Exploring a partially frozen waterfall along the Crawford Trail

Exploring a partially frozen waterfall along the Crawford Trail

BRETTON WOODS, NH – (Day 2 of 4) — Do you know the difference between a spruce and a balsam tree?

We’re hiking in the snow—micro crampons on our feet on the Crawford Trail in New Hampshire, with a guide from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highlands Center.

In case you are wondering, the needles on the spruce are spikey–thus “spikey spruce” and the needles on the balsam are soft (“friendly fir”!).

It is two days before Christmas and we couldn’t’ be farther from a mall. That’s why so many families have opted to make a trip to Highland Center a Christmas Tradition—or a Christmas gift.

“Our investment counselor told us the kids won’t remember how much money we give them but will remember what we do with them,” said Cynthia Dunbar, here with her husband Mark and their two grown daughters and sons in law from Massachusetts.

“Great Christmas gift,” said their 24 year old daughter Shayla—the gift includes spa treatments at the nearby Mt Washington Hotel.

The Crawford Trail, which we learn is the longest continually used trail in the entire country—since 1819–is beautiful—icy waterfalls,  no one else in site. “It was amazing,” said 14 year old Enesi Domi. “You don’t get to see a frozen waterfall every day!”

When we got back from the 2-mile hike, the kids were decorating Christmas cookies.

A young snowshoer examines a friendly fir tree

A young snowshoer examines a friendly fir tree

“There is such a nice festive spirit we all enjoy but not at all commercial,” said Suzanne Siner, here with her three young kids from suburban Boston.   “I love it because the kids can be independent…they’ve made friends here in past years and we all get a vacation.

She added that the shared bathrooms and communal meals just ads to the ambiance.  “Like a college dorm for families,” she said.

Ellen Marquesee was along on the snowshoe with two of  her three daughters.  Did I mention that we can borrow everything we need? From an extra layer to the micro spikes that made hiking on the snow packed trail a breeze to hiking poles and boots for the kids.

“This is much more our style,” said Ellen Marquesee, who said they were inspired to come in winter because they had brought their youngest daughter here last summer and all had such a good time.  The hike-their first winter hike—“Was a blast!”

 After the cookie decorating and hot chocolate, we decamp down the road for an entire different kind of experience—at the historic and huge Omni Mount Washington Resort that has been a fixture here since 1902 at the base of Mount Washington  and surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest and Bretton Woods, NH’s largest ski area.