FRANCONIA NOTCH State Park is the venue for a full day of free outdoor family fun on Saturday, Aug. 9. That's the date of the Great Park Pursuit, and Appalachian Mountain Club New Hampshire Chapter volunteers are set to offer a multitude of opportunities for folks to brush up on outdoor skills and learn about outdoor pursuits in a program called "Mountains of Family Fun." Activities are set to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Profile Field at Cannon Mountain.
Several programs are repeated throughout the day, giving visitors the chance to learn something new about New Hampshire's great outdoors. Proper preparation is the first step on every hike, and AMC representatives will demonstrate how to efficiently and effectively pack for your next mountain adventure with the essential gear that should be in everyone's pack to help ensure a pleasant and safe day on the trail. Presenters will outline the hikeSafe program, which emphasizes hiker responsibility and preparation.
We all rely on trails to help us get where we're going in the mountains, and while we're aware that the trails are there, it's less evident how they got there and how they can survive the constant erosion caused by rain, snow, ice and hikers' footsteps. Trail stewardship is the answer, and AMC trail maintainers will demonstrate how they use the tools of the trade - pick mattocks, axes, grub hoes - to keep the trails in good shape and keep them from simply washing away.
Astronomer Doug Arion is set to provide instruction in use of telescopes, as he helps interpret the things we see in the sky. Participants will be able to use special telescopes that allow for viewing of the heavens even during daylight hours. Arion and students from Carthage College have been providing astronomy instruction at AMC's Highland Center at Crawford Notch for the past few summers.
The role of man's best friend in search-and-rescue missions will be explored in a presentation by the New England K9 Search and Rescue team. Dogs will be on hand to sniff out "lost" hikers in a session called "Nosey Talents."
AMC representatives will also be offering "Notch Talks," similar to the programs offered at AMC's visitor centers in Pinkham Notch and Crawford Notch. One session is designed to focus on the Leave No Trace ethic of low-impact backcountry use, while another will cover map-reading and use. A third session, titled "Skins 'n' Skulls of the White Mountains," will use animal pelts and bones to interpret the ways wildlife adapt to the mountain environment.
The hikeSafe, trail maintenance, New England K9, and astronomy sessions are slated to be offered four times during the day.
A guided family hike to Artist's Bluff is slated for noon. The bluff provides great views of Franconia Notch.
The day's events are free and open to all. Families can pre-register online at nhstateparks.org/whats-happening/great-park-pursuit/registration.aspx.
More information on the 2014 Great Park Pursuit, including details on self-guided quests at several other state parks throughout New Hampshire, can be found online at nhstateparks.org.
Rob Burbank is director of media and public affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column, "Outdoors with the AMC," appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.