A raw wind whips through the broken windows of Smarts Mountain lookout tower. Janelle and I are 41 feet in the air, huddled in a corner at the top of the tiny tower cab. I can feel the cab shimmy slightly in the wind. If we stick our heads up too high the wind cuts rights though our fleece like a thousand freezing knives.
While the views are spectacular from this perch, the tower, built in 1939, is not a particularly pleasant place with its graffiti and busted floor boards.
None of that appears to affect the girl in the slightest. This is the first time she’s been able to actually go inside a tower. Kearsarge. Cardigan. Megalloway. The Doublehead and Black cabins. They were all closed when we had been there. But both the thru hiker cabin and the tower are wide open for us today, and she’s in a good mood.
She shucks off her pack and begins to lay out her food and snacks with intense concentration. It’s a picnic then; an outdoor feast at 3,200 feet, in the bitter wind, atop a dilapidated tower with gray clouds and a sleety rain spraying around us.
“Are you warm enough?” I ask as she arranges her sandwich, trail mix and apple.
She doesn’t even look up. “Uh-huh. Can we have some tea?”
“You bet.” I pull the thermos out of my pack, and as I twist it open a thick aroma of orange and ginger tea fills the cab.
“Yum,” she says, and smiles, happily oblivious to the torrent howling around us.
Smarts Mountain (10/21/12)
Height: 3,238 feet
Location: Near Lyme. I-93 to exit 26 to Route 25 to Route 25a to Quinttown Road to Mousley Brook Road, go right just over the bridge and follow a hairpin turn to a gate. The parking area is on the left.
Our trailhead: Daniel Doan Trail up and back.
Distance: 6.4 miles. (Warning: The lower section of the Daniel Doan trail passes by several camps and snowmobile trails. Be careful route finding, in particular when you come to a double bridge. Take the right one.)