Category Archives: New Hampshire

New Hampshire Part III: The Lakes Region

When I was getting my hair cut during our second stop in Maine, the ladies in the salon were giving me tips on what to see when we got to our next state – New Hampshire. They said not to miss Lake Winni or the Lakes Region. “Winnipesaukee” is a native Indian name that means “Smile of the Great Spirit”. The Lakes Region was very important to Native American Cultures as well as to early settlers during America’s Colonial Period. This part of the state has an abounding history in addition to fun, fun, summertime fun. Not to mention the scenic advantages. Everywhere you look there is an all- inclusive view of mountains, water and big skies. This is one of those places where you can have the beach and the woods all at the same time. Visitors and locals stay busy fishing, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, skiing, hiking or just lounging in the warm sun. (And that is just for the summer, in winter there is more skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, ice skating, etc.). When we saw all the tourists and traffic, we knew we had come upon something special. Mike and I had never been to the Lakes Region or really even heard of it in travel conversations, so we were pleasantly surprised with our new discovery. I was also grateful to the ladies at Studio 114 Hair Salon for the advice.

The roads are small and curvy in New Hampshire, so we selected a Campground called Twin Tamarack Family Campground in New Hampton. I thought it would be fun to stay in N.H.N.H. for a little while. It had easy access to I-93, so we could zip up from Raymond through Concord, and stay on the Interstate for almost the entire drive. Even though Twin Tamarack was 2 miles from the Interstate, we still felt secluded in nature once we checked in and got settled at site #185. New Hampshire isn’t very populated so it is easy to feel secluded in nature from almost anywhere.

Our site was nice and level with good drainage – a boring observation, but important none-the-less. We even had a deck this time, so we would be able to keep the dogs fairly clean… hopefully. Our fire pit was lined with big granite rocks, and it was situated at the back of our site. We had our own little semi-private back yard. We were on the outer boundary of the campground, so there were no neighbors behind us for this stay. The only thing we didn’t have was television. The trees blocked the DirecTV signal, we were too remote for over-air channels, and we didn’t want to pay the campground an extra $4 per day for the cable connection to be turned on. We had Wi-Fi, our wicked CD collection, and a Red Box Movie Rental at the gas station near the interstate. TV not critical.

We did ‘the usual’ on our first day in our new campground. After some house cleaning and maintenance chores, we found our way to the nearest town to stock up on supplies. This time we needed a liquor store, a grocery store, gas in the Honda, and a Lowe’s. We drove around Lake Winnisquam, through Weir’s Beach to Laconia and finished our errands before we turned around and followed the same scenic drive back home. State Rt. 3 bordered the water for most of the drive and it was beautiful. When we got back home we grilled hamburgers and watched Caveman TV in our fire pit. The rain was scarce this week, so we actually got to enjoy a campfire almost every night of our stay in N.H.N.H. I went to the Red Box on the one night it did rain and rented “Hyde Park on Hudson” with Bill Murray as FDR. Since we had visited the estate where the movie is based, I thought it would be fun to watch. Mike never likes my movie selections, so I thought I would try to win him over with the Bill Murray card. He loves Bill Murray. I was doing great until he learned Mr. Murray’s role was not comedic in this film. It WAS an interesting story, that is for sure.

We were still dealing with the ‘garage addition’ to our home at this time. Mike had ordered the Yakima Cargo Box and had it shipped to Twin Tamarack. He spent a couple of days waiting for the delivery and assembling our new storage vessel, so I took a couple of solo daytrips from this campground. One afternoon I drove to nearby Meredith, only about 10 minutes down the road.  Meredith Village is a picturesque New England community located on the far northwestern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. I drove through the tiny town to explore a bit and get my bearings, and then I parked in a spot downtown to see the cutest parts on foot. Meredith is a Main Street City and I was once a Main Street Manager in downtown Tyler, Texas –so I had a fun time meandering around the downtown area. The ancient buildings were all bustling with businesses and customers. There was a great mix of retail, service businesses, community spaces and restaurants. The downtown area was very small, but it was active and prosperous. The village also had parks along the lake shore for people to enjoy picnics or sun worshipping. There were a couple of waterfront restaurants directly on the water, and an ice cream shack with a standing line of customers. It looked like one of the things to do on Lake Winnipesaukee was to ride the boat over to the town docks in Meredith and get out for ice cream or an alternate snack. The boardwalk was dense with boaters clad in swim suit cover-ups and flip flops.

Another solo daytrip was devoted to seeing the Castle in the Clouds, otherwise known as the historic Lucknow Estate. Tom and Olive Plant, a retired businessman and his wife, built the mountain top estate in 1914. One edge of Lucknow’s original 6,300 acres bordered the Ossipee Mountain Range, and the other side of the property emptied into the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. Mr. Plant made his fortune in the shoe manufacturing industry. He became burned out at age 51; so he wrapped a $1 million check around his wife’s coffee mug one morning, divorced her, retired, and started building his country estate in New Hampshire. Pretty soon, he fell in love with Olive (who was 10 years his junior), married her, and settled into a very luxurious lifestyle at Lucknow. The fairytale was in full swing until a series of failed investments. Eventually the Plants lost all of their money… the biggest portion going to Russian Savings Bonds just before the fall of an empire. They were allowed to remain living at Lucknow until the time of Mr. Plant’s death, at which point the estate was put up for auction. The property has been owned by others since then, but today 5,500 acres of the original property are owned and managed by the Castle Preservation Society.

The drive to The Castle was about 45 minutes from our camp. I got to the gate around 1:30 on a Friday afternoon. I paid my $16 entry fee and drove the Honda on a one-lane road for 2 miles along switch-backs carved into the side of a mountain until I reached the parking area. The gate attendant had advised I stop two times before actually parking my car for good. About mid-way up there was a place to take a tiny hike along an easy path into the woods to see the Falls of Song, a 50’ waterfall on the property. If I got back in my car and continued along the path, I would come to another stopping point. A second small parking area allowed visitors to get out of their cars and absorb a breathtaking scenic vista of the entire Lakes Region below them. I did make both of those stops on my way to the carriage house and I was not sorry. As the lady at the gate had explained, there was only one way into Lucknow. If I missed these sights on my way in, I would not be able to retrace my steps.

The preservation society in charge of The Castle in the Clouds also operates a restaurant from the estate’s historic carriage house. The stables have been turned into a dining room, and tables with umbrellas are also available on an outdoor patio. It was a pretty afternoon, so I grabbed a table on the patio to enjoy a salad and glass of wine before getting on the trolley. The parking lot is located near the carriage house, but the actual castle was still situated farther up the mountain and visitors were shuttled there every 10 minutes. The house itself was magnificent. It took 4 years to build. All the rocks and timber were harvested from the land. Mr. Plant hired 1,000 workers to come construct the house. That is a bunch of workers! The walls were rock and all of the woodwork was intricately carved. History tells us that the mason workers were happy if they cut and set 3 stones in one day. Just three and the day was a success for them. The home was state-of-the-art. I was surprised that this 100 year-old home had an intercom system, refrigerators, its own built-in organ that could be played manually or mechanically, a central vacuum system, and a crazy “needle shower” contraption. The entire time I was touring the historically preserved treasure, I kept wondering if maybe Mr. Plant could have kept his fortune had he named it something other than Lucknow. LuckNOW was possibly too fleeting. Maybe he should have named it something like “Perpetual Luck” or “Constant Luck”… something a bit more enduring.

While I was doing research on other things to see in the area, I learned about a geological formation called Sculptured Rocks. Since there are so many waterfalls and rushing streams in New Hampshire, there are lots of public swimming holes too. We took a 30 minute drive to our west and north one afternoon to see about a spot that looked the most interesting to me.  We drove another beautiful route around Newfound Lake until we got to the Hebron Village Store. From there, we turned left and followed another tiny road for a few miles until we got to the parking lot. Sculptured Rocks is maintained by the State, but there is no staff. Parking is on the left, the swimming hole is across the street and down an unmarked path. I can’t imagine how anybody but a local would know about it, but when we got there the parking lot was about 2/3 full. The name of this swimming spot is self explanatory. Thousands of years of water rushing through the area have carved huge holes and divots in the rocky landscape. It is shaded with trees and loud with the sound of the powerful water in motion. There were roughly 20 people visiting when we got there. Some were looking around like us, and others were families with kids daring each other to jump off the rocks into the water. We sat around and absorbed the beauty of the place, until Mike got stung by a bee. It was time to get moving anyway, so we got back in the car and drove in a big circle back to our camp. We went through Plymouth, N.H., which was a charming colonial town that happened to be celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. We also drove past Squam Lake, which was the actual setting for the movie “On Golden Pond”. I made a mental note to rent that movie next time… if it was available at the Red Box.

We were too close to a Lake at this campground for Mike not to fish. Twin Tamarack had a small ramp for launching canoes and kayaks into Pemigewasset Lake, which encompassed about 250 acres. He bought a 24-hour fishing license and fished Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. He got rained on a couple of times Saturday afternoon as a cool front pushed through. On Sunday he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to go back because it was cold and windy. Cold and windy at the beginning of August … we just kept grinning to ourselves as reports of 110 degree heat indexes reached us from Texas. Mike is a die hard, so of course he braved the cold to use up all the time he could on his fishing license. He caught 3 bass and 2 pike. He had to release the pike because he wasn’t sure of size limits. That morning he also saw an eagle soaring above him and heard an elk or moose bugling from somewhere in the surrounding forest. He might have been most excited when he told me about the flight of three WWII-era restored planes that flew over him in formation during his time on the water that morning.

We had a great time in the Lakes region. I don’t think either of us expected to encounter such a splendid array of sights and attractions when we made the decision to finish our tour of the Granite State in N.H.N.H.  I put this region on my list of places I would like to return. The scenery was idyllic and the locals were very gracious. The air was crisp and cool during the day. The sky was clear and bright with stars at night. When I win the lottery, I think I will buy a little lake shack somewhere in this area so we can host friends and family at this American paradise all summer long. I’ll leave a hidden key in case anyone wants to come during the winter for ice fishing or snow shoeing.

 

This was our backyard at site #185 at Twin Tamarack.

This was our backyard at site #185 at Twin Tamarack.

There are LOTS of antique cars in New England. While driving to Sculptured Rocks we passed a vintage car convoy of about 15 or 20 different models. Then we followed this gem for about 30 miles through the winding roads on our way back home.

There are LOTS of antique cars in New England. While driving to Sculptured Rocks we passed a vintage car convoy of about 15 or 20 different models. Then we followed this gem for about 30 miles through the winding roads on our way back home.

One of the marinas in Laconia.

One of the marinas in Laconia.

Cooking some dinner.

Cooking some dinner.

I'm guessing boulders like this randomly scattered around the landscape are the reason they call New Hampshire "The Granite State".

I’m guessing boulders like this randomly scattered around the landscape are the reason they call New Hampshire “The Granite State”.

Catch of the day.

Catch of the day.

This is the spot where Mike put his kayak into the water when he went fishing.

This is the spot where Mike put his kayak into the water when he went fishing.

Sculptured Rocks.

Sculptured Rocks.

Is it an ancient geological formation or an awesome swimming hole?

Is it an ancient geological formation or an awesome swimming hole?

This is the view from Olive Plant's boudoir. She could enjoy the vista when she sat at her dressing table to apply her make-up and jewelry.

This is the view from Olive Plant’s boudoir. She could enjoy the vista when she sat at her dressing table to apply her make-up and jewelry.

Falls of Song: a 50' waterfall on the way up the mountain to Castle in the Clouds.

Falls of Song: a 50′ waterfall on the way up the mountain to Castle in the Clouds.

The Lakes Region.

The Lakes Region.

The forests of New Hampshire are filled with babbling brooks and rushing streams. The hikes sound as pretty as they look.

The forests of New Hampshire are filled with babbling brooks and rushing streams. The hikes sound as pretty as they look.

 

New Hampshire Part II: Raymond

We got up early to leave the campground in Maine by 9. We were only traveling about 4 miles, and Cummins was expecting us at 10. However, we wanted to leave room for any worst-case-scenario that was likely to pop up.  The only real glitch of the morning turned up right before we pulled out. I was brushing my teeth when I realized water was rushing out onto the floor in my bathroom area. Looks like the repair man back in Gardiner, N.Y. didn’t fix our leak after all. We mopped up the water with towels and decided to deal with it later.

We dropped off the coach ahead of schedule and found a local diner in Scarborough. It seemed like a gut-buster breakfast was appropriate for the day. We needed energy for waiting and (hopefully) traveling. After we stuffed ourselves, we found a walking trail in South Portland. We figured we would walk off our breakfast and tire out the dogs at the same time. Next stop was the trucker lounge at Cummins, and the dogs would be much less conspicuous if they slept in a corner the whole time.

The trail was a nice way to see the community of South Portland.  We jumped on it in the central section of South Portland and followed it for a couple of miles along the water and through several neighborhoods before turning around and retracing our path back to the car. About mid-way through our walk we discovered one generous soul that lived along the trail had left bowls of water and dog treats (in a sealed Tupperware container) on her driveway for the canines that needed a break along the way. Very thoughtful. You can bet Piper and Cessna knew the exact house on our return trek.  They emptied the water bowl, and I refilled it with the spare jugs she left for that purpose. She returned home just as we were leaving for the second time, so I was glad I got to thank her in person.

The rest of the day went fine. They fixed the leak; we paid the bill, hooked up the car, and pulled out for New Hampshire about 4:30 that afternoon. We had been very smart and strategic about selecting our next campground. We knew we would be getting a late start, so we picked a place that was only about 60 miles south of us. We were heading to a new state in a different region, but only slightly over an hour’s drive from where we were leaving. Much less stress that way. Our destination was Pine Acres Family Campground in Raymond, NH. The state of New Hampshire doesn’t allow dogs in their state parks (go figure), so we had to stay in private campgrounds while exploring The Granite State.

We pulled in around 6:00 and settled in easily. This time our camp spot was nestled into some trees with lots of space and shade. It was much cozier than the two camping spots we stayed at in Maine – where we were exposed in the wide open. The campground itself was gigantic with over 400 sites. About 10% of the campsites were for RV’s coming for short stays, 10% were for tent campers, and the other 80% of those spots were seasonal. Families from Massachusetts had weekend trailers set up there permanently. They would come in on the weekends and go back home during the week for work.  They all knew each other. Our campground was on a section of the Lamprey River called Dead Pond. That is where the swimming beach was located. Not a very touristy name for a pond or swimming beach, but that is what it is called on the map. Everyone had a golf cart and the street in front of our spot looked like a summer lake parade at some times during the day – families passing back and forth in front of our windshield loaded down with floats, coolers, beach towels and KIDS. Some people had golf carts with trailers attached so they could pull more gear and humans at once. Carts, cars, work trucks, kids on bikes, pedestrians walking dogs, and all size RV’s entering and leaving the park all shared the same 1 ½ lane road.  At night there were no lights along the streets of the park. There were also no rules about having lights on your golf cart or bicycle at night (at least they were not enforced). We really tried not to walk around after dark. All the traffic and chaos added up to an accident waiting to happen.

We didn’t really join in on the festivities while we were there, but there were plenty of options available if we had wanted to. We ended up staying at Pine Acres over the span of two weekends. The first weekend was Carnival. They had scheduled a family dance at the Pavilion, a horse shoe tournament, a softball game, and lot of other kid’s games in the arcade area. The second weekend was Christmas weekend, so all the golf carts were decorated with wreaths & ornaments. They even had a comedian do a show in the Adult Rec Hall at 9pm on the second Saturday we were there.

Much of our time in Raymond was spent on two projects. The first was fixing my bathroom sink. There was no point in paying another nimwit to “fix” the issue with the plumbing. Mike was going to have to figure it out and fix it himself. The project became somewhat complicated when it was determined that the cause of the leak was related to the slide-out mechanism on the RV. Our rear driver’s side slide-out spans from my sink and bathroom area all the way through our bedroom to the back closet. When our walls expand the bathroom and bed all move back a couple of feet. It looked as though the pipes behind the cabinets were also moving when the walls expanded… and that wasn’t necessarily how the coach was designed.

The second project was related to storage. On travel days we have to carry some of our stuff in the car because there is no more room inside the coach or underneath in the bays. We generally store Mike’s golf clubs, our fold-up chairs, the dog kennels, and other miscellaneous things in the hatch-back and back seat of the Honda. Once we get to a new spot, Mike has to unload everything before we can use the car. He keeps busy shuffling our gear around before we leave and after we arrive to each place. When it rains, things get more complicated because we need to clear the car, but if we leave the stuff outside it will get wet.

After we started spending so much time on the road, I noticed how many cars have cargo storage boxes attached to the top. I started thinking we needed one of those. Mike would have a permanent place to store our “extra” gear. The stuff could have a designated “home”, and he could stop wasting time with the shuffling. Mike has Reverse Idea Origination Syndrome, so it took a while for my idea to come to fruition. The first step was to tell him the idea, and then start pointing out the storage containers during our travels. The next step was to wait until Mike thought he came up with the idea all by himself. At which point, he would take action. My plan had worked, and by the time we arrived in New Hampshire, he was ready to start the process of researching and purchasing our storage box. We visited every sporting goods store and one bicycle shop in southern New Hampshire before we ended up having to order one online.

Our first outing was to Manchester. For the past few months I had been craving Mexican food. I am well aware that Tex-Mex is not available outside of Texas. Each time we arrived at a new spot, I would scan the area for Mexican food restaurants, but I had not been brave enough to try one yet. I knew it would not be authentic, and therefore I would be disappointed. After reading many reviews, I had worked up the nerve to try a spot called Consuelo’s Taqueria located about 30-minutes away in Manchester. We stopped at a Dick’s Sporting Goods on the way to the eatery in downtown. I had a burrito and Mike ordered the tamale special. It was okay. We tried to walk around downtown Manchester after our lunch, but the place was so run down and dreary, we were heading back to our car after only a few blocks. The homeless guy following us down a deserted sidewalk toward a massive abandoned riverfront warehouse didn’t generate such a good impression on our afternoon stroll.

Our storage container research also took us east to Portsmouth. After visiting Sears and another Dick’s Sporting Goods in the big box retail strip, we made our way to downtown on the harbor.  It had been raining lightly all day, and by the time we got to the center of Portsmouth we were in a steady downpour. We had hoped to walk around and scout out several restaurants before selecting where we wanted to eat lunch. Instead, we found the first available parking spot and ate at the nearest burger joint across the street – the Rusty Hammer. We were a complete bother to the waitress, although we were the only customers in the entire front section of the restaurant. The rain let up just as we finished eating, so we did get to walk around town after all. All the buildings were red brick.  Cobblestone walkways and granite curbs lined the streets. A great mix of robust businesses seemed to thrive with local patrons and tourists. Storefronts included gift shops, clothing stores, book stores, artist galleries, and professional businesses along with a varied selection of restaurants and bars. After our tour of downtown, we drove the long way home through the community of Rye. We saw some fabulous properties as we followed the water to the south.

As for the previously mentioned “Project #1”, Mike as able to make a trip to Lowe’s and Wal-Mart in the next town for the parts he thought he needed. The brilliant man fixed the sink, and now I can brush my teeth in peace and quiet. We would not be able to survive this adventure if Mike weren’t such a great handy-man.

The biggest ‘daytrip’ of our tour so far took place during our stay at Pine Acres in Raymond. We happened to hear an announcement on the radio for a Robert Plant Concert at the Boston Harbor on July 25th, so we decided to go. Although the concert venue was only about 60 miles away, there was no way we would be driving anywhere after the event. We decided to book a hotel room near the Bank of America Pavilion and make it an overnight trip. We couldn’t leave the dogs in the bus, so we needed to take them with us. There was a Westin that allowed dogs just a few blocks from where the concert was to take place, so we booked a room and bought our tickets.

Of course, the day of the concert was rainy. We drove south in the grey wet to Boston, parked the car in the parking garage, and checked into the hotel. The rain had stopped for the moment, so we decided to take the dogs for a walk while we had the chance. We wandered around South Boston and into the outskirts of downtown. It seemed like the weather waited until we were at the farthest possible point from our hotel when it decided to start raining again. Even though we both had umbrellas, we made it back to the hotel completely drenched. We wiped down the dogs with towels and put them in their kennels in the room, and then we changed clothes and shoes before going back out into the wetness. We walked back through the rain for a few blocks toward the waterfront and had a pre-concert dinner at Legal Seafoods. I had a yummy mug of chowder and a Rhode Island Stuffie. Mike had a mug of gazpacho soup and the Portuguese Seafood Stew. When our dinner was over, we walked the 7-minute walk back to our hotel to let the dogs out one more time before the concert started. Our whole objective in finding a hotel was to park once and walk everywhere during our stay there. The plan was a good one; we were getting lots of exercise going back and forth, although soggy clothes and squeaky shoes were not part of my initial vision.

Robert Plant was awesome. We ended up being some of the younger people attending the event. It turned out to be a Led Zeppelin concert with a twist. He performed all the same songs, but a collection of exotic instruments were added to the mix and complimented the original guitar and drum sets. His voice was still strong and distinctive. I was hoping he would also play some of the tunes from his duet album with Alison Krauss, but there was a constant and heavy scent of weed in the air… and I don’t think this crowd would have really gone for that, dude.

Neither of us had ever visited Boston before, so we had planned to make the most of our 24 hours there. We will have to go back for a better visit during a future time when we are actually visiting the state of Massachusetts. Friday morning we woke up to more rain. We had planned to check out of the hotel and move the car to a parking garage in downtown. From there we were going to walk the self-guided Independence Trail because it would be a good history lesson, and the dogs would be allowed to join us. We had planned to stop somewhere along the route for brunch at an outdoor cafe. Because of the rain, we had a $50 breakfast in the hotel lobby and drove directly back to camp without any more touring of Boston. The dogs were sad.

We spent the last weekend at Pine Acres doing camping stuff: sleeping in the hammock, tending the campfire, walking the dogs, grilling our dinner. I wrote my blog on the last day while Mike got us ready to travel. By about 4 in the afternoon, we had finished our chores and were ready for happy hour. We decided to drive to the Atlantic Ocean one more time while we were still so close. Hampton Beach is a very popular summer vacation spot in New Hampshire. We drove about 15 miles east along the highway until it dumped into the seashore at the end. We parked the car and ambled down the boardwalk for some people watching.  It was cloudy and cold, and the air was damp and thick with fog. That didn’t stop all the tourists from playing at the beach, or swimming in the surf, or meandering down the boardwalk. The place was crazy busy. People were everywhere.

We found a restaurant that was built up through four levels. The third level was a bar where we could order appetizers and listen to live music. We settled in, ordered some drinks and shared a basket of fried calamari. As we made our way through our drinks and snacks, the musicians changed shifts. A new guy came in to entertain the crowd for the evening stint. We had planned to stop for a few errands on the way back home. However, the new musician was so much fun, we decided to stay a little longer at the bar and postpone our errands until the next stop.

He was telling jokes and the crowd was laughing. We were shouting out requests and he played them all. He was a one-man-guitar player that cued back-up music from the laptop in front of him. We were having the best time until things got really crazy. The singer played a George Strait song, and Mike asked me if I wanted to dance. Hell, yes! There was no designated dance floor, so we just stood up beside our table. All of our friends and family know for sure that Mike would never make a spectacle of himself in public… so I can assure you we were keeping it very low key with a one-step. It was a charming moment until I saw a 350-pound twenty-something male walking across the dining room toward us. I was wondering to myself, “Why is the bouncer approaching us”? It turns out there is no dancing in New Hampshire. Excuse me? You have to have a permit for that. What? He mumbled something about us being three levels up… and that didn’t make me feel any better. So the establishment has to have a permit for its patrons to dance, and they hire a one-man band to play snappy tunes and get the customers loose – yet they won’t spring for the permit to let them dance? Why have the live music? Why have any music? We were not escorted out. We were happy to sit down since the whole room was looking at us now. The bouncer kid told me there were three things he hated to tell the clients. I didn’t ask what the other two were. Suffice it to say, we did pay our bill and make a hasty exit.

No dancing in New Hampshire, and no dogs in their state parks… This place is beautiful, but I don’t think I could permanently live anywhere under those stipulations. Our month in the state was not over, however.  We had to get home and in bed. It was time to get a good night’s rest before we made our way north in the morning to see what the Lakes Region was all about.

 

The main drag in Hampton Beach. Taken from a third floor deck. It was rainy and cold, and we felt like we were in the clouds because they were looming so low that day.

The main drag in Hampton Beach. Taken from a third floor deck. It was rainy and cold, and we felt like we were in the clouds because they were looming so low that day.

Our campsite: W50.

Our campsite: W50.

We promised the dogs we would take them for a long walk on the Independence Trail in Boston on Friday before we left. Cessna was so disappointed our plans got scrapped because of rain.

We promised the dogs we would take them for a long walk on the Independence Trail in Boston on Friday before we left. Cessna was so disappointed our plans got scrapped because of rain.

Downtown Portsmouth on another rainy day.

Downtown Portsmouth on another rainy day.

Mike's fishing spot while we were at Pine Acres campground.

Mike’s fishing spot while we were at Pine Acres campground.

Fire boats in the Portsmouth Harbor. The bridge in the background goes to Maine.

Fire boats in the Portsmouth Harbor. The bridge in the background goes to Maine.

I always say that!

I always say that!

The swimming hole at Pine Acres campground, from across the cove.

The swimming hole at Pine Acres campground, from across the cove.

The Lamprey River bordered the campground.

The Lamprey River bordered the campground.

Robert Plant in concert.

Robert Plant in concert.

Hampton Beach

Hampton Beach

Concert!

Concert!

 

 

New Hampshire Part I: White Mountains

We learned that campgrounds in New England are only open from May through October each year. Since schools don’t let out until the middle of June, it turns out that the Fourth of July holiday is HUGE. Independence Day is kind of like the official beginning of summer in the Northeast. Where we come from, people are already sick of summer by July 4th, so it took us a bit of time to wrap our heads around this scheduling shift. This is notable because our neighbors at the first campground in Vermont warned us it was going to be hard to find reservations anywhere over the fourth if we didn’t already have something booked (which we didn’t).

As I started calling around to book reservations after Fairfax, it was evident that Ken and Helen knew what they were talking about. No one had room for us.  Everyone was full. I started working on Plan B. Most big box stores like Wal-mart, Home Depot or Lowe’s don’t mind if travelers park an RV in their parking lot for a brief overnight stay. I started reasoning with Mike that we could just start down the path to Maine, stop at a convenient spot, and celebrate the fourth in a concrete parking space. I was trying to convince him it would be fun to set up camp, light a fire in our portable pit, and grill a patriotic dinner while enjoying an all- American view of Wal-mart’s entrance. He suggested I keep calling some other options first.

I finally stumbled upon a place in Eastern New Hampshire that could take us for three nights, but we would have to leave on Saturday, June 29. We decided to reserve a spot at the Timberland Camping Area while it was available, and then keep looking for our next place to visit in Maine. It seems like rain has been a constant factor on this trip, and this travel day was no different. Thunderstorms were forecasted to fire up around the noon hour, so we got up early and left Fairfax by 9:30 am. We usually don’t get away until 11:00 on travel days, so we were doing great!

It did rain on us for most of the drive through Vermont and New Hampshire, but it was light drizzle and nothing dangerous. We got to our new camp around 1:00 in the afternoon and promptly discovered that the mosquitoes in New Hampshire are awful. As Mike was unhooking the car from the tow gear, he warned me that he had stumbled into a swarm of them. Not really… a swarm would be temporary, and these critters were not going anywhere. The bloodsuckers were thick, big, and thirsty. This campground was much larger than our last stop, so we were excited to be able to take the dogs on a proper walk. After we hooked up our water, sewer, and electricity we put the dogs on their leashes and headed out on foot to explore our new neighborhood. That lasted about 10 minutes. Even Cessna was swatting at her face. Time to turn around and head back indoors.

We had arrived uncharacteristically early and didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening staring at each other or the television. A campfire was out of the question because those are generally located in the open air – where the mosquitos lived. It was too soon in the day for martinis. We decided to head out in the car and see what was in the next town of Gorham. Mike has a thing about paying a fee at the ATM machine when he withdraws cash. He’s got an app on his phone that helps us locate machines that offer reciprocal services with our credit union and allow us to get cash with no fees. The closest one to us on this day was north in Milan. The plan was to make a quick stop for money and then find a place where we could have an early dinner. Forty-five minutes later we were still searching for the country store with the magical ATM machine. After we finally located the establishment and got our “free” money, we enjoyed a spirited debate on the way back to Gorham. My point of view: the hour and one half of time, coupled with the amount of gas we used driving, cost us more than what we saved in fees. His point of view: nothing is better than saving money, and no fee means saving money. It was late enough in the day for a drink now. We found a locally owned pizza place in the center of town. After feasting on delicious house-made pizza with fresh salads while everyone watched the Red Sox against the Rockies on the flat screen televisions, we called it a day.

We only had two full days on this stop and our second day featured the best weather forecast. If we were going to get out and about, this was the day to do it. The little town of Gorham is just on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest, and literally on the path of the Appalachian Trail. No wonder I kept seeing dirty people walking along the highway with giant back-packs and walking sticks in both hands. The White Mountain National Forest is one of the most heavily used National Forests in the country. Visitors can focus on exploring the history of the area, the covered bridges in the area, the waterfalls in the area, or the multitude of trains that wind through the landscape. We wanted to take the dogs on a hike for some exercise, so we honed in on the Waterfall Trail. This forest boasts more than 100 waterfalls. We set our sights on three of them and loaded the family into the car.

Each of the waterfalls we selected were an easy drive from our campground as we headed south on Hwy 16 out of Gorham. The first stop was Glen Ellis Falls, situated only about .3 of a mile off the highway. We parked the car, followed a path that started with a tunnel under the highway, and let the dogs drag us down a long series of stone stairs.  We could hear the powerful rush of water as we descended, but the majestic view was not revealed until we got to the bottom and peaked our heads around a giant wall of boulders. What we saw was a 64’ waterfall that drops over the headwall of an ancient glacial valley. It was an invigorating sight. We snapped a few photos and then headed back up.

Back in the car, we made our way to the next stop. This time our target was the Crystal Cascade near the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Pinkham Notch has been a hub for skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking the Presidential Range of the White Mountains since the 1920’s.  The AMC Joe Dodge Lodge and the Visitor Center are located at the base of Mount Washington on the Appalachian Trail. AMC stands for Appalachian Mountain Club. Hikers stay here for a respite during their trek. Here they can relax with a bed, a shower, and a hot meal. After exploring the Visitor Center and watching some of the hikers come and go, we took another 15- minute hike along Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail. At the end we found the falls that drop about 100 feet in two uneven segments. As we followed the trail back to our car, I contemplated taking 6 months of our life to “do the Appalachian Trail”. I’ll admit I was intrigued by the notion of this adventure. Should we put this on our bucket list and think about it after the “Lower 48 in 48” tour? The biggest obstacle to that commitment, in my opinion, would be the lack of showers and other luxuries I would have to forego for so long. No razors, no shampoo, no manicures or facials for 6 months. My solution: read a book about it instead.

Our final stop on the mini waterfall tour was Thompson Falls at Wildcat Mountain. Wildcat Mountain is a ski area in the forest. In the summer the slopes are covered with green grass. Visitors can explore the base by playing Frisbee golf, riding the gondola to the top, zip-lining, or hiking to the falls. This time our hike took us along a narrow foot-path through thick woods for about 45 minutes. This trip was muddy but beautiful. As soon as we came to a break in the dense trees, the “giant clam shaped ledge” was staring us in the face. The only other people we saw there were three park service workers trying to fill in some of the mud holes with small rocks from the pool below. They told us we could let the dogs swim there… but Piper and Cessna didn’t get that golden retriever gene, so we snapped a few more photos and headed back to the trail. We considered riding the gondola to the top after we got back to the base lodge, but the top of the mountain was covered in clouds. We wouldn’t have been able to see anything from up there anyway, so we drove to Wal-mart and did our weekly grocery shopping instead. An activity that was much less exciting, but far more productive.

It rained continuously on our last full day at Timberland Campground. I passed the time by writing in my blog. Mike watched TV and did a crossword puzzle. The weather made us so lazy; I didn’t even want to take the trouble to make dinner. We picked up Subway instead. We planned to return and explore more of The Granite State later in our trip. For now we had our eyes toward Maine for July. Bar Harbor was next on the list and check-out time was 11:00 in the morning.

 

It may be because I loved watching Lily Tomlin do her act on TV when I was a kid... but I can never resist getting my picture taken in a giant chair when I see one.

It may be because I loved watching Lily Tomlin do her act on TV when I was a kid… but I can never resist getting my picture taken in a giant chair when I see one.

A view from our hike in the White Mountains.

A view from our hike in the White Mountains.

Thompson Falls at Wildcat Mountain.

Thompson Falls at Wildcat Mountain.