Thursday, July 28, 2016

New Hampshire: Day 5. Chesterfield Gorge and On Home

At the head of Chesterfield Gorge (note man in lower left for scale)
On our way to our friend's/host's house in New Hampshire, we passed a tiny wayside just after we crossed from Vermont into New Hampshire.  A sign said Chesterfield Gorge State Natural Area.  But it was already late, we'd been driving for about five hours, and we had four hours more to drive, so we passed it up.

Before we left our friend's house to head home, though, I'd already decided to check out Chesterfield Gorge as we drove back.  That, and the fact that I had Googled Chesterfield Gorge to find out that it likely was worth a half-hour break. 
Upper middle gorge
The gorge is very scenic but modest in scale - perfect for kids to explore in places but not too dangerous as long as the adults are careful.  The gorge was carved by Partridge Brook, a tributary of the Connecticut River.  The water in the stream was not crystal clear, so I suspected that the watershed was at least partially urbanized, but when I did a little investigating, I found that Partridge Brook is the outlet stream for Spofford Lake, which is ringed with residences.  The lake is probably at least somewhat enriched, and the creek quality reflects that eutrophication.
Lower middle gorge - the most impressive section
There's a path on each side of the gorge, which is about a quarter-mile long in total.  We crossed the wooden footbridge at the head of the gorge, walked down the east side, crossed the footbridge at the bottom of the ravine, and climbed back up the west side.

I did notice one really strange (to my eyes, anyway) feature of the natural area:  the deep, dark woods surrounding the upper end of the gorge were completely bereft of understory vegetation - completely bare.  I don't know if the forest was so dense that the meager sunlight that managed to get through the canopy couldn't support shrubs and small trees, whether the deer population is so high that they've eaten all the low vegetation, or if there was some other explanation.  Lower in the gorge, the surrounding uplands did support some understory growth.

Lower gorge and plunge pool
There's a visitor center near the parking lot, probably staffed by volunteers, but Kali wanted to get back on the road so I didn't go inside to investigate further.

One last aspect of our vacation.  Our route back home required that we travel through or near New York City.  My first inclination was to take the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson about 25 miles north of New York, but our friend had cautioned us that the Tappan Zee is being replaced with a new bridge and traffic is usually bad as a result, so I was inclined to bite the bullet and drive through the heart of New York over the George Washington Bridge on I-95.  As we approached the New York metropolitan area, there was a curt, enigmatic electronic sign along the road warning drivers to seek an alternative to the Tappan Zee Bridge - bad construction traffic, I assumed.  I assumed wrongly, as it turned out.  What had happened was that a construction crane on the new bridge had fallen onto the old bridge at noon, completely closing the bridge in both directions.  All traffic had to find alternate routes.  The next bridge north across the Hudson is a long way north, so most drivers decided to come through New York.  Needless to say, traffic was a nightmare.  We inched along for nearly 13 miles before getting to the George Washington Bridge.  Our already long drive back (9 hours without traffic) took us 11 hours.  Another good reason to avoid New York!    


robin andrea said...

Interesting little gorge there. A pretty stop on the way home. I can't imagine driving through NYC. What a nightmare. Glad you made it home and all is well.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: The traffic mess in NYC almost ruined our entire trip. I was so frustrated I just wanted to scream (ask Kali!).