Kancamagus Scenic Highway

When I got up this morning it was almost overwhelming the options I had open to me. Unlike most of my vacation trips I did not commit to any reservations or tours in advance so everyday will be like a blank canvas. What to put on each one???

After tea and a cinnamon roll I headed to the car to drive to the Cog Railway however I am easily side-tracked and today was no different. Before I got to the exit for Mount Washington I saw an exit for the Kancamagus Highway. You guessed it. I decided to get off there and follow that route. I wasn’t sure where  it came out. I thought somewhere near Conway or Bretton Woods but since the day was all mine it really didn’t make any difference where it stopped.

The lower end wasn’t much. It was like a main street through what I think was Lincoln, NH but it wasn’t long before it began to climb.

I made a brief stop at the ranger station on the Pemigewasset River. This is the Lincoln Woods Trailhead.

I looked around a little but didn’t take the time to really hike. I wasn’t prepared but I did have to explore the  Pemigewasset Suspension Bridge where several of the trails start.

The bridge is pretty cool. You can feel it sway in the wind or when other hikers are crossing it. Since it looks very sturdy it’s a funny feeling.

 The water in the river was low but even so there were fishermen trying to tease out a trout or two.

The Ranger told me that there is a fee to park at each trailhead or you can get a day pass if you’re going to go to several different ones. Since it’s the National Forest my annual pass covered my parking. I just had to be sure to leave it on the dashboard so the rangers could see it when the made their rounds.

The last time I was on the Kancamagus it was on the back of a motorcycle and it was clear that the allure of this road to bikers was still there. At one of the scenic overlooks where the parking lot looked over one of the hairpin curves, I set up shop with the camera to try to catch a cycle coming around that curve. It didn’t take long.

Leaving that stop the road began to climb in earnest. The thermometer was hovering right around 100 even here in the mountains. Seriously HOT! That’s when I spotted the bicycles. Who would be out riding up a mountain in this heat! I had a case of water in the car. When I came to a small pull off I stopped to get more pictures and the first of the riders slowly peddled past.

I held out a warm but wet bottle of water. It earned me a smile but a shake of the head. The same with the ones following. Ok, at least I made the offer.

We leapfrogged a bit as I would drive by them then stop for pictures and they would pass me. Then I would pass them again and so on. Finally I reached the top of the Kancamagus Pass, elevation 2855. At least it would be downhill for those cyclists from this point on.

The next scenic overlook had a shelter and a large parking lot. As I pulled in I spotted the cyclists  again. They were gathered in the shelter having lunch. When they saw me they called me over and insisted on having a picture taken with me. As you can see, everyone was in good spirits.

 They said most people think they are nuts. But I just think it’s amazing. What dedication it took to get in good enough shape to make it up these mountains! And in this heat on top of it!

I left my new friends taking a well-earned break in the shade and headed back out to finish the downhill side of the Kancamagus.

I had forgotten about the waterfall I’d read about until I saw a sign for the Sabbaday Falls picnic area. It’s a National Forest site so I plopped my pass on the dashboard and locked up. I took just the camera, leaving the backpack in the car so the walk would be cooler. I now think that was a mistake. Without the backpack I didn’t have anyplace for a water bottle. Since the trail was only .5 miles I didn’t think I’d miss the water.

That was not true! I was sweating almost before I got up the first incline.

The trail was mostly uphill. It wasn’t long before I was drenched in sweat even though the trail is mostly shaded. I stopped a few times to get pictures before I reached the falls.

It was nice and cool near the waterfall. There were stone steps carved out of the rocks beside the falls that led up to a bridge that crossed the stream next to the falls. I had a blast taking pictures there. So much so I forgot how hot and thirsty I was. 🙂

Soon enough it was time to move on and return to the car. It was past lunch time too, even though I wasn’t feeling hungry I wasn’t sure how far it would be to the end and a restaurant or store.

When you start the Kancamagus a sign  says “no gas for 32 miles.” I wasn’t sure how far along I was. I wish I’d brought a cooler and packed a lunch. That would have been fun.

Back at the car I downed a whole bottle of water then it was time to head out. I didn’t stop at many more scenic pull outs due to the time but on the lower end I began to see cars lining the sides of the road. As I peered through the trees I could see another river and there were all the people…loads of them…all splashing and swimming and enjoying the cool river water. What a great way to beat the heat.

I was beginning to see signs of civilization and a sign said I was entering Conway, NH. Time to find someplace to eat.

So I’ll leave you right here where I’ll join you again after lunch.

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