Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hidden Gem in the Backyard

I discovered Cascade Falls today. I might feel a little embarrassed not to have seen the falls in my six or so years of living above Pinkham Notch, except that I’m sure there are plenty of Gorham and Berlin residents who haven’t seen them either. They are located between Gorham and Berlin, (actually by the settlement known as Cascade—imagine that!), off the power line. I came upon them on a mountain bike ride up the rail trail along the east side of the Androscoggin River. A little south of Berlin a dirt lane crossed the rail trail. Going west led me to an overview of the Cascade Dam on the Androscoggin. Turning east the lane led through the woods to the power line. Looking across the power line, which has recently been mowed, is this beautiful waterfall, on Cascade Alpine Brook. (I checked the NH Gazetteer for the name when I got home.)

There are two drops to the falls. The top is short and steep, a narrow thick foam of whitewater. As the flow continues, it spreads out over the broad rock below. The water hits many small ledges, some creating little air pockets. This section of the waterfall could easily and very accurately be called the bridal veil, as it resembles the trail of lace fanning out from a gown. Adding to the natural beauty and interest of the area are many cedar trees along the sides of the falls.

I imagine as summer nears and the snowmelt ends, the water will lessen. Right now (end of April), is a great time to see the falls. Now that I know they are there, I’m sure I’ll make some other trips out that way, to see them in different seasons.

--Sue W

Monday, April 27, 2009

maybe Spring's not so bad after all . . .

I’m beginning to like Spring! It’s taken me a long time. In the past, Spring has been somewhat of a downer for me—I love to cross country ski and Spring brings the end of my cross country skiing for another year. I used to think I was alone in my somewhat melancholic turn each March-April, but in talking with other skiers, I discovered others too experienced a big letdown when the snow started melting away. But . . . I am learning to appreciate, dare I say even like Spring! It has everything to do with getting out and observing nature.

Saturday morning Howie and I joined naturalists Lori Kinsey and Mike Cline on a Tin Mountain Conservation Center program. It was a walk to see Ephemeral Wildflowers—the earliest and fleeting blooming of certain wildflower species in our area. We explored the forested bowl below Humphrey’s Ledge off of Westside Road in Bartlett. Not two minutes into the walk, Lori pointed out a collection of trout lilies in bloom. I recognized their mottled green and brown leaves, which give the plant its name, but hadn’t really ever focused on its flower. Lori talked about its pollination strategy. Mike filled in with information about the soil in general in the area. Further into the woods we trooped and came upon our next point of interest: Dutchman’s Breeches. The delicate little white flowers hang in a group from their stem, looking like little pantaloons hung out to dry. We saw a whole collection of these on top of a boulder at the far point of our walk, thanks to Lori’s pre-program explorations. The woods were bursting with surprises to find, more wildflowers that included squirrel corn, trillium, hepatica, violets, spring beauty and bellwort. Some of the group spotted a wild turkey before it dashed away. The protected shelf below the shelter of a rock revealed porcupine quills. Howie and I discovered several gelatinous egg masses floating in the vernal pool. Mike said they were either frog or salamander eggs.

It was a wonderful morning. I delighted in the discoveries that nature revealed as I opened my eyes, ears and finally my mind to the glory Spring was providing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Transition Time

It's April, and that means a time of transition here in Pinkham Notch. We watch the snow fade away and start thinking about summer.

But, there is still some snow hanging on in pockets out there on the trail system—a few remaining reminders of the great winter past. And, it was, indeed, a great winter. Sometimes it seems the snow is so deep, it will never melt. But, each spring we're reminded that it can melt just as quickly as it falls.

So what's on the horizon? In short, a lot.

Nate has already been out paddling a fair amount. He's always excited to see rain in the forecast because it means great whitewater gets even better. Susan has reluctantly put her skis away for the season, but I wouldn't be surprised the hear that Eli is still skiing on some hidden, super secret patch of snow that only he knows about. Personally, I'm making the transition to running in the mud. I've managed to run a fair amount this winter, so the transition has been less painful than in may years. But, it's always a fun change when you come home from a run covered in mud. It means that spring is here.

Of course, we're also getting the operation ready for the summer. Right now, we're staying off the trail system in order to let it dry out. Nate has been busy getting Great Glen Outfitters set up on the bottom floor, and soon our rental bike fleet will arrive. It seems that transition, too, is a busy time.

If your moving slowly in your own transition, it's time to get out there. The Spring Trail Running Series starts on May 14.

See you soon.
- Ryan