Thursday, June 27, 2013

Arethusa Falls/Frankenstein Cliff 6/27/13

Working title: "How neat is that?"

Peaks: None

Trails: Arethusa Falls Trail, Bemis Brook Trail, Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail, Frankenstein Cliff Trail

Mileage/time: 5 miles, 2055 feet of gain, book time of 3:31, actual time of 3:45

After last week, I needed something light. My body doth protest too much, with good reason, I've been hard at it, and haven't given it a break! Some longboarding yesterday, followed by beers, led to me taking an impromptu three hour afternoon nap, and after a fashion, a fine nights sleep. I need all I can get after last Wednesday! Today dawned, foggy and cool here on the coast, the hills of Portland were enveloped. After snagging breakfast, I headed up to meet Heather, who would be joining me for this excursion. Originally, we'd planned to get supplies for a picnic of sorts, but the general sogginess lead us to consider just hiking, with lunch afterwards.

Heather drove, which was a nice change of pace for me, that's twice in the last month that I haven't had to drive... something must be wrong! We rolled north in her orange box (a Honda Element, heretofore referred to as Heather's Box), which I'll admit, was very comfortable. The weather started to take a turn for the better, sun was peeking through, and there were glimpses of blue sky, though the cloud ceiling remained relatively low. We pulled off of 302, and parked in the lower lot, planning on making a loop up to the falls, and over Frankenstein Cliff, which lorded over the lot.

Suiting up, or it my case, suiting down, we rolled up the road to the trailhead. About 0.1 up the trail, we reached the junction with Bemis Brook Trail, and I'm so glad we took it. The trail runs alongside its namesake, Bemis Brook, and there were several short herd paths along its length that led down to the brook. Several picturesque scenes presented themselves, along with Coliseum Falls near the top.

Coliseum Falls
From the falls, the trail bore to the right, and the grade sharpened significantly, as it climbed to reconnect with the Arethusa Falls Trail. Heather cursed a few times about her generally being out of shape, but she made it just fine, we were both sweaty messes anyway. The climb towards the main attraction resumed, and some trailside fungi caught her eye... I'm glad she was there, because I wouldn't have noticed them!

Crossing two bridges, we reached the junction, and descended to the base of the falls. What's purported to be the highest single drop in New Hampshire (it's actually the second, Dryad Fall is significantly larger) didn't disappoint, and its popularity was evident by the several groups there on this humid Thursday morning.

More groups arrived, while the natural air conditioning provided by the falls was nice, we had a timetable, and decided to push on to Frankenstein Cliff. A bit of a slog confronted us once back at the junction, never really steep, just relentless, up to the junction with Frankenstein Cliff Trail. Sweating badly, but still laughing, we traversed over towards the cliff, passing through some open areas with masses of ferns. The green was intense! There was a sign for a view spur, but the unmarked trail didn't lead us anywhere, except through some moose poo.

Heather had been hearing things. There were birds singing all over the place, and I'm admittedly not good with recognizing them, or other flora and fauna for that matter. She thought she had heard a Hermit Thrush at several points throughout the hike, and she finally heard it clearly. It's awesome hiking with someone that knows about things that I haven't the foggiest about. The spur for Falcon Cliff came upon us, and we decided, for the sake of time, to skip it. We soon came out on top of Frankenstein Cliff itself, and while the cloud ceiling hung low, there were decent views to the south and east, encompassing the southern Montalban Ridge, and lording over 302 and the Saco River, winding their way south.

"Hey Heather, I see your box down there..."
It had started to drizzle, and just as another group popped out on top of the cliff, we set off back into the woods. Up until this point, both our bodies had dealt well with the hike, Heather's ankle, and my left knee. Now the steep descent off of the cliff took its toll. My knee didn't like it, and neither did Heather's ankle. We set our jaws, and made it happen, still talking and laughing all the way. There were a couple of signs indicating the trail, right above blazes... like we needed further direction. There were some interesting fungi growing here and there, and we stopped to check out all of them, before descending further to the Frankenstein Trestle. There was a sign indicating that there was ongoing work to the trestle, and a covered walkway of sorts prevented creosote from dripping on you as you went under. This part was just nasty, lots of creosote covered rocks underneath, a sad state of "progress".

The rest of the trail undulated, in the woods alongside the tracks, about 20-30 vertical feet below them. We came upon a couple of neat trees, one that looked as if some Pileated Woodpeckers had a field day with it, though they created a spiral up the length of the trunk. The other was in the process of being worked on by Carpenter Ants, and they had left a large amount of detritus down at the base of its trunk. We soon arrived back at Heather's Box, with enough time to get some lunch, as we were both starving!

Lunch was had at the Moat, along with a beer for each of us, can't quit the Tripel! We then proceeded back to Naples, to my waiting car. Making it back on time, her sister was waiting to pick her up, and go with her to Portland. Thanks Heather, for a fantastic, if short, day in the mountains!

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