I got to New Hampshire just in time for the magical intersection of the long Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day weekend depending on where you are, and peak foliage color in the area, so everything was unusually crowded. Woohoo! I went on a few nice hikes in the White Mountains, the first of which was a quick waterfall trail which led over lots of roots and fallen logs alongside a stream with several small and one large waterfall. The trail wasn’t marked very well after a while, so these older gentlemen and I kept passing one another searching for the right path. They were unlucky and stepped on a root with grumpy bees and got stung. Glad I didn’t overlap with them there, yikes!

The next day’s trail was my longest day, which took me up one of the most heavily traveled trails, the Franconia Notch loop. It took me up a steep and rocky path on a misty morning to one of the AMC huts where I had some tea before continuing up to Mt. Lafayette (and sang Hamilton lyrics every time I thought the name), the tallest of the summits that day, and then along the ridge to Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack mountain summits before heading down an even steeper, muddy path. The loops had some fun boulders to scramble up and down, which was a little tricky going down since it was slippery from recent rain and the morning mist and clouds passing through. Like when I drove to the top of Mt. Washington a few years ago, it was clear at the base, cloudy the way up, and cold and windy at the top. I looked super stellar and svelte in my many poofy layers, I know.

My last NH hike was the Mt. Jackson & Webster loop, which was a shorter hike but I just couldn’t get as energized that morning and was slow going the whole time. I am admittedly rather slow going up steep sections, and have been more slow and cautions going down steep sections and rocks while alone, especially with no one to keep pace for, but man was I slow that day. The like 6 mile or so loop took me around 6 hours, but that includes photo stops, many snacks, some reading. I think I didn’t sleep well and was getting some leaf allergies, and was so happy to shower later (paid $5 at a campsite to use their shower and get water) and slept hard that night. Blah. At the summits on this hike there were these birds, some kind of jay I think, that were totally habituated to people snacking and expected to be fed. One very cocky bird swooped in and pecked my hand while I ate a cracker assuming I’d give it to her. Wrong move, bird, I was planning to give you crumbs but you lost that opportunity. Ouch! I ate the rest of my lunch hunched over behind a rock nervously watching for a return attack.

While in NH I also made time to go to a ski resort’s Oktoberfest celebration and watch people try to throw a keg, so that was pretty entertaining for cheap. Plus, something new and different, pretty leaves! Stayed one night by a lake which was spectacular in the morning as the mist started to lift and the birds were the only company at sunrise. Random other impressions: There were some beautiful old houses in Nashua and Concord, and the part of Manchester I stopped to watch the Nats clinch the division (woot!) was uber sketch after sunset. I guess there was a drug rehab place around the corner or something according to the guy who was trying very hard to seem rich and well to do. I know all about his yacht and construction business (for a self described rich guy I got zero free drinks out of listening to him for hours while really just trying to watch tv. Hmm) and he seemed very impressed that I could go without a shower for multiple days.

I also stopped by two more schools while here, one more traditional daycare program which happens to have several acres of land and is certified as a nature/green playground habitat and runs off solar, incorporates lots of outdoor time and nature based programming, etc. The other was a pretty amazing school that has two classrooms of preschoolers and/or Kindergarteners, one in a yurt and the other a repurposed and updated barn. The outdoor spaces were open yet defined, with a giant nest of logs as a meeting space, a forest with the alphabet hanging from trees making a letter path, and more. I’d estimate this program is about 75% outdoor most days, and visiting with them was like watching a promotional video for the benefits of unstructured outdoor learning. What an experience. The town it was in was cute, and the people at the town public library were the nicest.

Along the same lines, I also stopped by the campus of a grad program I’ve been toying with to refresh my memory of the details and offerings. This school seemed like a natural fit for my interests, and the campus had so many nice touches that really reflect their values of conservation and mindful use for their exclusively grad student population. I’m still not 100% sure whether to invest the time and money before having a better sense of what I intend my next move to be, but I was close that day. Not to mention the town in which it’s located, Keene, struck me as a place I could see myself spending time or living in or near. I have a feeling I’ll be back sometime soonish, New Hampshire. Maybe in winter to see if I can hack it!

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