How Sweet It Is! Maple Season Gets Underway in Northern New Hampshire

Get ready to sweeten your visit to the northern reaches of New Hampshire in March and early April. During this time of year, warm sunny days and freezing nights signal the sap to flow in our sugar maple trees.

 Throughout the region, sap is collected in a run that lasts for about six weeks. In times past, buckets were affixed to taps on trees to collect the sap, but the 21st century method for most producers involves miles of tubing that run through the sugar bush. Once the sap is collected, steam rises from sugarhouses as the sap is boiled down into flavorful maple syrup.

An early spring weekend is a perfect time for a sweet getaway. Visit these sugarhouses to take a walk through a sugarbush, see a tree being tapped, watch maple syrup being made, taste the delicious syrup (always our favorite part!), and linger in the sugarhouse, taking in the sweet maple fragrance as the sap is reduced to syrup. And don’t forget to take home some of that delicious goodness to enliven your pancakes and waffles and other recipes!

Fuller’s Sugarhouse

At Fuller’s Sugarhouse (www.FullersSugarhouse.com), maple syrup has been a family tradition since 1972. When the maple season begins, the family’s sugarhouse at 2021White Mountain Highway (Route 2) in Jefferson welcomes visitors to watch the process and taste some of the sweet syrup.

Fuller’s taps more than 26,000 trees and boils half a million gallons of maple sap to produce 11,000 gallons of syrup! During Maple Weekend, March 23 and 24, visit the sugarhouse for tours, watch the sap being boiled into syrup, indulge in some sugar-on-snow — a taste treat not to be missed — and enjoy the camaraderie of other like-minded maple aficionados.

Throughout March, visitors will receive 10 percent off Fuller’s pure maple products at the sugarhouse in Jefferson, at their Country Store in Lancaster, and online.

Fuller’s Maple Choice Award: New this year — share your favorite recipe that includes Fuller’s pure maple products and you could win a Fuller’s maple prize. Submissions accepted through March 17, followed by voting online and at both Fuller’s Sugarhouse locations. Gets all the details here.

The Rocks Maple Experience

The Maple Experience at The Rocks Estate (www.TheRocks.org) in Bethlehem is a hands-on experience with an array of activities to help visitors understand the history of maple sugaring and how maple syrup is made. Learn how to identify sugar maple trees, take a horse drawn-wagon ride around the beautiful estate, tap a tree yourself to collect the sap, visit the maple museum, and take a tractor-drawn ride to the sugarhouse to watch the process of sap being boiled down into syrup. The maple tastings include fresh donuts! Maple syrup made from sap gathered at The Rocks is available for purchase.

Maple tours are offered March 23, 24, 30 and 31, and April 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The cost is $15 for adults and $12 for kids. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (603) 444-6228.

8th Annual Maple Dinner: For an extra sweet treat, reserve your seat for the 8th Annual Maple Dinner on April 6, to be held at The Maplewood Country Club in Bethlehem. Catered by Chef Joe’s, the dinner is a fundraiser for The Rocks Fire Fund (The Rocks recently lost its main barn in a devastating fire). The delicious dinner features a variety of maple-themed dishes. Tickets for previous dinners have sold out quickly, so don’t wait to reserve your spot. Call (603) 444-6228 or email [email protected].

The Rocks Estate is the North Country Conservation and Education Center of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. www.forestsociety.org

How to Hike in the Winter

By: Duncan McKee
GoAllOutdoors.com

How to Hike in the winter


Cold weather can be a huge deterrent to taking a hike in the winter months. This should not be the case, however. Winter offers some of the most spectacular and jaw dropping views that cannot be seen when it is sunny and 75°. When it is cold, however, different precautions are required to make sure you and your group have a safe and enjoyable experience. These are some tips on how to hike in the winter. This is not a comprehensive list, but a set of good practices to get you out to enjoy winter the right way! Before you look at this list, make sure to check our list of essentials for every hiking trip, then you can add these winter tips!

1. Dress in layers

How to Hike in the winter - Dress in layers

This may come as the most obvious one, but dressing warmly is the first step in a successful hiking trip. Your body will eventually start to generate heat while you hike, but being prepared with a well-structured ensemble is essential. Every good winter hiking outfit has 3 essential layers:

  • Base Layer
  • Insulator
  • Shell

The base layer is for moisture wicking and the first layer of defense for your body. The insulator will be the main thing holding in your body heat, often this is a fleece or some other soft shell jacket. The shell is the water proof outer covering of your body. This is going to keep any type of moisture (and ideally wind) from getting on your clothes and making things much colder for you. Another huge benefit for dressing in layers is that if you get too warm, it is easy to shed a layer or two.

Pro Tip: Avoid cotton. Once cotton gets wet it completely loses its ability to insulate and will take a long time to dry on the trail. Synthetic layers will be moisture-wicking and quick drying. Also, make sure that your shell is also wind resistant. Cold weather can feel a lot colder when there is wind chill involved.

2. Eat all day

How to Hike in the winter - Eat All Day

It is important to eat in cold weather. Your body is burning up to twice as many calories trying to keep you warm. Feeding yourself high protein snacks during your entire trip will help keep you warm and safe. Bring simple, easy to digest snacks with little to no prep required. Stopping for long periods of time will cause your muscles to tighten and it will be challenging for you to get moving again. Trail mixes with lots of nuts are the perfect thing to keep with you during your cold adventures.

3. Drink water

How to Hike in the winter - Drink Water

It may not be hot and you may feel like you are not sweating much, but it is still very important to remain hydrated on your hike. It may sound silly, but it is actually easier to experience dehydration in the colder weather due to the dryer air. Dehydration is especially dangerous because when it occurs, it is easier to experience hypothermia and frostbite. Try an insulated water bottle to keep your water from freezing. If you do not have an insulated water bottle and do not want to invest in one, try insulating it yourself with a thick sock or wool hat.

4. Hike during the heat of the day

How to Hike in the winter - Drink Water

Normally when going on a hike, you want to mostly avoid when the sun is at its peak. It can be grueling and dangerous depending on where you are. For winter hiking, however, it is exactly opposite. Hiking in the winter means that you want to plan your time around getting the most time in the sun as possible. This is going to be more comfortable for you, for warmth and for light.

Pro Tip: Make sure to know when sunset is. If you start a 5 hour hike at noon, it is possible you will be arriving back to your car at dark. This is also important for any winter backpackers. Planning your days according to the sunrise and sunset will be very important.

5. Understand the signs of hypothermia

How to Hike in the winter - Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a real threat in any cold situation. It can sneak up on you if you are not careful. Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature becomes lower enough that it begins to interfere with normal muscle and brain function. It can affect your ability to get to safety and think clearly.

Some things that lead to hypothermia include:

  • Inadequate clothing for cooler weather
  • Wetness
  • Fatigue and exhaustion.

Some signs of hypothermia are:

  • Uncontrollable shaking and shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Lethargy

If you think you are someone else may be experiencing hypothermia, do everything you can to make them warm and find help as soon as possible. Read more about hypothermia here.

Optional, But Suggested Tips

Here are a few good ideas to adhere to that will definitely improve your experience. While not necessarily required, these tips will improve your safety and enjoyment on any good winter escapade. Consider them as you pack for your trip.

Crampons or Micro Spikes

Crampons and Micro Spikes are tools that can drastically change your adventure from slippery icy danger to an attainable trail. Both tools are used to improve your traction in icy environments. However, they cannot be used lightly. Crampons especially can be very dangerous if used incorrectly. Typically, if you are going on a more moderate trail, high-traction hiking boots may be enough. Micro Spikes are added for additional traction if you know your trail will be especially icy. Crampons are usually for more serious ice inclines or mountaineering. If you think you will need additional traction, learn more about these two options and pick what is best for you.

Bring a warm drink

Nothing can help warm the body like a little hot tea or cocoa. Bringing a well-insulated bottle full of a warm drink can really help you warm up if things start to get especially cold. It also is a tasty addition to any gear load out. This should go without saying – but leave the alcohol at home. Alcohol can cause arteries and veins to expand, releasing more heat, and can lead to hypothermia more quickly. There will be plenty of time for a celebratory drink once you are safe and sound in a warm building.

Hand/Toe Warmers

There are hand and toe warmers that resemble tea bags that can be bought at many major retailers. These small packs, once exposed to open air, will begin to heat up and can be really nice for hands and toes. I hesitate to suggest these only because you CANNOT rely on them. While they will improve your comfort temporarily, these cannot be one of your main sources of warmth. They run out. Make sure to dress warmly enough that if you did not have the hand warmers, you would still have a fun and comfortable journey. These are just nice little additions to your pack.

Trail Running Like a Local in New Hampshire’s Grand North

Trail Running Blog
Photo Credit: Joe Klementovich

As a local runner, I’m often asked about good running routes or trails.  I have a variety of favorite running sequences that mostly fulfill mileage goals set by a predetermined training schedule.  Mornings are easy.  I lace up my sneakers, walk out my front door, start my GPS watch, and run.  These routes are not publically signed or considered part of a local asset; they are simply a selection of roads and loops that are available to anyone, but unknown to most.  I have come to realize that this area is really just open to whatever your days’ goals are.  It’s not necessary to seek designated running areas to find flow and ease of travel.  Any runner is able to start from any place, and come away with a special experience without much premeditation.

With this said, there are a few public trails that are worth noting, and should be at the top of your must-run list.  Here they are:

  • Monadnock Mountain, Lemington, VT:  This is a hiking trail that summits Monadnock Mountain (not southern, NH — think Northeast Kingdom).  This trail is approximately 2.25 miles to the peak with 2,075 feet of elevation gain.  Your reward for running this well-maintained, rocky trail to the top is a fire tower view, which provides 360 degree display of the Connecticut River valley, the bordering states of New Hampshire and Maine, and points north into Canada.  The trail head is located in a gravel pit just north of the Bridge Street Bridge, on VT Route 102.
  • The Rail Trail, Colebrook, NH:  The rail trail is a reclaimed rail bed that may be accessed from multiple points along Route 3 traveling north from Colebrook.  Its starting point is located just off Bridge Street near the River Walk, with eight miles of trail stretching from Colebrook to West Stewartstown.  While this gravel trail wins points for accessibility and its appropriateness for all ability levels, it is shared with all modes of recreation, and the lack of variety can make this flat course a bit uninteresting.  The bright spot of this trail is the river valley feel, and the farming roads that spur off into the fields and other areas.
  • The Cohos Trail, Stewartstown, NH:  This section of Cohos trail is perfect for off-the grid trail running.  Escape into the woods and experience a variety of grassy and gravel terrain that will challenge you with a subtle ascent of just over 800 feet.  Starting at campsite 11 at Coleman State Park, follow the mowed trail and the yellow hash marks along the Cohos Trail, which merges with the snowmobile trail.  This trail connects with Rusty’s Road, at which point you will take a right where the grassy trail intersects with the well-worn ATV trail.  Descend Rusty’s Road, and turn right at the pavement onto Diamond Pond Road, bringing you back to Coleman State Park.
  • Table Rock and Sanguinary Ridge Trail, Dixville Notch, NH:  Table Rock is an iconic hiking location and is well-known to many.  In my opinion, the real magic happens when you ascend Table Rock by accessing the short, steep scramble that starts just east of the Balsams Resort entrance (trailhead is signed).  After testing your mental fortitude by walking out on the ledge and taking in the notch view from Table Rock, continue to Three Brother’s Trail along the Cohos Trail.  This gradual descent showcases waterfalls, shear ledges, and mossy terrain.  Once you’ve arrived at the Dixville Wayside State Park, look for the cemetery of the early settlers.  Here you will see markings for the Cohos Trail that will lead you across Route 26 to the Sanguinary Ridge Trail where you will start a second climb.  There will be a number of lookouts along the way, and the real treat is the shale covered face that transports you from the wilderness experience to something completely different.  Sanguinary Ridge Trail will bring you back to the hotel entrance, where you started.

~ Contributed by Bridget C.G. Freudenberger

Ecotourism is Trending in New Hampshire’s Grand North

NH_Grand_Agritourism_Meadowstone_Farm

Looking for a different kind of adventure this summer? What says summer better than returning home with fond memories of your northern New Hampshire vacation, along with a bounty of yummy, just-off-the-vine tomatoes, ears of freshly picked corn, crisp lettuces, a couple of juicy watermelons, eggs laid that morning, humanely raised beef, pork and lamb, and sweet maple syrup?

The expanding trend of ecotourism is alive and well throughout the region with farmers markets, farm stands, and farms themselves enticing visitors to include these destinations on their itinerary when making their weekend or vacation plans.

 

Meadowstone FarmThe owners and staff at Meadowstone Farm in Bethlehem, love to share all the ins and outs of the operation with visitors. The farm produces an incredible variety of fruits and vegetables, along with pork, eggs, chicken, goat cheese, seedlings, and even compost. Meadowstone also has PYO blueberries, from mid July-mid August, and flowers (swoon, swoon!), from mid July-mid September. Meadowstone’s farmstand is open year round from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Littleton Farmers Market One of the best of its kind, the Littleton Farmers’ Market is located in downtown Littleton, right on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River and the town’s famous covered bridge. Grassy areas, trees and the burbling river make this an ideal spot even on the hottest day to browse the stalls offering everything from locally grown fruits and veggies, pasture-raised pork, beef, and chicken, goat cheeses, breads, gluten-free goodies, maple products, prepared foods, and lots and lots of wonderful crafts, from jewelry to wood products to homespun wool! Different musical groups each week add to the market’s festive flair. Open Sundays from June to October, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

Apple Haven FarmKids — and their parents — will enjoy the free farm tour at Apple Haven Farm in West Stewartstown. Tour the lush gardens and learn what it takes to grow certified organic vegetables, herbs and a variety of fruits including (of course!) apples. Because of its location — the farm is just a hop, skip and a jump to Canada — the farm employs heated greenhouses and high tunnels to bring its produce to harvest and extend the growing season. Apple Haven also sells its products at North Country Marketplace on Main Street in Colebrook.

 

 

NH_Grand_Agritourism_Ecovillage_InstituteCite Ecologique of NH Ecovillage in Colebrook, is a creative learning center with a focus on sustainability. The community welcomes visitors from May through October to experience life on a large working farm and participate in a variety of workshops. The organic farm is set on 315 acres surrounded by mountains and forests. Outstanding gardens, greenhouses, a chicken coop, 500 logs of shiitake, solar installations, a sugar shack and trails lend themselves to many opportunities to learn what a sustainable future might look like. Seminars and weekend workshops are designed to give participants practical skills for building more balanced lives.

 

CJEJ Farm“As Local As It Gets” is the slogan of CJEJ Farm / The MeatHouse in Columbia, a family farm that specializes in locally grown, quality meats. Visit The MeatHouse farm store to purchase the farm’s own eggs, beef, pork, chicken, turkey and goat. This farm uses crop rotation and grows its own grain to reduce feed costs, increase yield and improve its soil, and the owners are happy to answer visitors’ questions about their lively operation. The farm sells its products at farmers markets in Gorham, Bethlehem, and Lancaster, and also offers custom processing and deer processing.

 

 

The country store at the family-owned Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster, is a must stop destination. The shelves are stocked with pure New Hampshire maple syrup in all its forms. Fuller’s award-winning syrup is packaged in beautiful glass bottles or the more traditional jugs, and their maple candy, maple cream (butter), and maple sugar are all made-on-the-premises — a sweet treat any time of year! Can’t make it into the store? Fuller’s ships its products worldwide.

 

 

 

NH_Grand_The_Rocks_EstateDazzling views of the majestic White Mountains, rolling fields studded with row upon row of future Christmas trees, and a well-maintained trail system perfect for short strolls or longer hikes are reason enough to visit the historic Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, but did you know that the 1,400 acre property is the conservation and education center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests? Dozens of programs and experiential tours are offered throughout the year. Visitors can learn about the conservation of wildlife habitats and the plants and animals found on and around the property, how the Christmas trees are grown, and how maple syrup is made. Many visitors plan a trip to The Rocks in the fall to choose their holiday tree — cut your own or choose from a selection of just cut trees. On March weekends, The Rocks hosts its popular NH Maple Experience, with tours, tastings and more. From June 1 through Columbus Day, consider a self-guided tour of the New Hampshire Maple Experience museum that includes a video demonstration of maple sugaring and a fascinating display of maple sugaring tools and artifacts. The Rocks’ delicious New Hampshire maple syrup and other maple products, as well as Christmas trees and wreaths, can also be ordered directly from the online store.

 

Mountain View Farm The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa  in Whitefield, has catered to guests since the end of the Civil War when it was a working farm. Now, more than 150 years later, the resort holds fast to its agricultural roots with an orchard, greenhouse, gardens, and farm animals. Guest can get up close and personal to the farm animals at the Mountain View Farm, where fiber collected from the farm’s flock of sheep is spun into Mountain View Farm Blend yarn, which also includes fiber from the farm’s Angora goats, alpacas, llamas and Angora rabbits. Resort activities include year-round Meet the Farmer educational tours where guests can meet the farmer and the farm’s animals, and Bird (ducks and chickens) and Bunny Talks, which focus on the needs and care of these animals. Seasonally, guests are invited to help make cider on the Resort’s own cider press or learn how maple syrup is made, including tastings. Guests can learn a new craft by taking a needle or wet felting class at the fiber studio, using fibers from the farm’s animals and take home a wonderful souvenir of their visit.

 

 

 

 

Mountain Biking Like a Local in the North Country

Mountain Biking

The Whites are well known for summer hiking. But sometimes it’s nice to step out of line and trade in your hiking boots, pump some adrenaline, and ride. Mountain biking is still fairly new in the North Country, which means the trails are generally quiet, even on peak weekends.

PRKR Mountain TrailsParker Mountain Trails, known as PRKR MTN, serves up 22-miles of consistently challenging riding. A hand-built network in Littleton, NH, PRKR MTN trails will leave you sweaty, humble, and drenched in accomplishment. Every time I step away from PRKR my legs (and ego) are lined with bruises, yet my heart screams bring it on! Each ride makes me more technically proficient, and the view from Linda’s Lookout is worth every inch of the climb. PRKR is also working to expand its beginner network, and has a new pump track that’s a fun challenge for the whole family. The Littleton Bike Shop is right down the street, and no ride is complete without a visit to Schilling Beer Company, the brewery that put Littleton on the map.

Mountain Biking in Bethlehem

New to the mountain biking scene this year is Bethlehem Trails Association (BTA), just next door to PRKR MTN. While BTA is less than a year old, it’s already in the process of developing and mapping a few trails for the 2018 season. BTA intends to offer a bit of everything from double track with mountain views to entice beginners and families to single track switchbacks weaving up and around the many mountain peaks central to downtown. With Rek’-lis Brewing Company, the Colonial Theatre, and a number of local shops and restaurants right in BTA’s backyard, Bethlehem will soon be a fantastic place to ride, sip craft beer, and fill up on dinner and live music without having to so much as move your car from its parking spot!

Last, but certainly not least, no mountain biking tour of the northeast would be complete without a trip to Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT. Kingdom is where the crowds are, but they gather for a reason. Downhill flow trails like Kitchel and Troll Stroll leave you giddy like a child hopped up on birthday cake, and the ridgelines looking out over layers of rolling farmland make every ascent (even the one up Darling Hill) worth the tears. Set aside time to soak in the view from Heaven’s Bench, and be sure to kick back post-ride at Mike’s Tiki Bar with nourishment from neighboring food trucks.

The North Country isn’t just for hiking anymore! See you on the trails!

Mountain Biking

-Kelly McCann

North Country transplant and BTA board member

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

The Mount Washington Cog RailwayThe majesty and allure of Mount Washington hovers in the distance like a carrot on a rope. Being the tallest peak in the northeast, I know that getting to the summit of the mountain would offer amazing views for any family or visitor that would leave them saying “wow!”.

Of course, being able to Explore Mount Washington in a way for the entire family to enjoy and appreciate presents a list of different experiences and opportunities to take in the beautiful views, enjoy the wildlife and really get a experience and memorable journey to heights that offer supreme viewing angles of up to 5 states and into Canada!

A HISTORIC VOYAGE TO THE MOON

Topping the list is the premiere way to visit and experience Mount Washington; the Mount Washington Cog Railway. A three hour roundtrip to the top and back on a beautiful steam or biodiesel train all the while having a guided narration? Count us in! And of course it’s entirely stress free and you can really take the vistas and surroundings in and not have to worry about anything else!

The Mount Washington Cog Railway starts at Marshfield Station in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Enclosed in Marshfield Station is a free interactive museum about the history of the Mount Washington Cog Railway and a great gift shop offering the perfect souvenirs to remember the visit by; even if you don’t ride the train!

The Mount Washington Cog Railway offers two types of locomotives to bring you to the summit of Mount Washington. Take a ride in the historic steam locomotives and feel like you’ve been teleported right back to the late 1800s! The smell of the coal and the chugging of the train will make anyone feel like they’re taking the first steps in exploring Mount Washington and being a part of living history!

Also available are the modern, eco-friendly & high-tech biodiesel locomotives. Offering a faster and cleaner way to the summit, these John Deere powered locomotives show that the future and the past can combine to create an experience that will dazzle everyone of all ages!

Voyaging to the summit of Mount Washington by train is an amazing experience in itself also; taking approximately one hour to reach the summit, you’ll experience views and sights all along the way to the top, all the while, a brakeman offers an educational and exciting narration to make sure you won’t miss a single thing!

Once you’re at the summit of Mount Washington you can enjoy the various exhibits and gift shops along with the fascinating weather and ecosystem that Mount Washington itself presents to its guests! There’s even a post office that you can send a postcard out of that has a unique postmark showing it’s point of departure!

A FORESTS STROLL

The other option to ascend Mount Washington, either in full or even for a nice stroll in the woods, is the myriad of hiking options available on Mount Washington. The Jewell Trail and the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail offer sights to behold to explorers willing to ascend up Mount Washington. Averaging around 6 hours one way, the trails wind and curve throughout beautiful lush forests and waterfalls graze the trails reminding one of like a hidden jewel in the forest.

The hikes are extremely difficult and require full preparedness to make it up to the summit, but day trippers or folks who want to even just take a quick jaunt up the trails to see some of the sights can have an everlasting impression and a thirst for more sights offered right off the beaten path in the White Mountain National Forest! The Jewell Trail, which is the easier of the two, is a great entry trail for hiking Mount Washington and picks up right at the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Coming in at 5.1 miles, the beginning of the trail offers rest spots with scenic views, rushing streams of water and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife! But make sure you’re prepared!

If you’re a seasoned hiker looking for your next challenge, then Mount Washington is the perfect mountain for your New Hampshire voyages. The highest peak in the northeast, the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is 4.5 miles to the summit with a fairly easy grade for the first 2 miles before ramping up. But the reward for this daunting hike is worth it with many waterfalls and scenic overlooks of the Presidential Mountain Range of New Hampshire. A one-way trip is also offered to seasoned hikers who wish to either hike up or down the mountain and take a train ride right back to the parking lots. The best of both worlds!

Parking and trailheads are located on the east side of Mount Washington right at Marshfield Station at the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Before you enjoy your hike either up the Jewell or the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trails you can enjoy a nice breakfast bite at Peppersass Restaurant, get trail maps and essentials supplies at the Gift Shop or even enjoy the busy train operations. From there you can get right onto the two main hiking trails and start your exploration.

No matter which method you choose to Explore Mount Washington, you are guaranteed an experience of a lifetime. In the words of Dr. Suess, “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

From the Eyes of an 18 Year Old Local

By Shamus McKim, NH Grand Intern, 2017-18
Age: 18

Many people come here to hike, ski, explore and try their best to see and do things they haven’t experienced. Possibly because their city life is lacking it, or maybe because they’ve heard the many stories and tales of what you can do up here. Whatever it may be, if you live in New England you’ve most likely heard of the North Country. You’ve probably heard the reviews
of the area and how awesome it was to hike up Artist Bluff and see the beautiful notch, or that the climbing was exceptional, or even that Cannon Mountain had a blue bird day for once! But rather than listen to the words from someone who had a weekend excursion of the area, take it from me. A local.

Franconia NotchI’ve lived in Franconia, New Hampshire on and off over my lifetime (which is a whopping 18 years), and I’ve explored basically every corner of the globe from a place way down under in Auckland, New Zealand, to the smog stricken streets of Santiago, Chile. From the cobblestone walkways of Geneva, Switzerland, to the pointy mountain tops of Vail, Colorado. As fortunate as I have been to explore all these places, one might ask: why do I choose to stay here in this windy, vortex of a place? Well the first reason is that I can’t afford to live elsewhere, I’m a senior in high school, and I live with my parents. But outside the obvious, there’s just something about the place. The notch (Franconia State Park/Franconia Notch), has instilled a load of character into basically every person within a ten mile radius. It can be scary, it can be crazy, but it also can be beautiful, and you’ll find that it’s this way more than not. Franconia will give you a taste of what mother nature really can do, and it’s satisfying. It’s ultimately the world showing how inferior you are to it. It will make you feel short. It will make you feel vulnerable. It will make you feel like the minuscule life form that you are. But this is refreshing. It’s good for you! You need to be broken out of your bubble. You need to hike Lafayette and see the giant rolling mountain cascade into the distance. You need to walk through the giant waterfall crack in the flume. You need to ski Cannon top to bottom in -20 degree weather with wind blowing you up the hill.

Franconia NotchThese are the things that help you build character. They make you more appreciative of what the world has to provide. It makes you realize how important these things are in life, and most important of all, it makes you a better, more receptive, and tougher person. As it may seem that I’m making Franconia seem a somewhat hell hole of a place, which it is occasionally, it’s actually quite extraordinary and exceptional. From the mountain top of Cannon, to the naturally carved rocks of the basin, Franconia has it all. Just a 30-minute drive and you’ve got yourself one of the nicest hotels in the East at the one and only Mount Washington. You’ve got the ever so renowned Tuckerman’s Ravine, Kinsman Notch, beautiful Upper Falls, and the good old Cog Railway. There’s much to be had here for an outdoor enthusiast, especially that of a climber, skier, and overall adventure seeker.

Summit of Mount Washington For myself, I seem to be a jack of all trades. I’ve found myself climbing almost everyday at Tamarack Tennis Camp, bouldering the Notch pull offs, skiing throughout the entirety of this forever lasting winter, cliff jumping the area’s many roadside holes, and endlessly hiking the mountains just outside my door. It definitely suffices for someone who can’t stand still. Because of these many attributes I find myself never bored. Like ever. I like to pride myself in being an artistic person in the photography and videography sense. The North Country provides a boundless amount of picturesque sunsets, landscapes, wildlife, and much more. You have to be incredibly unwilling to go places and do something somewhat athletic to not be able to capture a new photo or video daily.

As I sit here today typing out a blog post, I see another beautiful suave sunset cascading over downtown shooting an orange and pink screen across the mountain range behind me and I see why I love this place so much. I see why I am always occupied. I see why I always miss this place when I’m away. That is why I love the notch. That is why I love to live here.

Discover the Upper Connecticut River

It was like a calling. Something from deep within.  You here about at the shows. You see the photos on online.  The Upper Connecticut Lakes and the headwaters of the 407 mile Connecticut River has a magical lore that draws you.   I always knew I would get there but for some reason, that box just wasn’t checked yet.  The fact is the Pittsburg, NH area needs to be on every flyfisherman’s bucket list.  The Upper Connecticut River along with the Connecticut Lakes, Back Lake and all the remote ponds is an amazing fishery so when that late season fishing bug hit me hard, that Pittsburg trip that hadn’t happened yet kept rolling around in my mind.  I took action and connected with Tom Caron of Tall Timber Lodge.  I had heard from several close friends that Tall Timber Lodge was a special place.  Located on gorgeous Back Lake, Tall Timber is a fantastic launching point for just about any outdoor activity you could ask for.  Best of all, it’s only a double haul cast away from the trophy section of the Upper Connecticut river.

It was just before dusk when I arrived at the Tall Timber Lodge.  The grounds were manicured while still maintaining the rustic look.  The lake was glass and the sunset spectacular just over the foliage covered hills.  I was eating a delicious meal in in the Rainbow Grille, the tavern style restaurant within Tall Timber Lodge, when my guide, Chuck Degray came over to welcome me.  We planned to meet in the lobby the next morning.  Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I could barely sleep.  Finally, I fell off and woke promptly without my alarm. I met Chuck in the lobby where he had a hot cup of coffee for me.   We watched a beautiful sunrise over the lake. With the fall trees painted in an array of autumn colors, a lite morning fog floated across the still water of Back Lake.  I had a sense a long dream was about to become a reality!

The River

The Upper Connecticut river begins at the boarder of Quebec and New Hampshire near Chartierville.  As you head south on 257 you go through US Customs and come to Third Connecticut Lake, the smallest of the “Connecticut Lakes”.  There are four lakes in the Upper Conneticut chain.  Third Connecticut, Second Connecticut, First Connecticut and Lake Francis.  Additionally, there’s Back Lake which is not part of the chain of lakes but since it geographically sits between Third Connecticut and Lake Francis it is often referred to in the same breath as the other Upper Connecticut Lakes. While many people enjoy fishing the lakes, the magic happens between the lakes in the river.

The Upper Connecticut River is considered one of the top fisheries in all the Northeast.  After two full days on the water, I now know why.  The “Trophy Stretch” is a fly-fishing only section of the river that starts at the outlet of First Connecticut Lake Dam and run 2.5 miles downstream to the inlet of Lake Francis.  It is filled with riffles and pools providing some of the finest trout and salmon water in the region.   There are 11 named pool along the Trophy Stretch.  From the picturesque Judge and Jury pool with the cascading waterfalls towards the top of the stretch to The Skating Rink Pool which is down river near Lake Francis.  Beyond the pools anywhere you find a seam, a ripple or a run, you have a chance to catch a fish of a lifetime.

Strategies & Techniques

Fortunately for me that was true twice that first day.  Chuck and I hit the first pool and things started a little slow.  Not for any other reasonbut I was sort of beating up the water.  I have always been more of a streamer/dryfly fisherman. I would occasionally swing wet flies or put a nymph dropper off a dry.  The fact is that those that know how to successfully fish nymphs seem to consistently have the best results and catch the biggest fish.  I have always wanted to advance my skills in this area so when Chuck said let’s start out with a two-nymph rig I was ecstatic.  We set up an 8’ leader tapered to 4X, fluorocarbon preferred, and we attached our first fly.  Chuck recommended a weighed top fly like a stonefly nymph or a bead head.  Below that we added about 8” of 5X fluorocarbon tippet and we tied one in a small sparkle pupa type nymph.  We added a couple split shots about 4” about the top fly and completed the set up with a strike indicator.  You want your strike indicator about 1.5X the water depth so you will need to move that around throughout the day based on the water depth of your pool.  You want you nymphs “ticking” along the bottom.  We didn’t catch anything out of that first pool but that was mostly on me because I was still getting use to this set up.   I would make a comeback though.

Since we had a recent soaking Chuck had an idea.  He said let’s head up to the inlet of 2ndConnecticut Lake as the recent rain could serve as just enough of a push of water to bring the salmon out of lake and  into the river.  We tied one of Chuck’s hand-tied personal favorites, a grey soft hackle streamer.  Feeling back in my element, I made a few casts, down and across with a swing and a strip and POW, I was in!  Feeling like this was a nice fish, I was being gentle.  Taking some line and giving some line.  It felt great to be hooked up but I knew wanted that photo so I was being careful.  I put the fish on the reel, angled him towards Chuck and he netted a beautiful Landlocked Salmon. BINGO BANGO is a term my brother and I coined after we land a nice fish and I certainly let out a hardy one after this fish hit the net.  As happy as I was, Chuck was clearly happier for me.  You see that 21” Salmon was my largest salmon I ever caught in New England.  We snapped a couple pictures and released him back to his pool.  Chuck’s “hunch” paid off and we landed a couple more before hitting our next spot.

We hit up some honey holes and found many cooperative Rainbows and Salmon.  As it was getting towards lunch, with a wonderful morning completed, I suggested we head back to the lodge to relax and have a quick bite.  Anytime I can eat and relax overlooking water and gorgeous water in this case, it fills me with great satisfaction.  Chuck was telling me about the monster Brown Trout they catch below a dam a bit further down river.  In passing I mentioned I have caught a lot of Brown Trout but never a real trophy.  With that information, Chuck said let’s head back out.

I wanted to get back on the nymph rig because I was starting to get the feel of it.  I was struck by the quality of this pools we were hitting. I was working a seem at the bottom of a “V” when the indicator disappeared.  I set the hook and said WHOA, we’re into something.  Then I saw that golden flash; this was unmistakably a Brown Trout and a big one!  This fish was darting everywhere.  Chuck was being so gracious to video tape the fight for me.   Since he was holding the GoPro I said hand me the net.  He said, “Are you sure?”.   With a laugh I said, yeah I got it.  Clearly, I didn’t because this fish was all over the pool and then took a left turn and dove for the next pool over.  I handed the net back to Chuck and he netted the biggest Brown Trout of my life, a 22” beautiful golden, fall Brown Trout.  BINGO – BANGO!  In one day I landed 2 of the nicest fish of my life.  I had been dreaming of this place for so long and my dreams were coming true.

The next day we chased and caught more Trout and Salmon.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to float the lower part of the river in a couple drift boats.  Chuck and I were join by Cindy and John Howe and we had a blast floating the river and catching beautiful trout. John Howe is a veteran guide of the area.  He is basically retired from guiding now but still loves to fish and share his wealth of knowledge on the area.  It was a privilege to fish with Cindy and John.  Plus when your nickname is “Old Man River”, you are sure to have a tale or two to share.  I capped the trip by catching one last fish, a Brook Trout, completing the grand slam.

Time of Year & Flies

Because the dams between the lakes are bottom feed, the river stays cool throughout the summer.  Spring time will bring smelt into the rivers from the lakes allowing a great time to hunt a trophy salmon. Summer time brings great dryfly fishing both on the upper stretch and the lower which is fantastic from a drift boat.  The Fall will bring the salmon back into the river to spawn leaving another chance to land a hard fighting salmon.

I found softhackle streamers in grey or olive to be the most productive streamer.  Under the nymph rig I had the most success with soft hackle, sparsely tied wet flies & beadhead caddis and mayfly nymphs in 16 & 18.  Please check your regulations for the areas you plan to fish. Some parts of the river are fly-fishing only and some parts are catch and release.

Tall Timber Lodge
609 Beach Rd.
Pittsburg, NH 03592
800-835-6343
www.talltimber.com
[email protected]

North Country Fly Shop & Guide Service
Chuck Degray
9 Mountain Ash Drive
Pittsburg, NH 03592
603-331-1459
www.facebook.com/northcountryflyshop

Gorham Through the Eyes of a Thru-Hiker

Gorham Through the Eyes of a Thru-Hiker

Posted by Jean Clarke

It was 2016 and my daughter, Mikayla aka Brightside, was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. As a thru-hiker mom, I had visited her in places like Hot Springs, North Carolina and Vernon, New Jersey. But, after five months, she was finally in New Hampshire and I was thrilled to be a drive away instead of a flight away.

So there I was on a beautiful August day, sitting in a beach chair reading a book at the Rattle River trailhead parking lot off Route 2 in Shelburne, NH. Trucks were flying by and it was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. This is what thru-hiker moms do a lot of …. wait around, read books, chat with locals, check the weather, search for cell phone service. While I was there, I met a handful of thru-hikers – “Mary Poppins”; “Grey Beard”; “Granola” – but no one had seen or heard of “Brightside.” About a chapter into my book, my phone buzzed – and it was Brightside – “I’m in town.” “Okay, be there in 5,” I responded.

I drove back to Gorham and, sure enough, there she was at the ice cream stand right on the main drag that runs through town. She had another ice cream while I decided on my flavor. “How did you get here?” I questioned. “Oh, I got a ride with Paul from The Libby House Inn. That’s where I’m staying tonight and then he’ll give me and a bunch of other hikers a ride back.”
Ask any thru-hiker “What makes a great trail town? And you’ll get lots of different replies, but here are the basics:

  • Access – free rides from friendly business owners, trail angels, tourists and locals.
  • Wifi – Coffee shops or restaurants with free wifi and generous mugs of coffee.
  • Buffets – all-you-can-eat and then some for hungry hikers who’ve been living on freeze dried and oatmeal.
  • Services – Laundromats, a post office, stores for resupply options.
  • Accommodations: Hostels and overnight lodging for folks on a budget. A roof, hot running water, and a bed mean a lot when you’ve been living in a tent.

The town of Gorham does all that and so much more!

Most recently, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy named Gorham an Appalachian Trail Community. This official designation means that it’s recognized as a community that promotes and protects the Appalachian Trail. Gorham, together with Hanover, are the only NH towns listed as AT Communities. What does it take to become an AT Community? It takes volunteers, businesses owners and town officials working together to agree upon a plan and complete the paperwork. It’s a lengthy process, but each community hopes that the pay-off will bring in, not only thru-hikers, but those who support them and the dollars spent at hotels, restaurants, bars and convenience stores. This summer Gorham plans to hang a banner welcoming thru-hikers and an interactive map and kiosk will introduce visitors to services available throughout town. Check out the ATC’s website for more information about Gorham and other trail communities.

Fun Fact: In 1998 Governor Chris Sununu completed a thru-hike of the AT from Maine to Georgia. When it was time to submit Gorham’s AT Community application, Gov. Sununu enthusiastically lent his support. Hey, you never know who will be hiking down the trail. Our next President could be starting her thru-hike today.

“Your Adventure Starts Here” – Time to plan your family adventure in the Androscoggin Valley!

NH_Grand_Great_Glen_TrailsIt seems like Mother Nature does not want to let go of winter just yet in the Androscoggin Valley.  There is STILL some great downhill & cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding, tubing and snowmobiling for the winter enthusiasts out there! Visit the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce website to make plans to Eat, Shop & Explore our winter wonderland while it lasts! You will find a great variety of lodging, dining, exploring & retail establishments that will be sure to satisfy every visitor.

 

Bisson Sugar House In the Androscoggin Valley, you could say we have 6 seasons instead of 4!  With the warmer temps during the day, our sweetest season of all is in full swing…Maple Season!  A visit to Bisson’s Sugar House in Berlin, NH is a treat for the entire family.  Family owned and operated dating back to 1921. Their family will make your visit a memorable one while touring the facility and sampling some maple butter, taffy, candy and my all-time favorite…pure maple syrup over vanilla ice cream!  Visit their website and call ahead for operating times as the weather has a major influence on their hours.

Wondering what the 6th season is that I mentioned? Well…with the days getting warmer and warmer and the snow melting, you guessed it – Mud Season!  The miles and miles of trails will be closed for mud season soon so be sure to check the trail conditions often and you can also sign up for trail updates to be sent to your email.  What can you do during Mud Season? You can take the time to plan YOUR next adventure in the Androscoggin Valley.

Santa's Village Whether you are planning a weekend or week, with a family or as a couple…the variety of things to do and places to explore are endless!  Storyland, Santa’s Village and the Mt. Washington Auto Road are just minutes away.  Then…take a ride on the wild side…Ride the Wilds that is! Pack up your OHRV and head north, stay at our OHRV friendly lodging hotels, cabins or campgrounds and ride right from your room!  Don’t have an OHRV?  We got that covered too! Call to reserve at one of our local rental businesses.  The fun is endless with hiking, biking, kayaking and white water rafting too!

Paula Kinney, Executive Director
Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce