Active Outdoors: An overnight stay in a New Hampshire cabin makes for a cool mini-vacation


Spending a day outdoors is good, Stretching that to two days with an overnight is even better. I'm a big believer in one-night getaways. Once you have a little practice at it, you'll be surprised haw easy and how much fun a mini-vacation can be.

Several years ago, my sweetheart, Marilyn, and I decided to get together with our friends, David and Susan, and celebrate New Year's at the Black Mountain Cabin on the White Mountain National Forest in Jackson, N.H. The cabin is 1.4 miles from the road, all uphill.

Knowing the cabin had a woodstove, we took saws and axes for cutting and splitting firewood and a sled for hauling it. We cut plenty of wood, soon had the stove heated to cherry red. But, unfortunately, the stove is barely big enough to warm an insulated ice-fishing shanty, let alone a large cabin with a high ceiling and holes in the walls.

The temperature outside was below zero with a gale howling that forced us to actually bar the door to keep it closed. We slept warm in our sleeping bags, but were pretty cold the rest of the time (water froze inside the cabin overnight).

It was a wonderful adventure, but we decided than that we wanted to visit the cabin when the weather was more moderate.

Back in January (you have to plan ahead, especially for weekends), we reserved the cabin for the first Saturday in April, figuring the weather would be a lot warmer. Our biggest concern when we made the reservation was how muddy the trail would be. Turns out it wasn't muddy at all -- there was too much snow.

Winter traffic (this is a popular snowshoe and back-country ski trail) had compacted the snow so we didn't need snowshoes, and could climb with boots and mini-crampons for added traction.

The cabin itself is rustic, lovely, and has an absolutely stunning view of snow-covered Mount Washington.

While Marilyn and Susan cleaned up the cabin a bit from the previous renters, and laid out our pads, sleeping bags, food and kitchen gear, David and I took off and found two leaning dead trees, a spruce and a maple, small enough to easily cut and drag back to the cabin, but large enough to supply more than a night's firewood. By the time we got the wood cut and in, and the fire started, it was time for lunch, a quick hike to the top of Black, and the all-important afternoon nap before appetizers and dinner.

While it was 25 degrees warmer than the last time we'd stayed at the cabin, the wind was howling again. Even with the fire going full blast, the cabin was cold -- too cold for comfortable sitting around. Honestly, we'd have been warmer in a tipi. Still, we watched the sun set, ate a wonderful dinner, cleaned up, and hit the comfy winter sleeping bags early.

Whenever someone got up in the night, they threw more wood on the fire, but the temperature inside still barely inched above freezing.

In the morning, we got up early, admired the sight of Mount Washington lit by the rising sun, with our hands wrapped around steaming cups of coffee or tea. Then we cooked and ate a massive breakfast, packed up and headed back down.

Sure it's possible to day hike up Black Mountain to the cabin. But the solitude and the spectacular sunset and sunrise views were what really made this trip special. Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

New England Paddlesports Show

If you love to paddle, plan on being at the UNH Field House, Durham, N.H., on April 19 through 21 for the New England Paddlesports. Presented by Kittery Trading Post, this annual event showcases the sport of recreational paddling with kayaks, canoes and Stand-Up Paddleboads (SUP). You can try on boats and paddling wear, heft paddles, see a bunch of accessories, ask questions, get answers. Show hours are Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7, with those younger than 16 free, but there's more information and a $2-off coupon at or by calling (888) 587-6246.

Housatonic River Walk

If you like to get dirty, and possibly wet, and have fun doing it, the Great Barrington Housatonic River Walk in Massachusetts will hold its annual Earth Day work day on Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This year's work season includes planting thousands of native plants propagated from seed collected locally, while ridding the riverbank of knotweed, bittersweet, garlic mustard, multiflora rose and other exotic-invasives. Work plans also include trail repair and maintenance and riverbottom cleanups.

Volunteers will meet at the W.E.B. Du Bois River Garden Park by the former Searles Middle School parking lot on River Street, near Bridge Street. Morning coffee and lunch will be provided. Tours will be given in the afternoon.

Tim Jones is the executive editor of the online magazine and writes about outdoor sports and travel. Email:


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