Frankenstein and Falcon Cliffs (and the Long Way Down)

When I picked Lilo up from the vet hospital, I promised not to take her on any twelve-mile hikes for a day or two. She was in fine form on Friday night and Saturday, though, and Titus desperately needed to stretch his legs after, so we all hopped in the car for a shorter jaunt.

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I had hiked an out-and-back to Aresthusa Falls, which may or may not be the tallest single-drop waterfall in the state depending on who you ask, in early winter. That hike was supposed to be a loop starting with Frankenstein Cliffs, but we lost the trail early on and followed the tracks to the falls side and that ended up feeling like enough for the day. This time, I lost the trail again in the same place — but was smart enough to ask Lilo to find it. She put us right back on the blazes. Good girl!

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Cattle frog + mud hole = OTP

After a bit of sidehill traversing, we came to the trestle. This is still an active track during the warmer months, though I believe only for “excursion trains.”

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Better signage here than down by the parking lot!

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I had read a blog post by someone who had, terrifyingly, thought they needed to cross this bridge as part of the route. I was not about to follow suit! But did climb up the bank to take a quick peek around at the view from the top.image

On the way back down, I tripped and rolled my ankle hard enough to feel it in my knee. Ow. I envy people who are able to hike terrain in trail runners; I’d love to scrub some weight, but with my dodgy ankles, I just don’t dare. Happily — not only for the sake of the hike but because I drive a stickshift and need all my limbs in working order — I walked out of it and so we went on.

Apparently I’m not the only one who found the trail a little hard to follow at times, as shown by this marker where the trail turns left and an inviting(?) small slide goes straight up…

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Positive reinforcement fail!
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Waiting for me to realize that she was indeed on the trail.

There are some steepish bits of rocky trail on the way up to Frankenstein Cliffs and the occasional big step up was required, but there was nothing that I’d classify as a scramble and nothing that made me nervous to watch Lilo tackle while I helped the little guy. This hike did make me appreciate the hind-end awareness work that I did with Lilo in her early training, mostly just for fun and as something to do. Titus, like many dogs, has no idea that he has hind legs — which means that he doesn’t use them to his advantage in dealing with terrain. But he’ll learn!

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Approaching the outlook.
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She beats me to all the best views.

We passed a handful of folks on their way down the trail while on our way up, but had the cliffs themselves (and most of the middle miles) gloriously all to ourselves. I really love this sort of view, you guys. Don’t get me wrong; I like a 360-degree bare summit, too! But there’s something about stepping suddenly out of the trees to a sudden edge and a look down into wilderness that speaks right to my heart.

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A less-crowded Willard-like view of the Notch.
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Supervising my walk down towards the edge.

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Titus is doing much better with tethering, by the way! I do tend to scatter kibble for him instead of putting it in one spot for Lilo; he’s a little vacuum, so no worries about scraps being left, and it gives him something to do while I eat and enjoy the view. His quarter still runs out at the end of a longer outing, which is totally fair. But he’s no longer offended by the basic idea of the thing. Progress!

My plan for the hike was fluid. I wanted to get to Frankenstein; from there, we’d turn back or continue based on how the dogs and the weather were holding up. Everyone was in good spirits and the rain was holding off, so we packed up and continued to the spur trail to the next outlook, Falcon Cliff.

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The blazing was better up here, but it was blowdown city.
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Lilo wasn’t loving the humidity, so I put her vest on Titus to help keep her cool. Also, I don’t even know what to tell you about his face.
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Falcon Cliff!

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The view from Falcon was a bit more restricted but also a bit more wild. That’s a good trade in my book! As you can see, it was also a bit more misty…and no sooner did I think, Hmm, than the first raindrops fell.

That cut the humidity nicely!

Too bad Lilo hates hiking in the rain.

It also made a decision for me: we were at about the halfway point. There was nothing on the Frankenstein Cliffs side of the loop that I would have been uncomfortable downclimbing in the dry or even that I thought would be dangerous in the wet…but the trail on the falls side is very, very gentle and civilized. So rain at the halfway meant that my preferred descent route was onward.

I did have to discuss it with the dogs. Poor Titus had a minor meltdown when I foolishly didn’t tether him before dropping my pack to put the rain cover on. He so wanted to bite the rain cover and needed a few minutes to put his brain back in his head when I asked him to please not. Lilo, between the rain and the barking, was ready to be done. She spent a little while standing on the junction and needed to be convinced that forward was a better route than going back.

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“But the car is this way.”

That was the only real hiccup of the day, though, and as hiccups go, we could do worse! Once everyone had their feet moving in the same direction, life was good. We were rewarded with one more surprise outlook before the trail began to descend…

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It was a light rain or a heavy mist, but she still didn’t want to carry it around for one more minute than necessary!

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I’m not sure that “ridge walk” is technically the right term for this section of trail, but it had that sort of feel: remote, peaceful, and very green with cool moss, lichen, and fungus everywhere.

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It has been 0 days since our last derp.

We eventually began to descend. Just as I was thinking how nice it was to be alone for so much of a fairly well-traveled loop, I heard voices below and ran into — maybe a dozen kids hiking in a group? Very nice group, though! First I stepped aside and then they decided they were going to stop for a water break, so they made plenty of room for the dogs and I to come through.

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The dogs were exemplary at every meeting, by the way! Even a bit later on when we passed two little dogs who were not very happy to see us: Lilo just kept taking cheese and heeled nicely through, while Titus was a bit worried that he was being yelled at (by the dogs) but trusted me to keep him safe. They’re also both doing a nice tandem step-off-the-trail-and-sit-for-treats when we let others go by.

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That looks safe.

I opted to skip the spur trail to the falls themselves, in part because I didn’t want to keep Lilo out in the rain any longer than necessary (although we were much better-shielded at this elevation where the trees were taller and she had decided that she wouldn’t melt, after all) and because I wanted to avoid stressing the little dogs by potentially having to go by them again. I’d like to see it in the spring, though! Maybe we’ll go back again sometime soon.

I had forgotten this bridge (which is reinforced and solid, although it looks awful) was on this otherwise lovely trail and had a good laugh when we reached it.

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Honey badget don’t care.
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Baby’s first bog bridge!

I’d meant to take the side trail (Bemis Brook) on approach to the car, but wasn’t paying attention to how far we’d gone and thus wasn’t sure when we reached the upper junction if it was the right spot or already the lower. Maybe next time! I’ve heard it’s lovely — runs parallel to the main trail but closer to the water, possibly with some small cascades?

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The main trail has some (very) small cascades, too, though!
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My heart.

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The trail at last spit us out into the upper parking lot near a wonderfully-located privately owned home. We had a short, pretty road walk back to the lower lot and our car.image

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Lower lot with Frankenstein Cliffs in the background.

Keeping us on trail is hard work and Lilo was ready to jump in the car for a rest by the time we reached it. Titus thought about being tired enough to lay down…

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…but then got distracted. So it goes!

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3 thoughts on “Frankenstein and Falcon Cliffs (and the Long Way Down)

  1. Scattering kibble for a tethered dog to roomba up is smart management, and will probably have a nice classical conditioning effect, too. Nice! I hope he never becomes too well mannered to derp, though.

    Nala used to crawl under fallen branches and avoid obstacles when we hiked, too! When I taught her to climb up on stuff, it was like she suddenly realized–oh! I CAN lift my back feet! And then she started leaping to clear obstacles and mountain goating up cliffs. By contrast, she’s a little bit overconfident and totally lacking concern over her personal safety now! If we had actual mountains, I’d probably worry about it.

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    1. Somehow I think he will always have a broad derptastic streak!

      And aw, good job Nala! Learning to hike did absolute wonders for Lilo’s confidence, too. That and tracking — both jobs she’s had that put her completely in charge of her decision-making, at least part of the time. Sometimes I watch her scramble and wish she was a little less confident…! But on the whole, it is good, and I just need to trust her; she really does make good calls.

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  2. What very, very good dogs. Especially Lilo for putting you back on trail — even if she does beat you to the views. šŸ˜‰

    Really pleased Titus is figuring out his life and doing so well. Can’t wait to catch up with the next adventures (as I am woefully slow at the blogging thing lately).

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