Looking up at Frankenstein Cliff towering 1000 feet above us thoughts of Mary Shelley came to mind. The scarred face of the granite wall, the block shape, all reminiscent of the monster’s forehead. I could see where it got its name. As it turn’s out my imagination was more interesting then the facts. It was named after a German born artist, Godfrey Frankenstein, who spent some time in the area. We were embarking on my first outing of the season to Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein cliff. 5 miles, a 1500 foot elevation gain; a moderate effort to get my hiking muscles back in shape.
We started up the side of a valley toward Arethusa Falls, situated 750 feet higher than the trailhead. Along the way we took a short half mile side loop to see Bemis Brook and Coliseum Falls. It was pretty, following along the Brook, its water high due to the recent rains, the trail dappled with sunlight. Pay back for the lovely scenery was the very steep climb out, over exposed roots and rocks, to rejoin the trail to Arethusa. We continued up the side of the valley, high above Bemis Brook and finally reached the viewpoint and had a stunning view of New Hampshires tallest waterfall.
I would have been happy lazing about by the misty falls but we had another few miles and a cliff to conquer. We pushed up one more steep climb and then things leveled off as we trekked along the side of a slope, peeks of the valley below visible through the thinning trees. At last we arrived at our destination. We stepped out onto the cliff and are treated to a spectacular view of Crawford Notch, a u-shaped valley formed some 20,000 years ago when the last glacier passed through. Below we see the Saco River, Route 302 and the Scenic Railroad track. Up to the right in the distance we see Arethusa sparking in the sunlight. Time for lunch, a rest, photos and taking in the scenery. This is, after all, the payoff for the effort we put into these hikes.
We always debate whether the descent is worse than the climb. In this case it’s a definite yes for me. It’s not far but the first half mile is a long one. Five or six steep switchbacks, piles of boulders, slippery runoff from the rains, all make it more difficult than I would like for a first time out.
Things level out as we pass under the Frankenstein Trestle of the Scenic Railroad and it’s short work to get back to car. Weary, sweaty, but already planning our next trip.
A side effect of climbing and then ascending a steep track is the stresses placed on joints – ankles, knees, hips and back – and sometimes a little fluid filled sack which protects the joints, a burse. The end result of injury to the burse is painful and the only cure is rest. Painkillers only mask the injury. Be careful climbing down steep tracks, take small steps and use a different lead foot on each difficult section. I found out the hard way and ended up with bursitis which still palgues me 18 months later.
Thank you. I am of an age where I try and be extra careful about those joints. Small steps is good advice. By the way next time you make swordfish, sour dough bread and that yummy sounding chocolate cake I’m coming for dinner.
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