Getting to the starting line

Tumble Dick Notch

Tumble Dick Notch

2014 update: I was well out of cell phone & Internet range on this trip, so my original journal was handwritten. If you are planning a Cohos Trail trip, please note that public wifi service is now available for a modest fee at several businesses in Pittsburg, so posting enroute may be easier now. Some of the “trail angels” of whom I write are no longer providing accommodations and shuttles, so be careful of using my posts as a guide for your own trip.  For the most current information about the trail, your best resource is the Facebook page for Friends of the Cohos Trail along with the 2014 edition of the Cohos Trail guidebook. Mail inquiries to cohos@cohostrail.org.

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With the help of a Concord Coach bus to Gorham and a shuttle drive to Big Diamond Pond from Debbie & Yvan, two Cohos Trail (CT) supporters, I’ve arrived at Sportsman’s Lodge in Stewartstown [2013 note: no longer in business]. The CT passes about a mile south of here, through Coleman State Park. I could have camped there, and it’s a pleasant enough place, but Roger & Linda Glew run a fine inn at Sportman’s & I always enjoy coming back here. Their support of the trail’s hikers through the years has been tremendous.

While the CT is actually over 160 miles long, my goal for the next two weeks is quite modest: just the northernmost section, concentrating on the Connecticut Lakes. I’m planning to take my time & see all I can manage to see along the way.

We had a beautiful day for our drive up from Gorham, and we took our time up Rts. 16 & 26. We stopped in Dixville Notch, where Yvan & Debbie showed me the remains of an early 19th century homestead – nothing left but gravestones. We also stopped at Flume Brook, which must look heavenly to hikers coming down from Dixville Peak.

As we drove up Diamond Pond Road, Yvan told me about a man who lives on Big Diamond Pond & has a big model railroad scene in his yard. Someone vandalized it a few weeks back, & Yvan wanted to see what was left. Thus began the day’s highlight – better even than the dayhike I took later. We found the house with the train display, next to a boat launch for Big Diamond Pond. I saw what was clearly a labor of love by a real railroad fan. The scene must have been close to 30 feet long. The tracks wound around representations of all kinds of NH & North Country landmarks, including the Magalloway fire tower & the Old Man of the Mountain. The vandals, ignoring the scenery & decorations, contented themselves with tearing up the tracks.

A woman at the house saw us reviewing the damage, and she came out to chat. Her name is Mrs. C, and her husband built the model railroad. She said that when they woke up one morning and saw the damage, her husband was thoroughly disheartened. They reported the vandalism to the state police, and the report was picked up by both local newspapers. The response, according to Mrs. C, was incredible: people from NH, VT, ME & PQ wrote & called, offering help in rebuilding. “Where else in the world could you live where a story like that could make the front page of TWO newspapers?” she laughed, shaking her head at the results. The upshot is that repairs are underway. Oh, she was full of stories about Big Diamond Pond & its families & their histories. She was careful to point out that she’s not a native — “I’ve only been here 25 years” — but she loves this place. She & her husband lived in Maine & loved snowmobiling (still do), & one day their snowmobile outing brought them to this pond. They were smitten. They moved out of Maine and never looked back.

We stopped to look at a wrecked display, and found something being rebuilt instead. It was a totally unexpected delight.

She’s fascinated by my hiking plans. She saw Yvan’s Cohos Trail hat, and she asked about the trail. She had heard of it but didn’t know much about it. We told her about it from our various perspectives. She asked me about the section I’ll be hiking, and I described the route. She nodded and said, “Yup. Most of those are snowmobile trails.” (She sported a Swift Diamond Riders sweater.) This isn’t the first time I’ve benefited from the work done by snowmobile clubs.

Later in the day, I hiked out from the lodge to check out a short stretch of the CT between Coleman State Park & Tumble Dick Notch. The trail was extremely muddy – I mean boot-sucking, thank-you-for-Gore Tex muddy. I had a sunny day with a breeze, so bugs were only a minor nuisance. Moose tracks were everywhere. I was actually quite nervous about surprising a moose, but I didn’t encounter any on the trail. After an hour & a half, I came to the good view at the notch (pictured above), where I stopped for pictures before turning around. The trail is well-blazed & no trouble to follow in this stretch.

I’m enjoying luxury here at the lodge, including a good burger for dinner. I’m the only guest at the moment, so I ate dinner in front of the lodge’s huge TV watching the Sox, who aren’t having much luck today. I repacked my pack and tried to pare down my load, knowing that this was my last chance. I pulled out some odds & ends, but the big heavy things are the tent & the bear canister with food. I can’t do without them. I’m leaving a bag of clean clothes here, along with the aforementioned odds & ends. I’ll return in 12 days to reclaim them. Off to pare more. Camera case is the latest casualty.

One of Mrs. C’s remarks keeps coming back to me: “You have to love it here,” spoken very seriously, with the unspoken corollary: “…because it sure isn’t going to love you.” Winters are tough, unemployment is high, and all the kids leave the area as soon as they graduate (“our biggest export,” she lamented). She does love it, though.

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