Day 8 – Franconia to Lincoln (continued)
The rain which had threatened us all day finally arrived. Anticipating that it would affect driving, it was time for Marc and Emma to go home. Griffin and I switched into our rain gear, (semi –waterproof shirt for me, a nylon jacket for Griffin) and we pulled out the rain protectors for our packs. We had nothing more for our legs than our shorts.
Marc had brought granola bars and peanut butter crackers so we stuffed as much as we could into the pockets of our packs. We knew we had a long way in front of us and although we had had a good lunch, we had no idea when or where we’d be eating again.
After speaking with the park attendant, Griffin and I had decided to take the bike trail which, we were told, followed along Route 93 and then eventually came out at old Route 3 which was the road we had started on and had been following for most of our trip.
Imagine a dollar sign. The lines going down the middle would have been our Route 93 journey, a mere 5 miles from the Franconia viewing station. Now imagine that “S” that snakes through the dollar sign’s parallel lines. That “S” is the path we took by taking the bike trail. We had no idea that we’d be adding so much extra mileage by taking the “scenic route.”
The good news is that a bike route is flat. It’s not meant to be designed for rain runoff. Presumably when there’s a heavy rain bikers will not be on the trail.
But that didn’t take into account these two walkers.
By now the rain was pouring down. Even with the heavy tree coverage above, we were getting soaked.
But with the rain came cooler ground and so with more comfortable (yet wet) feet we carried on. Because no one else was on the trail, we peed in the woods without concern (and I apologize now for inadvertently mooning those on Route 93 when I turned around and saw that there was a direct opening in the woods) and we had picnic tables to ourselves when we stopped for peanut butter crackers so that we could take our Motrin.
We passed by the basin, a large, smooth rock bowl that had been carved out by the powerful currents in the in the Pemigewasset River. We passed waterfalls and a river so close to us that had we not been soaked already we would have been tempted to dip our feet in.
How much longer? We wondered after we had been on the bike trail for a few hours. Surely we could be reaching our destination soon. Onward we walked. We laughed at large white letters painted on the paved path that read “SLOW” – as if there was a chance of us going any other speed.
I shared last night’s Hitchcock story about how a man who was down on his luck and didn’t say anything when his waitress gave him $20 more in change then he should have gotten. As a result the waitress lost her job and an entire cascade of events, from a woman not marrying her fiancée to a child going to jail for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, occurred as a result of that man’s decision to be quiet.
It was a 1973 version of what happens when the butterfly flaps its wings.
We had made it to another exit are on 93 but we still weren’t close to the exit we needed. This one was another viewing station and I convinced Griffin to stop in with me at the information center to get better directions than “Go to the end of the bike trail and you’ll be at Route 3” Now that we had been walking on the trail for hours (and hours) I needed confirmation that we were going the right way.
It turned out to be a good call on my end, the young woman, who was working at the center as a college summer job, clarified the instructions.
“You take the bike trail to the end and then you take the Pemi trail. That will take you to Old Route 3.”
I looked at Griffin, “you got that?” I asked him.
“Sure thing,” he spying a piece of paper and reaching down for it. ”Here.” he said as he handed me a small light blue tinted card published by New Hampshire Fish and Game department. “I know how worried you are about bears.”
I turned the card over – Campers and Hikers: – it read. Prepare for Bear. You can keep black bears away from your campsite by doing the following: – and it included a list:
- Maintain a clean campsite
- Put food scraps and fat drippings in closed containers
- Do not cook or eat in your tent.
- Keep food and cooking gear separate from your sleeping area.
- Always store your food securely.
- Keep food in a closed-up vehicle
- Never feed bears.
“Very funny,” I said as I slipped the card into my pocket – wise guy or not, I wasn’t going to take any chances.
It was getting late in the afternoon, the sun was going down and it was getting darker, but with the rain it has been impossible to see anything anyway. We had seen signs pointing to the Pemi Trail but they were heading north, from where we had come.
“I don’t think that’s the right way,” I told Griffin, trying to stay calm, which was the path we were supposed to take. We were on the bike trail so we couldn’t really be lost, but we had no idea of how much further we had to do and more importantly, we had no cell reception.
We came across a wooden carved sign that read Pemi Trail parking .6 miles. “Is this the one we’re supposed to take?”
The sign also indicated that the next information center was 1 mile up the trail.
“Do you think we should go to the information center, find out if it’s this trail and then come back if it is?”
I groaned at the thought of adding 2 extra miles to our trip. It was getting darker, the temperature was dropping, everything including us was soaked.
“Let’s go with our gut feeling, Griffin. The woman told us that the trail would bring us to a parking lot and this must be it. It has to be it.” I said, trying to convince both of us.
One of the reasons, Griffin and I had decided to walk the roads of New Hampshire was because we didn’t have the joint strength that would let us go on hiking trails. We could walk easily on flat ground but if you threw roots and rocks in our way, there was no guarantee that we’d get through it safely.
And that’s exactly what the Pemi trail was. A steep climb over roots, streams, and boulders. We walked, holding onto rain-slippery trees for support as we pulled our way upward. We balanced precariously on rocks, and we slowed down to a crawl as we navigated our way around exposed roots and loose rocks that threatened to twist our ankles.
“This is longer than .6 miles” I said at one point.
Griffin took off his glasses because they kept fogging up from his elevated body temperature meeting the colder air. He was literally taking it one step at a time. Rain poured off the lid of his hat.
I was behind him. Also trying to keep the rain out of my eyes, while using my trekking poles to their best advantage to keep me from tipping over.
We kept going up and up, there was simply no end. At one point we stopped to get out breath.
“Griffin, we are going to be those people that they send rescue crews out for because they didn’t make it home.” I said, half-joking.
“We’ve got to keep going, mom, we can do this.” There it was again, the battle cry of our trip – we can do this. Of course we could, we had done so much already, but and this was the big BUT here, you can’t do it if you’re on the wrong path.
Had we taken the wrong path?
I had visions of us hunching under our disposable see through ponchos, stuck in the woods for the night because it had gotten too dark to safely travel. Glad that I had taken the Bear facts card, I hoped that if we did have to be in the woods overnight, that card would act as a talisman to keep all bears away.
I also knew that if we ended up in the woods overnight, I wouldn’t be getting any sleep as I’d keep guard over Griffin. Desperate times called for desperate measures – moms are all about desperate measures.
We kept slipping and sliding on the trail. “Did you hear that?” I asked. It sounded like a car’s engine but I wasn’t sure if I had heard what I thought I had heard through the rain.
We kept going.
I heard it again. “Griffin, listen!”
This time he heard it and that sound of the car gave us renewed energy and hope. We hustled up to the crest and there before us lay the Old Route 3 parking lot. Just like the woman had told us it would be.
Stumbling from the woods into the parking lot, Griffin and I, shocked, cold, and overwhelmed with sincere gratitude that we had made it, sat down on the lot curb in the pouring rain. Exhausted we took inventory – We had made it. Although starting to get chilled, we weren’t hurt. We hadn’t seen a bear. They hadn’t had to call our rescue teams for us. We had preserved and succeeded by trusting our guts. We had powered on.
We had done it.
“Hey mom,” said Griffin as he picked twigs out of his socks.
“Yeah, sweetheart?“ I replied trying to dry my glasses using my soaked shirt.
“Let’s not do that again, okay?”
(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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