Jean C.
West Roxbury, MA
Joined September 2018
Lifelong tent camper, now in a teardrop. Love hiking, photography, exploring in New England & beyond! Visited all 50 states,more than 70 countries.
Ranger Review: Banner& Oak Freedom sweatshirt at Beech Hill Campground

Campground Review: Beech Hill Cabins and Campground

I’ve camped at many of the campgrounds in the Twin Mountain, NH area and wanted to try a new spot. Beech Hill Campground did not disappoint with its large wooded campsite and numerous campground amenities at a fair price. You have to call to make reservations and can’t see the sites, but there aren’t many sites I wouldn’t want (3& 4 are small sites just across from a street light; a few others had slopes or a lot of roots). I was along Blueberry Lane, one of the roads on either side of the power line and all the sports areas(basketball, volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard) with some park benches and a view of Mt Washington). You may borrow equipment at the store. 

The sites are often narrower at the road (but still wide enough to make backing a trailerRV in easy) and then open up to a spacious site. There’s enough low growth under the trees that although you are aware of your neighbors, you’re not on top of each other. I was there on an early August weekend and the campground was not close to full. It was quiet and folks were friendly. There are a large number of seasonal sites in areas separate from the rest of the campers that are generally well maintained and neat. They also have some cabins and a park unit (see their photos on the website as I didn’t get to see the insides). Full hookups including cable will run $50/night. 

Laundry, bathrooms with showers, and a dishwashing sink are in a building near the entrance. Bathrooms are clean, if worn. They’ve been recently painted; the caulking/edges show their age more. Other amenities include an indoor heated pool, outdoor chess and checkers, a game room with air hockey, pool, and arcade games, and an outdoor playground. Saturday evenings there may be ice cream sundaes for a small fee; check their calendar for special events. 

The store is well stocked with everything from camping supplies, ice, and firewood to knick knacks, snacks, and maps. They also sell some campfire grills, which could be helpful if you’re cooking over a fire; the fire rings do not have grills. There’s a gated entrance, so you need to check in before the camp store closes on your first night. There will be a $20 cash deposit for the access card, refundable when you return the card. My cell phone had 2-3 bars 4G on Verizon. 

Product Review: Banner& Oak  Freedom Hoodie in Heathered Black 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get to review equipment. Just before I headed out on this camping trip I received a Banner& Oak Freedom Hoodie in heathered black. I was grateful for the cool evenings and mornings so I could try this out. I usually wear a women’s large, so I ordered this in a medium and the fit was perfect, coming down over my waist and wrists. I like the length, but if you’re shortwaisted, you may find it is too long. The fabric is super soft and lightweight, not bulky. 

When I put my hands in the pockets I discovered the left pocket had an~1 1/2” hole where the stitching didn’t join the front and back of the pockets. It was high enough that I wasn’t too worried about losing something through the hole, but I did make a point not to put my keys in that pocket; I’ll be running it through the sewing machine. The graphics are simple light gray lettering. It’s 60% cotton/40% poly, so you won’t want to rely on it for a hiking trip, but for hanging around a campsite, it's perfect!

Ranger Review: Banner& Oak Trek Burgundy Ladies Cap at Zealand Falls Hut

Campground/Hut Review

I stayed at Zealand Falls hut a few years ago while finishing my pursuit of the New Hampshire 4000-footers and have revisited it a few times on shorter hikes (it’s ony 600’ of elevation and less than 3 miles), including this weekend. It serves as a family-friendly first destination for new backpackers, a jumping off spot for a Bond traverse, or a winter destination. This is one of the few huts open year-round, although in winter you’ll have to hike up Zealand Road to the trailhead. 

With a stay in the hut during peak season, you’ll receive a pillow, 3 wool blankets, and family style dinner and breakfast. The rest of the year you’ll have a pillow and maybe a fire in the fireplace in the evening; everything else is on you, so plan accordingly. The co-ed bunkrooms are on either side of the central dining room and kitchen. The bunks are triple deckers and are not assigned. You have lots of neighbors in the bunkroom and someone is likely to snore, so you'll want some earplugs(usually supplied) if you can't sleep through it. 

It’s clean, folks are friendly, and the Croo will entertain while reminding you of the rules of hut life. There are compost toilets and cold running water. There are games and books for entertainment. Snacks are available. There may be a nature talk. If the skies are clear, you’ll want to check out the stars. A stay in the hut is pricey, but it's a great bargain if you have a long traverse ahead of you and want to keep your load a bit lighter.  Be sure to make your reservation well in advance; the ease in reaching it makes it a popular spot! Zealand is one of the cozier huts. 

One of the nice things about this hut is its location next to Zealand Falls. This late in the summer the water flow was on the low side, but I’ve been here when it’s been so high after a heavy storm that hikers had difficulty crossing it. From the ledges you have a view across the pond toward Mt. Tom and toward Nancy, Chocorua, and Carrigain. Relax on the rocks and soak up the sun, listen to the water, & chat with fellow explorers, or sit on the porch and greet hikers as they arrive. Time it right and you’ll likely meet AT through hikers with tales to tell. 

Product Review: Banner & Oak Trek Burgundy ladies cap

As a Ranger with The Dyrt, I sometimes get to review equipment. This time around I had a Banner & Oak Trek Burgundy cap for ladies. I chose it because I like caps with a low crown and this was in a color I frequently wear. Rain was threatening and I’m always trying to keep raindrops off my glasses, so this seemed like a good time to try it out; I find a cap also helps keep my hood in place. The fabric is so soft (true of all 3 Banner & Oak items I tested) and it’s easily adjustable, so the fit was perfect. Easily…that’s the operative word here. Banner& Oak chose a closure that makes adjustments so much easier than the ones where you have feed it through a bit at a time. Open the clip, pull the end, close the clip when it’s at the right spot.There’s a metal rim where the tab feeds into the cap so it won’t wear. The brim is slightly curved, which I like. I’m looking forward to a lot more hikes with my Banner and Oak cap!

quiet, large sites

I reviewed this campground last fall after visiting on the final day of the season, but I just had a chance to sty here during a peak summer weekend and have a few additional insights. Fees are now up to $20/night, still a bargain, but it comes with only the most basic amenities, i.e. vault toilets, running water at faucets, picnic tables and fire rings. Although the campground description indicates that the sites are first-come, first-served, this has changed and many of them are available online in advance. I didn't realize this and when i arrived late Friday afternoon I had 5 or 6 campsites to choose from that could accommodate my small teardrop camper; if I were tent camping, I'd have had a couple more sites available to me. The tent only sites require a short walk from the parking area.

When you arrive, each site will be labelled either Reserved or Open.  If it is Reserved, the dates it is reserved will be listed and they may not be contiguous. All the sites filled up Friday night. 

I had site 24 which I liked. it was very large and level, with ample space for today's large tents. The water spigot was near the site next door. I could see my neighbors, but they didn't bother me. Every host site always seems to look messy with tarp-covered items and wood piles and site 24 will give you a view of the host site, but it's far enough away that you can ignore it. 

If I were in a tent, I'd try for site 22. It's a walk-in site that includes 7-8 steps down, but it opens into a large open area and just a bit beyond there is a small brook, too.

The campground is just a few miles west of I-93 and the town of Woodstock. If you want to hike Mooselauke or the Kinsmans, the Appalachian Trail crosses 112 nearby. Lost River Gorge is nearby as are numerous tourist attractions/activities in Woodstock and Lincoln. Take some time to explore Cascade Park in Woodstock if you want to cool off in the river and lounge on the rocks (park on the street or in the lot that is north of 112 just before the traffic light at Rte 3 in Woodstock). While you're there, pick up ice cream at Coneheads; choose among numerous hard serve ice cream made on site (downstairs) or dozens of soft-serve flavors.

This side of 112 seems quieter than the stretch east of Lincoln. Noise level was quite low. Cell coverage is non-existent for several miles around here; you'll start to get a signal closer to Lost River Gorge in the direction of Woodstock.

Riverside campground; boat or drive in before hiking or rafting

It will be tough to beat the price ($6-12/person before taxes) at this Penobscot River Corridor campsite. Located just across the Golden Road from the Abol Bridge campground and before the bridge, Abol Pines is a state operated campground with picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, and a few sites with lean-tos. Millinocket is your last place purchase most forgotten items if you're coming from that direction, though there are a couple of smaller shops along the way. Be prepared to drive on gravel logging roads that can tear up your tires. Don't be surprised when the logging trucks start coming through in the morning.

I was here in early June, when rafting had started, but the Katahdin trails were not yet open. The campground was completely unoccupied. There are beautiful views of Katahdin from the bridge.  This is NOT the Abol campground located in Baxter State Park. If you're paddling or rafting the Penobscot or planning an attempt on Katahdin, but couldn't get a spot within the park, this may be just what you need. Your noise experience will depend on your fellow campers as there isn't a host on site full time. May and June, prepare for black flies!!!

You'll park and then walk into the campsites. There was a little water on the road, but easily passable. The sites themselves were generally dry.

If you're from out of state with a few people in your group, it may be less expensive to book a site in a more formal campground.

Dispersed camping, be bear aware!

Tripoli Road is a seasonal road, opening in late May most years and closing in autumn. Check the White Mountain National Forest Facebook page for up to date road closures/status. The section before Russell Pond often opens before the rest of it, which is graded, not paved. The road runs between the Waterville Valley area and I-93 exit 31. This is roadside camping, no frills, first come, first served. You must stay at a site with a fire ring, but sites are not numbered. Road signs demarcate no camping zones; some areas look like they could be campsites, but will also be marked with no camping signs. 

You must register at the ranger station on the western end of the road, shortly past the entrance to the Russell Pond campground. Rates are a flat rate set per car and per weekends or weekday period. In other words, you pay one rate for 1-5 weekdays ($20 in 2019) and another fee for a weekend($25-30 - holidays). It’s self service most of the time, with the ranger available Friday and Saturday evenings. 

The sites vary from sites near and level with the road to ones set above or well below the road. Some are near a river, most are wooded. Some are isolated, others are close together. There are no reservations, so you'll be choosing your own when you arrive. Downhill sites closest to the Russell Pond area seem to be most popular. Most of these were occupied on a late June weekend, while those farther down the road remained empty.

There are port-a-potties near the western entrance, but otherwise you’re on your own with cat holes or portable toilet solutions. Nearest showers are at Russell Pond. Please keep it clean and protect the area. I’ve passed through several times while hiking My Osceola and have observed that these sites are often filled with groups or families with multiple tents. On a late June weekend there are numerous empty sites, so they seem to be more available than the dispersed sites along Gale River Rd and Haystack Rd (farther north in Twin Mountain). Excessive drinking and noise can be an issue. 

You need to be aware that bears are in the area. Following the July 4, 2019 holiday, the camping area was closed after bears visited campsites and got into food that was left in the open and not secured in vehicles or bear canisters. The camping area re-opened July 19, but check the White Mountain National Forest FB page before heading up there. If the issue recurs, I wouldn't be surprised if they close it again.

Hiking in the region include the Osceolas (moderate hike with beautiful views, exceedingly popular and crowded on autumn weekends - get there early!), Tripyramid, and Tecumseh. Shorter treks include Welch-Dickey (great open ledges) and Snow's Mountain (along a river with falls). Nearby Russell Pond offers ranger programs, fishing, and you can put a kayak or canoe in. The Pemigewassett offers tubing and kayaking put ins. Outfitters one exit south can provide you with transportation and rentals. Exit 32 for Lincoln, Woodstock, and the Kanc is less than 5 miles north.

Cell service is decent at nearby Russell Pond (Verizon seemed to offer better service than AT&T).

Large group sites in summer; first come sites for all in winter

There aren't many campgrounds open in the winter in NH, but this campground just before the entrance to the larger Dolly Copp campground in Gorham is one of them. During the summer, it offers 11 sites for groups only with reservations required. 

There's a blend of wooded/open sites located in a loop. So often it seems that group sites are wide open fields with minimal separation. Barnes Field provides clearly defined sites with picnic tables and fire pits. Water is supplied by a hand pump and toilets are vault. There are showers ($) nearby in Dolly Copp. 

Rates in summer start at $40 for 10 campers and increase by $10 increments to $70 for 40. In winter you pay a per vehicle fee of $15.

There were youth groups and adult AMC groups at the campground. 

Site 8 is more secluded and up a small hill. Site 7 is in inside of the loop, wooded, and wet around the perimeter.

It's located in close proximity to hiking trails in the northern Presidentials and Carter range. Wildcat ski is 6 miles south. There are numerous trails around for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ATVs.

Dispersed roadside camping near Twin Mountain Trailhead & Franconia Notch

If you can't snag a site along Gale River Rd or you are looking to hike the Twin Mountains, then continue a little farther north on US 3 near Twin Mountain (a little north of the Beaver Brook Picnic Area) and try your luck on Haystack Rd. This road is closed in winter and will open in late spring after the road has dried out and any repairs have been made. In 2019, it opened in mid-June. Check the the White Mountain National Forest FB page or website (FB is usually more up-to-date) for road status, including closures in the autumn.

When open, you can drive in to one of 11 numbered, wooded sites and camp up to 14 nights for free. You may have up to 3 vehicles and 15 people on a site. The only amenity is a fire pit, but the road ends at the Little River, offering fishing and swimming options. The parking lot at the end of Haystack Rd serves as the Twin Mountain trail head. You may see moose or bears in the area.

Franconia Notch State Park is just south of here, with its hikes, recreation trail, echo lake, and the Flume. Head east on 302 and you'll find yourself in Crawford Notch State Park with waterfalls and hikes.

Forgot something? Fosters Corners just a few miles north has an eclectic selection of essentials as well as gas. Or take I-93 north to Littleton to a wider variety of shops.

Tentsites with water from a spring and compost toilets

The Valley Way trail is a direct and easy route to the Madison Spring Hut, but if you don't have reservations or the money for a reservation, the Valley Way Tentsite may be a suitable alternative. Fallsway is a trail that runs parallel to the lower part of Valley Way and the brook, giving you a great view of small falls. 

3.1 miles from the Appalachia Trailhead you'll see a sign marking the spur path to the tentsite. There's a brief uphill and then you'll pass a spring on the left, a bearline, and then the tentsites and composting toilet. The map at the tentsite mentioned 6 sites, but I could only locate 2 tent pads and 1 fire pit; now that I'm home, I see the website also only mentions 2. I had friends waiting, so I didn't do a detailed search.

It's a quiet, sheltered spot below the treeline. It's your only tenting opportunity in the area.

Spectacular views

This was my 4th time staying in one of the AMC huts, first time at Madison Spring. This hut on the northern end of the Presidential Range is a minimum 3.8 mile/3500' climb via Valley Way Trail, but friends and I took the less traveled Howker Ridge Trail (4.4 miles/4450' to the summit of Mt Madison and then a 1/2 mile descent to the hut). Others arrive via the Gulfside Trail as part of a Presidential Traverse. 

Staying in a hut has some perks for a multi-day backpacking trip.  A robust dinner and breakfast are included in the nightly rate; you also receive a bunk with a mattress, pillow and 3 wool blankets. Your pack will be a little lighter and you can replenish your water for the next day's hike.

Bunks are triple deckers, so be prepared to climb a ladder if you arrive late in the day. Your bunk will have a solar reading light and numerous hooks as well as a shelf. Meals are served family style. Dinner consists of bread, soup, salad, and a main dish (we had braised beef with peas& rice); breakfast this morning was oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon. Let them know about dietary restrictions when you make your reservation…and you will need reservations as the hut is usually full, though there are some special accommodations for through hikers willing to help out and sleep in the dining room.

There is potable water, sinks with running water, and compost toilets.

Depending on your route to the hut, you may want to drop your bag for a hike to the summit of Mt Madison or over to Star Lake. After dinner (at 6pm), there's a great view of sunset from the dining room or the porch, though many of us walked a little below the hut to get a clearer view of the sunset in the distance.  Before dinner or after sunset the guests may hang out in the dining room playing games, reading or talking until quiet hours begin at 9:30. The Croo will awaken you at 6:30 for breakfast at 7. We found we had minimal cell service close to Star Lake, but not in the hut. 

Before we left in the morning, we slackpacked to the summit of Mt Adams, the 2nd highest peak in NH, rising 1000' above the hut and offering views of Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson, then our way down via Valley Way and Randolph Path to our cars. Many other overnight guests, including throughhikers, continued on to Pinkham Notch or Mt Washington.

We had beautiful weather both days, but it is always good to check the higher summits forecast from Mt Washington and plan appropriately. We encountered sunny skies, but it was windy on the summits. Although some of the huts are open year round on a self-service basis, Madison Spring closes in the autumn.

Great location along the Kancamagus!

This National Forest campground in Albany, NH is just west of Conway on the Kancamagus, which means it's a great location for hiking, tubing (Saco Rv in Conway), fishing, and even shopping; the choice is yours. To reach it from the Kanc, you'll need to cross the covered bridge where there's a height restriction. If your rig is >7'9" you'll need to enter via Passaconaway Rd via West Side Rd in Conway [heading north on 113/Main St, turn left just before the library and then after going through the Swift River covered bridge, turn left again on Passaconaway Rd].

Some of these sites are reservable online, but others are first-come, first-served. If you're in a tent, the sites along the back side of the loop, up the hill, offer some extra privacy. These sites won't work for an RV, but the other sites will. This campground is a bit quieter than others along the Kanc because it is set apart by Passaconaway Rd. For services you have water and vault toilets; no hookups. Nearest showers are down the road at Jigger Johnson campground, but not until Memorial Day. For cell service, you'll need to head back into Conway; it is absent for most of the Kanc. If it's open and you're passing by, you can also get cell service near height of land on Bear Notch Rd, but this is closed until late spring.

Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge are nearby. If you're going to be in the area for a while, stop by the Saco Ranger Station and purchase a weekly parking pass for all the White Mountain National Forest parking areas/trailheads. Hiking opportunities abound. Popular nearby hikes include Champney Falls/Mt Chocura. Potash Mountain and Hedgehog Mountain are hikes with nice rewards for moderate effort. The Russell Colbath House offers ranger talks during high season.

Parking Lot RV Park in a beautiful state park

On the far side of the parking lot at Echo Lake Beach/Cannon Mountain you'll find 7 RV, full-hookup sites. Reservations are recommended in the summer, but from Columbus Day to mid May you may have a chance with walk-up. Be sure to check the entry station for any reservations so you don't have to move later when someone shows up to claim their spot. The rates drop after Columbus Day and the water is turned off.

 There is a grassy area behind the RV sites. You'll enjoy more privacy farther from the beach entry. There are coin-operated showers at the Lafayette Place campground a few miles south.

During the summer there is a beach at Echo Lake offering boat rentals. A public boat launch is on the far end of the lake. There's a small lakeside store open when the beach is open. Just across the street is the short but rewarding hike up Artists Bluff, giving you a view into Franconia Notch; continue along the ridge and you'll enjoy the western views from from Bald Mountain. The 8.8 mile multi-use (bike/pedestrian) recreation trail runs on the far side of Echo Lake through Franconia Notch State Park. In the winter, there's skiing at Cannon Mountain. The tram offers a quick route to the summit for different views of the autumn colors.

If you aim to hike Franconia Ridge, on the weekend you can catch a shuttle from the Cannon skier parking lot. With a family, explore the Flume gorge, the Pemi trail, the Basin, and the New England Ski Museum.  Within easy driving distance are tourist spots in Woodstock and Lincoln to the south, the Cog Railway up Mt Washington to the northeast, and Santa's Village 35 minutes north.

Polly's Pancake Parlor is a few minutes up the road in Sugar Hill if you'd like a robust breakfast, but call ahead to shorten your wait times. If you've forgotten something, Littleton offersa wide selection of shopping only 15 minutes away.

Large grassy riverside sites but the traffic will keep you awake

This is a roadside campground with several large, grassy sites that wasn’t my first choice, but it was late at night and my other option hadn’t panned out. It is located right beside US302 and you’ll hear vehicles and see their lights driving by all night. Zealand Rd, which takes you to the 2 Sugarloaf campgrounds as well as the Zealand Trailhead, cross the Ammonoosuc River here and there is a picnic area on the other side of Zealand. 

When I pulled up at night, there were fireflies lighting up the grass and woods. There are water faucets and vault toilets. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Some of the sites are more secluded, particularly 4-10. They’re all first-come, first-served, so you can choose your site upon arrival. Be prepared to carry your tent and other gear a short distance from your car for several of the sites. I was surprised to see how the sites with wooded parking areas opened up to the grassy expanse near the river. Access to the river isn’t great. It’s not a place where you’ll be swimming. 

Stay here because you couldn’t get a site at one of the Sugarloafs and you want to hike in on the Zealand Trail or you want to head south into Crawford Notch explore there. The Cog Railway station isn’t far away. If you need any last minute items, stop by Foster’s Crossroads in Twin Mountain. For a quick hike with nice views, drive up Zealand Rd to the Sugarloaf trailhead. It will take you to a saddle between two peaks on the 52-with-a-view list.

Wilderness camping in a prime location

I was looking for an inexpensive(i.e. free) place to crash on a Thursday night, so I headed toward Gale River Loop Rd to see if I could snag one of the 11 dispersed camping sites in the White Mountain National Forest. It was nearly dark when I arrived after my 3+ hour drive from Boston, so it was hard to identify the sites and determine whether they were occupied. Turned out they were all occupied, though not all had vehicles. You may have better luck midweek. 

I returned in the morning to get a better sense of the area. I’ve driven along this road a few times because the trailheads for Garfield and Gale River, along the northern edge of the Pemi Wilderness, leave from here. The Gale River Trailhead is also an AMC Shuttle Stop. These sites are free and offer no amenities beyond a fire ring; there is water from the Gale River. 

They are heavily wooded, though some of these open into open fields. It has been a very wet spring(2019), so some of the sites were quite wet. Please either bury your waste or use a portable toilet! You must stay in a numbered site (there is a numbered pole by each pull-out/site), may stay up to 14 days, and may have up to 15 people and 3 vehicles at each site. Some of the sites are better suited to larger vehicles (one was more open and had a bus parked in it). Other sites require you to park near the road and walk a bit to the site. Rangers patrol the area. 

The Gale River Loop Rd is also known as FR 25& FR 92, leaving from the east side of US3, between I-93& US302. This road is closed in the winter, will open after mud season, usually in mid to late May, and close in the fall generally in October. The White Mountain National Forest Facebook page will generally provide more up-to-date status lists than the website, so check there before heading out. There are moose in this area, so if you are traveling around dawn or dusk, stay alert! You don’t want to hit a moose. I’ve seen them in the wet areas beside the road. 

If you’ve forgotten something, you may be able to pick it up at Fosters Crossroads in Twin Mountain, just north of the loop road. The Walmart in Littleton, NH is about 20 miles away for larger purchases. 

In addition to the hikes to Galehead and Garfield, this is a central location for family friendly hikes such as Artist’s Bluff and Bald Mountain or the Sugarloafs as well as exploring all the treats in Franconia Notch and other peaks in the Pemi Wilderness.

Ranger Review: Morsel Spork at Greenleaf AMC Hut

Greenleaf Hut Review: 

It had been a while since I had stayed in an Appalachian Mountain Club hut in the White Mountains, so decided I’d book a stay at one I had not visited before. It was the summer solstice and I was hoping for a chance to catch a sunrise or sunset from Franconia Ridge. The AMC huts are spaced in such a way that you can make multi-day hut-to-hut hikes or, do what I did, and just make it an overnight. A stay in the hut during full service season is pricey,$120-171/night, depending on membership status, the season and day of the week; it’s lower for children. For that, you’ll get a full dinner with soup, salad, entrée and desert as well as breakfast with some entertainment by the hut Croo. Meals are served family style, so you’ll get to know your fellow hikers, or, like me, you may even run into someone you know from home! Your bunk will be in a co-ed dorm room shared with 5 other hikers, but earplugs are provided just in case your roommates snore. The rooms are assigned, but you choose your bunk from what’s available when you check in; they’re triple deckers and feature a reading light, 3 wool blankets, a pillow and a thin mattress. Pack a sleeping bag liner or light sheet for comfort. Pegs for your packs and jackets plus a bench complete the room furnishings. Plan a trip in May and you’ll be on your own for meals and bedding, though a caretaker is available in the evenings and morning; you’ll also save a lot of money! You can fill your water bottle at the hut. Restrooms feature cold running water and composting toilets. A smoall shop offers t-shirts, hats, and a few camping essentials you may have forgotten. There are small porches overlooking a small pond/bog below the hut and Mt Lafayette rising another 1000’ above the hut. Cell service on Verizon was 1-2 bars. Naturalist may offer a program before dinner. There are a few direct ways to reach the hut. Old Bridle Path climbs, sometimes steeply,>2400’ over a little less than 3 miles; on a weekend you’ll want to use the Cannon Hiker shuttle for the driver. The Greenleaf Trail provides a slightly gentler path and departs from the Cannon tram lot. Many will hike the popular loop hike steeply ascending Falling Waters Trail past several beautiful falls before joining the Franconia Ridge trail to Mts. Lincoln and Lafayette. This is stunning in fine weather with views into the Pemigewassett Wilderness and across Franconia Notch to the Cannon-Kinsman ridge, but can be miserable and dangerous in foul weather. Plan accordingly! From Lafayette, you’ll descend 1000’ over a mile to the hut. 

Product Review: Morsel Spork: strong, not flimsy

As a ranger with The Dyrt, I sometimes get to review equipment. On this trip I was able to review the Morsel Spork in the Mini and XL sizes as well as the Spoon. My original plan had been to hike up to the ridge and eat a re-hydrated lunch along the way and test out the Morsel; the forecast for rain and high winds had me re-thinking my plans. I hiked directly to the hut and then hiked the ridge in reverse the next morning. Before leaving the hut, I added hot water to my dehydrated meal so it would be ready when I hit the summit. It was cold enough that I was eating with gloved hands; the extra length of the Morsel Spork meant the gloves stayed clean. The spatula edge let me scrape the edges clean so I didn’t waste any of the calories. There’s a nice bowl on the Spork spoon end. I tried breaking the Morsel without success. It’s stiff, yet flexible. The‘knife’ edge is on both sides of the fork, so it works for righties or lefties, though it’s not ideal if you have a steak to cut. That said, I’ve cut chicken without much effort, though I did need a second tool or finger to keep the meet from flying away. 

If I were buying just one, I’d go for the Morsel Spork XL. I can’t quite figure out why you would want just the Morsel XL Spoon, unless you knew you were eating just a soup. The spatula is nice for cleaning out a jar, though! The asymmetric form will get you into almost any corner and the sturdy structure means you can scrape even the stickiest of peanut butter from jar. This is not a flimsy tool. I like the colors that help you find your new favorite tool in your backpack.

Wilderness camping in a new national monument

It was tricky to find any information on this campsite and then the loop road didn't open until just before I left the Millinocket area. It has been a very wet spring after a heavy winter, so there were lots of delays and it didn't' open until after Memorial Day, so I didn't get to stay here, but I did get to visit!

Because the Katahdin Woods and Waters (KWW) National Monument is so new, information and services are limited. Sometime this summer they are supposed to erect signs to the park; until them you're dependent on small signs and trusting you haven't missed a turn. 

On to the campsite…it's first come, first served, at the beginning of the gravel loop road in the southern section of KWW. There are picnic tables, vault toilet, fire ring, and a tent pad. To light a fire, you will need a fire permit. Per their website, "A free permit is easily acquired prior to a visit by calling the Northern Regional Office of the Maine Fire Service at 207 435-7963 or visiting them at 45 Radar Street in Ashland, Maine." It's bear country, so plan appropriately. There's a spot with easy access to the pond/stream for launching a kayak (I"m not sure how deep it is, esp mid-summer) or wildlife watching (moose, bear, birds).

The 17-mile loop road features overlooks that include views of Mt. Katahdin, trails to peaks and waterfalls, and multi-use trails for bicycles, horses. There's an information board here as well.

You'll want to pick up any necessary items and fuel in Millinocket before you head into the Monument. Don't count on cell service. Be prepared to change a flat tire.

To get information about KWW, you MAY be able to visit the visitor's center in Millinocket (it was only open 1-4pm on Thursday; it has longer hours during the summer), but I found the best source was a Friends of KWW booklet that I picked up at a Maine Visitor's Center that included a map centerfold. There's a map here, too: Katahdin Woods and Waters Map

Ranger Review: GCI Outdoor Compact Camp Table at Wilderness Edge Campground

Campground Review

I headed to the Millinocket area because I wanted to explore the new Katahdin Woods & Waters (KWW)National Monument, Baxter SP, ponds and byways. Staying at Wilderness Edge proved to be an ideal location with full amenities. It’s convenient to each of these areas without requiring an extensive drive to any of them. My visit was very early in the season ( late May/early June) and the trails to peaks at Baxter state Park were still closed, so it was quiet. The sites are in two sections, with tenters up the hill in an area I did not have time to explore, and a lower section with hookups for RVs. The RV sites offer electrical and water. The location of the hookups is somewhat unusual and inconsistent. My site had the connections on the right side of my camper once I had backed it in, so I had to be careful about placement or have longer cords. It then made sense why Marcel explained that some campers like to park parallel to the camp road to create some privacy,

My site (6) was large and level, backing up to the woods and with trees between the sites providing some privacy. There were no sites directly opposite mine as the loop road turned and went up a hill. The very clean bathrooms are up the hill, providing free hot showers and also a dishwashing sink.

There’s a small camp store with a selection of necessities, just in case you need a map or forgot a backpack, etc. They’ll deliver firewood to your site. There was wi-fi available, strongest near the bathroom, but I had more than adequate cell phone coverage (Verizon) at my site, that I did not need to use the wifi. There’s a pool and a play area near the entrance.

This is not a campground packed with seasonal sites; they only have 2 seasonal campers. Instead, the campground fills with families, singles, couples, looking for a quiet camp setting with amenities. The amenities do come at a price, costing more than other campgrounds, but also providing more.

If you want to explore, the Discover Katahdin app is great for identifying hikes or paddles, etc. so be sure to install it to help with your planning. It’s also worth stopping by the Moose Prints Gallery in Millinocket. Anita provided some excellent suggestions for wildlife watching and paddling. If you’d like a guide, Marcel is happy to offer small tours.

In town there are a variety of shops, including groceries, dollar stores, and hardware.

Product Review: GCI Outdoors Compact Camp Table 20

As a ranger with The Dyrt I sometimes get to test and review camping equipment. On this trip, I was able to review the GCI Outdoors Compact Camp Table 20 (it also comes in a larger, 25” size). This is a great little table with telescoping legs (love the squeeze mechanism to get them to collapse), giving you two height options while occupying very small space in your vehicle while traveling. You may find yourself using it for more than just camping (I saw one in a picture of a recent tailgate party). It’s aluminum top allows you to place a hot pot on it. It can handle a substantial weight and doesn’t feel wiggly. It’s great for dinner by the campfire!

Ranger review: GCI Roadtrip Rocker at Lily Bay State Park

Campground Review:

This large state park has two loops located on the shore of Moosehead Lake in Greenville Maine. Many of the sites are on or have a view of the water. They are large and, in general, private. The campground map includes letters to indicate the rig size each site can accommodate. Tent only sites generally require you to walk in from a parking area, many taking you closer to the water.  When I arrived, it was quite windy and I was grateful that my site in the Rowell loop was a little farther away from the water. The sites are wooded. Both loops have boat launches. There’s a playground and beach. At night you can enjoy the call of the loons; that was the only sound I heard at night during my stay, but I had few neighbors so early in the season (late May)

Because of its proximity to the water, the toilets in the loops are all vault toilets. There is a centralized bathroom with flush toilets, showers, and dishwashing sinks.

This is a great location for fishing and boating on the lake or nearby ponds, hiking peaks as part of the Pinnacle Pursuit in the greater Greenville area, exploring the B-52 crash site memorial, or seeking out moose on small ponds and logging roads. If you want some assistance finding moose, check out the moose tours that run out of Greenville, but you’ll likely have success at Lazy Tom Bog, the Maine DOT lot on your way into Greenville from the south, or on any of the logging roads at sunrise or dusk.

2-bar cell service on Verizon at some areas in the campground (I had coverage at my campsite, but not in the more central locations and not on Lily Bay Rd).

Product Review

As a ranger for the Dyrt, I sometimes get to review equipment that is useful when camping. During this trip, I was able to review a GCI Roadtrip Rocker. I already own (and love) a Freestyle Rocker and wanted to compare it to the Roadtrip.

The Roadtrip Rocker has a taller back and a deeper seat, so it’s more comfortable, providing greater support under the thighs. They both have a cloth pocket for holding drinks. The rocking mechanism seemed less consistent…depending on the terrain, it didn’t always seem to feel as smooth. Shorter friends found it less comfortable.

The Roadtrip folds up into a bag which means I can toss it into my camper without worrying that it will bring dirt in with it, but it’s heavy and tall. It does take a little longer to get it into the bag. They’re both great for sitting around a campfire.

Ranger Review: Midland Radio X-Talker T75VP3 2-way Radio @ White Lake SP

Campground Review

Friends and I have started a Memorial Day weekend camping tradition and during a visit here last fall two of us decided this would be our destination. White Lake has large sites, a gorgeous lake with a pair of resident loons, and proximity to the White Mountains National Forest (hiking galore, river, history), the Saco River (tubing, etc.), and Conway/North Conway tourist attractions.

The lake is clear, the swimming area is shallow for quite a distance so you can feel comfortable with kids, and there is a separate boat launch area. If you don’t have your own boats, they offer rentals of kayaks and paddle boats. On the day you leave, you can enjoy the beach, but you will have to park in the registration parking lot. You may want to bring bicycles or plan to walk a lot to get to and from the beach.

There are multiple loops, some offering water views. The water view sites are just that…views. There are some short trails leading to the lake from the sites, but for most of them they are down a little hill. A few of them even offer lean-tos.  Most of them can accommodate smaller RVs as well as tents. There are no hookups, but there is a dump station. Sites are close together. There are also a group camping area and a few family camping sites. Although many of the sites are reservable online, some of them are held back for walk-ins. Our sites are now first-come, first-served, but we reserved them last year. Memorial Day weekend, there were still vacancies, but during my Labor Day visit last year sites were full very early Friday morning. Quirky thing about the sites…the maps and the posts in loop 1 just show the basic number, but in the reservation system, loop one numbers are in the 100s (i.e. site 44 becomes site 144) No pets.

The bathrooms at the beach include flush toilets, but no showers. In the campground there are coin-operated (2 minutes/$0.25), hot and clean showers.  I also noticed that showers are available in the bathroom next to the campground store/office, but they are locked when the office is closed, so I didn’t get a chance to check them out. The bathroom serving our area (we were in A loop, sites 44 & 46) could use some maintenance. The toilets don’t flush well at all; the flushing mechanisms need to be replaced. They need to fix this (it was a problem when the season closed last fall, too) to earn that 5th star)

Our neighbor ran his generator ALL.NIGHT.LONG. the first night, but a ranger spoke with him the next day and he shut it off. He ran it during the 5-8pm time slot after that, but we didn’t have to deal with it overnight again. Glad that they addressed it. Your noise experience will vary depending on your neighbors. There are a lot of families here.

Our sites were large and level, but after we pitched our screen tent we realized there were ground nesting bees all over. They didn’t bother us, but it was disconcerting to see them lining the edge of the screen. A little online research showed us that they nest in the spring. It was late spring, so black flies were our biggest challenge! Plan accordingly.

There are some small stores, a gas station, and a Dunkin Donuts just outside the campground. Full shopping needs can be met in Conway and North Conway. During my two stays here (as an adult; apparently our family camped here when I was a kid, too), we kayaked, swam, hiked to Champney Falls, and another hike in the Ossippee area, and went tubing on the Saco (do this earlier in the year when there’s plenty of water on the river!). Mt Chocura is a great nearby hike.

Product Review: Midland Radio  X-Talker T75VP3 Two-Ray Radio.

As a ranger for the Dyrt, I sometimes  have fun opportunities to try out equipment while camping. For this particular trip, I was camping with several others and we anticipated times when we’d split up for a bit or hike at different paces, so it seemed like a great opportunity to test the Midland Radio X-Talker T75VP3 Two-way radio. I found it more challenging than I anticipated just to decide which radios to test. I had to learn a whole new vocabulary to understand the implications of the different specifications; once I received it, I needed to read the manual to figure out the various menu options and how to make the changes. I have a copy of the manual downloaded to my phone for easy reference!

Here’s why I chose this package:

  • 1. I liked that the radios have rechargeable batteries and a charging base, both via USB. If the battery dies and you need a back-up, you can use AAA batteries. They charged quickly and I found the battery life was quite long on stand-by.
  • 2. They have long-range capability with high and low power settings, though you need ideal conditions to maximize this.
  • 3. I could use it on low power without a license.
  1. Weather: you can find the local weather forecast as well as receive weather alerts. I may not have cell service everywhere, but I can generally get the radio feed.

Real life:

It worked well over a mile with a combination of lake and trees. I arrived before others and went off to explore, so I left a radio at camp and asked them to radio me when they arrived. When we went hiking in the White Mountains, part of our group went faster than the others, so to radio allowed us to keep in touch even while traveling separately. These are not the staticky transmissions of my childhood walkie-talkies; messages are transmitted clearly and easily. We didn’t encounter any traffic on the radios, so we didn’t bother with the privacy codes.

First to Review
Wilderness camping on a river beach

The Omaha Beach campsite is part of the Penobscot River Corridor. Coming from Millinocket on the Golden Road (about halfway between Millinocket Lake and Abol Bridge), you'll see a turnoff to the left for "Debsconeag Campsites 4.5 miles." This is a rough road that I traveled with my Subaru Forester, but the other vehicles I saw are all high clearance trucks. There are still large puddles in places (May 31), but all passable. ~3+ miles from turnoff onto Debsconeag Rd is the sign for Omaha Beach. There's a short drive to a parking area with a latrine. You can drive to the beach for unloading purposes, but then return to the parking area with your vehicle. There's an iron ranger to pay per person camping fees ($6.54 Maine residents/13.08 nonresident with lodging tax in 2019). You may boat in on the west branch of the Penobscot, which was fast moving and high during my visit in late May 2019. There are a couple of  picnic tables and fire rings. Bring your own water or water filtration. Nice sandy beach. Black flies problematic everywhere in May and June, so come prepared!

1.1 miles farther to Little Omaha Beach, then boat launch and Wheelbarrow Pitch. 

Ranger Review of AfterShokz Trekz Air Headphones at Blackberry Crossing

Blackberry Crossing Campground is a first-come, first-served White Mountain National Forest campground just west of Conway, NH on the Kancamagus Highway. It’s an old CCC base from the 1930s and there’s evidence of it’s former life all around, with chimneys and foundations in the center of the main loop. It’s small, with only 26 sites. The small loop to the right runs parallel to the Kanc, so you’ll get more highway noise there. There are some walk-in tent sites toward the back of the campground. It has been a very wet spring with a lot of rain and snowmelt and this open, walk-in area showed the effects. The tent sites are spaced around the perimeter, at the edge of the woods, but they’re in an open field. The middle of the field was very wet, but the tent sites themselves were elevated and dry.

I was in site 12A, next to the hand pump for water. Vault toilets were a campsite away. There is a small stream running behind the campsite and trillium were starting to bloom. Like most WMNF campgrounds, the sites are large and generally level. Site 12, next door to mine, is probably least attractive, because it has a large slab covering most of the site and it’s right next to the vault toilet. This campground is smaller than the nearby Covered Bridge Campground (also WMNF), so there are fewer people to make noise. The campground host was friendly and available, offering to delivery firewood ($7) to my site for me.

Prices have gone up from what the website states; it’s now $25/night. If you have a second vehicle, you’ll pay an additional $5. If you want a shower, you’ll need to hope that Passaconaway Campground is open for the season and be prepared with quarters (it wasn’t this weekend in mid-May, but Franconia Notch State Park is if you’re in that area). Bring cash to pay.

If you’re looking to get out and explore, the Champney Falls trailhead for the hike to Mt. Chocura is a few miles west of the campground, but get there early to beat the crowds. Other fun, family friendly areas to explore include the Lower Gorge, Rocky Gorge, Sabbaday Falls, and Potash & Hedgehog Mountains. I was out driving early and encountered a young moose crossing the road. Consider stopping at the Ranger Station at the beginning of the Kanc (from either end) to pick up a parking pass so you don’t have to pay the iron ranger at each spot if you’ll be driving around a lot. If it’s summer and you need to cool off, there are many places to go tubing on the Saco River.

If you’ve forgotten anything or need to fill the car up before you drive across the scenic Kanc, you’ll find it in Conway, just a few miles north of the junction of the Kanc and 16.

Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, it’s my privilege to test different gear and provide a review. My AfterShokz Trekz Air bone conduction headphones arrived and I was anxious to check them out.  Let’s just say, I’m in love. Like any partner, there’s a lot of good along with a few negatives that I’m willing to overlook. The Trekz Air have been my constant companion for the past month. Right out of the box, I turned them on, paired them with my phone with ease, and was listening to my audiobook in a minute or two. Also in the box was a smooth, zippered, waterproof storage pocket that held the USB charging cord and some foam earplugs in a plastic holder. It’s large enough that I could easily store a portable battery pack in the pouch, too.

The packaging doesn’t contain clear instructions about how the headphones are supposed to fit, but there are online videos that I watched just to be sure I was wearing them correctly. The headphones slide over the ears and are held in place with a light tension from the speaker/microphone units just in front of the ears; the band in back doesn’t touch my head. After a couple of days, I didn’t feel the slight pressure behind the ears. I sometimes forget I’m wearing them if I’ve turned them off. I love not having something IN my ears, especially when I’m listening for extended periods! I wear glasses most of the time and found there was no problem fitting them over my glasses. Friends with longer hair had a little extra challenge putting them on.

The fit is comfortable and secure. I tried shaking my head all around and these didn’t budge. What a great difference from some other in-the-ear wireless earphones that I’ve used that fall out or transmit extraneous sound.  For the past month they’ve joined me for my daily commute on foot, bus, and subway; while working on projects around the house and yard, setting up my campsite, and hiking up and down mountains, and biking around the campground. Occasionally the loop behind my head bounces off a pack, but a light touch puts it back in place. It didn’t interfere with a bike helmet. I loved that I could put my phone down and listen to music, books, or podcasts as long as I stayed within about 30’ of the phone before it started cutting out. That meant I could set up my campsite without having to worry about dropping my phone, etc. The button on the left side lets me stop and start the playback with a touch; buttons on the right let me adjust volume or turn it on or off. Turn it on and it announces the battery level.

These are great for times when you are hiking alone, want to enjoy the sounds around you, but would like some additional entertainment or inspiration. My trail this weekend included rumbling brooks, beautiful waterfalls, and fellow hikers…and I could enjoy all of them. They are not great when riding on the old, noisy subway in Boston unless you use the foam earplugs to block external sound. If you turn the volume up too high, you’ll start to feel a slight vibration on your cheek from the headphones. Battery life is substantial, reaching a full charge in a few hours and lasting for at least 8 hours of playback in my experience. And I would love a color other than black for the storage pouch. Finding a black pouch in a black-lined bag is a nightmare! (And no, it doesn’t need to be orange.) Thrilled with these comfortable headphones!