50 Hikes 50 States–New Hampshire
Sometimes, I don’t pick the right hike. After researching and looking at many websites, I’ll pick a hike that meets our criteria for our 50 Hikes 50 States Project, and off we’ll go to the trailhead without doubt. But our New Hampshire hike stopped us at the start; it just didn’t look right.
We had already walked a woody hike in Vermont earlier in the day and had meandered on the backroads of New Hampshire to get to our chosen hike, the Fauver East Trail just outside of Plymouth, NH. But at the trailhead, it just didn’t feel right. Only one car was parked, no trailhead info appeared except for a small name sign, and it just didn’t appeal to us.
So we quickly googled “hikes near me” and came up with what we believed would be a better and more interesting hike, the Red Hill Fire Tower Loop Hike. What a great decision!
Red Hill and a Fire Tower
We meandered for another 20 minutes to the trailhead, and happily parked in an area with life. People scurried around cars, packing up gear, and a trailhead with info and maps greeted us. With a 1200 foot elevation gain in 1.8 miles, we looked forward to a good sweat up the mountains to the fire tower on top of the hill. It’d be a nice addition to the woodsy hike from earlier in the day.
Quickly we learned why New Hampshire is called the Granite State. Gorgeous rock outcroppings popped up on and around the trail, making sure-footed stepping a requirement as we trudged up the left side of the loop. Occasionally we’d see evidence of the changing fall color as oaks, birches, and maples glistened the tell-tale signs of fall, oranges, yellows and reds. If only we could come back in another week or two for a full fall showing!
The hike up, rated as moderate, was a good, solid, cardio workout. Fortunately, occasional points of interest caused us to break for cultural fun. Ruins of the Horne Homestead entertained us first. The Hornes, one of the first homesteading families in the area, lived here in the early 1800s as farmers and gravel-providers from the new roads being constructed. Their root cellar remained.
The next stop on the hike up had Steve and me laughing quite heartedly. If you’ve ever been to our house, you’ll find an owl rookery. Not of real owls, but a rookery of ornamental owls Steve has collected from our travels around the world. He’s got teak owls from Athens, amber owls from Russia, and painted owls from Mexico, among others. So whenever something “owl” comes up, it catches his attention. The “watch out for the attack owls” sign was a first in our all our travels.
And Finally, A Fire Tower
After about 45 minutes of climbing, the trail finally peaked at the summit. Hikers rested with snacks to enjoy the view, and we got in line to climb the fire tower. Several flights of stairs up the tower we climbed as the temperature dropped a good twenty degrees and the wind picked up in blusters. Inside the tower we found the the surprise of the day! Kelly, the full-time teacher and weekend smoke watcher, pointed out the highlights of the view. Plus, well-marked signage pinpointed mountain ranges and lakes in the distance. We could see the Green Mountains to the west and the White Mountains to the east. What a view!
At an elevation of 2029′, the tower, through a series of land swaps and deals with private owners and public partnerships, provides smoke observation throughout the season. Due to its historical importance to the area, the Red Hill Fire Tower enjoys a spot on the National Historic Register as of 2003.
At the top of the mountain, we were five miles into our hiking legs for that day. Hoping the right side of the loop would be less steep, we headed down the Cabin Trail. A little more narrow that its western side, but just as steep, we gingerly stepped down the granite and through the maples.
More Homesteads and Some Famous People
A bit of the way down, we came across the highlight of this side of the loop, the Cook Homestead. Revolutionary War soldier Jonathon and his wife Charlotte settled the land earlier than their soon-to-be neighbors, the Hornes, in 1788. Several notable leaders of the time have graced this property, including the president of Yale University, a US President, and a famous author (Timothy Dwight, Franklin Pierce, and Henry Thoreau.) Coming from the west where European history isn’t so old, it was fun to know we had hiked in the footsteps of these textbook members.
Popcorn and Ginger Beer
Our syrup sandwich from earlier in the day had started to wear off. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill and near our car, we could have eaten a raccoon. Luckily, Brian from Red Hill Provisions saved the day. We grabbed a ginger beer and a bag of popcorn while resting in his cozy front yard, sharing travel stories of global hikes and playing catch with his pups.
The Best Dang Hazelnut Porter, Ever
Soon, we headed to our Airbnb near Concord. The proprietors showed good New England hospitality while we rested in their sitting room, then we made our way to dinner. Although my vegetarian chicken sandwich at Sea Dog didn’t place high on any deliciousness scale, the onion rings did. And the Hazelnut Porter absolutely hit a home run! I will remember that beer for quite some time.
By the time we got back to Crystal Lake Inn in Eaton, Bobby and Tim had placed chocolate cookies in our room. We cozied up, snuggled up, and fell asleep quickly. After a nine-mile day of hiking in New England, we slept like hibernating bears. The next morning, our bellies grumbled. We stopped in the Crystal Lake Market for grilled blueberry muffins, and headed to Maine for what we thought would be our last New England hike. (It wasn’t!)