While seeking photographic opportunities on Thursday morning after covering a Bethel meeting, an impromptu decision based on the weather opened my eyes to a gem of a short hike with a great view.

I also got to bask in the sun with a 2-foot-long garter snake on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Wild River and Evans Brook valleys in the White Mountain National Forest off Route 113 south of Gilead.

I was driving west on Route 2 when the sun suddenly popped out of the clouds. That spurred me on toward Evans Notch for a quick hike up the 1,374-foot-high Roost.

I’d never hiked it, because I didn’t think the half-mile trail up the little wooded hill would provide as spectacular of a view as that from Table Rock over in Grafton Notch State Park north of Newry. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Since it was such a short hike, I only took a bottle of water with me and some DEET to prevent a mugging by thickening clouds of black flies and mosquitoes.

After a 45-minute, heart-pumping climb to the summit, I was a bit dismayed when I topped out and the view was blocked by trees.

It was even more depressing when I spotted the “scenic view” trail sign and realized it steeply descended the ledge. That meant once I reached the view, I’d have to struggle back up over the ledge to regain the descent back to Route 113.

As I teetered from one leg to two carefully working my way down the outlook trail, I kept muttering, “This had better be some view.”

It was. The woods opened up to another ledge, this one a cliff overlooking the thickly forested valleys stretching out as far as morning storm clouds allowed the eye to see.

Standing there, I could hear but not see a trail maintainer far below chopping wood with an ax.

And then I looked straight down and there was the snake, lazily stretched out beside some reindeer lichen near my feet. I hadn’t even startled it when I walked out on the ledge.

Having been raised in Arizona and captured rattlesnakes for fun and profit as a kid, snakes don’t bother me like they do some people. I’m fascinated by reptiles, wildlife and nature.

To stand atop a cliff with a snake at one’s feet, listening to birds sing, the roar of the wind through the woods far below, and nary a siren or sound of civilization other than intermittent ax whacks, on a work day, no less, was pure bliss.

But I think I spent more time trying to photograph and study the snake than take in the view.

On the return hike, I came across the ax chopper and a second young woman, both of whom are WMNF maintainers.

They’re part of a three-person crew tasked with doing drainage work and removing blowdowns on about 200 miles of trails in the forest’s Androscoggin District in Maine and New Hampshire.

The seasonal crew spends all their time on trail maintenance. So, on Thursday, that included pumping me for information about trail conditions farther up.

All in all, my experience on the Roost sure perked up my spirits that have been dampened by way too much rain this spring. Let’s hope monsoon season ends soon and we can get out on the trails and recharge our souls.


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