Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 09-26-2014, 08:11 PM   #11
Senior Member
 
BrianW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 2,274
NH/VT Early Foliage Trip

After a successful stealth camp on Thursday night, I headed over to the Appalachian Mtn Club's Pinkham Notch lodge for their buffet breakfast at $12. Not haute cuisine, but basic breakfast fare in a cool old-school lodge feel, surrounded by other outdoors people planning their hikes and assaults on Mt. Washington. Anyway, anytime there is unlimited bacon on tap I'm happy.



After breakfast and a pay shower at the AMC lodge, I headed north to Gorham, NH, and then a bit farther up Rt.16 to Berlin, NH, to sightsee. Billing itself as "The town that trees built," this lumber town still has active twin smokestacks from the local mill looming over it. Like many old New England mill towns, it had a nice Main Street with brick buildings, although it has seen better days.



I've often heard people talk about how the foliage has "turned overnight." Well, that seemed to have happened last night. I woke to clear blue skies and more vibrant foliage than the day before. It's still not peak, and won't be for another week or two I think.



But it's pretty nice, especially at the higher elevation at the notch ("notch" is a local term here in NH for a pass) and along streams, where the trees often turn first due to being well-watered.



Spot the SMB! I know you all wish you had my cool, blue SMB-installed side stripes :-)



Today's plan was to bike the "Presidential Rail Trail," which runs from Gorham east for about 15 miles or so. Going the other way it also connects to an impressive network of ATV trails, but I didn't feel like sharing the trail with quads and side by sides (all of which are available for rent in Gorham), so stuck to the bike portion.



The bike trail itself was pretty, initially following a small, rocky stream though the forest. It quickly became apparent that this wasn't a rail trail designed for bikes, but rather for snowmobiles in the winter. It ranged from soft sand, to large loose rocks, and from singletrack to doubletrack and some wider, nicer sections.



Would have been much better if I had my mountain bike rather than my touring bike with 26x1.25" tires.



But apart from having to pay more attention to the trail than looking around, it was a very pretty ride through some nice foliage. Not sure I'd go back to ride it again though. I ended up riding about 20 miles round-trip, but it felt like more due to the trail conditions.



It's always nice to have the van as a mobile base camp when coming back from an activity, allowing me to easily change out of my biking clothes and also make a late lunch. After getting everything settled and out away I headed down toward North Conway, being ever-watchful for an errant moose crossing the road (still haven't seen one this trip).



On the way I stopped at Limmer and Sons bootmakers in Intervale, NH. Limmer is an old-school custom bootmaker with a near mythical reputation, at least here on the east coast. People happily pay them $800 for custom boots, with a wait of up to two years. I was hoping they would be able to resole my old Pivetta leather boots, which my wife gave me for our first Christmas together when we were dating in 1985 (yes, another reason she's a keeper). $75 later and I had a promise that they will be returned as good as new in a month or so. Visiting their shop is like stepping back into a German shoemaker's workshop, circa 1910. Very cool. I tried on a pair of their off the shelf boots, and am sorely tempted to plunk down the $310 for them. Very well-made boots that will probably last a lifetime. Check them out at http://www.limmercustomboot.com.

After another stop at LL Bean, I got in my van, turned the key, and... nothing. Yikes. At first I was worried it was the starter, but I figured I'd troubleshoot the easy things first. I pulled the terminals off the battery, cleaned them a bit, and got it to start. Thankfully a Walmart was directly across the street, so it made getting a new battery easy. After dropping $110 on the new battery, the van started right up. I'm still not convinced that was the full problem, but we'll see. The battery was old anyway. The store didn't have an auto center, so I was glad I threw in my toolbox at the last moment when I left home so I could replace it myself. And yes, I know that I need to upgrade my cable terminals. On the list.



I treated myself to a sausage pizza as a reward for so cleverly fixing** my van, and headed back to my stealth camp for another night of tempting the stealth-camping gods.

[**I rewarded myself too soon, as the problem reappeared the following day]
__________________

BrianW is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-26-2014, 08:26 PM   #12
Senior Member
 
BrianW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 2,274
NH/VT Early Foliage Trip

For those who have commented about the eastern forests, I must admit that I am partial to the lush, mixed forests we have out here. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I guess that's to be expected. I have traveled to every state except Hawaii, and while the western forests have their appeal (aspens in fall foliage are cool!), I love the eastern forests. For you westerners, take some time to explore the eastern forests. The Appalachians have a lot to offer and some beautiful areas, and not just at foliage time.

Regarding the question about dispersed camping, it is still allowed in places in both Vermont's Green Mtn NF and NH's White Mtn NF. Where I am currently in the Whites is a hugely popular tourist area (think Yosemite for you Californians), and as such has some of the more obvious areas off limits. Other nearby locales in the NF have more boondocking options. Also, this area has been settled since the 1600s (I guess), so even on the smallest back road you are likely to find a homestead, which is why these roads are posted with no camping signs. I'm not a huge fan of developed campgrounds either, but they do have some nice ones around here, especially the state parks.

By the way, saw this cool MB camper with Munich/Germany plates pulling out of a NFS CG this morning. Couldn't tell if it was 4x4 or not, but had the sand ladders and shovel in the back. Must have cost a fortune to ship that over here for their trip.

__________________

BrianW is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-26-2014, 09:14 PM   #13
Senior Member
 
86Scotty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: TN
Posts: 6,453
Re: NH/VT Early Foliage Trip

Awesome Brian. I'm really enjoying this and can't wait for the next installment. I really want to get up to this area.
__________________
98 Silver E350 V10 home build
Rusty the Rusty 95 SMB (sold)
Tryptovan the blue CCV van (sold)
Vans flip flops
86Scotty is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2014, 03:36 PM   #14
Senior Member
 
BrianW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 2,274
NH/VT Early Foliage Trip

After another successful stealth camp on Friday night (sleeping in the parking lot at the AMC lodge), I repeated my morning routine of lodge breakfast and pay shower. Nice to have those amenities basically right outside the van! I could have stayed in the lodge for around $65/night in a four-bunk room, but my SMB provided much nicer and certainly more private accommodations.

Being an absolutely stunning, picture-perfect fall Saturday at near the height of fall foliage, by the time I finished my shower and came out the parking lot was jammed and people were parking up and down the main road and at auxiliary lots.



The White Mountains are only about two hours or so from Boston, so you get a lot of day and weekend trippers. Hiking Mt. Washington is a very popular draw. While getting ready for my own morning hike, I fielded a number of questions from passers-by who were interested in the SMB (I had the top up). Again, it's a great basecamp vehicle. Also admired this sweet old restored Willys Jeep parked nearby.



I hiked up the Tuckerman Ravine trail, probably one of the most-popular hikes in the whole area. Many do the short 10 minute hike up to a nice set of falls, but then the trail kicks up significantly and heads up the flanks of Mt. Washington to Tuckerman's Ravine, basically the headwall for the mountain. In the winter this bowl is popular for backcountry skiing.


.

.


For those who haven't hiked in this area, the trails can be brutally steep and rocky and can put the serious hurt on hikers. You westerners probably think "It's only at 2,500 feet, how hard can it be?" But the Appalachians can dish out some punishment, even on day hikes. Between the rocks, the steep grade of the trail, and the recent trailwork that installed deep waterbar ditches every 20 feet or so, it wasn't long before I had broken out in a sweat.


.

My goal was to get up to the Ravine, a distance of only about 2.5 miles. But, to give you an idea of the trail, the AMC attaches a typical time of a bit over two hours for an average hiker to cover the distance. It's always amazing to see the varying states of preparedness for people hiking this trail, everything from the full-on backpackers, to well prepared day hikers (like me), to people in fresh white polo shirts and white sneakers, not carrying water or anything. Obviously, the herd self-selects the farther up the trail you go, and pretty soon the hordes of people thinned out and I was able to enjoy a bit of quiet here and there.

After my hike I made a quick lunch in the van, and headed back down the pass to North Conway again, as I had a few errands to run. The plan was then to head farther north to New Hampshire's "Great North Woods" region, where purportedly the fall foliage had reached its peak this weekend. I was going to do a loop, heading up to near Canada and then looping back through Vermont and then home on Sunday. I figured I'd find a camping spot when the time came.

Unfortunately, the automotive gods had a different plan for my day. After getting gas in Gorham, in the northern part of the state, the "no start" issue that I dealt with the day before returned. The van was dead, and sitting right in the middle of the gas island. After muttering a few words under my breath, I sucked it up and pushed the van over to an empty area in the parking lot. Thankfully it was a flat surface, but getting an 8,000# van rolling by yourself and trying to steer at the same time is not much fun. Several people watched me do this, but none offered to help. Remember in the old days when people would always jump out and help you push your car off the road or whatever? Oh well.

I sat for 15 minutes or so, occasionally trying to start it (it had been intermittent the day before). I checked my battery terminals, and even popped the ignition switch out of the steering column to see if there was anything obviously wrong with that. Nada. I was just about to call Good Sam roadside assistance (which I literally just had joined the week before), but figured I'd try one last thing and see about a jumpstart. I asked a guy with a big Dodge Hemi pickup if he would help me out. He seemed less than thrilled with the idea, but agreed (I had my own cables). I honestly didn't think this would work, but figured I should rule out the obvious before calling for a tow. Surprisingly, the van started right up with the jump. Whew. (BTW, I've started a separate thread asking for help on troubleshooting this issue; if you have any ideas, please comment at http://sportsmobileforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=14655.)

It was now 4:30, and I had to figure out a new strategy. I certainly wasn't going to head nearly up to Canada with a van with starting issues. I have an important meeting at work on Monday that I can't miss, and I didn't want to call my boss and have to explain that I was stuck in Flannelville, NH, with a car issue. The only option that came to me was to cut the trip short by a day and drive 10 hours straight home, by myself, without shutting off the van.

So that was the new plan, and I pointed the van toward home and started the drive. But all was not lost, as I was far enough north that the foliage was in peak, and I had a lot of back roads to drive before I got back to the interstate. So I took my time, stopping to take photos here and there and generally just enjoying the drive. I had to constantly remind myself not to turn the ignition off when I stopped, though. It's second nature to do so when getting out of your vehicle.


.

.

.


A very busy main-street bridge on a Saturday night. The bridge is the NH-VT border.


.


I cut across to I-91, which runs the length of Vermont, right on the VT/NH border. I've driven roads all over the USA and through Canada and Alaska, but I don't think you'll find a prettier stretch of interstate than I-91 in peak foliage. Forests and farmland stretching to the horizon, and very little traffic. A really nice drive. (I-91 southbound shown below.)



From I-91 I cut across Vermont on VT Rt. 9, which cuts E-W across the bottom part of the state from Brattleboro to Bennington. I was really looking forward to doing this in the daylight because it cuts through some nice country and the southern part of Green Mtn NF, but by the time I got there it was dark. It's a twisty, two-lane road that goes up and down a lot. Thankfully they have upgraded it in recent years and it's a much nicer road than it used to be. On the 40 miles I was on the road, I saw only three other cars going my direction (it was around 8:00 at night). It was actually a pretty fun drive, even in a big old E250 EB van (I was once again thankful for all the suspension upgrades I did last year, including a new front end, Bilstein shocks, and rear swaybar). The van handles as well as my Honda Odyssey minivan around curves.

From Vermont I cut across NY to Troy/Albany, then picked up the NY Thruway for most of the way home. A more direct route would have been to stay on I-91 down through CT and MA, and then pick up I-95, but I hate driving in the that whole NY city megalopolis and will literally go well out of my way to avoid it. The rest of the ride home was uneventful, with the exception of occasional bouts of terror when deer would suddenly appear at the edge of the Thruway, looking like they were ready to commit suicide by stepping in front of my van driving at 65 mph. Having hit a deer in my minivan, I really have no desire to repeat. A raccoon had similar suicidal thoughts, and was actually in the road, but I managed to avoid him.

Home by 3:00 a.m., after about 10 hours in the van. Got home safely and all is well, so a happy ending to the story. Thanks for reading!
BrianW is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-28-2014, 05:35 PM   #15
Senior Member
 
86Scotty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: TN
Posts: 6,453
Re: NH/VT Early Foliage Trip

Beautiful pics Brian. Thanks for sharing!

__________________
98 Silver E350 V10 home build
Rusty the Rusty 95 SMB (sold)
Tryptovan the blue CCV van (sold)
Vans flip flops
86Scotty is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-29-2014, 07:45 AM   #16
Senior Member
 
BrianW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 2,274
Re: NH/VT Early Foliage Trip

A few formatting issues I learned while doing this series of posts: the Web based (non-mobile) forum limits you to inserting three images per post. If you do it through Tapatalk, you can put a bunch inline (as I did). Tapatalk also automatically sizes the images to fit, saving a lot of time. Also, if you want to post multiple images in a row, put a line break and a single character between the image code (I used a single period). Otherwise, the images will not display in full size, but rather as thumbnails.
__________________

BrianW is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

» Sportsmobile Registry

Rex

Tomboy

LiamMobile

Shyll
Add your Sportsmobile
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:42 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.