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The Bretton Woods ski area closed unexpectedly on April 8 after an unusual strech of rain and warm weather. With no temptation for me to go hit the slopes (see the Snowboarding Professor series), this was a great opportunity to get back on the trail and start the 2010 hiking season! Peter Wyatt and I decided to stretch our hiking legs that day with an easy hike to Arethusa Falls. These are the highest falls in New Hampshire, and you can appreciate how tall they are with Peter and I providing scale (left). The falls are particularly impressive this time of year; compare to the Halloween picture I took of them on my visit last year. What a difference!
We had expected quite a bit of snow on the way to Arethusa but there was hardly any (though notice the big patch of snow to the left of the falls) and Peter really wanted to try out his crampons. So we decided to push on and make a loop over the Frankenstein Cliffs, which is the hike that I had done the previous Halloween with Chuck Redepenning but in reverse. Going up Frankenstein Cliffs we finally encountered some serious snow (left) but it was cold and well-packed so we still didn't need any crampons. A bigger problem were the many fallen trees across the trail, particularly up along the ridge of the Cliffs, due to this past winter's blowdowns. Lots of work for the trail crew! From the ridge we had a nice view looking back down to Arethusa (right).
The best views offered by the Frankenstein Cliffs are not from the top of the ridge but from an outlook as you start going down. From there we had the classic view of the U-shaped Saco Valley to the south (left). To the west we had a great view of the Montalbran Ridge stretching from Stairs Mountain to Mt. Crawford (right). After that it was a quick hike down the cliffs, under a railway trestle dripping with oil (yuck) and back to the trailhead. A great first hike to start the season!