The Basin Cascade Trail


“This pothole is perhaps the most remarkable of its kind in New England,”

-Henry David Thoreau in one of his less memorable sentences, describing quite a memorable place.

Thoreau’s always this overwhelming presence for all of us who write about nature. Especially the ones of us, like me, who aren’t him.

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Although my beard tends to look equally silly when it grows out.

Thanks to Thoreau, a nature writer can’t confess to watching Marvel movies, or enjoying the cheesy ooze of a Taco Bell burrito, or admit that the song in his head he hikes to isn’t his own different drummer but a Justin Bieber EDM track.

We’re supposed to pretend we’re above it all, even if we’re really aren’t.

It is with this in mind that I confess I spent much of my time on the Basin Trail trying to “suck the marrow” to use Thoreau’s creepy phrase from Walden, out of the place in the most un-Thoreau way possible: by trying to see what it would look like captured on my phone, obsessing over the shots I could get, I had to force myself away from that thing and just enjoy the scenery for myself a few times. At least none of them were selfies. I hate my own face in photos, mostly.

But odds are you want to read about the trail itself, not about people with stupid-looking facial hair. And thankfully my pictures will probably help you see some of its highlights. It’s just 1.6 miles round trip, although it does involve climbing a hill. But the most famous part’s down at the bottom.

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The basin itself, what my New England Grammy calls “Where the Old Man of the Mountain washes his Feet” comes near the beginning of the walk, and while it’s not big as far as rock or water formations go, it’s charm comes from how melting glacers and whirring sand and rocks shaped the rock into a smooth curving surface.

“A luxurious bath fit for the ablutions of a goddess,” is how another 19th century writer, Samuel Eastman described it. A rail stops any visiting goddesses from actually jumping in though.

While less noted in signs, the whole area around the basin does have some shallower pools to play around in. The real highlight for me though was further up the trail, and harder to really show in photos.

While the trail stays in the shade, it has plenty of places to get out and be on a long slab of rock with a flowing stream down it, reaching down the mountainside. The water sprays out over rocks and smoothly glides through channels. Families come out here to picnic and splash about and rightly so. Pictures don’t really do it justice though. Which is why I kept trying. The sheer size of the smooth rock, like a wide river itself is what we enjoyed exploring, sliding down its rocks, climbing along streams, hiding in little rock formations. And that size is exactly what these pictures can’t show.

The shaded path has its charms too though, particularly chipmunks.

Kinsman falls was near the end of our rooty path and unlike my guidebook “AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains” would indicate, the route to it was indeed marked.

There are waterfalls that make you feel like just a tiny drop. Then there are intimate fountains like Kinsman Falls that aren’t roaring so much as quiet escapes with deep, clear pools below. And Kinsman Falls was indeed an escape for us. Unlike the rest of the Basin Cascade Trail we were alone there.

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