The Flume Gorge, A Tale of Misadventure

The Flume Gorge in Franconia, New Hampshire is one of Mother Nature’s Gems and like so many of her wonders, it takes a little effort on our part if we want to experience it to its fullest.

The Gorge is located in Franconia Notch State Park so is well maintained by the park service. The visitor center has some wonderful displays that range from a stage-coach

 to a huge display of two bull moose locked in combat.

This display is for real. A hunter found the remains of the two moose in the woods. They got their antlers locked during combat. When the victor was unable to free himself they both ended up dying.

 A very sad end but that’s the way it is in nature sometimes.

 The trail is a two-mile hike that leads you down into the gorge to experience the 90 ft walls towering up on either side of you.

 Much of the trail through the gorge is a boardwalk and there are many, many stairs.

 The walking can be slippery and when there is an uphill ramp, slats are nailed to the boardwalk to give hikers traction.

The walk can be strenuous but benches are strategically placed to let tired hikers catch their breath before moving on.

I do not remember ever going to this gorge before. I have hiked other ones as a child but nothing like this as an adult so here’s where I made my first mistake. I did not realize how narrow or long the trail was. I did wear hiking boots. (Best decision I made this day) and I took my trusty Mono-pod for the camera and , I must confess, it makes a super sturdy walking stick. But then I decided to take my tripod too. I had high hopes of capturing some of the falls with a long exposure and I didn’t trust myself to be steady with just the mon-pod.

It was quite a warm day. There were some clouds and the threat of a passing shower but in the gorge there was a cool breeze as the air moved over the cold water. All was going well until just before Avalanche Falls. The boardwalk slants upward and there were quite a few people in front of me leaning out to take pictures. I propped the mono-pod up against the railing and set the folded tripod down at my feet so I could hold the camera out to try for a picture. Somehow the mono-pod came loose from the railing and fell into the gorge before I could grab it.

It landed grip down and pointed back up but slanted away from the boardwalk. It was just out of my reach. A couple of men stopped but after a half-hearted effort they just said “Too far-Too bad”. Finally I got down on my hands and knees. I took the tripod out of its carry case and then I took the case and used its strap to lasso the end of the mono-pod. Slowly I pulled it toward me until I could just grab the tip. Success!

Now I scrambled to my feet, stuffed the tripod back in the case and headed off as quick as I could. I was worried who might have seen that little mishap. The only people to mention it was a nice couple that I had talked to earlier. Turned out they were the ones behind me on the trail and their only comments was to laugh and say “That was quite a picture!”

Ok so back on track. I was so glad to have the monopod back because my legs were really starting to protest all the uphill walking. I finally reached the top so the return trip should have been all downhill, right? Well that was my next mistake.

There were 2 trails back to the visitor center. One was the Rim Trail which follows the rim of the gorge back to Boulder Cabin where a shuttle bus will pick you up and take you back. The other trail was the “forest trail” or something like that. I selected that one. After all, why see the same sights. Going back a different way would just let me see new things. I’d still be going downhill, right?

WRONG! There were some pretty views of the gorge and some waterfalls and I did get to use the tripod at one of the waterfalls. The sign said it was a 100 ft cascade. But bottom line, it was much longer and it had a lot of uphill as well as down.

The literature said it was about 1- 1.5 hours round trip. OMG! It took me 3 hours round trip. It showed me just how out of shape I really am. No chance of kidding myself now.  It also taught me to open my mouth and ask what the conditions are like. Will there be room for tripods and so on. I could have lightened my load considerably as I only used 1 lens the whole time and only used the tripod once. My backpack with extra lenses and the tripod could have stayed in the car.

I do plan to go back and do this again but not til I’ve spent a few months working on a treadmill! I did meet many others who were not carrying anything that were huffing and puffing their way along. And I met some later at Cannon Mountain that said they were afraid they couldn’t get through it at all so they weren’t even going to try.That comment  was from a woman in her early 40’s so I guess I don’t feel quite so bad.

I still think it was beautiful, worth every drop of sweat and sore muscles! I can imagine what it must have been like to see it all alone and enjoy the pristine tranquility to the sound of rushing water. With all of the lush greenery it looks so primal; maybe even Lost World or Jurassic Park ish. I guess I am just selfish but it would be nice to sit on the bench near Avalanche Falls and be the only one there…just for a little while. 🙂

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