Travel

Fall Colours

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I was in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, with some friends of mine from university. Eight of us flew to Boston’s Logan airport from five different cities. Our flights took off after work on Friday, and after approximately six hours in cramped conditions of typical red-eye flights, I reached on Saturday morning. We rented two cars at the airport and left for Meredith, in NH.

The purpose of the visit was to see what we west-coasters call “fall colours”.  Seasons in Bay Area tend not to be too different from each other. Winters may hit sub-zero temperatures for a few hours, not long enough for snow to form. Trees continue to be green, occasionally bald and and even less so, colourful. Spring sees a few blossom trees, in bloom for a couple of weeks a year. A simple Google search for east+coast+fall+colours is a treat to the eyes. We planned this trip with hopes of being similarly delighted.

The drive from Boston was still very green with an occasional tree resplendent in red. However, the further we rose in latitude, the more colourful it got. Our itinerary asked for a stop at the Waterfall Cafe.  It was highly recommended, but by the time we reached, it was closing. I would still encourage the reader to keep it in mind when visiting Meredith. We ended up going to another restaurant on a lower level. The wait time would be in excess of 25 minutes, so we decided to explore the beautiful wooden structure the restaurant was located in. One of the floors had a chocolate cum candy store where we got our fix of dairy free/ gluten free/ nut free/ sugar free/ maple candies, in accordance with our myriad allergies.  Another floor had a clothing and jewelry store. Next to the building was a man-made waterfall, which was o-k-a-y.

Post lunch, we proceeded to the Flume Gorge in Franconia, recommended by another friend who drove from Boston to meet and spend the night with us. By this point, the trees were very colourful and a delight to stare at as I lay sprawling on the back seat. An averagely fit person can cover the entire gorge in a relaxing and low-stress hike. It is a part of the Franconia Notch State Park, and the trees were on fire (metaphorically). Photographs cannot do justice to the natural beauty of the forest and moss-covered granite against the glow of the setting sun.The many big wooden information boards dotting the hiking trail offer bits of information about the gorge. One tells me that the granite forming the gorge was molten rock under the surface of the earth in the Jurassic age, about 200 million years ago. While it cooled, small vertical fractures formed in it. Small dikes of basalt crept up these fractures. Through years of erosion, the rocks wore off, allowing water to flow through them. The basalt eroded faster than the granite, thus allowing the Flume brook to power on, leaving behind a 70 to 90 feet high, and 12 to 20 feet wide gorge. I took a moment to pause between the rocks to imagine what the place must have been like when it was covered in glaciers in the Ice Age. The brook must have been frozen then, and post the Ice Age, resumed rustling, much like today.

From the gorge we drove to our stop for the night, Hillwinds Lodge. Quite frankly saying, I have never spent a night in a lodge or a motel before. It was a very interesting experience. The lodge grounds, so to say, had no defined boundaries. They were surrounded by rich green forests on two sides, a mud trail on another and a clear wide stream on another. We arrived in the dark of the night,. It was eerily quiet, a night awash in almost perfect silence, apart from the sound of the wind in the trees and the water flowing over the pebbles. I couldn’t help but imagine this to be the perfect spot for a John Grisham kind of murder. As we trooped into the lobby in a never ending line of ten people, the owner, an elderly man north of seventy, was alarmed. Apparently before the second car showed up, he was very friendly. After the arrival of the additional six people and two cars, he didn’t seem too happy and threatened to call the police if we created any ruckus, which I found thoroughly unprofessional, overly dramatic and absolutely unnecessary. His wife seemed unperturbed and got us the keys.

Alpine Adventures is highly recommended for zip lining. Next day, we arrived early at their office and after being fitted with various gears and helmets, and additional safety checks, piled onto a jeep with a cheeky number plate “BUCKLUP”. Calling the tide bumpy is a massive understatement. The seat belts somewhat kept us in our spots. We went through four individual lines, getting progressively scary. Before the trip, when I had first learned that the planners had put zip lining on the itinerary, I had Googled ziplining deaths, which I might add is not a very bright idea. However, the fears were quite misplaced. Each one of us had a fantastic time. I would recommend interested readers to look up the company online, read testimonials, check TripAdvisor ratings, pay close attention to instructions and not step off the platform before the instructor okays you.

After zip lining we proceeded to a cog wheel train ride up Mount Washington, located in the White Mountains of Bretton Woods. It is the second steepest mountain railway track in the world, and the world’s first mountain climbing cog railway. The train ride is about four hours long, from base up to the final stop just a little short of the summit. After a brief pause at the very windy top, the train comes right back down. Mount Washington is the highest peak in north-eastern United States at 1,916 m, quite a baby when compared to the Himalayas, which the author is used to. The mountain has very erratic weather, partly because of the confluence of multiple storm tracks from the surrounding geographies including the Atlantic and the Pacific North-West. Low pressure areas are more likely to be created along the coastline in the winter because of the relative temperature difference between the warm north Atlantic Ocean drift and the cold temperatures in north-eastern United States. For context on how close the mountain is to the ocean, it can be visible from ships in the ocean, and is only a 3 hours car ride from Plymouth, where the Mayflower landed. Because of the extremely windy conditions, man-made structures are chained to the ground, as evident in the photographs below.

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Picture Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Washington_(New_Hampshire)

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Picture Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Washington_(New_Hampshire)

After the train ride, we left for Boston at about seven pm, and headed straight for the Cambridge area to meet a few friends. It was one of us’ birthday the next day and to celebrate, got a delightful cake from WholeFoods. We cut the cake in front of Jaume Plensa’s Alchemist, which I might add, is a great place to take photographs.  We spent a few hours at the Mariott across the Charles River to get some sleep before taking our dawn flights back to our homes.

Boston airport was teeming with management consultants on their early morning flights to client locations. The queues were very long ,and some kind TSA agents decided to take the United passengers bound for San Francisco out and check us in from a different terminal. These aircrafts had seat screens and a decent movie collection though each one of us were exhausted and had a full day of work ahead. Our flights reached before time; we stepped out to the smell of salt in the air, and knew we were home.

(The first photograph in this article was taken by my friend Sabareesh.)

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