On the Rails, Off the Grid

  • by
View from Mt Washington

I’m making the turn west on the road trip and taking a few days off work. After spending a few weeks along the east coast, it’s time to get out into nature and the mountains. So I made my way over to New Hampshire to tour the White Mountain National Forest by car. train, and foot.

On my way to my campsite, I decided to take the Kancamagus Scenic Byway from Conway to Lincoln. The drive was amazing and I wish I had more time to explore each of the stops along the way. I did get to stop at a few though and at times it would have been nice to be in the passenger seat just taking in the views along the way. I stopped at two covered bridges (Swift River & Albany) to walk and drive across. Then I stopped at Lower Falls to take a dip in the water and watch the kids go down the natural slides.

White Mountain National Forest
Sabbaday Falls on Kancamagus Highway
Swift River Covered Bridge

I continued my scenic drive by passing by the Russell-Colbath House on my way to Sabbaday Falls. I took the short walk up to the falls and realized I was running short on daylight to get settled at camp. Running out of time didn’t mean I had to miss any of the scenic views along the way though. I stopped at most of the overlooks and vistas to take in the beautiful views, including Sugar Hill, Lily Pond, Pemigewasset, Hancock, Otter Rocks, and more. I visited the Old Man of the Mountain site in the Franconia Notch area, then made my way to Sugarloaf Campgrounds to setup camp and a campfire before it got dark.

After a cold night in the low 40s, I made some breakfast and hung out at the campsite for a few hours writing. I got myself ready and then headed a few miles away to The Cog Railway. This was an amazing experience that P.T. Barnum once proclaimed as “The Second Greatest Show on Earth.” The trains use a cog system to climb the mountain at steep grades of up to 38%. There are great views and a tour guide gives you all the details of what you are looking at.

View and Train to Mt Washington
Cog Railway to Mt Washington
Standing on Summit of Mt Washington

I could feel the temperature drop and wind pick up as I reached the summit of Mt Washington. It was a perfect day for this trip though, because you could see around 90 miles in every direction. I watched families have snow ball fights with the ice from the night before and fought through the wind to check out all the views of the presidential range and other mountains. The ride down was just as cool as the ride up and then I made my way back to camp.

My last day in the White Mountains was time to do some hiking and fishing. I took the Zealand Trail near my camp around a few lakes and streams to the Zealand Hut, a stop along the Appalachian Trail. The Zealand Falls was also there so I took a moment to relax, sit down with some great views, and listen to the falls. After the 3 mile walk back to my car, I found the Ammonoosuc Lower Falls to do some fishing. I caught myself a rainbow trout and headed back to camp for my last night under the stars.

View atop Zealand Falls
Fishing for Rainbow Trout in Ammonoosuc Falls

I packed up most of my stuff before bed and made sure to get out early in the morning to avoid some rain coming through. My trip to the mountains was a great time to enjoy nature, relax, and do some thinking/writing. Then it was off to my next stop… Burlington, VT!