Lazy Sunday lends itself to hike in Crawford Notch State Park


A State Park Summer: 1st in a Series of visits to N.H. State Parks



CRAWFORD_4
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On the trail with Guinness. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
July 01, 2009
HART'S LOCATION — My dog is smaller than most cats. He is a 13-pound Boston terrier named Guinness, and he thinks he rules my house.

I, of course, think I rule my house. Usually my wife is around to balance the argument, but this past weekend she left to visit her family. Guinness and I stayed home to settle our differences.

On Sunday I woke to the sound of rain drops, so I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep. For a moment.

I felt little feet dancing on my head, and a nose pushing its way under the covers.

Guinness glared at me, but I pretended to be asleep.

I didn't fool him. He jumped on me, both paws landing on my cheek, and barked. I tried to push him away, but he advanced again, determined to keep me awake.

I got up, groggy and vengeful.

"What?" I said, Guinness still on the foot of the bed. He dove to the floor and ran to the living room. He trotted back carrying a tennis ball like a fresh kill.

I groaned. It was too early for him to have this much energy.

As I made breakfast Guinness continued to taunt me, jumping on my legs, pushing the tennis ball into my feet and growling.

"OK, OK," I said. "We'll play. Hang on."

He didn't believe me — he scrutinized every move I made, keeping me on track.

I dressed and filled a water bottle, grabbed a small backpack and filled it with snacks, a fleece, a raincoat and a leash.

"OK, let's go," I said as I opened the outside door. I followed him down the stairs to the car. At that instant it appeared he had won.

By the time we drove into the Frankenstein Cliff trail parking area the rain had stopped. I got out of the car and opened the back door. Guinness bounded off the seat and raced around the parking lot, sniffing the smells of a new place.

Frankenstein Cliff is located just inside Crawford Notch State Park. In the winter it is an ice climber's playground, with frozen waterfalls several hundred feet tall. In the summer it is swathed in green and is a great place for a day hike.

One of the most popular trails in the White Mountains leaves from the parking lot and goes up to Arethusa Falls, a 200-foot waterfall about a mile up the trail. Guinness and I have been to Arethusa Falls with my wife Sasha before, but this time I had a different route in mind.

We started down the trail, which runs parallel to a set of train tracks. The tracks are about 100 feet away on the other side of a berm, and as we walked through to woods there was no indication it was there, until after a half mile where the trail makes a hard left and goes under a railroad trestle.

Guinness looked up at the trestle, unsure if we should go under it.

"Let's go," I yelled, and he scurried along. As we climbed up the embankment he kept looking back at it over his shoulder.

The trail starts its climb here, and we both noticed. I started sweating, as the humidity was still somewhere near 100 percent. Guinness' tongue started to dangle from his mouth, and I had to coax him up some steeper sections.

The trail goes past big rock faces, cliffs I recognized as the winter climbs Pegasus and Chia. They were soaked, with little cascades tumbling from the top. The cascades formed streams I stepped over; Guinness hopped from rock to rock, pausing to gain his balance after each jump. I laughed as he slipped and got doused.

The climbing continued, though more in the trees. The sign had said something around a mile and a half to the top of the cliff, and I was starting to feel maybe the sign had been wrong. The trail was muddy from the recent rain, and Guinness' white underbelly was coated black. But he still bounded ahead of me every time I stepped to the side, looking back as if to say, "Come on already."

We popped out from the tree cover to a beautiful view: the clouds receding down the notch with crisp green on the mountains. I pulled off my pack and offered Guinness water, part of a temporary truce until we started hiking again.

The trail continued up and down along the top of the cliff, with viewpoints to the north and to the south. The clouds lowered and I heard raindrops on the leaves overhead, so we decided not to visit every one. Instead we marched toward the falls, a mile or so away.

The rain never really picked up, but this part of the trail was muddier than the first part. Guinness had no problems, owing to his four legs, but I lost my balance more than once, one time nearly falling completely. I caught myself on a tree as my feet skated out from under me; Guinness looked at me in disgust.

There were several stream crossings along the trail, each larger than the last. Guinness made it gingerly across the first two, but by the third one he started looking to me for aid. I picked him up and held him at arm's length like a dirty diaper as I hopped from stone to stone. After several of these both of us were looking forward to being rid of the other.

We hit the junction with the Arethusa Falls trail and instantly saw people. He and I had been free to continue our duel for more than three miles, but the falls marked the end and we put on our happy faces — I wasn't going to have someone call me a bad dog owner, and he wasn't going to be called a bad dog.

We made the short side trip to the falls, where I snapped a photo and he dodged little children wanting to "pet the puppy" (he's nine).

Guinness led the way back to the car, which he knew well, but he did it with less spring in his step than normal. As we got closer to the parking lot he started to sway from side to side; the nearly five miles and three hours had taken its toll on him. He didn't even object to me putting him on a leash as we got close to the road, a clear sign I took to mean I was in charge.

I unlocked the car and opened the door. Guinness refused my assistance into the back seat despite his exhaustion, and plopped down in his bed for the ride home.

As we got back to town, the rain started to fall again. So much for my lazy Sunday. We pulled into the driveway and I let Guinness out of the car. He ran inside, with me right behind him. I got to the living room and sunk into the couch — maybe I'd worn myself out as much as Guinness. I took a deep breath and got up to go shower.

There, before the bathroom door, was a small black and white terrier, a tennis ball in his mouth, growling. According to him it was still time to play.

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