On Veterans Day weekend we headed out to the Wild River Wilderness in the White Mountain National Forest. This area of the forest is not as popular as other areas because there are few 4,000 footers to draw in the crowds, although you can get to the Carter Mountain Range, most hike in from the Pinkham Notch side instead. Since the Hurricane Irene floods of last year, the Wild River Road to the Wild River Campground had been closed for repairs and with it now recently opened, we wanted to see the damage. Of course we saw the most dramatic damage from Route 113, the missing snowmobile bridge that once crossed the Wild River. It is amazing to think that it’s even possible for the water to have reached high enough to take out that bridge.
We followed the Wild River Road noting the places where the road was redone and a culvert was replaced until we got to the dead end and the campground. We found a few hardy campers at sites and a couple of cars in the hiking trailhead parking lot. We decided to head up the Basin Trail which follows the Blue Brook. We hoped to find the cascades and a looming cliff that Andrew saw mention of in a trail guide description.
It was a cool day and we hiked along quickly to warm up for the first mile. We passed one hiker and her dog heading back down to the parking lot. The trail was wet in several places and bog bridges helped in the most wet spots.
We stopped for several minutes to talk to a hunter, who seemed to be surprised that we knew what season it was as we asked him why he was carrying a rifle during muzzleloader season. Just as hikers stereotype hunters, hunters tend to stereotype hikers. While neither one of us actively participates in hunting, we appreciate the value and respect the activity. We feel completely comfortable in the woods during hunting season (although we tend to stick to the trails rather than bush-wack in the Fall) and had even talked earlier about how Lindsay remembered to put on her red fleece but Andrew was dressed completely like a deer in his usual “woodsy colors”. As soon as we (the hunter and us) realized we were on common ground, he loosened up and told us about his adventure on the ridges that day and where he had put up his trail cameras. He even took out his GPS and let us look at his track. He then admitted that now a days he likes to wander in the woods, undisturbed if he never even sees a deer the whole season. When he was younger it was about “getting one”, now it’s different, it’s about being in the woods. Us too, we said.
After our chat with the hunter, we continued up the trail to the Blue Brook crossing. We had gained a little elevation and we walked across several small patches of snow.
We wondered about the naming of the brook: Blue and surmised it was the name of some early hunters bloodhound dog who loved the brook, or maybe the water looked particularly blue one day. But probably it was something entirely different.
We wanted to go a little further to where “a very striking cliff” looms over the Blue Brook. We found it and it was pretty neat to see. The cliff towered above us, threatening to toss big boulders down.
The trail looked like we were reaching the height of land, but we knew that it was just an illusion. We were just on a hidden and wooded knoll and if we continued on, we would actually have to climb more steeply up to the Basin Rim Trail.
So, we turned around and made our way back down the trail to the parking lot. But we had to take a peek at the Hurricane Irene damage on the Wild River so we hiked about a quarter mile up the valley on the Wild River Trail. Sections of the trail still looked ravaged and the sides of the river still looked freshly torn from the strong water currents, but some looked more recent from Hurricane Sandy.