The view of the Balsams in the photo above (that's me on Table Rock in the photo above) is nothing short of spectacular, and photos don't do it justice.
As part of the Forest Society team that spent nearly two weeks investigating the 5800 acres that is proposed for protection, I had a chance to see not only the well known views, but the remote corners of the Balsams land.
I've travelled most of the back roads and byways of New Hamsphire. At one time or another, I've been in every town, city and unincorporated place in the state. I can say, unquivocably, that the landscape at the Balsams is one the crown jewells of New England, if not the nation.
From the singular view from Table Rock (a short, but steep hike from Route 26) to the cliffs of Abeniki Mountain (where Peregrine Falcons nest) to the top of Sanguinary Ridge (where American Marten are frequent and Canada Lynx very likely) the high elevations of the land are stunning and accessible.
Then there's Mud Pond. What an unfortunate name for a remote, totally unspoiled high elevation pond that hosts the full array of North Country wildlife. I've been asked if it contains wild Eastern brook trout, and I suspect it does, but no angler so far has revealed its secrets.
The already existing trail system is astounding. When it is operating, the Balsams manages cross country ski trails over thousands of acres. It would take days to ski them all. Winter also provides opportunities for snowmobiling on designated trails maintained in cooperation with local clubs. One might wonder if there would be conflicts between skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers, but the system of trails is well designed to prevent such problems. In the summer, those same roads have been a favorite of Balsams guests on mountain bikes.
Without question, this land has been carefully managed for decades. While forestry has been part of this land for generations, careful planning by foresters with a sensitivity for unique natural features has left some extraordinary features intact. As anyone familiar with the history of New England knows, true "old growth" or original forest, is a very rare thing. But there are stands of hardwoods on the Balsams forest that contain trees that have been there since before this region was settled. During our investigations we found one fallen yellow birch that as more than 160 years old. And it wasn't even close to being one of the largest trees at that site.
Yes, the Balsams Resort is a national treasure in and of itself. We have great hopes that the new owners will be successful in renovating it and restoring it to its historic grandeur. But the Hotel, golf course and Wilderness Ski Area are just the tip of the natural "iceberg" in Dixville Notch.
The protection of this extraordinary landscape will ensure that generations of Americans will always have access to explore one of the nation's great places. I've made my contribution to the campaign, and I hope you will too.