Sunday, January 26, 2014

Leaf Peeping at Vermont's Little Grand Canyon

I've been having some issues with Picasa lately and this post is long over due. Hopefully, Google will fix the problem and I can post a bit more this year. Last fall, the Dudes and I went up to Vermont for a weekend away. We stayed at a lovely resort and day tripped out to local sites. It was rainy most of the weekend but there was one cloudy/misty/drizzly day so we went over to Quechee Gorge (so fun to say!).

One of those new QR codes
Quechee Gorge is a lovely gorge carved by the Ottauquechee River after the ice age. It is 165 feet deep and over a mile in length. It is a major attraction in Quechee, VT and is part of the Vermont State Park system. We pulled up and noticed that there was a new visitors' center.

Visitors' Center

There were quite a few people about as it was prime leaf peeping time. We gathered up the Lil' Dude from the back of the car and loaded up to cross to the Visitors' Center. Inside we used the restrooms, chatted with the center volunteers, and gathered maps and brochures for local things to do. Then we went out the back door to the trails. 

Most people start the hike down the gorge over by the bridge and in the past that is where I have hiked. However, the new center brought new trails. After a quick stop to adjust the kid carrier we entered the woods.

View from the trail

The woods were damp and smelled lovely. I like that earthy post-rain smell. Occasionally, there would be the cotton candy smell of decaying foliage. The trail had some step portions but for the most part it was an easy grade to the main trail. 

Warning Warning!

The main trail pretty much is a straight path down hill. We found all the people there. Some in flip flops and high heels. Some in crazy club appropriate get ups. Others with sensible shoes and warm cloths. It was pretty good people watching. 

Side Trail?

We passed a trail that went to the state park campground and then a new "trail" that wandered into the woods. I'm not sure if it really was a trail as it's not on the maps and not blazed. Perhaps it was for some wood clearing.

Quickly we found the bottom of the gorge and carefully went out on the rocks. The view was lovely but the overcast weather downplayed the brightness of the foliage. At the edge of the rocks we could see the bridge for Route 4. 

Looking up stream to Rt. 4

We watched a family with teenage children get soaking wet. I'm fairly certain I heard the mother tell the kids not to go in the water with their shoes on. But the older son did. The girl took off her shoes. Wonder if he had blisters. I would not want to be in the water. It was definitely cold!

Water in the rocks

View up to the bridge

We chatted with another photographer and his girlfriend. Like us, he had not been there in a few years. We remarked on the changes in the area. 

View downstream

We spent enough time taking photos and decided to venture uphill. On our way up we noticed a mother and son looking up at a tree. I dropped back and quickly spotted what they saw.  


A small woodpecker was making quite a bit of noise. I managed to get a quick picture of it before it wandered up the tree. He was moving pretty quickly. A bunch of city tourists (totally stereotyping here) paused to see what we were looking at. They were unimpressed. 

Fence along the trail
Big Dude grumbled some at the wiggly load on his back. After we got far enough up the trail we let the Lil' Dude out to hike. He was so proud of himself as he went up the big hill.

Big and Lil' (my favorite picture)

He only wanted to go to Big... this picture is a lie

Romping in the leaves

Lil' Dude quickly tired and we needed to carry him. He greatly protested being back in the carrier. We made it to the top where the bridge crossed the gorge. 

trail map

Bridge Plaque

We crossed the bridge to take some photos.

View upstream from the bridge

View downstream

While on the bridge we met a man who was looking down forlornly. He lost his mono-pod over the edge of the bridge into the water below. On the bright side he said he didn't need to worry about bringing it on his flight home. 

When we were done looking around we spent time at the Quechee Gorge Village. It's an interesting mix of shops. We sampled wine, cheese, vodka and had lunch at a dinner. We went to a toy museum and checked out the antiques for sale in the yard. Of course we had to ride the small train that ran around the property.

One day I think I would like to camp there when Lil' Dude is bigger. There are quite a few trails and fun things to do in the area. Quechee Gorge is definitely a nice (but touristy) place to visit. I'm sure we'll be back.


Quechee Gorge is located along the Ottauquechee River in the western part of the town of Hartford. U.S. Route 4 passes through, just south of the village center, connecting with Woodstock and Rutland to the west and with White River Junction to the east.


Quechee State Park

Driving Directions: 

From Jct. I-89 and U.S. 4 (Exit 1): Go 3 mi. W on U.S. 4.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cross Country Skiing at Great Brook Ski Touring Center

The last few weeks we've seen a fair amount of snow in Massachusetts. With the cold weather temperatures the snow has actually stuck around for more than a few days before melting and becoming somewhat icy. So my good friend Jenny and I struck out for some early Sunday morning cross country skiing at Great Brook Ski Touring Center. I know this isn't a hiking post but it seems that I only get the chance to do some cross country skiing about once a winter. Its actually kind of sad because I really do enjoy it. I only have a few friends that also cross country ski and the winters have been rather spotty lately with snow.

You've seen previous posts from me regarding hiking at Great Brook (and getting ice cream). In the winter there is a lodge/barn close to the road where the ski operations run out of. In the past, I've shown up mid afternoon or for their mid week lantern skiing. This time we arrived as they just opened up their doors. Unfortunately, one of my boots broke on a previous trip and I needed to rent ski equipment. Rentals fortunately were not all that expensive and being one of the first in line it was a quick job to do. We geared up and hit the trails immediately deciding to cross the road and get as far from the lodge as possible.

The trails are all machine groomed and with the fresh snow they were looking lovely. We followed the Maple Ridge trail down to Pine Point Loop. We quickly realized that they had added new trails since the last time we skied Great Brook. In fact, the map we got at the lodge didn't include all of the new trails. The new map is on their website though with the added trails.

 We followed the Pine Point Loop counterclockwise and followed a few short detours. The trail is fairly flat and easy to warm up on. We went out on the Beaver trail and found that the picnic table had been removed. Typically this is where we would have a snack and watch for wild life. We stood and had snacks quietly and observed the light coming through the trees.
Our old picnic spot is missing its table
Beaver trail snack stop
From there we continued around the Pine Point Loop and crossed the bridge that goes over the outlet for Meadow Pond. We had decided not to cross the street and pursue the more challenging trails. Our last trip on the difficult trails involved an injury and a hospital adventure. Since neither of us had been skiing in a while, we were wise and recognized that we weren't up for the challenge. 
Outlet for Meadow Pond
Meadow Pond from the bridge

Continuing up Pine Point Loop
We completed the loop and decided to head over to the corn fields behind the ice cream stand. As we crossed the road we could see a lovely horse grazing near the fence. He was quite content to pose for pictures.  
Pretty Horse
 We followed the Litchfield Loop and discovered a new trail off the side which included a huge hill. We watched several people tumble down it and decided to turn back towards some more basic trails. We continued on the Litchfield Loop and found the High Meadow Trail. On that trail we could hear a woodpecker tapping away. Jenny spotted him quickly and was able to point him out. He was a little guy just enjoying the sun and an old dead tree. 
Litchfield Loop
The High Meadow trail looped back onto the Lantern Loop and we set off back towards the ski center. As we approached we could tell that more and more people were showing up. The trails were becoming quite crowded. When we arrived at the beginning of our morning the lines were minimal. As I went in to return my rentals, the line was at the door and heading out. It was a lovely day for a ski but I'm glad we made the choice to go early and I plan to do so from now on.   
Ski Center Lodge


Great Brook Ski Touring Center, 1018 Lowell Street, Carlisle, MA1018 Lowell Street, Carlisle, MA 01741


  • From Rte. 128 (I-95) take Exit 31B.  Follow Rte. 225 west for 7 miles to the Carlisle center rotary, then turn right on Lowell St. (following the sign to Chelmsford).  The ski touring center is 2 miles ahead on the right.
  • From Rte. 2 exit at signs for Concord center and continue to the downtown rotary.  At the Colonial Inn, take Lowell Rd. north for 5 miles to Carlisle center.  (Lowell Rd. in Concord becomes Concord St. in Carlisle.)  At the Carlisle center rotary, turn left on Lowell St. (following the sign to Chelmsford).  The ski touring center is 2 miles ahead on the right.
  • From I-495 southbound take Exit 34.  Follow Rte. 110 west for 0.6 miles to Chelmsford center, continue on Rte. 4 south for 1 mile, then fork right on Concord Rd.  The ski touring center is 2 miles ahead on the left.
  • From I-495 northbound take Exit 33.  Follow Rte. 4 south for 1.5 miles (passing through Chelmsford center), then fork right on Concord Rd.  The ski touring center is 2 miles ahead on the left.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Great Brook Farm State Park

The last weekend in September we went over to Carlisle to Great Brook Farm State Park. I went for a run with Ansel and then met up with Big and Lil' Dude at the ice cream stand. Big and Lil' checked out all the animals while waiting for us to get there. They checked out the bunnies, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and ducks. Farms and petting zoos are just not for me. They trigger my allergies way too much.

Dairy Cows

 After some ice cream from the stand, we went for a "small" hike. I had already run 3+ miles with the dog. I knew that the trails were definitely muddy and some were washed out. So we avoided those areas. We hiked the south eastern section of the park near and around the Meadow Pond.   

Before we started out, we encountered was a huge group of big fluffy dogs in the parking lot. Some were husky-like and they all looked eager to be out. A gentleman told me that they were going to mush. I thought he was joking! We ran into them on the trail, attached to harnesses that were attached to mountain bikes. They were moving very quickly. Those dogs must have been well trained. I know that Ansel would more than likely just head off trail if I attached him to my bike.  

Ansel on a rock on the Keyes Loop Trail

Unfortunately, we made some poor choices and we ended up hiking much longer than we wanted. Is that really a bad thing?  This is a park I know really, really well. I've hiked, biked, skied, and jogged through it. So there was no worry about getting lost. The soggy areas really were a bit of a downer though.

Meadow Pond from the Pine Point Loop
Pine Point Loop
Cut corn fields
Pine Point Loop before a wash out
As we rounded the corner back to the grassy fields, we saw several people stop and pause. The trail was swamped pretty good. I already had damp feet and so did the dog so I attempted to find the shallowest path. Big Dude ended up removing his shoes and going through barefoot with Lil' Dude on his back. I guess the water was quite cold. From there we slogged back to the parking area.

During our wandering we had seen signs posted on trees for "something". The acronym was not one we recognized. As we walked back to the parking area we were passed by some runners who were wearing race bibs. We could hear cheering at the finish. We asked the crossing guard at the road what was going on. The run was for CORD USA, an agency that  helps  improve the economy and quality of life in less fortunate in America, India and Sri Lanka. There were people all ages running to raise money. It was a small run but I later learned that they raised about $10,000.           

View from the parking lot to the barn
Where: Pine Point Loop with other off shoots, Great Brook Farm State Park, Carlisle, Massachusetts

Directions: From Rt. 128: Take exit 31B. Follow Route 225 West for 8 miles to the Carlisle center rotary, then turn right on Lowell St. (following the sign to Chelmsford.) Fern's Market is on the corner. The Park entrance is 2 miles ahead on the right. The Park Office (984 Lowell St) is just beyond the entrance also on the right. Make right hand turn onto North Road. Parking area is 1/2 mile down on left.
From the West (Route 2): Follow to Rt. 495 North. Use directions below.
From the North: Take 495 South to Exit 34. Follow Route 110 West for .6 miles to Chelmsford Center, continue through light onto Route 4 South for 1 mile, then take right fork onto Concord Road towards Carlisle. The Park office is 2 miles ahead on the left. The Park is just beyond the office , go left on North Rd, parking lot is 1/2 mile down on the left.
From the South: Take Rt. 495 North to exit 32 (Westford & To Route 225). At the bottom of the ramp go right. At the lights go straight through. At the T intersection go left (onto Rt. 225). Follow Rt. 225 till you reach the center of Carlisle (small rotary with monument in the middle). Go 3/4 of the way around the the rotary onto Lowell Street towards Chelmsford. The Entrance to the park is two miles down the road on the right. The Park Office (984 Lowell St) is just beyond the entrance also on the right. 
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Labor Day Hike: Bear Brook State Park Beaver Pond Trail

Waaay back in September, we went on our annual Labor Day weekend camping trip. I came home and edited some photos and then life got really busy. So now that I've gone on several more hikes and have a few more posts to do, I figured I should finish this one!

We camped at Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. It's just outside of Manchester in Allenstown. It is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire and I definitely can see why it's a favorite for many. There were trails for biking and hiking. Water for swimming, small craft boating, and fishing. There's a museum and archery range too. And of course camping! If you look at the map of the park, we were camping down by Beaver Pond.

We chose our sites at the end of a road and clustered together. With small kids we like to be away from the main camp so we're not disturbing others and so that the kiddos can have a full night sleep. One family had to cancel last minute due to family illness so it actually ended up being only us with Lil' Dude and about 4 friends.

We really tried to relax this trip. I find it a bit more challenging as a mother to relax while camping or hiking. It seems that I worry more and stress about much of the trip. I think I'm getting better at it as each trip get's easier.
Fungi Covered Log- so peaceful!
Now for the important stuff... hiking!

Since we were down by the Beaver Pond, we decided to strike out for a small loop hike. It was a warm sunny day with big fluffy clouds in the sky. My friend offered to take Ansel so that I could take photos while Big Dude carried Lil' Dude in his pack.
Thanks Mel!
The trail was mostly flat terrain that snaked in between Spruce Pond and Beaver Pond. The water on Spruce Pond was so reflective. We all spent some time there taking photos and enjoying the views.

Spruce Pond
Spruce Pond
Photo Taking
The trail gave us plenty of opportunities to look out for water fowl and signs of beaver.
A little push might be fun.... maybe not with their cameras
Beaver Pond
Since we were close to wet land areas, it almost goes without saying that we would have board walks. They were in a bit of disrepair though so you needed to watch your step. It was neat to walk among the cattails that were taller than me. Tons of dragonflies zipped this way and that.  
Board walk
Cat Tails
Board Walk
View from Board Walk towards Beaver Pond
Some of the board walks were worse than others....
Something's missing here
The trail was fairly well traveled so there were only a few times when we worried about getting lost. The trail had several unofficial off shoots and at one point we actually did go off trail and get turned around. Fortunately, we had the map and followed the water back to the trail. 
Trail Sign at the Junction of Beaver Pond Trail and Lynx Trail
At that time, the caterpillar life was very active. I was fascinated by these cocoons where the leaves were rolled up around the caterpillar. I have yet to figure out what type of caterpillar they are.
A Cocoon
Soon after the trail sign we saw this lovely heron just resting in the water. I always get excited when I see them. I know that they aren't that uncommon but they make me think about when I was in the Everglades attempting to learn about different water fowl. I still am terrible at identifying birds. 
We made it safely back to the swimming beach at the campground. Just before we got there I had to take this picture of Mel's boots. These were boots that she got off of me. They were my first true pair of hiking boots from L.L. Bean. I got them when I was around 12 years old for Girl Scout camp. Teal and purple have always been a favorite color combo for me.  Well needless to say, they have seen many miles and it looks as if Mel might need to invest in a new pair.
Good bye my friends!

The trail was easy to hike though definitely bring a map and pay attention to blazes. I definitely don't  recommend it for strollers or toddlers that are free roaming (easy to fall into the water) but parents with carriers and of course the unencumbered adult will find this a breeze. 

Where: Beaver Brook Trail, Bear Brook State Park, Allenstown, New Hampshire

Directions:  From I-93:New Hampshire Exit 9N onto Route 3/28 North and follow signs to Bear Brook State Park. From I-95: Route 4 West to Route 28 South and follow signs to Bear Brook State Park.                               
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