It is a well-placed rock.
How it got there, who knows. Devine designers perhaps. But it is there and from it, it is a place to ponder, rest and stare in awe at the White Mountains.
The ledgy spur on the west flank of North Kinsman Mountain is in a fine neighborhood, easily accessed from a Route 116 trail head just beyond the Franconia-Easton line.
The path is definitely used by locals. On a recent midweek morning, my wife Jan and I shared the trail with four of them and a dog doing their pre-work workout to various places on the Mt. Kinsman Trail with its trio of brook crossings, the waters moving swiftly on a cool morning the day after a rain.
That is the beauty of a hiking trail with brooks, streams, waterfalls, boulders and manmade landmarks like cabins along the way. They all make for meaningful destinations to those who seek them out.
Getting to the top of a mountain is a wonderful thing, but that’s not the only reason to be on a hiking trail. There is the pure joy of being outdoors in nature. There is the satisfaction of hiking with a friend, a companion (two legs or four), a spouse. There’s the singsong of birds, the identification of plants, spotting prints left behind by others (both two legs and four) and more.
The more time you spend in the woods, the more you start to notice the little things.
But there’s also the views and Bald Peak definitely has them.
Not to be confused with Bald Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park by Artist’s Bluff, Bald Mountain in southwest New Hampshire or Bald Knob near Moultonborough, Bald Peak (sometimes called Bald Knob) is a 2,470-foot stage looking out upon the wonders of the Cannon-Kinsman area.
That morning it seemed we were the only ones en route to the flat-topped knob along the wonderfully maintained trail.
The moderate blue-blazed 4.6-mile roundtrip trek offers fine diversions with nice beginnings through lovely hemlocks and along a former logging road.
An old sugarhouse invites a stop. A few yards beyond the house, a saw horse stood next to logs waiting to be cut.
About a mile into the trek, the trail enters the White Mountain National Forest and steepens a bit, coming to the first of the rushing trios about 1.5 miles into the journey.
A cabin once stood near that brook crossing. At one time a ski trail descended the mountain and the Kinsman Cabin was located about midway on its length. According to the New England Ski History website, the three-mile long Kinsman Ski Trail with grades between five and 15 percent was used by skiers starting in the 1930s. The cabin was constructed around 1937 and removed in the 1980s. It had a stove and four bunks, no doubt welcomed on a winter’s day.
The next crossing, in maybe a quarter mile or so, was one to pause for a spell. The rushing waters flowed creatively over a mossy shelf, fanning out a bit as it fell into line along its rocky way.
The final crossing allowed for a detour, made easy to find thanks to a sign on the tree. The footing wasn’t so great, so caution was used, but it didn’t take long to stand over the rushing waters of the Kinsman Flume. An article from the July 3, 1880 Bethlehem paper “The White Mountain Echo and Tourists’ Register,” says the flume was once named Howland’s Flume after the man who discovered it. The 125-foot long flume has walls 30 feet high at the most, and is about nine feet wide, said the article which referred to the landmark as the “new Flume” compared to the flume in Franconia Notch which attracts masses to the state park there today.
The wonder continued on the ledges of Bald Peak, reached by a yellow-blazed spur trail with sign. Though a cloudy curtain was draped across portions of the sky, breaks of blue and sun allowed for looks at the landscape. That rock was a throne in a kingdom that consisted of the Cannon Balls, Easton Valley, the Benton Range, Mount Clough, Mount Moosilauke and North Kinsman. Leave the comfort of the rock for the narrow scrub and come upon a northern view into Coos County and its rambling ridges all spotted from the low-lying stage.
(Marty Basch can be reached at onetankaway.com)