Saturday, October 1, 2016

White Mountains NH–Visiting with Fran & Mal Vaughan


Thursday (9/16) to Monday (9/26):

After getting set up at The Bluffs Campground on Thursday evening we walked around the campground for a few minutes before calling it a night.

Th Bluffs Campground

Friday we got our bikes out and rode around both The Bluffs Campground, the 55+ area, and Danforth Bay Campground which is the family area. The majority of the sites in The Bluffs are occupied by seasonal campers that stay in the campground from mid-April to mid-October. There are also a large number of seasonal campers in the Danforth Bay Campground along with some cabins for rent. The campground sits on a hillside so riding around on our bikes was either going up or down. Friday afternoon we met our friends, Fran & Mal Vaughan from San Antonio, who had flown into Boston on Thursday and driven up to North Conway NH on Friday. We visited with them for awhile before going to dinner at the Flatbread Pizza Restaurant which is located in the Eastern Mountain Inn. We both got large pizzas which were cooked in a authentic pizza oven located inside the restaurant. We went back to the place they are staying called the Forest Glen Inn while we continued catching up on our lives since we last saw them in Texas.

Saturday we decided to visit Mount Washington while is located a few miles north of North Conway. As we were driving along the highway to Mount Washington we stopped at the Glen Ellis Falls parking area and hiked down to the falls. At first we saw only small cascades in the flow of the river, but as we got to the bottom there was a fall with a 64 foot drop in the water.


After returning to the parking area we continued on to Mount Washington. We are taking the Mount Washington Auto Road which is a privately run toll road of 8 miles that takes you to the top of the mountain. There are two other ways to get to the top: by the Mount Washington Cog Railroad or by hiking. The toll for the Auto Road is $29 for the driver & vehicle and then $9 for each passenger. The fare for the cog railroad is $69 per person while hiking is $5 (or free if you have a New Hampshire park pass). The drive to the top is a tight winding road that is paved for 7 of the 8 miles. Traffic coming up the mountain has the right of way and several of the turns are best made with single lane of traffic. The day was clear with a visibility at the top of 50-70 miles. We learned that on about 60% of the days the top of Mount Washington is either foggy and covered with clouds. Once we got to the top we parked the car and spent about 2 hours visiting the buildings on the site, eating lunch at the café and seeing the 360 degree views. There were a lot of people on the summit with it being a week-end and a beautiful day. There were a lot of hikers that were reaching the top (it is a 3-5 hour hike) and eating their lunches before starting the return trip down the mountain. It was chilly and windy on top of Mount Washington and we were glad to have taken our coats. There is about a 20-25 degree difference in temperature from the base to the summit depending on the day. Mount Washington is the highest point in New England at 6,288 feet above sea level. In the 1930’s the highest recorded wind speed at 321 mph was measured during a storm on top of the mountain.


We returned down the mountain and had to stop at every pull-out along the way down to cool off the brakes in the Vaughan’s rent car. It was a Nissan Altima with a variable speed transmission so we were not able to use the gears in the car to slow it down, only the brakes. Since we had to let the brakes cool at each stop it took us a while to get to the bottom. We came back into town and ate dinner at the Muddy Moose Restaurant. Food was eatable but not a place we would want to visit again.

Sunday afternoon we drove into North Conway and visited the stores in the town. There is a large outlet mall in North Conway along with a number of sporting goods stores. We spent the time wandering through the shops as the weather was overcast with periods of light rain. We ended the day by spending some time in the hot tub at the Forest Glen Inn where Fran & Mal are staying.

Monday we visited several of the covered bridges in the area. The first one we visited was still in use as a crossing over the river that runs through town. It is a one lane covered bridge so you have to wait until it is clear before crossing. There are covered bridges located all over New England most of which are no longer in use.



We stopped at two more covered bridges, the Swift River Bridge and the Albany Covered Bridge before calling it a day and eating “linner” at the Sweet Maple Café.


Some of the trees are turning red, oranges and yellows but most of the leaves are still green. The locals are saying it may not be a great year for the leaves turning colorful due to the drought they have had this summer and the lack of snowfall last winter.


Tuesday we decided to drive the Weeks Act Trail which is a 100 mile loop through the White Mountain National Forest. The Weeks Act is the government law that created the national forest and protected/limited the private development in the White Mountains. From North Conway we headed north on Hwy 16 before turning west/northwest on Hwy 302 to Twin Mountain NH. From there we picked up Hwy 3 south to Lincoln NH before heading east on Hwy 112. Highway 112 is also called the Kancamagus Highway or “The Kanc” as it is called by the locals. We had a great day with bright sunshine and warm temperatures.

Our first stop was at the Willet House State Park. The Willet family built a house along the creek that runs through the pass in the mountains. They also created a shelter in a cave above their house to flee when the creek flooded. In 1838 during a heavy rainstorm the family headed towards the cave. All of the them were swept away in a landslide only with two men employed by them as farm hands. The bodies of the children were never found. Ironically their house did not flood or get carried away in the landslide.


Second stop was at the Mount Washington Inn and Resort. This is a large resort with an 18 hole golf course, riding stables and a spa. In 1944 the resort hosted representatives of a number of countries around the world to deal with money and currency issues in the post WWII era. It become known as the Bretton Woods Accords after the small town that the resort is located in.



Our next stop was called “The Basin”. This is a pool of water in the Pemigewasset River that forms a bowl like pool of crystal clear water. According to the information plaque, this is one of the areas visited by Henry Thoreau during his travels in New England. The trail leads you along the river with several cascades and small falls before reaching The Basin. With water flowing over the rocks and boulders it is very peaceful and serene.




Next up was the Flume Gorge at the Franconia Notch State Park. The Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty. The walls of Conway granite rise to a height of 70-90 feet and vary in width from 12-20 feet along the gorge. There is a boardwalk that runs through the gorge and allows visitors to see it up close. The Flume was discovered in 1808 by 93-year od “Aunt” Jess Guernsey when she accidently came upon it while fishing. She had trouble convincing her family of the discovery, but eventually persuaded others to come and see for themselves. A large egg-shaped boulder hung suspended between walls at that time. In June 1883 a heavy rainstorm started a landslide that swept the boulder away and it has never been found.  Along the gorge there are: Avalanche Falls-a 45 foot waterfall as the Flume Brook enters the gorge, Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool-a deep basin in the Pemigewasset River about 40 feet deep with surrounding cliffs 130 feet height (there was a 175 foot high pine tree that stood on the cliff until is was uprooted in a September 1938 hurricane), Bear Cave located near the top of the gorge, Wolf Den located near the bottom of the gorge and a number of large glacier boulders deposited during the Ice Age. Some of the boulders had trees growing on top of them with the roots reaching around the rock into the ground-very surreal looking. The trail through the park & gorge is about 2 miles in length with a number of steps in the boardwalk as you walk through the gorge.


We stopped in Lincoln and had lunch at the Black Mountain Burger before heading back to North Conway over “The Kanc” pass.

On Wednesday, Fran & Mal came out to our campground for a visit. We drove them around both The Bluffs and Danforth Bay campgrounds. After finishing with our drive we all got in kayaks and spent about an hour on one of the small lakes located in our campground. Later we ate great dinner prepared by Connie before having ice cream covered with the Dutch Apple Wine we had purchased in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Later we sat around the campfire and visited for a couple of hours before Fran & Mal left to return to North Conway.


Thursday was spent visiting the shops and stores in downtown North Conway. After finishing our walk all of us went to the Sea Dog Brewery while we tasted a number of their beers as we ate dinner.

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Friday we met Fran & Mal at the Blueberry Muffin Café for breakfast before they head off to Maine for the week-end. They are going to visit Portland before spending Sat/Sun at a resort north of there. They will be returning to Boston to fly back to San Antonio after their week-end in Maine. We did some grocery shopping before returning back to the campground.

Saturday Connie and I hiked to the top of Mary’s Mountain (I never found out why its called Mary’s). Actually we hiked up two mountains because we missed the turn on the trail to Mary’s. We ended up hiking about 3 hours and finally made it to the overlook at the summit. It looks over the campground and the lakes & other mountains in the area. It was steep near the top with part of the trail going over some granite outcroppings. Connie ended up sliding on her rear end part of the way down due to the granite being slippery.


Saturday evening we attended an Elvis/Rod Stewart impersonation/tribute act at the clubhouse in The Bluffs. Both acts, Rod Stewart and Elvis, performed for a little over an hour each. Each was very good, but we both thought the Elvis impersonator was better (he had a great voice). Elvis was dressed as the late 1960’s Las Vegas Elvis although he sang songs Elvis performed throughout his career.


Sunday was a day to pack up The Duchess and get her ready to head south. The forecast was for cold weather on Monday morning (low in the 30’s), so we put everything inside, dumped the black & grey tanks and put away all of our water hoses. Tomorrow we will head to Vermont to see Carl and Pam Manganaro who have been park hosts at the Branbury State Park south of Middlebury VT for the entire summer.

It was a great few days in New Hampshire and spending time with our good friends Fran and Mal made the visit even more special.