Thursday, August 2, 2012

In My Footsteps: Trip 130: Lincoln, New Hampshire

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 130:  Lincoln, New Hampshire
July 25, 2012

My love affair with the state of New Hampshire is very well known.  I feel as soon as I cross into it from Massachusetts that I am in an entirely different world.  That feeling was only amplified when I made a long overdue return to Lincoln in the White Mountains.
The view from Kancamagus Pass.
I say return because the last time I saw Lincoln was more than twenty years ago and I definitely did not have the understanding to appreciate what I was seeing.  This time I certainly did.
For this trip I decided to spend the night.  I found the perfect location to call my ‘home base’ in Pemi Cabins on the main strip of Route 3.  The Pemigewasset River, where the ‘Pemi’ in Pemi Cabins comes from, runs directly behind the cabins.  When I opened the door to my modest single-room cabin I immediately heard the rushing water through the opened back door.  Each cabin has a screened in back porch.  I took advantage of this by sitting out and listening to the rushing water well after dark.  It was heavenly.
The first place I chose to visit was the simply awe-inspiring Kancamagus Pass on the historic Kancamagus Highway.  My goal was to run a section of the highway beginning at the Pass.  Besides being situated in between Lincoln and North Conway ‘The Kanc’ as it is often called for the vast majority of the route is devoid of food, gas, and cell phone reception.  I was taking a risk running there but it was well worth it.
Flapjack's Pancake House
The views of the White Mountains are all around you.  The overlook at Kancamagus Pass can easily hold your gaze for hours if you let it.  I ran straight downhill until I got to the cozy Lily Pond.  The rocky shore was more reminiscent of Maine, the pond itself was small but fit the scene with the towering mountains all around.
Once I had turned around and run the more difficult uphill slope back to the Pass I stopped to appreciate the views at a pair of overlooks.  The fact that it was cloudy did not dampen the experience at all.  I only saw roughly 1/3 of The Kanc so any visitor should take their time to see as much of this incredible highway as possible.
Looking back down at Flume Gorge.
Next I went back to a spot originally visited more than twenty years ago, Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park.  Located only a few minutes down Rt. 3 the Flume is something that everyone should check out once.  Flume Gorge is a natural gorge which extends 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty.  It was discovered in 1808 by 93-year old ‘Aunt’ Jess Guernsey who came upon it accidentally.
You can take a tour bus from the main visitor’s center out close to the gorge or you can walk the entire way.  I chose to walk.  There is a lot more to see in the Flume Woods than just the Gorge but that is the obvious main attraction.  It feels like being in another world as you come upon the pair of granite cliffs stretching up to ninety-feet high.  The walls are anywhere from twelve to twenty feet apart and the water which runs down either cliff will periodically splash you.
It is an exhilarating hike along the wooden walkway with many steps leading you up to the overlook where you can see down into the gorge.  After that you can choose to head straight back to the visitor’s center or take a longer route.  I took the longer route.  On the longer route you will see the smaller Liberty Gorge, Sentinel Pine Bridge and The Pool, as well as the Wolf’s Den which you must crawl through to see.  I highly recommend taking the extra thirty minutes or so to hike the longer trail out of Flume Woods.
Another part of Franconia Notch State Park which is probably better known that Flume Gorge actually does not exist anymore.  The Old Man of the Mountain, a face shaped by erosion in the granite of Cannon Mountain, crashed to the earth in 2003.  I do remember visiting this spot as a child.  I was pleasantly surprised when I returned to find that the Old Man was back, so to speak.
Thanks to some generous grants and very creative thinking there is now a Profiler Plaza at the base of Cannon Mountain.  There are several steel ‘profilers’ which when you stand on spots according to height actually create a faux Old Man face in the spot where it would have been.  It is difficult to explain, it needs to be seen to be appreciated.  In fact the entire Profiler Plaza is amazing.  Profile Lake stretches toward the highway with the mountains just on the other side, the fog and mist of this day combined with the scenery made me feel as if I was in the film Jurassic Park, if that makes any sense.
With the help of a 'profiler' The Old Man lives again.
Lincoln is not just filled with beautiful places to see.  There is also an abundance of delicious places to eat.  Loving breakfast the way I do I chose to pay a visit to Flapjacks located at the beginning of the Kancamagus Highway.  By the name it is obvious what they are known for.
Now in their seventh year of operation the atmosphere is very cozy inside Flapjacks with a small counter and many tables facing the mountains.  I could tell right away that this is a townie place where folks get together daily to chat about life.  I enjoyed the atmosphere almost as much as I enjoyed a full-stack of their well known flapjacks.  I went with the regular flapjacks, but there are some interesting and I’m sure delicious options such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and Fluffernutter flapjacks.  Those two items alone are reason enough for me to pay Lincoln another visit soon.
Nestled up in the White Mountains the small town of Lincoln should be a destination for any traveler.  Whether you like delicious food in townie restaurants, beautiful scenery, or simply want to escape into some peace and quiet, Lincoln has all that you need.  I know I will be going back that way as soon as I can.  Have fun and happy traveling!

Directions:  Kancamagus Pass:  From I-93 N take Exit 32 for Rt. 112/Kancamagus Highway.  Turn left onto Kancamagus Highway, follow it 13.3 miles to destination on left.
            Flume Gorge:  From I-93 N take Exit 34A to merge onto Rt. 3, follow it ½ mile, turn right for Visitor’s Center.
            Flapjacks Pancake House:  From I-93 N take Exit 32 for Rt. 112/Kancamagus Highway.  Turn left onto Kancamagus Highway, follow it .7 miles to destination on left.
            Pemi Cabins:  From I-93 N take Exit 33 for N. Woodstock/N. Lincoln, take a slight right, continue ½ mile to destination on right.

References:  Pemi Cabins
            Flapjacks Pancake House
            NH State - Flume Gorge
            Lincoln, NH - Official Town Site