Squam’s Crawford-Ridgepole Trail … or What I’ve Grown to Love About New Hampshire

When I started my quest to visit all of New Hampshire’s state parks two years ago I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  But what started as a whim has led to a much greater appreciation of this great state that I call home.  I always knew I felt comfortable here, but now I feel as familiar with the entire state is with my own back yard.IMG_0747Today’s hike of nearly 12 miles followed the ridge line of the Squam Range, with viewpoints on each of its 7 mountain peaks.  The 7-hour hike gave me lots of time to consider all that I’ve come to love and appreciate about New Hampshire.IMG_0735This trail and many others were built and are maintained by the Squam Lakes Association, a conservation group started over 100 years ago in 1904.  I love that even then, people had the foresight to treasure and preserve the beauty of this area, and that these trails are a legacy of their efforts.  Squam Lake is pretty much the center of the state and so encompasses much of what defines the Granite State.  It’s not the biggest lake, nor does it have the biggest mountains.  It’s not the wildest nor the most domesticated.  It’s defined by the works of nature, but preserved by the works of man.  If you could only visit a single location in New Hampshire, Squam Lake would be a good choice.

Over the last 2 years I’ve grown to love the depth of New Hampshire history, not only the nearly 4 centuries (!) of European settlement,

One of Hampton Beach's new permanent residents.

A 21st century addition to Hampton Beach

Inside the CCC Museum.

A museum honoring the works of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the early 20th century

Bradford Center church and old graveyard

19th century traces are everywhere

Granite monument celebrating the first settlement in New Hampshire

Site of the first settlement in New Hampshire in 1623

but long before that, from the Abenaki and other historical Indian tribes,

A panorama from a ledge halfway between the scenic road's parking lot and summit

View from Mt. Kearsarge, sacred to the Penacook Indians

View from Jefferson NH

Jefferson NH, where Paleo-Indian remains over 10,000 years old have been found

to the incredible story etched into the landscape by the advance and retreat of the Pleistocene glaciers.

Going was slow because there were too many great places to stop for photos!

U-shaped glacial valley of Crawford Notch

Sculpted granite at Diana's Baths.

Granite sculpted by the glaciers’ meltwater

Madison Boulder

Madison Boulder, a huge glacial erratic dropped off by the glaciers

I love how the even older history of mountain building – of twisted, tortured granite

Table Rock

Table Rock in Dixville Notch

and even volcanoes

The views from both North Mountain and the fire tower on South Mountain were wonderful.

On top of an old volcano – the ring-dike mountains of Pawtuckaway

is still evident.  All you have to do is look.  I’ve grown to really love the deep and layered history of this state, where each epoch leaves its mark and never quite erases the preceding ones.  It’s a state where even today, when man’s ability to erase the past is greater than ever, our respect enables us to cherish it instead.

But it’s not just the history that I love, it’s the biodiversity that has inspired and impressed me.  I love this web site and all the fascinating places it has led me to.  I love the trailsIMG_0695and the trackless.IMG_0669Nature is still found everywhere.

This is the largest single cluster of lady-slipper orchids I've ever seen

The largest single cluster of lady-slipper orchids I’ve ever seen.  14 in a single square foot.

On today’s hike not only did I see this amazing bunch of 14 lady slippers, but came face-to-face with a porcupine.  We had a brief conversation as we looked into each other’s eyes but as soon as I reached for my camera he made a dash for the safety of the woods.IMG_0785 IMG_0782Not so the snake or millipede pictured above, who posed unknowingly.  The best views were probably to be had on Mt. Morgan, and that’s where the crowds were.  The rest of the day saw few other humans but lots of the delights of nature.

Everywhere I’ve visited I’ve been pleased by what Nature has served up, from the pitch pine forests of the Ossipee to jungle-like mosses of Devil’s Hopyard, from the Alpine Garden on Mt. Washington’s shoulder to the white cedar forest of Bradford Bog.  One thing I never really appreciated before was the amazing diversity of wildflowers of every shape and kind:

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And everywhere I’ve been I see wildlife, not as rare visitors but as fellow residents of this great state:

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I love how in a single day you can drive from the Atlantic Ocean shore…

Great Island Common in New Castle

Great Island Common in New Castle

…to the Canadian border in the far north.

The trail to 4th Connecticut Lake follows the border and starts by going between the US and Canadian customs stations.

The trail to 4th Connecticut Lake follows the border and starts by going between the US and Canadian customs stations.

I love…

Spring

Spring

DSC07041the changing…

Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle

Summer

DSC07638of the…

Mill Pond, East Washington NH

Autumn

DSC05509seasons.

Mt. Washington and its eponymous hotel

Winter

DSC05974I love the energetic green of new growth,IMG_0755and the solemnity of old growth.DSC08395I love the ubiquitous, gnarly granite,DSC04899and the luminescent quartz.IMG_0835I love the lakes, waves, and waterfalls:

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I love the solitude…

Diana's Baths at 8 am

Diana’s Baths at 8 am

…and maybe even the crowds.

Diana's Baths at 2 pm

Diana’s Baths at 2 pm

I even love the subtle sense of humor, like today’s trail on Mt. Morgan.  It corkscrewed through a passage underneath a boulder,

The trail goes here?

The trail goes here?

then doubled back over the top and on up the mountain.

There’s so much to love about New Hampshire, and I’m so glad I’ve taken the time to observe and enjoy it.DSC09744When I was done with today’s hike, Carol and I picked up my car at the trail head and visited Beede Falls.  Following are a few pictures of the falls (the water level was pretty low) and a few more views from today’s hike.   Happy travels!IMG_0789 IMG_0803 IMG_0794 IMG_0767 IMG_0758 IMG_0751 IMG_0724 IMG_0720 DSC09738 DSC09727

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5 responses to “Squam’s Crawford-Ridgepole Trail … or What I’ve Grown to Love About New Hampshire

  1. It’s all so beautiful. I regret not having taken more time to explore the NH state parks and done some hiking, on my most recent trip. Definitely will put Squam on my to-do list.

    • As you know, there’s really so much depth to things when you start to look closely. I love the places you explore in your blog, too. It gives me lots of sites to look forward to visiting.

  2. Pingback: What is NH? | The Park Explorer·

  3. Pingback: The Steep Part – And What’s Beyond | The Park Explorer·

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