This time of year, my old friend Carl arrives from New York for some hikes. I first met him on the Nancy Pond Trail in the early 1990s, and I have hiked with him most years since. On a hot day this week, we went over to Evans Notch and did a brief 2.2-mile round-trip walk to Middle Bickford Slides, a 40-foot waterfall.
The lower, middle and upper Bickford slides are on Bickford Brook, which drains a southern ravine of Ames Mountain, a subsidiary peak of Speckled Mountain (2,906 feet), east of Evans Notch. The middle slide is the most scenic.
I met Carl in Conway, and we took Route 302 to Fryeburg, Maine, where we turned left before the post office on Route 113. Crossing over the Saco River and across the fields, we bore right and continued on 113 for 11.8 miles from Fryeburg to the Stow Corner Store (a great post-hike stop for gourmet food, coffee or ice cream). Bearing right again, we continued for another 8.1 miles on 113 to the entrance of the Brickett Place on the right, within the White Mountain National Forest.
Owned by the forest service, the red brick Brickett Place was built by John Brickett in 1812 for his farm. It has seen a variety of activity — used by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as a work center, the AMC as a hostel, the Lexington, Mass., Boy Scouts as a base for hiking, and is presently a forest service visitors center, though it was closed when we arrived mid-morning midweek.
We parked in the shade behind the house and headed up the Bickford Brook Trail. Most of this 4.3-mile trail was once a driveable road to the fire tower on the summit of Speckled Mountain. The fire tower is long gone. The first 0.3 miles of trail from the Brickett Place trailhead connects with the old road.
Carl has more than a decade on me, and one reason I enjoy hiking with him is it slows me down. I had one trekking pole and placed it ahead with each step, having three points of contact. Looking up and about, beech leaves moved synchronously in the breeze, their shade protecting us from the direct sun. I settled into a contented stroll. Carl walked behind me or ahead, placing his two trekking poles.
Later after the hike, the best words that described our walk through the woods was “forest bathing,” also a name for a Japanese practice of nature appreciation. I have never been on a formal forest bathing walk, but it seems common sense that anybody can do that in his or her own way. I remember a female wilderness guide from Maine hearing about the Japanese practice, looking surprised, and saying, “I do that.”
After the first section of trail, we reached the old road, now a wide trail, and bore right on it. In 0.7 miles from the trailhead, we took a right down the Blueberry Ledge Trail and descended quickly to Bickford Brook, which slid over smooth granite.
It was noon, and here we paused for lunch. I walked downstream a short way to look at the chute and drop of Lower Bickford Slides.
At the stream crossing, the Blueberry Ledge Trail continued straight across and up to Blueberry Mountain. We crossed a few feet upstream and started up the Bickford Slides Loop Trail. It is a half-mile trail that passes both the middle slide and upper slide and reconnects with the Bickford Brook Trail further up. But we were only going to the middle slide, the best one, and returning.
It is a very lightly used trail. We recrossed the brook, which was not high enough to be a problem. The trail ascend steeply and traversed a slope, and we reached a point above the middle slide, and descended steeply, plowing through dead leaves and hidden rocks to its base.
I have been to the middle slide when there is high water, but this week there was just enough water to be picturesque. I scrambled up the side onto different levels of the slide, and Carl took pictures from below.
We lingered an hour and then headed down.