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New Hampshire’s White Mountains offer incredible diversity within proximity. Kayak rapids, summit mountains and cycle single-track all within a two-hour drive. From the lively spring through toasty summer and into the colourful array of fall foliage, this crowd-free adventure destination will satisfy every weekend warrior’s appetite for adventure.

 

Day One:

Rafting, Kayaking and Hiking

 

To make the most of a long weekend adventure, I fly from Vancouver direct to Boston and drive to New Hampshire. After spending the night at Green Granite Inn in North Conway, I load up into my rental car and head north. I’m bound for Pontook Reservoir, where I’ll meet ELC Outdoors.

ELC stands for the Enriched Learning Center, an outdoor education program for at-risk youth. Started by a fellow Canuck, this adventure company offers customizable rafting trips on nearby lakes and rivers with rapids ranging from Class II to IV. Today, we’re at the Androscoggin River to tackle the easiest white-water. I’ll also be trying something new.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

“This is the duckie,” Eric, my tour guide, explains, pointing at the inflatable kayak that sits on top of a massive raft. “First, we’ll all go down the river together on the raft, then we’ll each be in our own kayaks.”

I’m a canoer—I’ve only been in a kayak a handful of times. I’ve never tackled rapids.

We push off on the raft together. I’m sitting in the front next to Jim, who’s here to improve his white-water kayaking skills. We bump and splash along the river for two miles. By the time we pull out, I’m soaked and shivering.

Partly, it’s nerves.

“I’m a bit scared,” I admit to Eric after he gives me a quick rundown on how to kayak.

“That’s okay,” he says reassuringly. “It’s challenge by choice. We don’t want to make you do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

I survey the duckie uncertainly. “I want to do it,” I decide.

I dip my paddle into the frigid waters and pull myself downstream. I turn the watercraft towards the first set of rapids.

Eric maneuvers in front of me. I’m picking up speed. Before I fully realise what’s about to happen, the front of my boat collides with his, sending him into a roll. He pops up from the icy water, sputtering and drenched.

“Sorry!” I squeal. Then, I start to laugh.

Tension dissipated, I continue down the rapids. Eric reminds me that my paddle is a tool. I push myself off rocks and paddle over waves, welcoming the refreshing spray that arches over my legs.

It’s fun.

Very, very fun.

photoELC Outdoors

Eric tells us that this river is a good place for families to raft but can be a bit disappointing for the Bachelor parties he hosts. “But, once you put them in a duckie on their own, everyone has an awesome time,” he says.

Once I’ve dried off and changed, I head back south on Route 16 to Pinkham Notch. At the Visitor’s Center, I chat with AMC guides and ask for trail recommendations. I’m pointed to Square Ledge, which offers an un-obstructed view of the mountains from a bald cliff-face, and Lost Pond, which leads to Glen Ellis Falls.

The hikes both begin from a well-marked trailhead across the highway. I cross a wooden boardwalk and turn left, choosing to tackle the elevation gain of Square Ledge first. The trail is only a mile long, but roots and rocks lace over the path, and steep climbs punctuate the rest. I emerge on the summit sweaty and breathing hard.photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

I meet a group of three rock climbers at the top. They’re weekend warriors, too; adventurers from Montreal seeking an escape from the city.

I climb back down the mountain and turn onto the Lost Pond trail. I make it to the shimmering water by the time the sun starts to set. I check my phone: the battery is dead. I try to find my way along the boulder-scattered trail towards the waterfall but decide it’s too risky to continue alone. Although this isn’t grizzly country, moose and black bears reside in the area. But the real danger is the rapidly changing weather.

I drive a little farther on Route 16 to Jackson, where I check into my unique lodging for the night: Huttopia. Freshly opened for their second season, Huttopia offers house-like tents with varying degrees of comfort. Some include heat and water; all have free Wifi. There are 61 Trappeurs, 20 Canadiennes, six Bonaventures and five chalets.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

I’m greeted by French managers Freddy and Thibaud. I ask Freddy if he’d call Huttopia glamping. “Not really,” he says, walking me to my ‘tent,’ “Glamping is seen as something expensive and fancy. We’d call it camping in France, but it’s not camping in America. Maybe it’s something in-between; where you can get into nature but still have the comforts of home.”

I have to agree. My trappeur tent perches beside the lake. The roof and walls are beige canvas; the frame solid logs. Inside is a small kitchen area, table, chairs and bathroom with a shower (and hot water!). Separated by the bathroom are two bunk beds with curtains for privacy.

After perfuming myself with bug spray, I walk back to the main area. Strings of lights exude a cozy atmosphere around the lounge, pool area and food trailer. I order an all-dressed pizza from Thibaud and bring it back to my tent to devour fire-side.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

As the flames dim to coals, I listen to birds and bugs cooing and calling to each other across the water. But other than their lonesome cries, all is still.

 

Day Two:

Summiting a Mountain and Biking

 

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

I wake up bright and early to drive to the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

Adventurers can climb Mount Washington several ways: hiking, biking, racing, driving, taking a train or a combination of two ways.

If you decide to drive yourself, expect to pay around $50 for a car with two passengers inside. The train costs around $78. The two-hour van tour I take costs $36.

Our knowledgeable guide talks about the changing topography as we rumble up the steep, narrow road. I'm happy I'm not driving myself.

We pass yellow paper birches and emerge above the treeline. Pops of pink and white diapensia and lapland rosebay flowers cluster on the rocks. They're rare alpine wildflowers, typically found in the Arctic.

75% of the time, the summit of Mount Washington is shrouded by clouds. But we're in luck: today the sky is astonishingly clear. I meet an out-of-breath climber near rock cairns that mark the trail. He tells me he ran up in an hour and a half to meet his mom and grandmother. They'll all be taking the steam train down together.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

From the viewing platform, I admire the stunning panoramic views. Blue mountains sit on the horizon. I look into Maine and Vermont and can almost see the Atlantic Ocean. After sufficiently enjoying the view from all angles, I meet my group for the ride back down the mountain.

At the base, I grab a delicious lunch at Glen View Cafe and rent a bicycle to tackle the Great Glen Trails. There are 45-km of trails to explore. I stick to the large, looping trails that are used for cross-country ski races in the winter, bumping over roots on single-track when I decide to slip into the forest.

I arrive at a a large log cabin, built for snowshoers and cross-country skiers to warm up in. I sit outside in the sunshine and catch my breath. From this vantage point, I'm treated to a rare view of Mount Washington.

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

Before calling it a day, I stop for one last adventure: the short, downhill trek to Glen Ellis Falls. The beautiful cascade of water is the perfect cap to a scenic second day in New Hampshire.

 

Day Three:

Zip-lining

 

After a delightful sleep at the luxurious Christmas Farm Inn, I have time for one more adventure before driving back to Boston and flying home to Vancouver.

Alpine Adventures brings me on the Treetop Canopy Tour. Consisting of six ziplines, this is the tamest option; ideal for families or individuals who want a taste of what it's like soaring through the sky.

It's raining when we set out in the adventure vehicle, an old military truck that bounces up the mountain. My helmeted head hits the roof several times.

We make it to the first zipline and are given a set of safety instructions. But really, the guides are there to do it all for us: we just get to clutch the harness and ride.

photo

It's thrilling flying through the forest at 40 miles per hour. Raindrops spit into my eyes, forcing me to squint. On the final zipline, we're treated to a surprise: instead of stopping at the end, we bounce back and forth several times, finally stopping in the middle. I crawl down the ladder in a fit of giggles.

 

I'm happily surprised by all the adventure options in New Hampshire's White Mountains. There's more than enough activities to fill a long weekend away, but if I had it my way, I'd stay even longer.

But, I've got a flight to catch, so I say my goodbyes and load back into my rental car, bound for Boston.

 

 

If you go:

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

Getting there: The White Mountains are a mere three-hour drive from Montreal (give-or-take time at the border). I flew from Vancouver to Boston direct, picked up a rental car and battled evening traffic to North Conway.

Packing: The White Mountains have some of the most unpredictable weather in the world, including wind speeds that often reach 100 miles per hour. Bring layers, bug spray, sunscreen and a camera.

Tips: For more information, stop in at the White Mountain Visitor Center, where you can talk to a Forest Ranger and pick up a map.

 

 

Disclaimer: Activities in this article were provided as part of a press trip through Visit New Hampshire.

 

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