Active Outdoors: A different perspective on summer

  • For a quiet getaway, try the Maine Huts and Trails system. This is at Flagstaff Lake with Bigelow Mountain looking on. Lani Cochrane / Maine Huts and Trails

  • These canoes, kayaks and some SUPs you can’t see are ready to go out and play any time at the AMC’s Gorman Chairback Lodge deep in the 100-mile Wilderness of Maine. TIM JONES / Easternslopes.com

  • People come from all over to hike on Mount Washington, but if you do a little looking, you can find quieter trails. TIM JONES / Easternslopes.com

For the Monitor
Published: 6/23/2019 6:32:17 PM

Did you notice it? The summer solstice has passed (11:54 a.m. on June 21). Friday was the longest day of the year. Each day from now on will get incrementally shorter. Yup, winter’s coming – better get out and enjoy summer while it’s here. The seasons will change almost before you know it.

I’m crepuscular by nature, especially in summer. I prefer to be out and about in the half light of dawn and dusk rather than under the direct sun of a summer mid-day. Not only are the days longer at this time of year, but the twilight is longer as well. More time to enjoy. I especially love that cool hour of half light before the sun comes up on a summer morning.

That dawn hour or two is not only cooler than the rest of the day, but it’s also much quieter. I live in summer-tourist central and the daytimes around here can get pretty hectic. At midday, it’s not uncommon to find full parking lots at popular trailheads, boat launches and swimming holes. But if I’m out before dawn for a hike, bike ride or paddle, it’s usually just me and the mosquitoes (which have been notably prolific this cool, wet spring).

Everyone has a different body clock, but if you can claw your way out of bed before dawn, and do something before the rest of the world wakes up, I think you’ll find a whole different perspective on summer.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy.

Quieter getaways

Let’s be honest, certain patches of real estate get just way to much human traffic – and I’m not just talking about city sidewalks. I can think of many places where nice summer days will draw huge crowds: Almost any beach along the seacoast, for example, and many state parks with swimming beaches. But a number of places that are supposed to be wild also draw crowds. The Saco River in Maine is an example. It has a reputation as a “floating tailgate party” on busy summer days.

A couple of areas in New Hampshire have always been busy but now (probably through the magic of social media), have become so popular that any thread of “wilderness” has pretty much been trampled out of existence, at least on nice days: Mount Monadnock, Mount Chocorua in Tamworth, Diana’s Baths near North Conway, and now, the Franconia Ridge Loop in Franconia Notch. This latter has gotten so busy that the state now offers a shuttle service from Franconia Notch State Park (near Cannon Mountain) to help alleviate parking problems.

My advice for dealing with this kind of problem is always to figure out where the crowds are going and go somewhere else. Or if you must go some place popular, go when other people don’t want to go. That usually works, but not always.

A couple of my friends did the Franconia Ridge loop a week or so ago on one of the few really nice hiking days we’ve had this spring. They went midweek while most schools were still in session, got an early start. Instead of climbing up Falling Waters Trail – sometimes known as “Falling Bodies” – traversing Franconia Ridge, and coming down Bridle Path as most hikers do, they went the opposite way. They told me they had the trail up to themselves, but as soon as they got out onto the ridge, they started seeing other hikers coming toward them and it only got worse as the day progressed. Going down Falling Waters, they passed a steady stream of hikers headed up.

On that same day, I was elsewhere in the White Mountains (no, I’m not telling you where) and saw only one other person all day. You just have to go looking for what you want. Social media be damned.

Maine getaways

If you want comfort without crowds, I’d suggest you head to Maine. The “huts” in the Maine Huts and Trails system are rarely crowded, are spaced a day’s hike or mountain bike apart, and generally offer a wonderful getaway.

Up near Greenville, West Branch Pond Camps and the lodges in the AMC’s Main Wilderness Lodge program (Medawisla, Little Lyford Pond and Gorman Chairback) offer comfortable accommodations, great food, and spectacular settings. I hope to get up there for some serious mountainbiking later this summer.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)




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