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Fall In For Foliage

Off Campus | October 26, 2009

For a girl that grew up almost exclusively in the backseat of a car in metropolitan Philadelphia and Los Angeles, it’s rare that I’ll admit a craving for natural beauty and outdoor activities. But, by the third hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic and a McDonalds-induced stomachache, no affinity for belligerent drivers, near-accidents, and urban noise could make me turn back from my weekend trip to New Hampshire.

It was dark by the time my companions and I arrived at the Rodd family home in Bradford, New Hampshire. The combination of finally getting out of the car, being greeted by two gigantic dogs bounding across the driveway, and breathing delicious country air was heavenly. After being treated to the home-cooked generosity of Beth and Carey Rodd, the six of us spent the rest of the night sitting around an unbelievably quaint fireplace in the Rodd’s unbelievably quaint lake cottage.

Little did we know that we had a long, grueling day of outdoor activities ahead of us. In fact, anyone who knows me will attest that I find physical activity to be largely repulsive and wholly unappealing. That being said, our New Hampshire adventure was only getting better.

After stuffing ourselves with a heart attack-inducing breakfast the next morning, the team set out for Mt. Kearsarge and the Warner Fall Foliage Festival decked out in weather-appropriate gear that we’d packed ahead of time… just kidding; we looked like a band of traveling gypsies wearing whatever odd assortment of fleeces, hats, and sweatshirts the Rodds could offer us. This adventure camp was not exactly well prepared.

But, in retrospect, the unfortunate mishmash of clothing perfectly illustrates the splendor of this trip: even with minimal forethought, an astounding weekend outing is perfectly possible.

Standing at 2,937 feet, Mt. Kearsarge is the highest point along the trail running around the Kearsarge-Lake Sunapee region in Western New Hampshire. It hosts two state parks, Winslow and Rollins, and it’s accessible from several different sides. From Bradford, it took about 20 minutes to drive to the southern entrance in the town of Warner. After paying a nominal fee of $4 per person, we took a narrow, windy road that hugged the side of the mountain for another 15 minutes of breathtaking views and scenery before arriving at the Rolling State Park Picnic Area.

We were a tad too nauseous from breakfast to plan a picnic, but there are tables scattered throughout the lower park area. During the first part of our climb, the mist was slowly burning away, revealing an unbelievable sea of orange, yellow, brown, red, and green. At a certain point, we could actually see the heavy mist clouds yield to sunlight and roll across the sky.

Unfortunately, the higher we climbed, the mistier and windier it got. As we approached the observation tower at the summit, the wind was so strong that it was hard to breathe head-on and I was nearly knocked over. Luckily there were exceedingly helpful arrows drawn all over the rocks to guide me back down into the relatively sheltered path.

For someone that barely climbs stairs unless I’m feeling particularly guilty about last night’s dinner, this hike was the perfect combination of challenging and rewarding. The Rollins Trail is only about half a mile long, but it’s a steep incline. Though was muddy and slippery at times, but the rocks were generally easy to climb up and several children shamefully overtook me. (Look, I was taking pictures, okay?)

The autumn foliage is honestly breathtaking… and I’m not just saying this because I’m still amazed at how many trees there are in New England compared to my native desert home. The views were an endless panorama of more mountains and lakes marked with huge swaths of orange, yellow, and red. White birch trees starkly contrasted the other shrubbery and some parts were still dominated by deep green leaves and moss, but that only enhanced the shades of day-quil, exposed-brick, and ginger.

It took us about two hours to climb, descend, and thoroughly enjoy the hike at a leisurely pace. The most unusual spectacle we encountered was two women having a photo shoot with their dozen dogs to which they referred as “babies.” Still, Beth Rodd likes to recall a story in which she met a woman walking her pet goat along Rollins Trail.

Afterwards, we topped off our hike with the Warner Fall Foliage Festival, which was basically a small-town street fair where I rewarded my effort with hot apple cider, apple crisp, and sausage made from locally-raised buffalo, all while wandering around yet another startlingly quaint area.

It took me an hour to nap off the exhausting effects of fresh air, physical activity and fair food; by 10 pm, we were back in Boston. As disturbed as I am that I found fresh air so sweet and hiking so satisfying, I’m a changed person. A little trip to a little town for a little adventure was the perfect cure for mid-semester restlessness and senior-year stress.