View of washbowl from the nubble
I walked into Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid while on our vacation looking for a trail map of the High Peaks region. Once reaching the guide book section, I browsed the titles to find a trail guidebook for families or kids. I was hopeful; plus I like checking out what my fellow guidebook authors are writing. Nope, didn’t exist. There were a number of titles on the shelf but all geared for adults. So, I purchased a National Geographic map of the High Peaks region.
At the washbowl looking up at the nubble
That night, I sat in a comfy chair by the lake and used my expertise to choose a hike that I knew my kids would love – rocks and water. Plus our puppy, a lab, loves water too. I decided on a hike out and back to Lower Ausable Lake, along the Ausable River between two ridges. This hike was perfect because of its physical features. Furthermore, there were many options to shorten or lengthen the hike depending on how my kids were feeling that day.
We ate a good breakfast, packed lunch and headed down Route 9N and 73 to the trailhead. We walked up the dirt road to the trailhead before we were stopped by a woman with a golf club who said, “What a beautiful dog you have but you are not allowed to walk in the Reserve with pets. You can take the trailhead right here to Round Mountain, drive back down the road to access the trail to Lower Ausable Lake or hike the trails across Route 73.” Our family regrouped with our map and decided to walk back down the road, across Route 73 and hike along the Roaring Brook up Giant Mountain. The original decision was to hike until the kids were tired and turn around; however, that decision evolved many times at each stop. Instead, we hiked to the top of the falls, then to the washbowl, and then to the Nubble and back down to the base of the falls, 4.5 miles and 1,200 of elevation gain.
Beaver lodge on the washbowl
While this hike is difficult for kids, it has all the elements for a fantastic kidadventure: waterfall, swimming hole, rock scrambling, lake, views and animals. From the parking lot on Route 73, we hiked .3 miles uphill to the top of the falls. Here, we played in the brook’s pools and tried to see where the water fell off the rocks. However, it was scary looking over the edge 250 feet to the bottom. We didn’t, opting for a safe distance from the edge.
We continued up towards the washbowl, which was 1.6 miles from the top of the falls. We crossed the Roaring Brook again to play in the pools and throw rocks to our dog. Just after crossing the Roaring, we passed the trailhead for the summit of Giant Mountain. We continued to climb and reached a fork in the trail where we turned right to follow the trail to the washbowl, figuring we would return from the left fork off the Nubble, at least I hoped. Why go all the way to the washbowl and not go the extra .3 miles uphill to walk the ridge and see the extraordinary views from the Nubble; I thought in my head and then convinced my family of it after lunch.
Before reaching the washbowl, we encountered the dammed creek that fed the washbowl. There were two large beaver lodges, one on each shore of the 200 by 40 foot pool. At the end of the pool was a wall of perfectly placed sticks, some as long at 15 feet and others two, creating a dam 20 feet wide and 6 feet high. It was a natural, architectural marvel. While passing the pool, a beaver climbed off the dam and into his safety zone of the pool. The beaver swam towards the farthest lodge and stayed there eating a branch, not perceiving us as a predator. We sat like statues watching it for ten minutes. When we turned to leave, I noticed a second beaver swimming toward the first from the farthest end of the pool. I believe the first was a male and the second the female. Beavers are monogamous and live together for many years building a territory and home for the kits they bore every year.
Perfect beaver pencil point!
We left the pool and quickly encountered the washbowl where another group (or more than one group) of beavers had been very busy. We passed a huge lodge on shore and two long trails from shore to ridge where the beavers have been fastidiously gathering their construction materials to build beaver-mansions. A 6-inch diameter log that had been striped of all its bark with two perfect, pencil tips at each end amazed my son. He wanted to take it home. I convinced him to leave it, explaining the Leave No Trace principle of leave what you find.
We crossed the washbowl on a long, split log-bridge and climbed the ridge to complete the loop on the trail to the Nubble. The trail on the ridgeline offered us peek-a-boo views to the east and south and the washbowl below. When we reached the Nubble, a granite clearing on the eastern ridgeline, we had 180 views of the high peaks. We loved the trail to and from the Nubble; we scrambled on a few large rock faces and felt on top of the world as the mountain dropped steeply away on both sides.
Refreshing swimming hole
On our ascent, my son, who is eight years old, dragged in places and needed some encouragement. On the descent, he led the charge skipping and jumping with ease from rocks, tree roots and spongy soil. We finished the washbowl, Nubble loop and crossed the Roaring Brooke again to discover a perfect swimming hole upstream from the trail; one we hadn’t noticed on our ascent. The afternoon was warm and humid. The cold, mountain water felt exhilarating on our bodies. We played in the hole and under the cascade, jumping off the perfect ledge made by the jumbled wall of boulders.
Climbing up the falls
We passed the top of the falls and continued our descent back to the parking lot. However before jumping in the car, we took a side trail to the base of the falls, needing to cure our curiosity since we couldn’t see the bottom from the top. The waterfall cascaded down 250 feet jumping and splattering off ledges in the granite wall. The bottom 100 feet is best seen from the rock rubble at the base. Kids love the opportunity to climb rocks and my kids are no exception. They climbed the granite base of the falls feeling proud. All the while, our puppy’s screeching bark spoke her displeasure of their escape from the pack. Even though we were tired and hungry, the extra .2 miles to the base of the falls was worth it.
I thought my best laid plans for adventure had come to a halt when met by the woman wielding a golf club. However, little did I know at that moment they had just began. Our quick decision had turned into the best, discovering a hike with all the elements that get kids excited about the outdoors and nature – water, rocks and animals.