine and I scout this section of the Connecticut 

Our Scouting Report

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Section 7 follows the Connecticut River for 20+ miles from the Nulhegan River's confluence in Bloomfield, Vermont, to a meeting with the Upper Ammonoosuc, near Groveton, NH.  Friends and I have paddled many sections of the NFCT, but not section 7.

Catherine and I decided because of Adair's oxbow picture slide, to drive directly to the Maidstone Bridge Road put-in Stratford, NH, and then cross the bridge into Vermont and take the Route 102 road along the River to the Wyoming Dam in Guildhall, VT

When we take this Section 7 paddle, we would need parking for one of our cars at the put-in and one at the take-out. We did not go to Bloomfield, Vermont to look for available parking because a NFCT section 7 description noted available parking. The Maidstone Bridge and the Wyoming Bridge do have ample parking.

Addendum to our Scouting Notes

Put-in and Take-Out

The NFCT Section 7 is a 23-mile paddling trip that could be done in one day, or two days to include camping along the river. The NFCT put-in is at DeBanville Landing, Bloomfield, VT, at the signed parking area 0.1 mile south of the junction of Vermont Routes 105 and 102; or near the ball fields in North Stratford, NH. From U.S. Route 3 in North Stratford, left on Bridge Street, left on Main Street before crossing the River, and right immediately after crossing the railroad tracks.

Take Out: Before the Wyoming Bridge. The Wyoming Dam, located immediately downstream from the Bridge, once spanned the Connecticut River between Guildhall, Vermont, and Northumberland, New Hampshire. The remains of this dam are extremely dangerous to boaters and paddlers. Rebar still sticks up from the old concrete. Portage access is on river right on the Vermont side just before the Bridge.

The end of Section 7 is after the bridge in Guildhall, VT; or the Upper Ammonoosuc campsite and paddler access in Groveton, NH. From the US 3 bridge in Groveton, go south 0.5 mile to Normandeau Trucking lot on the right. Access is in the trees on the left side of this lot.

The river part in this area has a sandy bottom, and due to drought conditions, we had to keep our eyes open to not go aground. The high eroded banks show the Connecticut to be five to six feet higher in this area after snowmelt and in rainy conditions. Primitive campsites are open for use in woods and open fields. We need to check the campsite status page before embarking on your trip. (See below Connecticut River Travelers Trail: Campsites, Access Points, and Portage Trails web site.)

From the put-in at Maidstone Bridge (Maidstone, VT) downriver through the Maidstone Bends to Northumberland Bridge is about an eleven mile paddle. Notice my  above screen print with the River route in red where the oxbow turns. You can see the impact of the oxbows on paddle distance because when we scouted this section from our car on Route 102, the distance was seven miles.

Northern Forest Canoe Trail Section 7

All of the Connecticut River from the confluence with the Nulhegan in Bloomfield to the confluence with the Upper Ammonoosuc in Guildhall is considered Section 7. The recommended take out on the Connecticut if you are not paddling upstream on the Upper Ammonoosuc is 3 miles below that confluence at the Wyoming Dam. The paper map considers DeBanville the end of Section 6 and the beginning of Section 7. The end of section 7 is on the Androscoggin River in Errol, NH below the rapids under Route 26. Beyond that is considered Section 8.