Northern New England

Leaving Cape Cod and heading around (not through) Boston, we drove to upstate Vermont, enjoying the beauty of the mountains and trees. We learned in Shenandoah, and it’s been true ever since, that the trees’ leaves in the spring give a hint of what they will be like in the fall—some are light red now, others yellow, and there are many shades of green. So, while it’s not as dramatic as viewing the fall leaves in New England (which we’ve done before and it is spectacular), it’s been really a treat to drive through New England and enjoy the variety of spring colors.  For those of you who already knew this information, remember that we are from Southern California, with only two seasons (wet and dry), and be gentle.

We’ve also noticed that spring is coming slowly to many parts of New England. Everywhere we have been, people have told us that this spring has been the coldest and wettest they can remember. We just tell them it’s our fault—historically on our vacations we’ve had rain (often when we’re on vacation, the locals will tell us it’s the wettest spring/summer/fall in ___ years). Watching spring progress throughout New England has been delightful, though we would have preferred it to be a little further along by the time we arrived!

Our friends Duffy and Bernie shared their beautiful home and hospitality with us. Our motorhome couldn’t quite make it down their steep hill, so we parked at the top of the hill and stayed in their home (wow—a real shower for three days!), where we enjoyed watching deer and hummingbirds, while visiting and doing some work.

The cats took care of the motorhome in our absence and survived three nights without the electric blanket (no hookups, so no electricity for electric blankets). Yes, we do have an electric blanket for the cats because when they’re warm, they sleep better. And when they sleep better, I sleep better.

As we did in 2012, we ate our way through upstate Vermont, starting with the brewery at the Trapp Family Lodge (the hills are alive with the sound of music, beer and Austrian food)!

Yes, The Sound of Music family eventually settled in Stowe, Vermont, and now run multiple successful businesses there.

The real Maria von Trapp--middle of front row
The Trapp Family Lodge--beautiful inside and out

We did our first distillery tasting (vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon) at Smuggler’s Notch Distillery, and then moved on to cheese and chocolate, which were more to my liking. (We had to skip the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour, however—we’ll save it for next time.)

We also enjoyed viewing the beautiful Vermont State House in nearby Montpelier. Did you know that Montpelier is the least populous state capital of all 50 states, with less than 8,000 people? (It’s amazing what factoids you pick up when you travel the country!) It’s certainly one of the prettiest capitol buildings we’ve seen.

The Vermont State House in Montpelier
A classic New England-style church in Montpelier

Fortified with Vermont delicacies, we headed through the rain (again!) into the White Mountains of New Hampshire to cap off our first month on the road. Competing theories exist for why they are called the White Mountains—yes, they have a lot of snow on them in winter, but another theory is that the mica-covered granite of the summits looks white from a distance. We stayed in a lovely campground near the Presidential Range of mountain peaks, but the river was so flooded we had to abandon our “river walk.”

Our goal was to go to the top of Mt. Washington, with its highest-recorded wind speeds on the planet and its claim to “the world’s worst weather.” The auto road was closed for spring cleaning, so we drove the long way around to the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. We almost missed our train because of the goofy directions (thanks a lot, Google Maps and Apple Maps!), but arrived just in time for the 3-mile, one-hour trip to the top.

The railroad was built just after the Civil War and the grade can be as steep as 37 percent. The steam engine takes 1000 gallons of water to operate, but we were on the biodiesel train, so it just used lots of oil from French fries.

Though it was 64 degrees at our campsite, it was a chilly 42 at the top of Mt. Washington (with a wind chill making it feel like 34 degrees). And the wind speed was only 18 miles per hour, so we lucked out!

Visibility was not great because we were sitting in the middle of a low-flying cloud, but it was an educational experience nonetheless.

Looking for more information on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway and Auto Road? Jay Leno’s Garage had an episode that featured both the driving trip and the cog railway.

Some friends had told us to check out the Omni Mt. Washington Resort, just a few miles from the Cog Railway station, and it’s a beautiful hotel, in the style of Coronado Hotel (San Diego) and the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO.

They have a speak-easy in the basement of the hotel, left over from Prohibition, and preserved just the way it was when in operation. They had slats in the roof of the speak-easy looking up to the hotel porch, so they could keep an eye on whether the federal marshals were showing up at the door.

But the highlight of the day (remember that we love the critters) was watching the black bear on the back lawn of the hotel. Though the hotel staff eventually had to shoo the bear away, we loved watching it chew up the grass and clover, look around, and then take another bite. This wasn’t where we expected to see a bear, but it was terrific nonetheless.

On to Maine and our next post from Acadia National Park!

4 thoughts on “Northern New England”

  1. All of your posts are so interesting along with the pictures. Sam and I loved Arcadia, I hope it’s warm enough and interesting enough for you both. Great hiking and viewing.
    Have fun!

  2. My friend and I did mount Washington on motorcycles – they have a rule – no motorcycles if the wind is over 60 mph – it was ONLY 57 mph so they let us go! Had to keep feet out to keep from being blown off the road! Was pretty cool at the top however Literally and figuratively.


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