These last three posts were all of the same amazing day so if you didn’t see the Old Man and the Cascade Trail, please do. The links are above.
Let me also make clear that all of these wonders are not in Vermont where I’m staying but in New Hampshire. It’s a quick less than 5 mile drive from the campground to the New Hampshire Line lucky for me.
On to the seriously fantastic Flume Gorge.
Every thing I read about Flume Gorge said that it was outstanding so I was totally ready to see how it could be better than the Basin and the Cascade Trail to Kinsman Falls along the river.
Because of my experience at Quechee Gorge, also exclaimed as wonderful, I was a bit cautious but still. . .
When I got to the entry building I found out it was $18 for a 2 mile walk. Hmmm. Really? $18 for the privilege of walking 2 miles more when I’d just done an amazing hike for free? I was raised by depression era children and learned my lessons well.
But I was here and it was here and because of those lessons I really am able to afford things like this so I paid up and started out. What a GREAT decision.
There is a fairly long trail before you get to the actual Gorge but there are a lot of things to see along the way. I believe the entire walk/hike is just over 2 miles.
First up was the Pemigewasset River bridge built in 1886. I didn’t see any information about whether it was moved here or not but I did read that it was built over the Pemigewasset River and has been restored several times.
The trail was a nice wide path that moved up into the woods and then down to the bridge which we walked by not through..
The scenic path led to the Boulder Cabin built in 1930 which almost no one, except those who wanted to use its bathrooms, went in but which had tons of very interesting information and old pictures. I was the only one reading the information and looking. This is only a tiny bit of what I learned and saw in the cabin. I’ll spread the history along with the pictures.
The Flume was discovered accidentally in June 1808 by 93 year old Aunt Jess Guernsey. Her favorite hobby, even at her age, was fishing and she wandered around seeking good fishing spots which was how she followed the sounds of waterfalls and found herself on the edge of a Chasm she'd never seen before. A Shear sided 700 foot chasm. She brought her family, who didn’t believe her story, out to see it. She went on fishing and telling that story until she died at 108.
There has been an admission fee for anyone who wished to see The Flume nearly from the beginning. At first it was a few cents per person and a fee for the team of horses people were allowed to drive as far as the Boulder Cabin area. No cabin yet. There they would hitch their horses to trees and while the guests walked up The Flume the driver would prepare lunch. Like the hotels this all seemed a fun thing for the wealthy.
Flume Hotel owners had stables with fine horses and carried their guests to The Flume as did other hotels and boarding houses in the area. When automobiles showed up the owners of The Flume changed to buses to transport the guests since there was not adequate parking to allow individuals to drive
After Boulder Cabin, the walk continued along the scenic stream. The sound of the water was lovely, people were far enough apart in their groups that I often felt like I was here all by myself.
I couldn’t imagine what this Flume was as I had done no advance research, not knowing if I would actually do it and wanting to be surprised if I did. This bridge was the beginning of the narrowing of the Gorge.
The wooden walkways through the gorge as it narrows and narrows are amazing. And even more amazing is that they take all of these walkways and stairs out every winter since the ice, which accumulates on the walls of the gorge, falls on them and destroys them.
Some more history.
After Aunt Jess’ discovery, of course, news of the new natural wonder in the White mountains spread. And of course a pass to The Gorge was cleared and rough walks and bridges permitted access. Thus the trips mentioned above.
Historic picture below is from the Boulder Creek Cabin exhibit
Soon stagecoaches were bringing people into Franconia Notch to explore this Flume Gorge and of course someone build an inn beside the road to accommodate those who wanted to explore.
The first one built was Knights Tavern and then there was the first Flume house in 1848. It was destroyed by fire in 1871, rebuilt the following year and lasted until 1918 when it burned again and I guess they gave up. It was operated in connection with the grand Profile House Hotel mentioned in the Old Man Post.
Here we start the steps up. Wish I’d counted them, but I was too busy gawking. Notice how close the walls are. This is a narrow gorge. 12 to 20 feet.
The walkway is on the lower left. Someone in red is standing on it. They look mighty small in this wonderous place.
Closer pictures of the wall hugging walkway.
The walkway turns into steps as we climb up the gorge.
Remember, all of these walkways and steps are removed and stacked every year to protect them from falling ice. Take a look at the historic picture below. Then of course they have to be put back every spring. I’m thinking I’m happy to pay $18 for them to do this and enable me to have this fantastic experience.
Looking behind me at the gorge. I think this is the spot shown above with all the ice but from the other direction. This is all just so incredible.
Still looking back at the bridge we crossed over to begin the walkway. How do they remove all this and put it back every year? I would love to see that.
The walkway goes across again near the top so that we can view Avalanche Falls which brings the water into the Flume.
I waited for the person behind me so I could have this picture for my wonderful memories collection. Sure wish David were standing beside me.
The falls with no distractions.
Close up of the full top of the falls. By now you know how much I love falls and cascades and well any natural water feature.
Close up of the bottom. Isn’t it just gorgeous?
A look back as I am forced to leave the falls behind and approach the BEAR DEN.
Who knows if it was ever a bear den but it’s a good story. When I first came up, a boy about 10 was inside growling and his mother was trying to get him to come out. It was very funny. I didn’t want to embarrass them by taking a picture.
I’m on my way back now and stop off at this top platform for a last look at Avalanche Falls.
There are other water features on the path back but they are a bit anticlimactic after where I’ve just been.
But then the path takes me to an overlook of Liberty Gorge and Liberty Falls.
Next stop is the pool.
Beneath this point in the Pemigewasset River is a deep basin formed at the time of the ice sheet, two hundred and fifty thousand years ago, by a silt laden stream flowing from the glacier. The Cliffs surrounding the pool are 130 feet high, the bowl 150 ft in diameter and 40 feet deep. If you dive in here, I have no idea how you would get out.
Walking on, I come to the Sentinel Pine Bridge built in 1939. It is named for the great pine that stood on the northwest edge of The Pool as if guarding it. When it came down in a hurricane, it was used to build the bridge. In its day it was one of the largest trees in New Hampshire, 16 feet in circumference and nearly 175 feet tall. Before the Revolutionary War, the King of England ordered the largest pine trees growing in New England be marked with an arrow as his property. Apparently this infuriated the colonists as much as The Stamp Act and the Tea Acts. The trees were regularly cut, floated down stream and used as spars in British Naval Ships. Somehow the Sentinel Pine was spared and it was nearly 200 years before it came down in the great hurricane of September 1938. I wonder if it had the arrow mark.
I walked through it on my way to the WOLF DEN.
It definitely has a great view of the river and the White Mountains beyond.
Like the bear den, who knows if this really was a wolf den but it makes a good story. The sign reads: ”This narrow one way path involves crawling on your hands and knees and squeezing between rocks”.
I suspect mostly kids do it but since I’m small, I thought very seriously about doing this crawl hike. I passed since by this time I was very tired after a very long and wonderful day. So I left it on my list for next time. At the end of the day I had over 18,000 steps and had gone over 7miles.
Down the steps and into the den if you dare.
Couldn’t get a picture any further in and no one went in or out while I was watching. Late in the afternoon is a good time to come walk the gorge. There were not many people.
I’ll close with my last look at the Sentinel Bridge. It’s a picture postcard for sure.
I would do this hike again in a heartbeat and am already trying to figure out when I can return. I still have to do the wolf’s den. Anyone want to make plans and meet up here?