New Hampshire:  odds and ends

 ... Melrose couple do a 5-day photo tour of God's country

by Stringer Don Norris

When our kids (and grandchildren) decided they'd do their vacation in Bermuda, my wife and I jumped at the chance for an easier change of scenery: We simply delivered them to the boat in Boston, then motored north to their place in Belmont, New Hampshire. Nice getaway in the country.

Our two-day vacation turned to three, then four, and finally five before we had to return to Boston to greet the kids at the boat. But what a time we had! Our road was up, down, and around, but little was on the level. We went swimming in some pristine lakes, and tickled our toes in White Mountain rivers. We ate in the Paugus Diner and then in the bar of the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield -- that marvelously resurrected old dame of a hotel.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here, below, are some of the places we visited and some of the adventures we had. See for yourself ...

If you've never seen the Appalachian Trail, here it is. At least those 50 feet visible from Route 25 in Glencliff. It starts at Mount Katahdin in Maine and ends some 2160 miles later at Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia. For those interested in trivia, the Trail passes Melrose some 120 miles west through our Berkshire Mountains.

For those of us who are no longer climbers, it's nice to see where the Trail comes out of the boonies, and we appreciate the good folks who established this sign. But look carefully and you will see that some not-so-nice folks drilled the painted hikers, pretty accurately. There are five holes -- .22s, I judge.

Here's a snapshot of a perfectly worthwhile project. It has a patriotic message, and consists of a stuffed rooster, an old ladderback chair, a flowering plant in a pot, a yellow ribbon and our American flag. And I love that old house; the owner drove up moments later in a $45,000 GMC Carry-all. There's irony for you.

Same farm. Same care taken with their mailbox. And notice that the rubes who shot holes in the AMC sign didn't plug this bit of patriotic fervor. People in New Hampshire are pretty much the same -- good, staunch patriots, and they like to show our colors. This place was in a little town called Bridgewater.

Speaking of mailboxes, would you call this one "a one-armed mailbox"? Or the "strong arm of the Federal government"? Unfortunately we didn't take the time to talk to the builder, but he/she surely has imagination. Seems to me this was on Brown Hill Road in, ummm, Northfield. Not far from my daughter's house, Nancy Norris. Come to think on it, granite steles are coming of age, again.

The city of Concord was having a fair down main street that week; I have to admit that Melrose's Victorian Days Fair is about twice as large -- but I shouldn't say that out loud. But while we were in Concord, we toured its beautiful State House with a couple from Buffalo -- tourists, also. Fine building, full of artifacts. It is located about 70 miles north of Melrose.

The village of Bath is perched on the west side of the White Mountains, and has two really fine features: First its original general store, which is so chock full of goods you'll just have to buy something; and second, a long, very handsome covered bridge over the Ammonoosuc River. This was our watering hole back when we used to drive our dirt bikes all over northern New Hampshire. Years ago, of course.

Freedom is a precious commodity in New Hampshire, but if you want to broadcast that fact, it'll cost you $14.50 for the proper hat. Again, we are in the Bath General Store where I bought such things as a chainsaw blade sharpening file for a buck seventy-five, and a can of stove black. Don't ask me why.

Before and after: The year 2003 wasn't a particularly good one for New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain. One icey night he lost hold of his mountain perch, and plummeted to the talus slope below. Since that time, New Hampshirites have come up with hundreds of ideas of how to deal with this tragedy -- from recreating the Old Man in papier mache to building a monument from the rubble. Melrose, by the way, has its own Great Stone Face, and we heard the mayor may be negotiating with New Hampshire during these financially trying times.

What a miraculous recovery in Whitefield. The 19th century Mountain View Grand has been totally remade inside and out. Lorry and I had a late lunch in the bar, a smoked trout salad ("excellent choice" commented the bartender) for me, and the special caesar's salad for my partner. We checked out room prices and found we could afford a couple of days here, using their special "Bed and Breakfast" service. The views are spectacular.

It's fastfood heaven in the Laconia lakes region, and a lot of decent ma-and-pa restaruants have gone out of business in the past couple of years. That's one reason we appreciate the Paugus Diner, beside Paugus Bay, just north of Laconia. They serve good, wholesome, basic food at realistic prices.

The Baker River is fed mostly by snowmelt from the southwestern region of the White Mountains. It flows from west to east, and joins the Pemigewasett at Plymouth. In May, when the water is really high and very fast, it is a fun river to canoe. In fact, three years ago Lorry and I put our brand new canoe in at this swimming hole and -- see that right-angle turn 200 feet downriver? -- dumped it almost as fast. But then Brian and Priscilla Simm, both of Melrose originally, joined a group of AMC canoers this past spring, and six boats went over in this eight-mile stretch. Brian and Priscilla performed well, thank you.

At the top of the page are Don and Lorry Norris.

September 5, 2003

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