After getting eaten alive in Brattleboro, we passed the state border into New Hampshire. We had some high hopes for this state, specifically in the White Mountains, but we left with changed opinions and some new ideas for next year.
The first stop in the state was Manchester. Eric and I spent a day ambling about just to see what city had to offer. Manchester could be a spot to live on the North East as it provides decent job opportunities for Eric and has access to the wilderness of Maine, Vermont, and New York. Rarely do we rely on Yelp for activities in an area, but this time around we just took the top non-food/ drink related suggestions and put them into action. Starting at the Amoskeag Fishway, we strolled along a chain link fence down to an empty concrete shoot that supposedly is filled with views of migrating fish up the Merrimack river to spawn. Unfortunately, we were visiting out of season, but were able to ask a bunch of questions and view some other outreach animals at the discovery center. I bet it would be neat to see, but for us at this time, it just ended up being odd. Cool snakes though.
After that bust, we decided to drive through down town and let a few thrift stores guide our route along the city's outskirts. All and all, we decided Manchester would alright to live in if we had to, but we wouldn't seek it out.
The next day was a very important day; MY 30TH BIRTHDAY! I have set aside a bit of funds to do what I want for my third-decade-alive celebration next year (rafting!) so the day of was not a huge deal. However, it just so happened to have lined up directly with a free concert by the Overcoats in Concord, NH. With our camper safe and sound at the RV park, we headed to down town Concord with beer and cheese in hand. We were both expecting a large crowd since it was a full day charity event including multiple bands and activities held throughout the day. Arriving to a completely empty courtyard in the middle of downtown, we grabbed our camp chairs and I enjoyed fantastic bluegrass music seemly played just for me. Front row seats didn't end with the first two bands either. The weather was particularly crappy, with rain coming and going all evening, but it did keep the crowds away and allowed for a very personal concert venue. I felt bad for the bands performing, but was beyond excited to be able to see Overcoats up close with plenty of room for ridiculous dancing. Eric even went up to Hannah and JJ to ask them to do a birthday shout out. They went above and beyond by autographing a sticker for me and dedicating a song to me for my birthday in their set. (it's just Natalie.) Eric then surprised me by getting a clip of this dedication from the videographer so I can obsess over it forever as the crazy fan-girl that I am. Seriously though, Overcoats were amazing! I freakin' love their album, Young, and could not have been more over the moon. Meeting the band was awesome, and I left on such a music high that Eric had to listen to me excitedly retell him about the whole event even though he was right there with me. I will never forget that concert.
Leavin' big city life and fancy RV parks with “running water” behind, we headed north to the White Mountains. Surprisingly, the state park we planned on camping in was full, and it wasn't even a weekend or holiday. Once again having the trailer was an absolute delight as we snagged one of the last sites left at Russel Pond Campground in a nearby National Forrest. Weather was predicted to be sporadically rainy with near continuous cloud cover. This expertly dashed our hopes of rugged, above the tree line hiking once again.
Over the next few days, we completed all the low elevation hikes that were interesting and free (looking at you $30 Flume walk,) while keeping an eye out for a break in the weather. There were a lot of quick pull-off hikes along the Franconia Notch. We expected gorgeous mountains, but were surprised by the beautiful pools of water along softly eroded rocky riverbanks, including some astounding waterfalls.
On the 'clearest' day, we did the drive up Mt. Washington with the provided historic audio tour narrating our ascent. The summit provided a glimpse of the chaotic nature that makes this mountain so famous. Even with weather squashing all of our other plans for the area, we were stoked to have clear views and strong winds at the top. The changes in the ecosystem traveling both up and down were one of the unexpected highlights which helped uplift our mood from the past few days. Mt. Washington was not one of my goal destinations, but I had a ton of fun leaning into the hurricane force winds and finally seeing east coast alpine environments (and some Krummholz).
We finished exploring this area with a challenging hike along Beaver Creek. Although it was beautiful, what most people consider 'hard and rugged' we felt like it was just terrible trail planning. The hike basically went straight up alongside the creek, with stairs cut right into the rocky ledge. There was plenty of room to have created a better graded trail, and we felt like it was only a challenge because the trail was poorly built. We still enjoyed this hike, once again completing a small chunk of the Appalachian Trail.
On the way back to camp, we saw a bunch of cars pulled over on the side of road. Following the masses, we were led to an awesome view of about 6 black bears, bringing our total sightings up to 29 for the year.
As we traveled towards our next destination, Maine, we reflected on the disappointments with hiking from the past few weeks, and started seriously entertaining the thought of adding a different mode of exploration to our set up next year. Down the rabbit hole we went into research for possibly adding inflatable kayaks into our gear for future travels.
8/10 would avoid constant rain in New Hampshire again.
Song: I don't believe in us – Overcoats