Prime season for hiking, biking and exploring begins

  • Dirt Road Ride. When the fall colors are on, and quiet dirt road (like this one on the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire) is a wonderful place to ride. Don’t put your bike away until snow flies! (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Into The Wilderness. This is the Basin Trail heading into the Wild River Wilderness in the White Mountains National Forest just after peak foliage. Tim Jones / EasternSlopes.com

  • Dramatic Sky. The best way to find foliage views like this is to explore by bike or on foot. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Singletrack. A mountain bike ride through briliant foliage is the perfect way to enjoy Autumn in New England. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

For the Monitor
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

One of the main reason so many people love to get outdoors in New England is our changing seasons. There are so many options that, if you are a “weekend warrior,” it’s possible to do something different outdoors every weekend all year!

Of course some people get really, really good at one thing and stick with it. An example would be the hardy souls you see pedaling bikes all winter. Or roller-skiing in the middle of a summer heat wave. More power, to ‘em, but as far as I’m concerned, each season has its own highest and best calling: winter is skiing, snowshoeing and Nordic skating; spring is road biking and whitewater kayaking. The heat of summer is the only time I have trouble enjoying being active outdoors; my activity of choice in summer is whatever keeps me cool, usually kayaking and swimming. Of course camping is year-round, too, but that’s usually just an add-on to something else fun outdoors.

For me, right now is prime hiking and biking season. Starting with the first cool mornings of late August, something prompts me to lace on my hiking boots, grab a pack and go. Or check the tires on my hardtail 29er and go pedaling. Those impulses continue at least through the end of November

To be honest, so far, biking has won out for me, at least this year. I have been really enjoying quality time either alone or with friends on mountain bikes, or with my sweetheart Em together on our tandem bicycle on rail trails and quiet back roads. Fall is made for biking.

Part of the reason we moved to the Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire is the abundance of hiking and biking trails around here. Of course, having world-class Alpine and Nordic ski areas within shouting distance was a factor, too.

I’m just beginning to get my feet (or wheels) under me so to speak, but it appears I could hike a different trail every day for at least a year and never have to repeat. The same for biking. I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever find all of them, but I’m going to do my best.

For example, I’ve discovered three entirely separate networks of lovely trails that are perfect for easy mountain biking or stress-free hiking so close to my home that I don’t even have to take the car. I can stroll or pedal to the trailheads. They don’t appear on any maps or guidebooks. I wonder how many more like them are hidden in the woods around here? All I have to do is find them.

I’ll bet it’s not too different where you live – or anywhere you happen to travel. Sure, some places are better than others, but there’s always someplace worth exploring on foot or on a bike in the cool mornings and warm days of early autumn. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Ski season approaching fast

It’s the nature of the ski business. Whether you are talking Alpine or cross-country, it takes an awful lot of cold, hard cash to get a ski area up and running at the start of a season, especially if there’s snowmaking involved. A lot of that money needs to be spent long before the first carload of skiers pulls into the parking lot and walks up to the ticket window.

Borrowing money from a bank is expensive, so the best way for a ski area to get that needed cash is to offer potential customers (that would be you and me) pre-season discounts so deep that you buy your lift tickets early. That’s why you see so many incredible deals on season passes, frequent skier card, and multi-ticket bundles at this time of year. It’s also why those deals will disappear before snow flies. By enticing you with steep discounts now, the ski area not only gets the immediate cash they need, they also lock you in to skiing there more often (thereby, they hope, spending more money on food and drink and necessities in the ski shop).

This is a win-win, because you get out more often and have more fun for a lot less money. And that’s true whether you want to buy a season pass and ski the same place for the whole season or buy ticket blocks and mix it up a little.

I’m on the email list for almost every Alpine and Nordic ski area in the northeast and I could probably fill this entire newspaper with the deals that have popped into my email inbox in the last couple of weeks. You don’t have to be overwhelmed with that particular avalanche – just pick the areas you might be interested in and visit their websites and sign up for their emails or “friend” them on social media. The deals will come to you

Hut Break

Speaking of deals, I just got an email from the AMC offering discounts of up to 50 percent on lodging packages at their New Hampshire and Maine properties. If you’ve never visited their alpine huts in the White Mountains or their incredible Maine Woods properties, now is a wonderful time. Here’s a hint: The best deals are at the Carter Notch Hut, which (along with Lonesome Lake) is one of the best to visit in foliage season.

(Tim Jones is the executive editor of the online magazine EasternSlopes.com and writes about outdoor sports and travel. Email him at timjones@easternslopes.com.)