This was our 11th day. If you looked at a map, you’d see that we were roughly 2/3 of the way through New Hampshire. Although there were a few scattered mountains in our path for the most part, the big ones were behind us. We’d be seeing more people and businesses from now on.
People tend to put down roots where the land is flatter.
Susan offered us breakfast, and although I was jonesing for a cup of freshly brewed coffee, we were anxious to be on the road. Griffin and I declined the meal. We said our grateful thank-yous, pet the dog one last time and hugged Susan – our friend in the beautiful calm house and set off down her long driveway. I hadn’t yet told Griffin about the five bears that visited Susan’s yard and so it was I who cautiously looked around, on guard at each noise from the woods, while he happily whistled, excited at the new day.
Today was going to be another day when one of the red cars we saw on the road was going to be Marc. We had finally made it so that a drive up to see us was reasonable and didn’t take all day. He had arranged to meet us in Sanbornton where he would take us to lunch.
Today was going to be another good day.
Railroad as a form of transportation and product delivery was very important in New Hampshire’s early history. It was one way to move people about among the mountains (which I knew by personal experience that the same journey would have taken days on foot) and it was a way to get goods and building materials where they were scarce.
But train tracks are archaic and bridges rust. All over New Hampshire you see the rusted remains of train bridges that had been replaced with a newer one. Often it was not cost effective to remove the old one once the new was put in place. We saw the neglected, prehistoric, but proud bones of a system now replaced – New Hampshire’s own Jurassic Park.
New Hampshire also has a long and distinguished history of covered bridges. If you wanted to cross the Connecticut river (which essentially vertically cuts the state in half) you needed a bridge. If you wanted to keep your horses and materials safe from being blown or slipping off the bridge, you covered it.
To walk through a covered bridge with its struts, spines, and supports is to walk within the belly of the whale. One can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity and work that went into creating such a gateway that would last the ages.
There are 54 covered bridges in New Hampshire, on day 11 as we walked by bridge No. 41. I could swear that I heard it whisper the history of travel in New Hampshire to us.
Although we were essentially past the mountains, once in a while, when the land opened up you could see them blue and rolling in the distance. I have a vintage New Hampshire postcard showing Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson of the Presidential range. It has a verse:
White Mountains, New Hampshire
And high in the silent mountains
As you gaze on the hills below,
The taint of the earth will leave you,
The pride of your heart will go.
It is difficult if not impossible to look upon mountains like that, land where “God made the people” and not be awed. The mountains are so mighty and we are but a speck among them.
By now my left knee (the one that had had 14 operations on it due to the car accident I’d had when I was a kid) was really starting to hurt. I hadn’t been able to find a second knee brace in any pharmacy (I had found one for my right knee but in buying it, I cleaned out their stock.)
Pain in that knee was something I was expecting. It was the pain in my right knee that had surprised me. I put getting another brace on my list of things to do when Marc arrived later that day.
About 9 miles out of Ashland, as Griffin and I sat off to the side of a driveway for a construction company, a car pulled up. A friend of mine had been texting me all morning that she was in the area and wanted to join us for the walk.
“Not more fresh legs,” moaned Griffin.
I was determined to explain to her that although she was welcome to join us, she had to honor the rule that you don’t go any faster than the slowest hiker (which was me.) It turned out that our friend Rosemarie couldn’t walk due to other obligations but she came bearing gifts.
In a plastic bag for each of us, she had placed fruit, dark chocolate, and nut bars. She handed us each a bottle of cold juice and then like a magician, she pulled out a bag of wet towels chilled by ice cubes.
Chocolate is great, in fact chocolate is wonderful (dark doesn’t melt like milk does so if you’re on a hike, stick to that) BUT wet ice cloths on sore knees is pretty much the best thing in the world. The sigh I released when I put them on my sore joints could not have been repressed.
The day was gorgeous with blue skies and white puffy clouds. It was an impromptu picnic with friends. We sat. We talked with Rosemarie and a friend she had brought. We told her some of our travel stories and I told her some of the lessons I had learned. Rosemarie was going to be walking England Coast to coast in a few weeks and I had some advice for her.
I showed her my wonderful multi-purpose towel, Get one, I told her. I pulled out my HikeGoo. Griffin added information about water bottles and foot bandages. We discussed appropriate mileage for a day. I told her about how the pavement heated your feet much more than walking on a trail did.
And we told her that her walk across England would be life changing.
Because ours across New Hampshire already had been.
(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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