Just off the trail you can find pleasant waterfalls and pools.
Baylah pauses for a photo of Crawford Notch on the top of Mount Willard.

Mount Williad Expedition

Editor’s Note: Though this trip took place on August 17, 2016, and the post is time stamped to reflect this date, the actual writing of this post happened on August 23.

I like calling my hikes “expeditions” because it makes me feel awesome.  But, I am going  to reserve this word for trips that summit mountains so that it maintains it’s special feel. Mount Willard (elev. 2,865 ft) may barely qualify as a mountain, but nonetheless, I’ll call this an expedition.

On the other hand, there is a funny thing about the hike up Mount Willard - the trail ends just before the actual peak of the mountain.  So, technically, we didn’t quite reach the summit. That said, the cliff-top area where people gather after their hike up provides spectacular views of Crawford Notch.  Since the rock face is exposed, the view are unobstructed, but so are the winds.  Though it was a warm day, the top was cold and cloudy, with lots of fog - and fierce, gusty winds that blew without ceasing.  In the cover of the forest and thus for most of the trail, the trees provided protection from the winds.

First, here is a map of the route we took:


There is a nice parking lot across 302 from Saco Lake (a handy map) just south of the AMC Highland Center and next to the Crawford Notch Station where the Conway Scenic Railway stops on it’s Notch Train excursions. We witnessed the train when we retuned from our hike.  There is also a small shop and restrooms - both of which are handy.

The day was warm at our Vermont HQ, but even at the base of Willard near Crawford Notch Station the temps had dropped considerably. We were a bit concerned at the onset that we might be too cold at the top, but things turned out ok as we worked up a healthy sweat on the hike.

The trail up Willard is an out-and-back and doesn’t connect to any other trails.  It does, however, start off with the Avalon trail.  After a short stint, the Willard branches to the left off of Avalon.  The Avalon trail continues southwest and eventually connects with the Appalachian Trail. The Willard hike is fairly easy, though it does climb some - we had about 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 1.5 miles up.  The total round trip was 3.4 miles and took us just about 2 hours, with a 20 minute break on the top to enjoy lunch and the view.

The trail follows a stream most of the way, and this provides opportunities for waterfalls, cascades and pools.  Plus, the pleasant rush of the running waters provides a great soundtrack to the hike.

This hike is popular, presumably because it isn’t too hard and provides a fantastic view of the Crawford Notch, as already mentioned.

As you can see from the photos, we got a pretty cloudy day - and though the fog was thick, we still managed some great views.  The wind was more bothersome, and we didn’t linger long.  Just long enough to soak it in and eat some lunch.  The cliffs are quite dramatic, and vertigo can set in if, like me, you have an aversion to heights.  I just kept a safe distance from the edge!

That's me in my Swift
A peaceful view from the captain's chair.

Little Hosmer Pond

Editor’s Note: Though this trip took place on August 15, 2016, and the post is time stamped to reflect this date, the actual writing of this post happened on August 23.

Recently, we acquired a pair of new canoes. After much research, pondering, head-scratching, and consultations, we decided to splurge on two Swift canoes. Baylah got a 12-foot Adirondack Pack Canoe and, being somewhat larger, I settled on a 14-foot Keewaydin Pack Canoe.  Admittedly, these aren’t the cheapest canoes you can get. However, they are super lightweight, which is really helpful in a number of contexts.  For one, it’s much easier to carry these boats around and put them on the top of our car for hauling.  Also, you can equip them with “yokes” and carry them on our backs, if we choose to take them out on a backpacking trip in the future.

Outside of Craftsbury, Vermont we found a great spot for an evening canoe to break in the Swifts. Little Hosmer Pond is a serene spot.  On the evening we were there, we didn’t see a single other person anywhere on the lake.  There is a convenient boat ramp for easy entry and parking.


The pond was still as glass and a joy to paddle on.  Though Baylah found rumors online of a loon population, we must have missed them.  Still, it was a great evening.  We had packed sandwiches (from Craftsbury General Store and were excellent!), but we found no place to beach so we ate in our boats.  The pond is surrounded, as far as we could tell, with private land, much of it marked “No Trespassing!” The boat ramp area has a bench where you can sit for a minute and was the only public place we saw.  It was a serene experience!

There is also Great Hosmer Pond, which is much narrower than Little Hosmer but also much longer.  We will have to come back and give that pond a ride!

Not bad for such a leisurely stroll.

Littleton from the top top the crags.

Kilburn Crags

Outside of Littleton, New Hampshire, and just a short drive from our Vermont HQ, is a pleasant path that leads to an ridge that has fantastic views of the town on Littleton.  On August 8, my wife and I ventured to the top of Kilburn Crags (there is handy map!) to catch this view.

As far as these things go, this was an easy hike.  The trail is wide and gradual the entire route.  There is about 540 feet of elevation gain and the out-and-back trip is about 2 miles long.  We took a leisurely pace and enjoyed the view for a good while - but we did not eat a meal on the route - which would have been nice.  The entire trip took us about an hour.  So - this is a great one if you have a dog in tow or kids who want to hike or you just want a quick, fairly easy hike, with nice views nonetheless.  We were also lucky because the weather was nice.

On Route 18 (also called St. Johnsbury Road) near its intersection with 135 (North Littleton Road) there is a small parking area with a handy sign for reference, though it is easy to drive right on past.

Though the sign says the route is .7 miles, my GPS suggested it is a bit longer.  Nevertheless, the 30 minute time prediction proved accurate - and that was with a bit of time soaking in the view at the top.

Somewhat oddly, the trip begins with a (recently, thank goodness) mowed path in a field next to a private house.  This short jaunt leads to the trail proper.  And I wondered if the guy who owns the house just mowed this for folks out the kindness of his heart.  I would have liked to donate some money to his gas fund!

The trail is well defined and rather easy going - wide, well-worn, and gradually up hill.  Nice way to travel if you can find it!

Finally, after a nice, well-shaded walk, you get to the crag, which is defined as a “steep or rugged cliff or rock face.” From there, you can see Littleton, New Hampshire sprawled out below.

Not bad for such a leisurely stroll! There is also a hand picnic table at the top, but we did not pack lunch.  Would be a great spot!  By the way, when you are done with the hike, you should head in to Littleton and reward yourself at Bishop’s Homemade Ice Cream - it is fantastic, and I personally highly recommend the cotton candy flavor. I know, it seems wrong, but trust me - fantastic!

And finally, here is a map of the hike as we did it:

A view on the way up. I think the road below is I-93. The trailhead is just a minute off of the highway.
A view from the top. Echo Lake is nestled in there. To the left is Mount Lafyette, one of the White Mountain’s 4K peaks.

The Day After Thanksgiving

I’m grateful for Thanksgiving, but what I really like is the day after Thanksgiving.

This day, there is nothing that must be done. Their is usually food leftover from the day before, so in the unlikely event that you do get hungry again, no problem. Everyone is recovering from the antics of the day before - cooking, eating, socialzing, arguing, drinking…etc.

So, the day after, you can do what you want. We went on a little hike up Bald Mountain, a short, easy hike in the northern White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Just off of I-93, right across from the Cannon Mountain ski area, you can quickly bop up to the top of Bald Mountain for some reaonably nice views. The payoff for the effort is quite high.

The hike up Bald Mountain has a modest stretch of rock scrambling, but it isn’t bad. It is very windy however, and you should be prepared to put on a jacket and hold on to your hat. After the peak, we came down and cruised over to Artist’s Bluff, which offers another nice view. After that, we turned back and returned to our car…a nice way to spend the day after Thanksgiving. Oh, and did I mention that after that, we ate pizza and drank excellent beer at Schilling in Littleton. Oh yeah, that was nice too.