First Destination: Alstead Mica Mine, New Hampshire- Arrival Time 10am
As we waited in an empty, Southeastern Pennsylvania Boscov’s parking lot at 3am, we could smell the drying pavement from a fast moving thunderstorm that had just dissipated. Bright, approaching headlights gleamed off the residue on the windshield signifying the last team member’s arrival. I flicked my wipers for a fresh view. It was time for another Big Swings Adventure. We came across a spot in the Big Swings App called Alstead Mica Mine and I had been admiring it for years. I instantly knew this would be our first location. Shooting from the hip, we tested the reliability of Big Swings by not planning a route prior to this three day road trip. We let the app guide us.
We arrived in a deeply wooded mountainous area close to the Vermont border
after driving through five states, witnessing an unreal sunrise, and gaining some serious altitude. Deep in the hills we reached a gravel road leading into the dense forest. The fog seemed to be suspended in the trees, the air became cooler, and the road became smaller; a morning stillness seemed to surround us. After a few miles of ascending and descending, we hit a gate marking the end of the road. To my delight, the navigation spoke, “You’ll have to park and walk to your destination from here.” We were happy to get out of the seated position and motivated to get some hiking and swimming done.
The trail was easy to moderate depending on skill level. Past the rusted gate the road maintained its size. The mile long hike was on an abrupt incline and swarming with miniature horse flies. Once we reached the summit, we worked our way down a slender passage that broke off to the right. We pushed through some foliage, and the dirt below our feet became solid stone and moss. Alstead Mica Mine revealed herself as the path opened. We gathered atop the bluff peering in amazement.
This location is a 200’ deep mica mine originally opened by
James Davis in August 1884, for the valuable Mica. Swimmers have been using it since its closing. The property is privately owned; though, with permission swimmers can enjoy the water. Otherwise, it’s a hefty ticket. This property is beautiful; preserved from pollution thanks to the great people who do visit. What little rubbish we did see, we bagged and took out with us. Please bring a bag with you and #KeepItClean when you visit any swimming destination.
The first thing we saw was the beautiful, blue water. As our eyes adjusted to the new surroundings; the cliffs and caves came into view. The rising, brown slate cliffs shown slivers of sparkling mica. Moss encrusted cliffs and bright, vibrant pine trees all reflected perfectly in the still waters below. The seven-hour drive seemed like a wink as we took in the first stop of our journey.
We made our way to the water and proceeded to do all of our safety checks.
Number one priority is safety! Along with measuring all the heights, we swim the water out with goggles and fins checking for depths, debris, rebar, and hidden underwater ledges. Practicing safety checks gives us all the information we need to determine if the location is safe or not. In past experiences, we have called off several jumps due to water levels or other unsafe surroundings. Along with safety checks, the Big Swings spotters and jumpers wear Kingii safety devices; even the best swimmers and jumpers can run into emergencies.
There are three safe locations to leap from, each a bit higher than the last. The 53-foot point is the top and the most difficult to reach. While working your way down to the point, each step is more dangerous than the last as the stone becomes smaller and smaller. The ledge to leap from is a modest, slightly tilted triangle of clean white rock; not much to work with. Surrounding the entire quarry are weathered Mica chips and pebbles mixed with other loose stone.
Jumping this location was an amazing start to our Northeast Trip.
We were in and out in three hours and headed to the next location, which ended up being on the great Stowe Mountain in Vermont.
Jumping aside, traveling to these small locations in the middle of the mountains is always such an amazing experience. Seeing pictures of the cliffs and caves in Big Swings made me crave seeing them with my own eyes. It was an accomplishment to step foot on these grounds and see these caves and blue waters with some really great people by my side. Also, Alstead Mice Mine was virtually clean of trash; this spot is a great example of visitors taking care of their location; so, props to you guys!