Years back, when I was living on West Branch Road here in Waterville Valley, I was stretched out on a beach towel in my front yard, enjoying a siesta in the late afternoon sun. I was awakened by an apologetic middle-aged couple who asked if I could help them find their way back to their campsite. The woman was wearing open toe sandals with heels, a knee-length skirt and blouse, and she had a pocketbook slung over her shoulder. The man’s clothing was only slightly more appropriate for an outdoor walk around Waterville Valley on a hot and humid mid-July day.
The man kept mopping sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. They didn’t appear to have any water or food with them, unless the woman had stashed some candy in her purse.
I asked if they were staying at the Waterville Valley campground on the other side of town, or up on Tripoli Road. They looked puzzled and the man answered, “No, we’re tenting at a campground off Rt. 112.”
“On the Kancamagus Highway?” I asked, incredulous.
“Oh, yes,” they assured me.
The woman leaned on the man and took off one of her sandals and was rubbing her red, raw foot and said, “We thought we’d go for a walk in the forest, but we got a little lost.”
I tried to shake the siesta cobwebs from my head. “So…are you saying that you just walked from the Kancamagus Highway to Waterville Valley wearing high-heeled sandals on an 80-degree day with no water or food?”
The man and woman looked at each other with confused expressions.
“We’re in Waterville Valley?” they asked in unison.
I spent the next 15 minutes trying to explain to them that they had just hiked over the Livermore Pass, which by my reckoning was at least seven or eight miles, and that they would never be able to hike back to their campsite before darkness set in.
I offered to drive them back to their campground.
“How long will that take?” the man asked.
“Oh, about 40-45 minutes,” I estimated.
“Gee,” the woman said, still rubbing her foot, “That long?”
Duh. True story, by the way.
I’m not sure that any book, map, or website would have saved that unprepared couple from a potentially disastrous ‘walk in the woods.’ But, for the rest of us I found a great online resource for hiking conditions: TrailsNH.com.
According to sectionhiker.com, “The only way to get any accurate information is to find recent trip reports from other hikers or to try to piece together a forecast based on regional weather forecasts and previous knowledge of the area that you’re going to. But if you live in the Northeastern US, there is a fantastic hiking search engine, called TrailsNH.com, that indexes and organizes all the information you need to plan a trip. The brainchild of web designer and developer Kim Rexford, TrailsNH continuously scans trip reports from many regional hiking forums and popular blogs, geotags them, and plots them on a map so you can quickly scan through them to see what the weather is like in the area where you want to hike.”
(Above: My son, Tyler, hiking The Scaur)