Geocaching Road Trip to Waterville Valley

Over the weekend I thought about doing a hike. Three weeks of being home with little exercise due to vacation rentals opening up and being inundated at work made me decide on a road trip instead. Well, it was that and the fact that I’m approaching 6,000 geocaching finds and wanted to get some numbers in so I could find that number the next weekend.

I started off in Chocorua. It’s not far from my house, but I’ve been driving by the geocache in Chocorua Park for some time without stopping. It was a quick find there, but the history of the park was interesting. I’d always thought this was the site of a former mill, as is typical of many of these small dams in New England, but this site was always a recreation site. The dam was put in place by the landowner many years ago for that purpose and has been maintained.

My next stop was the Alice Bemis Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary in Sandwich, NH. It’s managed by NH Audobon and is really nice. The gate by the road shows a path through the grasses. Walking along it, I came to the boardwalk and opened up to a wide, grassy marsh. The area was created thanks to beavers and their dams.

The boardwalks make for great viewing. There’s a nice place to sit at the end. Although it promises wildlife viewing, I didn’t see any that day. It would be a nice place to hang out for a while, though, and see what comes around. I found the geocache at the entrance, but not back along the boardwalk. I’d love to visit here in the fall and sit for a while, so I’ll be back. It’s actually less than a half hour from my house.

I really didn’t want to leave, but I had a goal and wanted to get there. I headed for Sandwich Notch Road. It’s a Class 6 road which means it’s not maintained in winter. It doesn’t seem to be maintained much at all, in fact, despite being a good overland route from the Sandwich, Wonalancet, and Tamworth area to Waterville Valley. I like driving all of these types of roads in my Wrangler and had my eye on it for quite some time.

Beede Falls was the only stop I made along the road. it was a Saturday and many of the trailheads and pullouts were filled with cars. I was lucky here to find a spot. There were two geocaches here I wanted to get. One was a puzzle and the other was a cache that had been around for quite some time. I followed the directions for how to get to the cache that had been around for a while since that seemed to be the closest ones. I found out the directions on the cache page were rather convoluted and it would have been easier just to bushwack in from the road.

I followed a blue-blazed path along the river here and came across the mushrooms pictured above. I’d never come across ones like that in all my time in the woods, so I was intrigued. I couldn’t identify them, and a reverse search didn’t help, so I didn’t take them. I posted them to my Facebook page and asked for help. Turns out they are actually supposed to have very good medicinal properties. They were quite unusual to me.

I then had to bushwack from the rover to the geocache, which meant going back towards the road. There were no obvious “trails” where I could see people have walked before, so it was a bit of a challenge. I had to look at the hint because there were a lot of potential spots to hide the cache. I came up with it pretty quickly, but I knew I was close to the road because I could hear cars going by. Sure enough, the road was closer than the trail I’d bushwacked from. I decided to leave the other geocache – which was further in – until another time.

Sandwich Notch Road was bad, I mean really bad. The only road I can think on that was worse was Foss Mountain Road where I hid some of my own geocaches. Sandwich Notch Road wasn’t that long, but I was forced to crawl along really slowly so I lost a lot of time. I was in a Wrangler and it was something I didn’t want to speed through. I saw way too many 4WD vehicles that were speeding through here. I guess the drivers don’t mind killing their suspension and more.

When I finally came out on Route 49 in Waterville Valley, I was happy. Not for long. There had been a lot of geocaches placed here recently so I thought I would have an easy time finding a bunch. It wasn’t to be.

I can best describe Waterville Valley as a place the city folk built as a way to get away from it all, even the locals. It’s a community of condominiums that look alike as I drove around. It seems that some people live year-round in these condos, but for the most part they are second homes. Now, I live in an area like that but where I am they are truly second homes and have character. The only character this place had was an allusion to the Stepford Wives.

The first cache I looked for was near the Welcome Center and there were people at the condo near the trees where the cache was hidden, so I gave it a cursory look and drove to the next one.

I did not know that New Hampshire was the home to H.A Rey, the author of the Curious George books. The home was converted to a center for reading near the Waterville Elementary School. Nothing was open due to Corona Virus, but it was fun to look. There was a geocache here too.

By the time I got to Town Center, I was really getting the eerie Stepford feeling. I thought about having lunch here but quickly changed my mind. It was pretty, but there was the same feeling I get when I geocache down in Celebration, Florida – a community trying to be a place that doesn’t really exist but people want to believe was that way people used to live. I found the couple of geocaches near here, then high-tailed it out down Tripoli Road. That’s another road that is closed in winter, but is in much better shape than Sandwich Notch Road. There were a number of geocaches down this road, including a side trip up to Russell Pond.

Here you see the trolley that circles Waterville Valley ahead of me in the road. I think once the driver noticed me in a few spots, he started watching me to see what I was doing. Another reason to head out.

While not getting as many geocaches as I wanted, it was an interesting day. I’d never been into Waterville Valley before. I’ll be back again for the geocaches and some of the trails, but it’s not a place I look at and say “I can live here.” On the way home the temperature dropped to 52°F and I had the top down in the Wrangler. I blasted the heat and that worked surprisingly well. The scenery is gorgeous for a drive like this and I discovered a few really nice spots, so it was a good day.

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