We have a final cuddle from Aysgarth Station’s resident cats, purchase the essential moose bottle opener/keyring combo and lobster Christmas decoration, drive a final loop around Acadia and we are off. Out of Maine, land of lobster, blueberries and moose; into New Hampshire. Land of mountains and…er, more moose?
We take Route 2 into the White Mountains – the views are stunning. Whilst the leaves are just starting to creep with colour in Maine, they are a cacophony of reds, oranges and yellows here in NH. And we haven’t even hit peak fall foliage season yet. Lakes, forests and mountains around every corner. Nothing can be more spectacular. And then we find our guesthouse – the Riverside Inn. It’s amazing! There’s a large lawn with a hammock overlooking the river. I am first on the hammock, and although not particularly elegantly, I manage not to hit the ground or turn the thing upside down. Our room has a huge fireplace, and a four-poster bed. With stairs. Any higher and an elevator would be necessary. If I look over the side, I get a severe case of vertigo.
The Moat Mountain Smokehouse had been recommended by our host, and we are soon full to bursting after eating just half of our food. As tempting as it may be, I decide not to have my leftover meatloaf and mashed potato boxed up as take-out.
Not counting the Park Inn at Heathrow, this is the fourth hotel/guesthouse of our trip. The beds are getting higher. I am fully expecting a mattress suspended from the ceiling by Boston…
I loved New York. I really loved Maine. But I really really love New Hampshire. And if I wanted Jayne and Steve from Bar Harbor to adopt me, then I really want them to share custody with Ken, our host here at the Riverside Inn. Ken competes with Jayne on the ‘breakfast to beat all breakfasts’ front and serves up a melon medley, followed by French toast, bacon and maple syrup. We eat til we’re full but don’t stick around – we have mountains and valleys (or notches as they are known here) to explore.
We find ourselves on the famous Kancamagus Highway. It is a whistlestop visit as the four cups of coffee at breakfast are taking their toll on Mr Fletche’s bladder. A quick relief stop in one of the rest areas and we are back on track.
We proceed to the visitor centre at Lincoln to purchase our parking permit. We’re soon heading towards Franconia Notch State Park. The colours of the fall foliage here is stunning; reds, oranges, yellows and greens; and mountainsides look like patchwork quilts from down below.
We decide to get our fix of waterfalls, glacial boulders and covered bridges all in one go and visit Flume Gorge. This is a 2-mile nature walk, and worth every penny; particularly the picture perfect view from Sentinel Pine covered bridge.
We purchase a sandwich (to share, remember the size of our breakfast?), potato chips and a cookie and head off to the Basin picnic area for our picnic lunch. Yes, after two days of picnicking in the FM2013, today we are dining al fresco! The weather in fact has been glorious, and as we queue for the post-lunch aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain our guide tells us that the summit is finally clear after a morning of being in the clouds.
The gondola takes us up the mountain following an off-season ski trail, and we follow the rim trail to the 4,080 foot summit… I’m on top of the world! We can see not only into Maine and Vermont, but also into Quebec. That’s a whole other country! The highway is snaking through the valleys below us, but up here it is amazingly peaceful…if a little breezy. We grab a much welcomed beer at the summit bar…my highest altitude beer yet!
We continue driving the ‘loop’ through Crawford Notch State Park, stopping off at scenic view points to peruse mountains, valleys and more waterfalls. Every turn yields a new vista, and we don’t tire of this beauty. However, the daylight is fading and we head back to our new home.
Time for a quick brush up and change before dinner. Practically next door to our guesthouse is Tuckerman’s Tavern – no more driving for Mr Fletche today. There’s a short wait for a table but we grab drinks at the bar and are soon seated. Mr Fletche has some sort of chicken and peach concoction, whilst I opt for the half rack of ribs. If this is half, then I would hate to see a whole one. Our meals come with waffle fries. These are divine! We valiantly tackle our way through the majority of our food, after all it’d be a shame to waste any of those waffle fries.
On the short walk back down an unlit road, we cannot fail to notice the amazingly clear night sky. We can make out constellations and planets. You don’t get these night skies back in Birmingham…
Tomorrow, we finally get on our bikes! Oh, and we plan to drive up the highest mountain in NE USA.
Ken’s entrée this morning consisted of eggs “any way you like”. Cue the embarrassing confession that the only way I like eggs is in cake. Still, a no-eggs breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and dried cherries is rustled up with no problem. Mr Fletche has eggs. He is normal.
Our first stop this morning is at the Glen Ellis Falls. A ½ mile hike and we are presented with amazing 64 foot waterfalls. Mr Fletche scrambles on slippery rocks to get the best photo opportunity; I remain on dry land wherever possible. Standing overlooking the falls, beautiful colours all around and the sound of gushing water becomes my new favourite place (after Sentinel Pine Bridge). The sound of gushing water also makes me want to pee. Restroom break done, we head for our next destination. Yes, after the weather thwarting our biking plans in Acadia we are determined to get on our bikes here in the White Mountains.
Now, apart from a wobbly ride around a health spa’s grounds about 10 years ago with Ma Lee, the last time I was on a bike I would have been around 13 or 14. That bike had a bell, a basket and three gears which were never used. It was low enough that my feet could be flat on the floor, with my knees slightly bent. I did somehow manage to graduate from stabilisers at some point. The extent of my cycling was to ride around the block past the house of a boy I fancied.
So when bike rental woman at Great Glen Trails is telling me all about the gears and brakes blah blah blah I understand nothing. I am just wondering how I am going to get on the behemoth of the bicycle she is wheeling out for me. What do you mean, it’s fine that I can only reach the floor on tippy toes? This is a long way to fall! And fall I almost do, even before we have crossed the underpass and reached the start of the trails. I appear to have an inability to cycle in a straight line. And to stop. And to change gear.
Soon, however, I am happily careering down a hill, legs akimbo, not a care in the world. And then we hit another hill. This one goes up. Despite Mr Fletche shouting “first gear, first gear” I have reached a standstill and am in serious danger of rolling backwards. I decide that walking the hill and wheeling my bike is the best option. This becomes something of a pattern of our 90 minute ride; I laugh and whoop going downhill; I curse and mutter obscenities going uphill. But despite everything (and even with severe inner thigh bruising despite the “Comfort” seat), this was SO much fun. We stopped by babbling brooks where autumn leaves softly drifted around us. A lake reflecting the changing colours. A meadow overlooked by the majestic Mount Washington. And we did not see another soul on our entire journey.
We stop for a sandwich at the café at Great Glen Trails, a perfect chance to rest our aching limbs. And then it is time for part three of today’s outdoor adventure – the Auto Road to the summit of Mount Washington. 8 mile of sheer drops, changing terrain and spectacular views across the White Mountains. At the summit, 6,288 feet about sea level, we look down on the wispy clouds beneath us. Yesterday’s mountain seems like a tiny little hill compared to this one. Mr Fletche and FM2013 work as one symbiotic being to safely deliver me both up and down the mountain. For this, I am truly grateful.
The afternoon is spent retracing some of our steps along Crawford Notch, Franconia Notch and Kancamagus Highway until the sun is setting. A quick rest back at the inn and then it’s back out to get some food. Except its Friday night. In a major tourist area. At Fall Foliage time. Everywhere is packed. We are contemplating a second Subway dinner of our holiday, but decide to try last night’s haunt Tuckermans. Hoorah – there’s no wait. A couple of beers later, and some more of those delicious waffle fries and we are leaving Tuckermans with half a BBQ Chicken Pizza in a ‘doggy bag”. That’s tomorrow’s lunch sorted then…
We think about packing when we return back to our room, but that can wait until tomorrow morning. We both keep saying “when we come back…” or “next time we’ll…” so I know that this area has captured our hearts. Vermont – you have a lot to live up to!!