Saturday, August 22, 2015

Franconia Notch and the Kancamagus Highway

When last we passed through Franconia Notch it was late September -- County Fair time. The Fall leaves were just loosing their grip in the face of blustry winds. B&B's were everywhere, inviting but desolate; Large parking lots were empty at "attractions", most restaurants were shuttered.
..might be pretty busy in Summer, we noted.
YEAH!! No wonder that guy winced when we told him where we were heading.
Our converstation with Wayne had been very pleasant as we met by the edge of Joe's Pond and exchanged our liberal, granola-eating, live-free-or-die, used bookstore Bona Fides, but our planned itinerary caused him unspoken dismay.
We said goodbye to Wayne and rough-textured hwy 15 and slipped down a long smooth entry to Interstate 91/93. (we can be excused this lapse since this leads to the ONLY Interstate that is also a National Parkway. The Notch is gorgeous and the traffic moderate, so we were totally unprepared for the madhouse at the Flume/State Park Visitor Center which includes shops, snack bar and admission tickets. We were looking for a camping place at the park and a chance to ride the bike trail.
That's Full, we heard from a very cheerful attendant.
Commercial or goverment? she asked reaching for the catalog of New Hampshire campgrounds.
You need hook-ups?
Not really.
That your Airstream?
Errr, Yes.
...and you don't need hookups?
....but you want to stay close to this...?
Time once again to declare our Granola-eating Bona Fides. This accomplished, she whipped out a strip map of the Kancamagus Highway.

This is 34 miles of National Forest Highway -- the FIRST National Scenic Byway. She quickly highlighted a necklace of five NF campgrounds.
This one is about midway ... (between the waterslides of Lincoln and Conway was left unspoken).
The Gauntlet of vacation experiences for the next few miles left little doubt that we would prefer to leave "this" in our wake.
Look a waterpark..take the next left!
We "proceeded on" to Jigger Johnson NF campground, the forest-lined road cooling us and the 3000 foot climb doing the opposite for the Ginormous Mechanical Conveyance (GMC). The forest has reclaimed this "intervale" where White Pine 80 feet to the first branch were once marked with the "Broad Arrow" of the English king, destined to be masts for the Royal Navy. Then came settlers, part-time loggers, then railroads, then industrial clear-cut logging just before the great fires. Our site is spacious, level and surrounded by 85 year old trees and lots of low conifers. The White Mountains are back and getting better.

Nearby, the Russel Colbath Historical Site taught us much about the place and the logging history. The interpreters were a joy and we nearly overstayed our welcome.

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