Sunday, November 9, 2008

Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moon-light?

I know it has been a while since there has been anything new added to NET, and I apologize, things being hectic with work and travel. And admittedly, the template that they give you for these thingies on Blogger are not all that...exciting? But its a template, and fortunately they permit you to make adjustments. Finally got my act together! :) So, here is a trip from 2008. More is on its way!

No, I haven't, nor do I think the Devil would like to dance with me...I've got two left feet, I have no rhythm, and well...that's just not quite how I roll.

But somewhere, perched high on a mountain-top, whose bald granite skull peeks through the growth of hemlock trees, staring grimly down upon Lake Winnipesaukee and Merrymeeting Lake outside of Alton, NH, the Devil has made his home inside this dark, wet and cold granite tomb. I had read about the Devil's Den in Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire by Marianne O'Connor (leave it up to the Irish to find the spookiest stuff around...I'm about 3/4's Irish, so don't bad-mouth us!), and is probably my favourite source for the spooky hikes of my adopted state. Evidently, the earliest accounts of exploration of the Den left Eathan Allen Crawford and some climber named Leavitt (according to Ms. O'Connor's book) shaken when they discovered human remains in the entrance. But a later party who entered the cave found neither the Devil nor the aleged human remains. Also, the Devil evidently likes living in New Hampshire since he made several "Dens" throughout the state, not just this one in Crawford Notch, but also in Barrington and Nottingham, NH (damn that Devil gets around).

The trail is not easy to find, and the cave itself is even harder. Taking Rt 11 heading north to Alton,NH you reach the traffic circle, take your immediate right as you approach (this is New Durham Rd). This becomes Main St. At the Fish Hatchery take a left. Eventually the pavement ends right around the point that the road takes a sharp right. You want to find parking around this area, but careful not to block in anyone's driveway. Straight ahead is a dirt, very rugged road that takes off up the mountain. This is the ATV trail that you want to follow, just mind the people on three and four wheelers...they will see you and slow down, they were rather friendly and waved and gave plenty of room. Now that you got that part down, you just keep walking. Eventually you will reach a beaver pond on the left side of the road, and the road starts an upgrade toward the top of a hill. When you reach the crest, keep an eye out for the trail-head on your left.

The trail is actually a very easy hike, and the rock formations are damned impressive. Eventually you will reach the peak of the mountain, with spectatular views of Merrymeeting Lake and Lake Winni in the distance (if you are trying to figure out which is which, the reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaallly big one in Winnipesaukee). From the top of the mountain the trail continues down the other side. If you are looking for the Den, this is where things get rather tricksy. The very narrow trail makes a few switchbacks. You will eventually reach a ledge in the middle of the trail (where it takes off steeply through the woods), and you want to bear LEFT LEFT LEFT...up over some boulders, and then the entrance is a gaping maw into the cliff face (even my description is confusing and hard to find).

The cave itself is only about thirty five feet long and about 15 to 20 feet high. It never widens out beyond your fingertips if you spread your arms out. And it is cold, and it is wet. A flashlight is good to use, but I recommend a head-lamp to free up your hands, you will need them for balance. When you finally reach the back of this crevice, tucked in a slight corner to the left, you see daylight and a ladder leading you to the upper entrance. Right now I don't recommend using the ladder, it is slippery, missing a few rungs, and well...its not attached to anything at the moment...I hope to make it up there sometime in the Spring and secure the ladder so no one gets seriously injured.

But, as far as New Hampshire caves go, it is actually pretty fun, the sights from the top of the mountain are great, and if you time your visit right, the blueberries will be ripe. Well for the half day it takes to visit the mountain and the cave.

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