The Basin and Artists' Bluff
Twin Mountain, NH - Events of Tuesday, July 30, 2013
We ran across a number of miscellaneous points of interest as we toured around the White Mountain area of New Hampshire. For example, on our way to Flume Gorge on Tuesday, we stopped at The Basin.
The Basin is a large pothole created by the waters of the Pemigewasset River as it flows over a granite cascade. Over thousands of years since the Ice Age, the swirling action of the water carrying stones and gravel carved a smooth-sided bowl into the granite bedrock that is 30 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep.
I-93 runs through Franconia Notch State Park. When the interstate was built, there was a compromise to limit the impact on the state park by restricting the interstate to two lanes through the northern half of the park, although there is a third truck lane on some of the uphill sections on the northbound side. The speed limit through the northern end of the park is 45 mph.
There are parking areas for several trailheads right along the interstate. The Basin has well-marked parking areas on both sides of the interstate, and The Basin is only about ¼ mile from the parking areas. The path to one side of The Basin from the southbound side is paved and is handicapped accessible.
Another point of interest is Artists' Bluff, which is a scenic overlook at the northern end of the state park. After we left Flume Gorge, we decided to see Artists' Bluff since it was right on our way back to the motor home.
We headed up I-93 from the gorge. Although the 45 mph speed limit seems very low for an interstate, most drivers don't seem to want to go much faster than that, and even the truckers are content to just enjoy the scenery. The next photo shows a view of Cannon Cliff as we headed up a section of the interstate with a third lane. Cannon Cliff is on the southeastern face of Cannon Mountain. The aerial tramway that we wrote about in our last post travels up the northeastern face of the mountain.
When we made the decision to hike to Artists' Bluff on the same day as we hiked Flume Gorge, we confused the trail at Artisis' Bluff with the description of the path at the top of the aerial tramway. The path at the tramway is "an easy walk with panoramic views." Had we known how much more difficult the hike to Artist's Point was, we wouldn't have done it on the same day as Flume Gorge, if at all.
The sign at the trailhead said the Artists' Bluff Trail was a 1½-mile loop, but it wasn't until we were well on our way up the hill that we realized it was a much steeper climb and not an "easy walk with panoramic views." Not only was the climb from the parking area steep, but the trail was covered with rocks and roots to trip you up and with loose gravel that made your feet slip. Not wanting to be quitters, however, we pressed on.
After climbing the hill, trail then travels along a ridge with more ups and downs. Fortunately, there are a couple of places where you can get some nice views, although the views are partially obscured by trees.
When we got to the eastern end of the ridge, the trail started heading back down. This end of the trail was even steeper than the ascent from the parking lot. Fortunately, Margery took along her hiking poles, but scrambling down over large rocks and boulders was still hard on her knees.
When we got about 2/3 of the way to the bottom, there was another trail that branched off to our left and headed back up the hill. "Artists' Bluff" was painted on a rock along with an arrow pointing up the new trail. It didn't make sense to us since we were already 2/3 of the way back down to the bottom of the hill. We were really tired at that point and in no mood to start making a very steep climbing back up, so we continued down. The trail ended at the road about .4 mile away from the trailhead parking lot, so we then had to walk along the road (uphill) to get back to the car. When you include the part along the road to get back to the parking area, we think the hike was more like 2 miles.
After we got back to the motor home, we did some checking and found out we should have taken the trail that branched off to the left that headed back up the hill to get to the overlook at Artists' Bluff. The photo below taken from Cannon Mountain the following day shows the route we traveled in black. We started at the parking area to the left and went clockwise. There is a short trail that branched off to the left to Bald Mountain near the trailhead shown in white that we didn't want to take, and the trail that we should have taken at the eastern end is shown in red.
The trail from the road at the eastern end (right) is steeper, but it is much more direct route to Artists' Bluff. Unfortunately, there is no trailhead parking at the eastern end. If we had to do it again, we would park in the trailhead parking lot on the left, walk down the road and take the trail on the right that goes almost straight up to the bluff. Also, if we had it to do over again, we would think twice about doing the hike at all, and we certainly wouldn't do it on the same day we had already hiked through Flume Gorge.After we rested our aching legs from the Artists' Bluff hike, we found even more things to see in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We'll tell you about several others in our next post.