In mid-October, we spent a week immersed in the fiery reds and golds of New Hampshire’s autumn glory. It’s always a good thing when places are just as good as you remember…or even better.
The Joy Of Traveling Short Distances: New England
One of the things I love about New England (and the East Coast in general) is how small the states are. You can visit a LOT of states while driving short distances, unlike Texas, which takes FOREVER to traverse.
I mean, seriously. Look at this. Why do all of the states get so much bigger as you move west? And how did Texas end up so big?
For eight years, we made the trek from Oregon to Florida. Because we were always heading southeast in the winter, we have spent months of our lives traveling across Texas. It’s a good thing we’ve found a lot to like about Texas.
(And I know there are reasons why the western states are bigger than the eastern states including geographic boundaries, politics, population density, etc. But I’m not going down that particular Internet rabbit hole right now. I have a blog to catch up on, and I must. stay. focused. If you want to get lost in the weeds, do a search on how each state got its shape. It’s really interesting!)
Anyway, back to New Hampshire.
Our first stop in New Hampshire was Lake Winnipesaukee, just 70 miles from our last stop in Portland, Maine. Located in the Lakes Region at the foot of the White Mountains, Lake Winnipesaukee stretches 21 miles long and 9 miles wide. The lake is dotted with more than 300 tiny islands, many of them inhabited.
We set up camp in a wooded, park-like site (with full hookups) for three nights at Wolfeboro Campground.
Wolfeboro, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, is considered to be the oldest resort town in the U.S. In mid-October, at the tail end of the season, it was a peaceful place to be.
On a chilly and foggy morning, we embarked on a 2 1/2 hour scenic boat ride on the M/S Mount Washington. We cruised along the lakeshore, enjoying glimpses of tiny rustic cabins, extravagant summer homes, a loon sanctuary, and the harbor.
Click on any photo for a larger image
The Cotton Valley Rail Trail
In Wolfeboro, we picked up the trailhead for the Cotton Valley Rail Trail. It’s a beautiful trail, but potentially treacherous because the hard packed limestone trail is sandwiched between the two original steel rails of the railway. This is the first time we’ve biked a Rails-to-Trails path that kept the old rails. It’s too narrow when meeting up with bikes or pedestrians, which means running off of the trail over the rails or dismounting every time you encounter another biker. We biked several miles of it and then turned around, returning unscathed to walk part of it another day.
Castle In The Clouds
Our friends and fellow travelers Janie and Russ told us about Castle in the Clouds in nearby Moultonborough, and we were intrigued. The Craftsman style mountaintop estate was built in 1914 by millionaire Thomas Gustav Plant, who made his fortune in shoe manufacturing in Boston. Plant was self-made, and from all accounts, a kind and generous employer.
Plant lost his fortune during the Great Depression, but his creditors allowed him to live in his home until his death in 1941. The estate is now managed as a preservation trust. On the inside, the house is simple and lovely, with incredible views of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Although there is a fee for visiting the castle, the surrounding land is managed by a conservation trust, which makes 30 miles of hiking trails available for free to the public. We hiked the Mt. Roberts Trail (a 5-mile round-trip trail with 1300 feet of elevation gain) to the top of Mt. Roberts. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t good for photography on the top of the mountain, but the hike and the view of Lake Winnipesaukee were still great.
Sunset Over Lake Winnipesaukee
For our last evening in Wolfeboro, we headed down to the waterfront for sunset. It was a beautiful send-off.
Moving On To The White Mountains
Following our three enjoyable days and peaceful nights at Lake Winnipesaukee, we headed 75 miles up into the White Mountains to our next New Hampshire adventure. Twin Mountain Motor Court and RV Park was a lucky find, with full hookups, spacious sites, and wonderful owners. I do not understand why we were almost alone there. Mid-October is prime fall foliage season and it isn’t yet too cold. I don’t think 29 degrees in the morning is unreasonable, especially when it warms up into the high 50s during the day. But apparently, most campgrounds close the second week in October.
Twin Mountain is a good location for exploring the most scenic attractions of the White Mountains.
Franconia Notch State Park
Just 10 miles from Twin Mountain, Franconia Notch State Park is in the heart of the White Mountains. The Flume Gorge is touted as the premier attraction in the park, and costs $18 per person to enter. It’s a two-mile hike over boardwalks through a deep gorge. Honestly, I suppose we’re glad we did it, but we wouldn’t do it again. In our explorations, we found far more beautiful places for fall color and much better hikes.
Sugarloaf Mountain Hike
One of the most fun things we did in the White Mountains was meeting up with our friend Beth, whom we first met on Lopez Island. She now divides her time between Albuquerque and New Hampshire, and we were delighted to spend time with her in the mountains she calls home for part of the year.
We hiked a beautiful trail on Sugarloaf Mountain that culminated in wonderful views. It was a great hike, and even better company.
A Scenic New Hampshire Loop Drive
For a full immersion in the best of New Hampshire’s fall foliage, we made a loop drive that included part of the Kancamagus Scenic Byway and Crawford Notch State Park. It was spectacular. (We shortened what would have been a 100-mile loop to 60 miles by taking Bear Notch Road cut-off. That was an especially scenic stretch!)
We stopped in pretty North Conway for a delicious lunch and craft beer at Barley and Salt. I am so glad to see that all of these wonderful little restaurants and breweries that we visited in 2019 have survived the pandemic. Looking back at our photos from our time in New Hampshire, I see that our new heavy flannel shirts from our recent stop at the L.L. Bean mothership in Maine were our new uniforms, LOL.
Thanks for a wonderful autumn display, New Hampshire!