Sometimes the Getaway Van tackles a trip nearer home. We wanted to do some hiking in the Lakes region, and a quick google search turned up a suggestion for Castle in the Clouds. Despite our many years in NH, we’ve never been there, so we decided to give it a try.
Those who know me well (or have spent any time reading this blog) are aware that I am definitely a planner. Usually, whenever we go somewhere, I am pretty well aware of how to get there, where to park, and what we’ll see. This is a result of my tendency to want to maximize each experience — I want to make sure we don’t miss anything. However, on this trip I only had time for items 1 and 2 on that list, and so we parked at the trailhead and set off with no real idea of what we would encounter.
|The Falls of Song|
We wandered up the path through the forest. Eventually we began to hear the sounds of rushing water in the distance. The sounds got louder and louder, and eventually we could see a rushing stream in a ravine far below. After a mile or two we saw a sharp right turn off the trail labeled, “Lower Brook Walk”. The kids wanted to take it, and we had no agenda, so we said, “Sure” and headed off.
|Bridal Veil Falls|
At first this appeared to be a mistake. We’d spent the past couple of miles climbing, and now we found ourselves undoing all that hard work, sliding down a steep trail that perversely appeared to go not only downhill, but also back the way we’d come from. However, the trail soon leveled out and curved around again, and we found ourselves alongside an extremely scenic brook, winding through the trees and cascading down rocks as it made its way down the mountain.
For the next hour or so we traveled alongside the brook, with the kids jumping in and out of the cascades and pools. Every now and then we’d come to a substantial waterfall. Signs along the trail told us that this used to be a summer resort for the wealthy, and showed pictures of the ornate bridges that used to span many of the falls.
|Zeus’s little brother?|
Eventually we came out onto the castle grounds on top of the mountain. These were pretty extensive, with a pond a several buildings. The pond provided much entertainment, since it was stocked with large trout that would leap up partially out of the water when food was thrown to them. There was also a stable, which of course was of great interest to Nadia. When I mentioned Castle in the Clouds the first thing she said was that they had a giant horse there. I knew nothing about this, but it turned out she was correct — the castle was the former home of Zeus, supposedly the largest horse in the world! Sadly, at the stable we discovered that Zeus had died this January, but we did see a couple of other massive horses that may have been his relatives. We made a donation to the Zeus memorial fund.
At this point we set off across the hilltop to find the castle itself. (At this point I should mention that we did not fork out the $52 that it would take to get a tour of the castle itself. So if you were hoping for lots of interior photos and detail you are sadly out of luck.) We saw it in the distance and were remarking on its cool appearance when we arrived to find it was only the carriage house. We also discovered that we were not in fact on top of the mountain — next to the carriage house was a steep upward path labeled, “No castle access”.
We took the path anyway, hoping for a nice view, and found the sign was rather a lie, since we came out in the castle’s backyard. We were rewarded for taking the final climb with a sweeping vista of Lake Winnepesaukee and the mountains beyond.
So, I have to admit that the best thing about this day was that we never knew what would be around the next corner. From the series of waterfalls, to the trout, to the giant horses and the great view — everything was a surprise and made us feel like explorers making new discoveries (even amidst one of the larger tourist attractions in the area). My takeaway from this trip: Leave the planner behind every now and then.