I’ve walked in the woods plenty of times. If it’s any indication just how much, my husband is an Eagle Scout, and the fresh mountain air courses through his veins. We also live in an area that’s abundant with mountains, hiking trails, and scenic views, so it would almost be criminal to not enjoy such natural beauty so close to home.
I’ve always been fonder of the ocean than the woods, but something shifted in me when I hiked the Lincoln Woods Trail in Lincoln, NH.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been on the trail. I’ve been there numerous times with my husband and children. It’s even a favorite spot of ours for backpack camping. If you’re not familiar, backpack camping is when you hike into your campsite with everything on your back, in your pack. No loading up heavy coolers or BBQ grills or packing your car to the hilt. If it’s not on your back, it’s not going into the woods. Period.
The Lincoln Woods Trail is approximately 2.7 miles and runs along the east branch of the Pemigewasset River. It’s what I consider a “gentle” hike, as its mostly flat except for a few inclines in which you might breathe heavier than normal (speaking from experience). The canopy is usually thick and although on a sunny day the sun definitely finds its way through, there is ample shade and relief from excessive warmth.
The Franconia Brook Tentsite was my destination for the day. It’s about an hour long hike into the woods, given your pace. It runs parallel to the “Pemi” and is the perfect place to have lunch, sit in the sun, and dip your feet into the cold, rushing water.
As I began my trip into the woods, I crossed a newly constructed bridge. This was to be the first of 4 total along this particular trail. I don’t recall the trail needing such improvements, but it was clear that they’d diverted the usual course and some changes were in order.
I wound my way along the path, which had not only been widened, but had been altered from a casual wooded walkway to a clearly machine made swath. I felt like I was walking on an old logger’s road. As I rounded the bend, I met a lone man walking in the opposite direction.
We exchanged greetings. He was coming out of the woods, he volunteered, because he had left something in his car. He was spending the night in the woods. I asked if he was “from around here,” to which he replied, “No. I live in Massachusetts. Well, I work in Massachusetts, so that I can make a living to come back here. This is where my heart is.”
We parted ways, with his assurances that the “road” would indeed turn back into a path soon, and I immediately began to think about how the woods has such an impact on its’ visitors, especially the man I had encountered. We often live fast-paced lives and have a difficult time disconnecting from all of our distractions and just slowing down. There are no cell phones in the woods. No beeping horns or police sirens. You’ll hear the flow of the water, chirping birds, and the rustle of leaves. You’re able to live in the moment, to appreciate the peacefulness that a hike in the woods has to offer.
I continued on my way. The sun was bright and I could hear the intermittent sound of the water through the forest. As I wound my way along the path, I couldn’t help but think to myself that I couldn’t imagine being any other place than where I was. My newly found appreciation of the woods was solidified.
I should touch upon here that I’ve never really hiked much alone, especially for great lengths of time. I think I’ve always felt slightly apprehensive, mainly about being a solitary woman in the woods and fearing encounters with menacing people or animals (like bears). My husband always laughs at me at asks, “When’s the last time you heard of a bear attack in New Hampshire?” but to me that could be a real threat. For some reason, though, this trek through the woods put me at total ease and I was not fearful. Quite the opposite, I felt freer and more peaceful than I have in a long time.
I mentioned earlier that it takes about an hour to reach this particular destination. I would highly recommend slowing your pace, and taking even longer to get there. I noticed my surroundings more. I was crouching down on my knees with my iPhone 6 and snapping pictures of moss and mushrooms. I was taking time to inhale and smell the wet, woody scent lingering in the air from a recent rainfall. Perhaps not a smell I’d turn into a candle, but an unadulterated scent nonetheless.
As I wound my way to the end of the trail, I walked onto the rocky shoreline of the river. There you’ll see thousands of water smoothed round river rocks. The water was lower than usual, a product of many warm summer days and not a significant amount of rainfall. There are also many trees along the shoreline which have succumbed to the receding banks and have tilted into the water below them.
There’s nothing like the sound of the rushing water.
I sat on a large boulder as close to the sound as possible. It’s music to my ears, and extremely cathartic. I laid back on the sun warmed rock and stared up at the gorgeous robins egg blue colored sky. Wisps of clouds floated by. I heard the distant laughter of a group of boys building cairns on the shoreline. The moment was simple and pure, and I couldn’t have imagined doing anything other than what I did on that day.
I can’t wait to go back into the woods.