The more I travel the more I appreciate the astonishing beauty in the United States. There are so many things I love: lighthouses, waterfalls, beaches, wildflowers, mountain trails, the list could go on forever. I find that most trips take on some sort of theme and this one is no different, as today I visited my third gorge in as many days. This one was The Flume in Franconia Notch State Park in north central New Hampshire.
Even though the fall foliage here is “past peak,” inside the protected gorge there were enough leaves remaining on the trees to add some color to the trails. The Flume is a natural 800-foot long gorge with perpendicular walls that rise to a height of 90 feet. It was formed nearly 200 million years ago when the underlying granite fractured vertically, leaving wide gaps. Later, the molten lava that was forced up through these cracks cooled to form basalt rock. As erosion lowered the earth’s surface, the dikes were exposed. The softer basalt eroded faster than the surrounding granite, creating the deep valley that is today the gorge. After the Ice Age, Flume Brook began to flow through the valley, and the swiftly moving water further eroded the gorge and became a series of spectacular waterfalls:
Today the gorge has been made accessible from top to bottom through two miles of stairways, paths, bridges, and boardwalks that hug the sheer walls of the valley and hang out over dozens of waterfalls as they make their way down the steep granite flume. Although the gorge itself is a wonder of nature, it is the waterfalls that are the most spectacular feature in the park, ranging from gentle cascades that trip over low granite lips to raging torrents that roar and spew over precipitous cliffs.
Late in the afternoon I visited several other nearby sites in the park, including The Basin, a granite formation that resembles a giant bowl, was formed by a waterfall-generated whirlpool powerful enough to sculpt the resistant rock into a perfectly circular, smooth basin and Profile Lake, cupped on the valley floor beneath the former site of “The Old Man In The Mountain.” Sadly, the Old Man, a giant granite outcropping on the face of one of the surrounding mountains that looked like the profile of a grizzled old man, finally succumbed to weathering and gravity some years ago, tumbling to the valley floor. Today the placid surface of the lake that used to mirror the delicately balanced layers of granite that created the Old Man’s profile reflects only the surrounding mountains illuminated by the setting sun.
I pressed on until I had seen all of the major sites in the Park because I want to leave in the morning. Last night the temperatures dropped below freezing and the daytime temps are in the 40′s and low 50′s; it is just too cold here for this Florida girl. Tomorrow I head for the southern coast of Maine. I know, I know – that makes absolutely no sense, since Maine is further north. But I will be on the coast rather than in the mountains, so it is still a bit warmer. Plus, I understand the fall colors are still at their peak in southern Maine, so I can justify it – at least in my mind. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!