Posts Tagged ‘New Hampshire’

Mt. Willard

Even though Fall colors won’t be at their peak for another 3 weeks, we decided to hike to the top of Mt. Willard, which has a panoramic view of Crawford Notch on the New Hampshire side of the White Mountains.

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The climb is labeled “moderate.”  At 1.6 miles each way, it only take a little more than an hour to reach the top if you are in average condition, and is certainly suitable for families with small children.  The hike can really be divided into thirds:  the first third the grade is moderately steep; the second third the grade is gentle, with lots of rocks; and the third and final stage (just when the kids will start complaining) suddenly becomes nearly level and very easy.  The granite viewing ledge is expansive, as is the magnificent view.  You can see the train tracks reaching far into Crawford Notch that are serviced by the Conway Scenic Railroad, and perhaps the Willey House far into the distance if the day is really clear. The Willeys were a homesteading family that met a tragic end in 1826.  You can read about it here

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After the hike, our pup Truman was quite tired out.  He fell asleep on the way home while sticking his head out of our car’s window, his ears blowing wildly in the breeze.

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A Haven of Mentschlichkeit*

Yesterday I had an experience that perfectly sums up why I love living in the White Mountains, and it has nothing to do with hiking, camping, or kayaking.

I traveled the 45 minutes to my “local” supermarket for my weekly shopping trip.  As I stood in line, there were four people ahead of me.  The first, an elderly person, had just received her receipt, which came with a separate tape that printed out a coupon: “Spend $75 on your order and get $5 off.”

The lady turned to the person next to her in line.  “Oh, why don’t you take this coupon and use it on your order?  I’m just a single person living alone, and there is no way I can spend $75 on my shopping.”

The man was delighted.  “Thanks!” he said.  But when the cashier totaled his order, he was many dollars short of the $75 to benefit from the coupon.  He certainly could have pocketed the coupon for use the following week.  But instead, he turned to the person next to him, and said, “Here, maybe you can use this coupon.”

The scene repeated itself.  The woman in line was delighted, but equally dismayed when her order also did not total $75 (I guess New Englanders are frugal food shoppers!).  That’s when she left the coupon for me.

Amazingly, and what was probably the first time in my life in the history of my shopping at any supermarket, my total was much less than the required $75 purchase.

I wish I could say I am a saint . . .  but frankly, under normal conditions, passing on the $5 coupon to someone else, especially a stranger, would simply not have crossed my mind.  Normally I would have stowed it in my wallet for future use.  But seeing this remarkable generosity and how good it made everyone feel about others and themselves was contagious.  One good deed truly does lead to another, or as we say in Jewish thought, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” That’s worth more than $5.

I passed it on.

*Mentschlichkeit: a good, honorable and noble person who exudes integrity, decency and kindness

 

 

 

Evans Notch – Spring 2016

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Two weeks ago Truman and I climbed Little Deer Hill and Big Deer Hill, a total of 4 miles round trip.  Short, but sweet, there are some steep parts but it’s not a killer hike.  It had really warmed up — 64 degrees with brilliant sunshine – but the key here is that it was nice and breezy, which means NO BUGS when hiking! Hooray!

When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot, there was only one other car. Up we went to Little Deer Hill. We passed the NH-ME border marker.

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deerhill1During the entire climb up that mountain, we caught the wind coming off of Evans Notch.  The summit views of Mt. Meader, and No. and So. Baldface Mountains were clear and lovely.

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deerhill3After admiring the view from the top (where Truman sat like he was King of the Mountain; he owned it), we went down the other side of that mountain, and then up to Big Deer Hill. The view from the top of Big Deer Hill looks down upon Deer Hill Bog, which is only 3 miles from my house.  Unfortunately on this side of the mountain, there was no breeze, so the blackflies were swarming and I didn’t stay more than a minute.

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We were the only ones on the entire mountain; the only noise was of the breeze and various songbirds.  We got to the dam on the bottom of Little Deer Hill, explored the shoreline, and headed back to the car.  There must have been 20 cars in the parking lot trailhead upon our return!  Now you know where people from Maine and New Hampshire go when they call in sick on a Tuesday morning!  Nature lovers find a beautiful day hard to pass up.

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I really didn’t want the day to end, so I drove to the Basin for some pictures. The wind was gusting and actually blew my scarf right off my head.  It was a gorgeous day and I was back home in time for lunch.

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Happy Sunday

This past Sunday was one of those days when everything went right.  Now that we’re in the midst of blackfly and tick season, hiking gets pretty uncomfortable when the weather is sunny and calm.  Saturday it was a sunny, gorgeous 80 degrees, so I made sure to wear a bug net whenever I took the dog for a walk.  Unless it’s really breezy, the blackflies love to swarm all over you.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been pulling off a minimum of 10 ticks a day from my dog, and 5 ticks from myself, despite the use of repellents.

So I was not disappointed to wake up to a blustery, cloudy Sunday in the 40s.  Although rain threatened, at least it meant that we could go walking unmolested by bugs.

But first, we needed to dump our trash and recyclables at the transfer station.  I was delighted to find several great books at the freecycle station.  When I finish the books I will return them to the freecycle area so someone else can enjoy them.  I also contributed several old garden pots that I had no plans to plant to the giveaway pile.

From the transfer station we continued a few miles up the road to visit our friend Paul’s building site (I guess you could call it tresspassing since he wasn’t there).  Paul is building a new, off-grid home there and is doing everything singlehandedly.  For the past several months he’s been busy grading the area, and raising the site with packed dirt since the house will sit along the river and he has to worry about a flood line.  We were really impressed with the attractive retaining wall he set.  The house will overlook the river, where I’m anxious (with Paul’s permission) to bring my kayak and try a little trout fishing.

By now the skies were looking a bit mean so we thought we’d forget a hike and just take a scenic drive.  We went up the Crooked River Causeway and then drove west on Route 2, taking in the grandeur of the northern White Mountain Peaks.  We turned into a parking area at Rattle River trailhead, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and decided to walk the gentle 1.8 miles to the shelter erected for the benefit of thru-hikers.  (A thru-hiker is someone who hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.) We figured a little rain wouldn’t hurt us.

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Fortunately, the weather held, and there were no bugs! The many small flumes and cascades along the Rattle River were incredibly soothing and beautiful.  Although we’ve taken this walk several times before, it never gets old.  The last time I was there I was with our dog Spencer, who died this past September.  Now we were accompanied by Truman, our 7 month-old Standard Poodle puppy, and it was fun to experience the walk through his doggie eyes and nose, as he exuberantly discovered the joys of the Rattle River trail for the first time.  It made the old new again.

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It was also lovely to see trillium, a type of wildflower in purple or white, in bloom.20160515_133817

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From the Rattle River we headed over to Gorham NH to do my week’s worth of food shopping at the Super WalMart (the only major food shopping in that area; it saved me a trip into town later in the week).  I know a lot of people who hate WalMart and won’t shop there out of principle, but ask anyone living in a rural area and they will tell you that WalMart is a blessing.  The one-stop shopping saves rural folks from traveling 100 miles into the closest city to supply their needs, and at reasonable prices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large selection of organic produce at this WalMart!

From Gorham we traveled back on Rte 2, but instead of returning the way we had come, we went down the 113, which is Evans Notch; it’s one of my favorite drives in the area.  The views are magnificent, the Notch is filled with dozens of challenging hiking trails, and there is always a chance of seeing a moose.  We didn’t see a moose, but we did see very fresh, recent beaver activity along a river.  The beavers appeared to be decimating the entire shoreline, working on felling several large trees simultaneously along the riverbank.

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Thanks to the longer days, when we got home there was still time to sow some beet seeds in the raised-bed garden.  I’ve also planted garlic, kale, and some winter squash, and last year’s strawberry plants are doing nicely.  My only garden disaster (so far) is the complete failure of my apple orchard.  Although I attended a university extension course on apple growing, fed them, talked to them (and God),  pruned them, and generally babied my apple trees for the past 5 years,  I had yet to see  even a single apple blossom and no apples, despite a proliferation of leaves!  Even putting a beehive next to the trees didn’t help them pollinate. Finally, finally – – four apple blossoms!

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Will they make it?  Who knows.  I’ve been vigilant about removing insect nests that hatch worms and devour young apple leaves on an almost daily basis.  I’m trying to keep the orchard organic, so pesticide is a no-no.   Meanwhile I have 8 organic apple trees that mock me daily, a life lesson and humbling reminder of the fact that despite my best efforts, I am not always the one in control.

 

Overdue Books

Although my little Maine hamlet (population 234 on a good day) is too small to support its own library, we do have an arrangement (and are taxed accordingly as part of our property taxes) with the town of Lovell to utilize their libraries.  They have two:  one at the north end, which was formerly a one-room schoolhouse (I wrote about it in my blog post entitled “How Rural is My Maine Town?“), and the other, a renovated beauty that, with its limited selection of inventory, serves as a true community and cultural center with a variety of activities.  There is a book club, kids’ arts and crafts and storytelling, a gardening club, yoga, nature lectures, weekly cribbage games, monthly lectures on organic farming, and occasional lectures by the Maine Humanities Council on everything from history, foreign policy, to current events.  If you want a specific book, chances are you won’t find it on the library’s shelves, but the librarians are happy to order it for you as an inter-library loan from other larger libraries in Maine.

Because the collection is so limited, I make an effort to return books I’ve read within a day or two of finishing them to ensure their active circulation amongst residents desperate for a good read.  Once, I forgot to return a book and received a friendly reminder by email.  When I returned the book, I asked how much I owed in late fines.

“Oh, we don’t charge; we go by the honesty policy,” the librarian told me.  While there were a few books that were forever lost this way, most people were good about returning borrowed books on time, she said.  Wow, I thought, that would never be the case in my home town.

But then I read today’s Conway Daily Sun, a small paper published just over the Maine-New Hampshire border.  It turns out that most towns around here don’t charge library patrons late fees:  instead, they call the police!

In an article reported by Damon Steer, he writes:

Astute readers of the Conway police logs — which are published on Conwaypd.com — may have noticed the May 16 entry saying that officer Richard Gaudreau was investigating overdue library books.

When patrons don’t bring back their books, magazines, CDs and DVDs on time, the library sends them notices, followed by telephone calls.

After that, tardy patrons are referred to the police.

. . . “We investigate them as theft,” said Lt. Chris Mattei,  “. . . It doesn’t usually end up in prosecution. but sometimes it does.”

According to one librarian, police are “very helpful” and tend to get “different results” than the library’s notice.

At one rural New Hampshire library, there is a “Guilt Alleviation Box” near the front desk,”People do occasionally drop donations into it.”  added that getting money that way “has a nicer feel” than assessing a fine.

Imagine having a police record that says “overdue library materials!”  That’s enough to put the fear of G-d into any bookworm.

Click here for the link to the original Conway Daily Sun article.

GLLT

Just down the road from me is the Greater Lovell Land Trust (GLLT), a non-profit conservation organization.  Their aim is to buy large parcels of the raw land in the area from private owners to prevent further development; to conserve essential resources; protect plants, wildlife, and watershed; to open these areas of conservation for public enjoyment via hiking trails, guided or not; and to provide education in the form of lectures on a variety of topics including history of the area, geology and geography, and nature.  Much of the work is done by volunteers, who do everything from trail building to acting as naturalist docents and guides.

I came across an article written by one such docent in an older newsletter published by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Association which I think you might enjoy.  I have taken advantage of many of the GLLT’s programs which run throughout the year, most recently a presentation about Barred Owls.  It’s fun to be able to identify what you are seeing and hearing in the woods whether it’s the call of the owls, or knowing just how fresh that bear scat is on the trail!  When I convey the many factoids I’ve learned over the years to my grandchildren when they visit, they are fascinated, and as a result, they too have become lovers of nature to varying degrees, whether hiking or camping or kayaking or quietly observing wildlife.  There is an abundance of free educational opportunities provided by local non-profit wilderness organizations, as well as the Forest Service.  Ultimately, it transforms us from vicarious admirers of nature to stewards of the land.

 

Organizations that offer natural wilderness education, hikes, etc. in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire:

 

 

Emerald Pool . . . and Rosh HaShana

The brook near Emerald Pool

The brook near Emerald Pool

I spent much of Friday packing up the house and getting ready for the long drive to our hometown, where for the next month we’ll be spending time with family and friends while celebrating the upcoming Jewish holidays.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit wistful that this year’s timing of the Jewish calendar meant that I would miss the peak of leaf-peeping season, not to mention the greatest time of year to go hiking.

I decided right then and there that I would make the most of the short time remaining to me and drove to Evans Notch with my dog riding shotgun.

I passed these two huge barns on a country road in Chatham NH, being powered by an immense solar electric system that stretches across both roofs.  The barns were empty.  I am so curious to know what they are powering!

I passed these two huge barns on a country road in Chatham NH, being powered by an immense solar electric system that stretches across both roofs. The barns were empty. I am so curious to know what they are powering!

There wasn’t time for a serious hike but that would not stop me from going for a beautiful walk through the woods on the beginning of Baldface Circle Trail to Emerald Pool.  It is immediately apparent how Emerald Pool got its well-deserved name.

 

Emerald Pool lives up to its name.  It is a popular swimming hole for locals in summer, and the upper rock is used as a diving board.

Emerald Pool lives up to its name. It is a popular swimming hole for locals in summer, and the upper rock is used as a diving board.

We didn’t have time to go further on the trail, where it continues to Chandler Gorge.   It’s incredible to think that much of this walk is on private property from which its generous owners permit public access, providing hikers don’t wander carelessly off the trail.  Think about it:  the more precious the object, the more likely we are to guard it and keep it for ourselves.  That’s just human nature.  It takes a special spirit, and someone who understands the true meaning of love (love = giving), to know that it’s even more special to share than to hoard; to be selfless rather than selfish.

Hiking in the White Mountains is very much a part of my spiritual preparation to greet the Jewish New Year.  Some random thoughts from atop a mountain:

  • Most of the time reward comes with effort… and rarely without it.
  • With every disappointment and when there is no reward, it’s not the end of the world.
  • HaShem (G-d) has made a truly gorgeous, wondrous world
  • I am super blessed and grateful to be in and part of this world
  • I am both blessed and grateful for good health
  • Even when I am alone, HaShem is there
  • Even when I’m alone, I’m not lonely
  • Even when I’m poised on top of the mountain, I’m at the edge – –  and must tread thoughtfully and purposefully
  • Even when I think I’ve made it to the top, there will always be more summits to reach – – and not all are attainable
  • Life is short yet time is relative.  It marches slowly when the kids are small and moves too fast when you are old.
  • Silence can be both loud and quiet.  Both types teach us to really listen, if we are willing to hear.
  • Looking out and down from the mountaintop, how truly humbling it is to see that I am but a dot or blip in the vast landscape
  • No matter how external events wreak havoc, and have the power to poison and destroy, evil is not permanent and HaShem is eternal.
Happy New Year!   Wishing my friends, family, and readers a year of multiple blessings, good health, and peace.