Day 4 in New Hampshire: Eating Pine Cones on Smarts Brook Trail

On our fourth day in New Hampshire with a 9-month-old, we rest. Or at least we stay close to home base.


Baby Quinn and I spend the early part of the morning wandering into town center, pausing for coffee, walking some more, smiling at strangers, and enjoying some pond-side Cheerios. This is what you do when you draw the early morning straw. You hate getting out of bed, but once you’re on the other side of grogginess, you thank the little fella for making you get up and enjoy the absolute beauty of the sun peaking over the mountains.

And then it is time for a nap.

And then it is time for a snack.

Late Morning

The three of us take a 12-minute car ride to our hike for the day. Our backpack is filled with:

  1. a baby food pouch
  2. an apple (for the adults who tend to lose it if they don’t eat)
  3. water
  4. diapers and wipes
  5. a change of baby clothes
  6. more o’s…always the o’s
  7. a teething necklace for you to wear (if you don’t have one, get one)
  8. a carrier–we love our Ergo

That’s it. Hiking with a 9-month-old doesn’t require much, provided you don’t expect to log more than 3 miles in less than 2 hours. Actually, Quinn gets annoyed by the end of 3. Maybe it’s best to aim a bit lower.

The Hike

We set off with a plan, but amend it when we meet some perfectly lovely local women who gush about the diversity of the hike they’re about to finish. New Hampshire folks appear to be just as friendly and outgoing as Midwesterners, and they love their nature, so we take the advice:

Smarts Brook Trailhead parking lot on Highway 49 –> Smarts Brook Trail –> Yellow Jacket Ski Trail –> Pine Flat Ski Trail –> parking lot

The first leg of our loop is uphill and close to the brook, so we stop and dip Quinn’s feet in the water.

New Hampshire waterville valley hikes in mountains-4The second part is flat and wooded, so we bounce and sing songs and make funny noises. We take a break and sit in the middle of the path for a bit.

New Hampshire waterville valley hikes in mountains-2

The third part is downhill, alongside fierce granite walls and noisy splashes of water, so we stop and marvel. On the final part, the path is so lush with pines that it smells like Christmas. Quinn doesn’t understand Christmas, but he sure does want to eat pine cones.

New Hampshire waterville valley hikes in mountains-1


We drive another 10 miles and grab sandwiches at Mad River Coffee Roasters. We keep Quinn awake on the ride home so that he’ll take a legit nap once we get there.

And then it is time for a nap.

And then it is time for a snack.

And then the three of us wander around. We imagine living in Waterville Valley. We snoop around the elementary school, glance at the price of houses, and then we plop on a big, green field to stare at the mountains and sky.


I take care of bedtime while John fetches us pizza and salad.

Moral of the Story

This is traveling with a baby. It is taking a big drive with carseat naps in between stops one day, and committing to regular naps in between brief and nearby adventures the next. It is appreciating coffee and a walk in the early morning, and resort-town-take-out in the late evening. It is teamwork. It is taking breaks and singing funny songs and trying to nap with the baby. It is planting yourself somewhere so beautiful that your only task is to stare.

New Hampshire waterville valley hikes in mountains-1-2



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Elise is a native St. Louisan turned Chicagoan working as a teaching artist and singer. Ever since she first traveled throughout Europe on tour with a children's choir, she's been a happy traveler, having learned to trust her travel instincts and the value of a big, fat smile.
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