Sunday, October 13, 2013

Riding the Franconia Notch Bike Path; Littleton, NH

Saturday when we started out our day of hiking we crossed the Franconia Notch Bike Path, a 9 mile paved off road path that goes the length of Franconia Notch State Park.  We had first heard about this bike trail from a guy we had met the day we were riding on the Rockingham Trail in Manchester, NH.  When he told us there was this paved off road trail, of course our eyes lit up, since this is the kind of trail we love to ride!  Fortunately it's in a state park and not a national park, so we didn't have to deal with the consequences of the immature faction of the House who are acting like the little kids on the playground that say they are going to hold their breath until they get their way!  When we arrived in Franconia on Friday, I talked to a state park ranger at the visitor center about the trail and she helpfully described how the first 6 miles of the trail going from south to north were pretty much uphill.  As a result most folks just ride the trail from the other end and then ride the bike shuttle bus back to where they had parked.  I knew I wanted to do the whole trail, out and back, so I was glad to know this, so I could plan to ride the harder way first.  Trisha opted for a morning of reading, writing and knitting.

So we got up and at 'em bright and early Sunday morning, to make sure we got to the visitor center parking area and got a spot before all the RV parking places filled up.  All weekend there have been mongo crowds in the park, with folks out enjoying this lovely fall weather, either biking or hiking, and as a result the parking lots have all been full to overflowing, with cars lined up along the sides of the highway as well.  When we got up this morning it was overcast and chilly, so I was really glad we got the new cool weather biking duds back in Maine!  We got to the parking lot early and fortunately were the first RV there, so that was good.  Trisha had a wonderful time--she's currently making me a beautiful scarf out of this lovely wool yarn, handspun right on the farm near Grand Marais, Michigan so I'm ecstatic that she's doing that!!  Now it just needs to get cold enough for me to wear it, 'cause it's really soft and cuddly!  So she got to do what she wanted today, with that and catching up on her journaling and post card writing, and I got to have an absolutely fantastic bike ride!

I had thought that, since it was so overcast, it would likely not be very pretty so I almost left the camera in the RV, but, boy, am I ever glad I decided to take it with me.  Even though the visibility was fogged in when I got to high places and could see out of the woods across the mountains, deep down in the trees along the trail the views were just intoxicatingly stunning!  The leaves, still lots on the trees, lots down on the pavement and alongside the trail, were just brilliant, and it was so exciting to ride along this trail--just about the most beautiful trail I've ridden so far on this trip.  In addition to the leaves there were lovely little bridges over noisy creeks and streams and, even though it was overcast high up, there was enough sunlight filtering through the trees to make it quite bright--just a magical experience!  And yes, there were plenty of uphill climbs!  Enough so that I spent a lot of time in the lowest gears and really got the old heart rate elevated!  But there were some rewards of long downhill sprints and it was like I was flying, with the leaves blowing around me and I was just transported to another level--so fantastic!  And, since I had started out early, for the first leg of the ride there were very few other folks out on the trail.  I met these three Russian cyclists on a bridge over the highway near the northern end of the trail where you would ordinarily have these long mountain views.  Today, though, by that time it was really foggy in the distance so you couldn't see as much, and it was beginning to look like it might rain.  Anyway, I stopped to take a picture or two and chatted with them, and then rode on to the end of the trail.  I stopped to take a break and eat a Clif Bar, and, since there were no tables or any other place to sit, I found a rock just off the edge of the parking lot in amongst the trees and bushes.  As I sat there relaxing and munching on my energy bar, the Russian dudes rode up and started loading their bikes into their vehicle--then one dude came over and with a big smile said:  "Can I take picture?  You look like mushroom!"  Not sure what gave him that idea, but I guess me sitting there on this rock, in the bushes, with my bright yellow jacket and round helmet on my head it created this image for him that just cracked him up laughing.  Nothing better than a good laugh at yourself, so I joined in and we all just hooted for a couple of minutes.  Then one of his buddies said "You have very nice beard!  I guess you have plenty work at Chreeestmas, no?"  So I asked him if he had been a good boy and his buddies all chimed in with Nyet! Nyet!  No matter how little of another language you speak, laughter is universal!

So, after a little respite, as I headed back the other way it was getting steadily colder and the wind was picking up.  But, even though I was riding into a headwind for much of the way, there was a little more downhill on this direction than the first leg, so it all balanced out.  It was getting more crowded, though, as I neared the big parking lots, with lots more hikers, walkers and bikers.  I took some pictures, but realized I would never get back if I kept stopping to take more, so I have a few samples below.  I was so glad I did this ride, as it was just gorgeous!  

By the time I got back to the RV, the parking lot was overflowing and there were crowds everywhere.  So, as soon as I got changed, we headed off to see downtown Littleton, yet another quaint little beautiful New England town.  There's just something about these small towns, most along rivers, with lots of beautiful houses and tall steepled churches and interesting town halls-- we can't get enough of them!  We found a lovely little Thai restaurant where we could find lots of vegan choices for lunch, which was just delicious?!  Then we took our time strolling around the downtown, finding some lovely little pottery and craft shops, a yarn shop, a wonderful bookstore with some great deals on used books and a super kitchen supply store.  I just love browsing in kitchen stores, to see the latest gadgets and looking for new tools to add to our kitchen.  Even saw a thing or two I might ask Mrs. Claus to stuff into my stocking at Christmas!  And, to our great delight, the sales clerk at this one shop told us about the river walk just a block off Main street, so we went down and strolled across this covered bridge, where we had some fantastic views of the river and the old mill wheel.  Just a delightful afternoon!

Came back to the campground where Trisha finished knitting my scarf while I did the laundry, getting us all set for the next couple of weeks.  Then back to the campsite where we had a lovely dinner of the rest of the black bean and salsa soup, enhanced with some more goodies Trisha added.  All in all, just a really wonderful day!

This was how the day looked as we were driving from the campground to the start of the trail--pretty grim looking

 Yes this is what I saw as I started out on the trail, once I got past the parking lot--just downright gorgeous!
 Stopped at an area called the Basin to take these shots of the river and the following of the actual basin

 Just take your breath away beautiful!

 The view from the bridge as the clouds were getting lower

 Starting back south on the trail

 Man, what a ride!!
Coming into downtown Littleton
 Seems like every little New England town has a bridge over a river right downtown!
 Outside the public library, a statue of Pollyanna, in tribute to Eleanor Porter, the author of the Pollyanna books, who lived in Littleton.  Trisha remembered fondly reading all these books as a girl.
 Lovely flowers outside shops along Main Street
 I loved the way they had these baskets of mums hanging from street lamposts along the street--a unique variation on the typical hanging basket, giving it a very fall type touch
 This simply gorgeous tree, on Main Street

 Looking down Main Street, toward the Methodist church, with this brilliant red maple showing off all its glory!
 Just a casual glance down one of the side streets and this is what you see!

 Littleton had a number of these pianos just like we had seen in downtown Boston--the sign says If I'm covered, Be Glad, Make Music, and recover me.  What a fabulous idea, where folks can just stop and play a while.
This store advertised "The World's Longest Candy Counter"  in the window, so we went in just to see what it was--this is only about a third of the length, and folks were lining up to fill their bags from all these jars.

 So many of the houses and buildings in lots of these little towns have these lovely turrets--I just love them!
 Window boxes along the street

Heading down to the river walk

 Cool covered bridge

 If this scene doesn't just say New England I don't know what does!
 Steeples, steeples, everywhere!

 The old mill wheel
Cool display over the alley leading up from the river walk to Main Street

1 comment:

  1. I have as you know my new toy, however, not too busy to enjoy the pictures and your post. Thanks so much again for sharing.