The 4.1 mile Welch and Dickey Loop Trail, just west of Waterville Valley, is a hugely popular hiking trail. A portion of the trail known as the Welch Ledges is home to rare and delicate high alpine plants. Over time – perhaps thousands of years – small vegetated islands grew up on the exposed and rocky landscape of the Welch Ledges. These outcrop communities have been in danger of disappearing due to the heavy boot traffic of hikers passing over the Welch and Dickey Loop Trail.
The Rey Center at Curious George Cottage provides a stewardship program on Welch Ledges every Saturday in the summer, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The intent of the program is to educate visitors about the importance of the outcrop plant communities and the rare outcrop community species that exist on the mountain. The Welch Ledges Steward encourages hikers to stay on the trail and walk on bare rock (not on the low-growing outcrop community plants).
This summer’s Welch Ledges Steward is Betsy Bolan (pictured below). You may be thinking, I know that face. That’s probably because you’ve seen Betsy around Waterville Valley. She’s the vivacious, funny and knowledgeable person who runs the Information Booth in Town Square. You can often hear her laugh from across the Town Square.
Yeah, but I think I’ve seen her someplace else. If you’re wondering where else you’ve seen Betsy, think back to the popular CBS television series, Survivor. Betsy was one of the cast members of Survivor Samoa – Season 19 – back in 2010. Unfortunately, she fell prey to the dastardly villain, Russell Hantz (boo…hiss), who was (amazingly) the season 19 runner-up.
Betsy is a hoot. The Welch Dickey Trail’s popularity probably increased tenfold when she started working as a Welch Ledges Steward. Although she has a job to do, leave it to Betsy to have a boat load of fun while she’s doing it.
I recently asked Betsy how things are going on the Ledges this summer. In typical Betsy fashion, she replied, “It’s the best job evahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
She added, “I’ve met people from all over the world, even Nepal, and several large families of all ages who’ve hiked the Ledges to spread ashes and in memory of someone who died. It’s quite an honor to take those family pictures on the Ledges.”
“My favorite and most inspiring moment was meeting an 89-year-old couple (they were part of deceased tribute) who BOTH hiked up to the Ledges!” Betsy exclaimed, “At age 89! Inch by inch. It was amazing. I just loved them so much.”
On fair weather days, Betsy talks to a lot of people. “Thirty to forty people,” she said. “I especially love the college kids. Many of them are from Boston.”
Luckily the stewardship program appears to be working. Betsy said that “People have noticed the alpine plant growth and how far it has come from past years.”
So, even as Betsy is having a blast meeting hikers from around the world, they’re learning a valuable lesson. Stay on the ledges and OFF the plants.
Directions to Welch Ledges
From I-93, take Exit 28 and head east toward Waterville Valley on NH Rt. 49. In 5.6 miles turn left onto Upper Mad River Road. In 0.6 miles turn right onto Orris Road, following signs for the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail. In another 0.6 mile turn right onto gravel road, which leads 50 yards to the parking area for the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail. The trail is a loop trail. The most common route is going counterclockwise. It offers great views of the valley and southern White Mountains. Upper portion of the trail includes ledges and rock scrambles.