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Day 6 in New Hampshire: 7 Reasons Why We’d Go Back

John and I used to assume we’d never repeat a vacation. “Why go back to Ecuador when we haven’t been to Chile,” we’d say. Perhaps we will keep that mentality going forward, but not in this case.

On Day 6 of our peaceful vacation in Waterville Valley, we agreed that we’d be up for a return visit. Yes, there are more stunning vistas and more diverse cultures to experience in the world, but Waterville Valley in the beginnings of fall is easy and kind and beautiful. It is the perfect escape from city life.

So, the next time we go to Waterville Valley, what will we do? Read more

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Day 5: “God, I Love Vermont.”

That quote from a friend on our Facebook post from the capital, Montpelier, sums up most of our feelings toward the second least populated state in the country.

The Green Mountain State likely gets its name from its French-speaking Canadian neighbor to the north: Vert = Green. Mont = Mountain. And it’s true, the state is all mountains. And all beautiful.

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Day 4 in New Hampshire: Eating Pine Cones on Smarts Brook Trail

On our fourth day in New Hampshire with a 9-month-old, we rest. Or at least we stay close to home base.

Morning

Baby Quinn and I spend the early part of the morning wandering into town center, pausing for coffee, walking some more, smiling at strangers, and enjoying some pond-side Cheerios. This is what you do when you draw the early morning straw. You hate getting out of bed, but once you’re on the other side of grogginess, you thank the little fella for making you get up and enjoy the absolute beauty of the sun peaking over the mountains. Read more

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Day 3 in New Hampshire: The Real Fearless Ones

Chief Kancamagus, “The Fearless One,” was the last leader of the Passaconaway Tribe whose home was New Hampshire’s White Mountains until the late 1600’s – when, probably not by coincidence, it was taken by white men.

Since then, the government has paved a 35 mile stretch of meandering highway through the range, connecting numerous waterfalls, building the cutest covered bridges, plunking down trailhead signs around every turn and providing tourists dramatic views of autumn setting the hillsides on fire.

This day, we chose to drive the entire 100-mile White Mountain Trail, explore the smallest of towns along the way and talk ourselves into leaving Chicago for a place with endless nature and virtually no chance of finding decent work in our current career fields.   Read more

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Day 2 in New Hampshire: The White Mountains

We’re staying at a timeshare exchange called “The Inns at Waterville Valley – The Birches,” a cottage relic from the 1970’s with the only signs of modernity being wifi and the Coke cans in the $.50 pop machine.

It met the important criteria for an ideal escape from Chicago:

  1. Near mountains and abundant nature.
  2. A quick flight + car ride from O’hare.
  3. Virtually devoid of humans.
  4. Not in the “South.”

#1 left a lot of options open. #2 eliminated the west coast and more far-flung areas of the Rockies. #3 eliminated Tahoe, Park City, Vail, Breckenridge and other popular resorts. #4 eliminated, for better or worse, most states that sell Moon Pies.

To the Inns of Waterville Valley:

The Inns are part of a remote ski resort 16 miles from the nearest gas station [map]. Slow season means an empty 1700’s Cape Cod style town square and quiet hikes with the occasional wedding in a nearby lodge. Across the street is the town elementary school – a red-sided building that houses 40 children in grades K-6.

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Waterville Valley town square at dawn

The resort may be antiquated, but it comes fully stocked with kitchen/laundry needs and a friendly staff who are way too old to be hauling bags of linens around the grounds, but seem to be willing to die for good service or simply for something – anything – to do in this town.

To the Flume Gorge:

Day 2 was to be our first foray into the White Mountains, the largest in New England with the highest few reaching 4,000′. While most famous as a prime destination for fall foliage, for the other 46 weeks of the year, the main attraction is the ease of finding beautiful yet accessible hikes.

New Hampshire has no sales tax or income tax. Live free or die is their motto of course. They rely only on property taxes and user-fees for civic services. Thus, our trip to one of the most recommended waterfalls in New England, the Flume Gorge, was cut short at the ticket counter when we had to pay $16 per person to hike the 2-mile trail.

With throngs of tourists from Quebec and Boston lining up inside to fork over the cash to take a 90-minute walk (or shuttle) in the woods, we opted to drive down the road 15 miles (at the suggestion of the park employee) to one of the many other gorgeous hikes in the White Mountains.

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The Basin Trail:

There are more trailhead signs than stop signs in the White Mountains. It’s a web of scenic beauty that crosses granite filled rivers, crests 4,000′ mountains and puts hikers directly in the blaze of fall colors.

Today’s short yet rooty hike up the Basin Trail followed one of the more famous mountain creeks, written about by Robert Frost, a frequent visitor to the area. The crystal-clear water poured over granite slabs that created a giant’s stepping stones for frolicking in the stream.

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Find the baby.

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The Night Cap:

It didn’t take much to get worn out by lugging around a 20-pound chunk of squirminess, so our outdoor jaunt transitioned quickly to poblano and chicken taco night, two bottles of wine, a decisive Scrabble win by Margo on a well-played Q and some impromptu serenading by her husband and professional musician Walter Parks.

 

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Day 1: Kilted New Hampshire: The Highland Festival

After a short travel day from Chicago to Manchester to the middle of nowhere Waterville Valley, we began our first full day in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with tickets to the largest Scottish Festival in the country. Last weekend, 45,000 people went to Loon Mountain and created the biggest gathering of hairy men in dresses since last year’s Provincetown’s Bear Week.

This isn’t the reason we’re vacationing in New Hampshire, (although I would never admit it if it were) but when something like this is an hour away and comes up #1 in a Google search of “Things to do in the Granite State,” it must be explored. Read more