My first three weeks in the forest have passed. I’m not sure how it’s possible that so many memorable experiences and encounters can seem like a like such a high-speed blur. But, it’s true: those three weeks went by very quickly for me and now it’s on to the next phase. Two places have been strongly anchored in my mind, and I wanted to write about each of these before too much more time passes.
Fletcher’s Cascades (or “Fletcher Cascades” as it might appear on a Google map): After hiking up and recording the falls, my wife and I began the descent back to Drake’s Brook Trail and encountered absolutely no one on our exit route. The afternoon sun was beginning to wane and the forest took on the quality of a beauty I can only call “transcendent.” Walking the trail was like being mildly spellbound. I remember thinking, “this might be the most beautiful place I’ve yet seen in the forest!” I do think that this location is a bit under the radar, esp. when you consider that iconic spots like Rocky Gorge and Sabbaday Falls are within an hour, or so, drive. I will only state that this spot is certainly worth seeking out should you be driving through Waterville Valley. (Two recordings of the lower falls are posted on the Map Index: an above-water recording crossfades into an underwater – hydrophone – recording.)
Greeley Ponds: This is the quietest spot I’ve visited thus far. I think I was super lucky in that very few people were hiking the trail that day, despite some of the best weather of the summer. The stillness at the northern-most pond was magic. And, the recording that is posted on the Map Index tries to convey this with a lone crow, a couple of squirrels, and leaves rustling in the wind.
On my hike into Greeley Ponds, I had to cross the South Fork of Hancock Branch – a big brook, essentially. When I arrived at the crossing, a daughter was attempting to assist her elderly mother across the slippery rocks. I offered assistance. They graciously deferred, saying that such a delicate crossing might be made more difficult by too many chefs in the kitchen (or, in the brook). I understood, wished them luck, and hiked on. Seeing that the crossing was an extremely serious challenge for Mom, I assumed that they would probably head back to the trailhead and their car. But, on my return hike back down from the ponds, I was walking completely alone and then heard voices up ahead. To my surprise (shock, really) the daughter and her mother were making their way to the ponds…. about one mile beyond the crossing! I couldn’t hide my delight. Had to tell Mom that I was so proud of her.
In that spirit, keep on hiking everybody!