Advice to day trippers, first-timers and visitors to Mt Washington Valley during the pandemic
North Conway, NH – In a recent article on New Hampshire Public Radio entitled Trouble on the Trails: Forest Service Grapples with Crowds, Trash and Human Waste, New Hampshire journalist, Sean Hurley examined the results of overcrowding on the hiking trails in the White Mountains. According to the story, it’s not uncommon to find 300 cars parked and sometimes double-parked along the Kancamagus Highway from those trying to access the trails for outdoor recreation on weekends. The article goes on to explain that for the first time graffiti is appearing along the trails on rocks and trees, and volunteers have been known to pull out 300 pounds of trash (including human waste) after a busy weekend.
The same phenomenon is happening throughout Mt Washington Valley. From parking lots to recreation areas, overcrowding is resulting in an abundance of trash, a disregard for parking regulations and social distancing requests, plus a lack of mask wearing and a general disregard for the community that has worked so hard to remain a safe refuge for its residents and avid outdoor adventurers that have traditionally come to recreate here. Even with the threat of a $100 fine and towing, more than a hundred cars line River Road and West Side Road to access popular spots like Diana’s Bath and First Bridge. Once the cars leave, a trail of trash and refuse remains in its place. And this kind of situation is repeated in parking lots, roadsides and attractions throughout the Mt Washington Valley.
Demand is high throughout New England for drive-to places where outdoor recreation is available in abundance. The Coronavirus pandemic is increasingly driving first-timers to the White Mountains of New Hampshire where outdoor recreation, natural swimming holes and waterfalls are available in abundance, plus all the other draws that Mt Washington Valley offers.
“We carefully crafted our way through a phased opening here in Mt Washington Valley,” said Janice Crawford, Executive Director of Mt Washington Valley. “The chamber took great care to be the best resource possible for the community and the visitors who come here. We’ve created signage reminding people to wear masks and placed signs throughout the Valley reminding visitors to maintain a 6-foot social distance, and to respect our community,” added Crawford. “Yet, we continue to see and hear stories at the chamber about the general disregard for good old’ American manners. It’s taken us all by surprise,” commented Crawford who also voiced concern that the hard work to keep Mt Washington Valley safe is being eroded by visitors’ behavior.
The Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce and its members are determined to keep the Valley a safe and congenial place for visitors to enjoy time in the outdoors, take in family attractions, and enjoy tax-free shopping, great dining and a wide variety of places to stay. Businesses throughout Mt Washington Valley have worked hard to re-open safely and amidst guidelines that are often restrictive, yet necessary to maintain the welfare of those who work and visit there.
This compendium of advice for being prepared for visitors to Mt Washington Valley, and will be a helpful primer for anyone planning a visit to the Valley.
ADVICE FOR VISITING MT WASHINGTON VALLEY NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
Gone are the days of walk-ins for many businesses. Lodging properties are observing time for guest rooms to “rest” in-between visitors to allow safe sanitization. New cleaning protocols mean more time to get rooms ready. Restaurants have eliminated tables and are operating at 50-percent occupancy to allow social distancing. Even attractions are bound to limit the number of guests, so without a reserved time, visitors may not be able to enjoy time there. Bottom line: Plan and reserve your stay, dining and fun before you visit Mt Washington Valley to avoid being turned away.
Once reservations are made, be sure to show up at the appointed time. Remember, all businesses in the Valley are operating under strict guidelines and diminished occupancy, so when a guest reserves then doesn’t show, it’s a double loss for the business. They’re already operating under capacity, but when a guest simply doesn’t show up, the business can’t re-sell that space at last minute, so it’s a double loss. Also, late shows mean less time to enjoy the meal or attraction, so please be on time.
Pack in & Pack Out – bring a trash bag
One man’s (woman or child’s) trash is not another’s treasure. Visitors are asked to be prepared to properly dispose of any trash they create. Whether it’s along the trails or along the roads or parking lot of businesses in Mt Washington Valley, all people are asked to dispose of all trash carefully and completely in receptacles for that purpose or by taking it home. Carrying a few grocery plastic bags is a very good idea for trash pick-up throughout Mt Washington Valley.
Wear a mask
Masks are simply a necessity to help avoid spread of the virus and a requirement by most businesses in Mt Washington Valley. The chamber asks all visitors to wear a mask when visiting businesses in the Valley. Without one, it’s possible that entry to the business may be denied. “You want to visit us in the Valley? Then wear a mask,” explains Janice Crawford.
Touch it, take it
To avoid as little contact as possible, all those in Mt Washington Valley are asked to take whatever they touch. “If you pick up a brochure in our information booths, we ask you to take it with you or we’ll have to throw it away,” explains Crawford.
Pack a pandemic survival kit when you go out
It used to be that water and snacks were enough to fill a backpack when hitting the trail, but that’s no longer adequate. When it’s time to visit anywhere in Mt Washington Valley (or anywhere else during this pandemic) the following necessities should be packed for the day: A mask, hand sanitizer, surface cleaner wipes, trash bag(s), cell phone, and the essential water and snacks too. Gloves are a good idea too.
“We’re counting on both the residents and the visitors to keep Mt Washington Valley a safe place,” reminded Janice Crawford. “We love our visitors to Mt Washington Valley. We simply ask them to remember the Golden Rule while visiting here,” concluded Crawford.
Photos: signage throughout Mt Washington Valley by Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.