One of the best things about travel is going on spontaneous adventures.
When I first started travelling, I used to plan my itinerary to the tee.
Sure, it’s still good to have a rough plan about what to do – and especially where to stay so you’re not left in the lurch – but deciding to do something just before you do it is often a lot more exciting.
And Dave’s pretty happy that over the years I’ve come to realise this and now are open to doing things on a whim, which makes travelling a lot more fun! (Or disastrous, depends on your luck.)
It was in one of these spontaneous moments that we decided to visit The Flume in New Hampshire.
We had a one night stop over, parking the van in a tranquil camping ground called Country Bumpkins on our way to New York City. Staying there was another spontaneous idea, and I admit that I might have chosen the spot because of its name.
It was a gamble that paid off, as we were given a beautiful camping spot in a corner where a river met a stream. That night we fell asleep to the sound of water splashing down the rocks near our van. It was very peaceful.
The next day, I pulled out the map and saw a place called The Flume. It was only a five minute drive up the road, so Dave and I decided to check it out, not really knowing what to expect.
What we found was a beautiful gorge that is surrounded by a 3.5km hiking trail so you can appreciate its beauty from every angle.
There’s a little museum and plaques along the route, which tells you a little about the history of the place.
The Flume Gorge was formed nearly 200 million years ago during the times of the dinosaurs. The granite walls that are to each side of the flume were previously molten rock that’s cooled.
Over time, erosion has lowered the surface of the earth and created a valley.
The natural history is fascinating but the story I enjoyed even more was how The Flume was discovered.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a 93 year old grandma called Jess Guernsey found The Flume while she was fishing.
It must have given you goosebumps to discover something so beautiful without anyone else around. Dave and I had a giggle when we imagined an excited old granny hobbling back to her house in the woods to tell her children and grandchildren about her discovery.
Unfortunately, none of her family believed her when she told them it existed and it took her awhile to persuade them to come and take a look.
When they did, they saw that there was a massive egg-shaped boulder hanging suspended between the two walls of the gorge.
This would have been a great natural wonder to see, but unfortunately for us, it was washed away in a storm in 1883. The strange thing is that the rock – which was 3m high and 3.6m long – has never been found!
The Flume has been open to tourists for more than a hundred years and black and white photos of sightseers trailing the paths around the gorge can be seen in the museum.
These days there’s a boardwalk to help you get up close to the tumbling waterfalls that cascade down the rocks.
If you want a bit of adventure, you can climb through a Wolf Den further up the trail. Dave and I did this and I had to take a few deep breaths. It’s not for the faint hearted.
At first, the Wolf’s Den is just like a cave. But then it gets smaller and smaller until at the end there’s a tiny hole that you have to clamber through to get out at the other end.
Once we’d entered there was no way back either as a gang of teenage boys followed us in and they weren’t budging. The Wolf’s Den is not a place for claustrophobics!
If you’d like to explore something a little tamer you’ll also find glacier boulders along the trail, some of which weigh more than 300 tonnes. These were formed during the Ice Age when a great ice sheet covered The Flume area.
Towards the end of the hike you’ll find the Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool. The pool is 12m deep, and surrounded by 39m cliffs which you’ll stand on for the view. To get to a viewing platform, you cross over the Sentinel Pine Bridge which was built from a giant pine tree which was smashed down in a storm in 1938.
Personally, I preferred this bridge to The Flume Covered Bridge, as standing on it gives you a spectacular view of the pool.
Dave and I left for Boston later that day feeling as though our spontaneity had paid off.
The Flume was a great find.
What you need to know about visiting The Flume:
Cost: Admission is $15 for adults.
How to get there: The Flume is only accessible by car. The address is listed below and it’s near the towns of Woodstock and Lincoln. It’s signposted so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find.
852 Daniel Webster Highway (Rt 3)
Lincoln, NH 03251
When to go: The national park packs up the boardwalk in the winter so it’s not destroyed by the ice and snow. In the summertime, The Flume is open from May 3rd until late October.
What else: Even though you can get a bus part of the way up a trail, you’ll still need to walk up quite a few stairs.