a road trip ending in bennington, vermont

Sunday, July 13: This morning, a cool breeze wafts in through the cottage windows and I am of a mind to sleep in.  I always wake up at ungodly hours, and at 5 a.m., after tossing and turning for a bit, I peek out the window and see the beautiful light on the lake.  I grab my camera and head out to the dock in my pajamas.  The lake is tinged in pink and lavender, with reflections of the clouds on its surface.  I take some pictures and head back to fall into a dreamy slumber.

Lake Winnipesaukee at sunrise
Lake Winnipesaukee at sunrise
sunrise on the lake
sunrise on the lake
Sunrise on Lake Winnipesaukee
Sunrise on Lake Winnipesaukee

Last night, Alex and I decided we would leave this morning to go to Boston to visit his friend who is working there.  We thought we would stay the night in Boston since neither of us has been there.  But when the friend calls in the morning to say she can’t meet us after all, we decide to go ahead and leave anyway, as we told Ron and Betty last night that we were going to leave.

I think it might be fun to take a road trip through Vermont and New York, going home by way of Binghamton, New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so we don’t have to drive back on the busy east coast highways.

After we pack up, we head to Mount Major, where we can see a great view of Lake Winnipesaukee.

View of Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major
View of Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major
View of Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major
View of Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major
View of Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major
View of Lake Winnipesaukee from Mount Major

As we leave New Hampshire, the sun is shining, but soon after we cross into Vermont, the weather becomes quite dreary, with heavy clouds and intermittent rain.  This takes the luster out of our road trip.  Luckily, the sun pops out a bit as we stop in the cute town of Woodstock, Vermont.

The Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, Vermont
The Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, Vermont

We’re enticed into The Primrose Garden Gift Shop, because Alex and I both have his Nana on our minds.  Nana (Shirley to me) loves gardening and is in hospice care at home while we’re on this trip.  Alex decides he’d like to get her a gift from this cute little shop.  We find a kind of decorative bird’s nest with some blue speckled eggs inside and we decide she’ll like this.

Primrose Garden Gift Shop in Woodstock
Primrose Garden Gift Shop in Woodstock

When we go to the register to pay, we mention that we’re buying the bird’s nest as a gift for my mother-in-law, who is in hospice care and is declining rapidly.  I tell the woman behind the counter, “My son and I came to New England to take a little break.  We were invited to stay in someone’s cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee and now we’re making our way back home.”  The woman is surprised, “Oh, you’re his mother?  I thought you were something else.”

In the Primrose Garden Gift Shop
In the Primrose Garden Gift Shop

“Really?” I say.  “You don’t think we’re a couple, do you?”  This cracks me up because I had just asked Alex the day before if he felt uncomfortable traveling alone with his mother.   I asked, “Do you ever wonder if people think we’re a couple?” He laughed and said, “No way!”  I said, “Don’t be so shocked.  You know a lot of older women date younger men.”  He thought the whole notion utterly ridiculous.

So when this woman says this, he can’t believe it.  Actually, I think he’s mortified.  Poor Alex.  The woman goes on to say, “I really can’t believe you’re his mother.  You’re doing something right.  Whatever you’re doing, you should keep doing it.  You look great!”

This comment is very nice, especially in light of the comment I got two days ago about my weight and the comment that will come tomorrow about my age (to follow in another post!).

Primrose Garden Gift Shop
Primrose Garden Gift Shop

We go on our way, leaving the little town of Woodstock and heading further south to Bennington, where we will stay the night.  We read online there are a lot of painted moose (which Alex wants to call “meese”) scattered around the town.  There is also a famous monument, apparently similar to the Washington Monument.  We vow to see the few sites there are despite the threatening weather.

We head straight for the Bennington Battle Monument, a 306 ft (93 m) stone obelisk that commemorates the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War.  Sadly when we arrive, it’s too late to go to the top as it’s closing time.  The clouds and the light make it impossible for me to even get a good picture.  We do however find our first moose, painted in covered bridges.

Bennington Battle Monument
Bennington Battle Monument

We find our first moose painted in famous covered bridges from the area.

Covered bridge moose at the Bennington Battle Monument
Covered bridge moose at the Bennington Battle Monument

We find one painted cat near the monument as well.  Obviously, this town is really into painted animals.

Painted cat at the Bennington Battle Monument
Painted cat at the Bennington Battle Monument

As we’re driving into town, we come across a sprawling ruin of an old hotel, once the Walloomsac Inn and Dewey Tavern.  It looks like a haunted house, but when we ask someone walking down the road what it is, they tell us one of the owners still lives in a portion of the house.

Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern
Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern

In about 1770, Captain Elijah Dewey (1744-1818) built his home, Dewey Tavern.

Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern
Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern

On June 4, 1791, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison stayed at Dewey Tavern, while on a tour of the northern states.  After Elijah Dewey’s death, the Dewey Tavern became the Walloomsac Inn.

Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern
Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern
Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern
Walloomsac Inn & Dewey Tavern

Across the street from the ruined inn is the Old First Congregational Church and the Old Bennington Cemetery.

Old First Congregational Church
Old First Congregational Church
Old First Congregational Church
Old First Congregational Church
Old First Congregational Church
Old First Congregational Church

The cemetery goes back to the American Revolution.  The poet Robert Frost is buried here.  He bought the plots in 1940 because of its mountain view, not surprising as he had a home in Franconia, New Hampshire and three farms in Vermont.  He also wanted to be buried behind a beautiful old New England Church.

The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery

Frost has been said by many to have been an atheist and scholars still argue about his religious beliefs. Though his poetry often alludes to the Bible, he was skeptical.

Robert Frost's grave, scattered with pennies
Robert Frost’s grave, scattered with pennies

Frost’s gravestone of Barre granite with hand-carved laurel leaves is inscribed, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”  It’s also sprinkled with pennies.

The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery
The Old Bennington Cemetery

Finally, after we have dinner, we drive around the town in search of more moose.  We find an array of the painted creatures in various spots around town.

Finally, we head back to our hotel as it has started raining and getting dark all at once. We pass by the catbird studio, where Alex has to take a picture.

catbird studio
catbird studio

There is nothing else we can find to do in this town, so we go back to the Paradise Inn and relax after our long day in the car.

Another town moose
Another town moose

Tomorrow we’re hoping for better weather so we can take a hike in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

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driving the kancamagus highway through new hampshire’s white mountains

Saturday, July 12:  This morning, Alex and I decide to take a drive up from the cottage at Lake Winnipesaukee to New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  The weather is lovely, not too hot or humid, so we figure it’s a perfect day to take some short hikes.

We start our morning by driving to Weirs Beach, a wide, sandy, public beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. A boulevard lined with arcades and vendors runs along a stretch of Lakeside Avenue, and a boardwalk fronts the lake. The Winnipesaukee Pier, which juts out into the lake from the main boulevard, was built in 1925 and was a bustling spot for many years, attracting famous big band groups.  Young people are said to congregate and party here into the late night hours.

Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach at Lake Winnipesaukee
Weirs Beach at Lake Winnipesaukee
Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach

We drive north to Conway and enter the Kancamagus Highway, a 34.5 mile scenic drive along New Hampshire’s Rt. 112. The Kancamagus Highway is now designated an American Scenic Byway for its rich history, aesthetic beauty and culture.  It is rich in history that dates back to the Indian tribes of the 1600s.

We make our first stop along a the Swift River because Alex wants to get his feet wet.  A number of people have pulled over and are enjoying the soothing sound of the river or sitting in the currents.

The Swift River
The Swift River
Alex gets his feet wet in the river
Alex gets his feet wet in the river
We find a little stream running parallel to the river
We find a little stream running parallel to the river

Our next stop is the Albany Covered Bridge that crosses the Swift River. The Albany Covered Bridge was constructed in 1857 only to be destroyed in a storm a year later. The bridge was rebuilt soon after.  The Albany covered bridge is listed in the World Guide to Covered Bridges (WGCB) as number 29-02-06 and New Hampshire covered bridge #49.

Albany Covered Bridge
Albany Covered Bridge
The Swift River under Albany Covered Bridge
The Swift River under Albany Covered Bridge
Albany Covered Bridge
Albany Covered Bridge

We drive further along the highway until we come to the trailhead for Sabbaday Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in New Hampshire. Its history, beauty and easy hike (0.3 miles each way) make it one of the most visited waterfalls in the state.  Sabbaday Falls is a three-tiered waterfall with a 45′ drop.

Along the path to Sabbaday Falls
Along the path to Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday Falls
Looking down from the top of Sabbaday Falls
Looking down from the top of Sabbaday Falls
The top of Sabbaday Falls
The top of Sabbaday Falls

At the top of the waterfall, we find lots of cairns, man-made stacks of stones, placed by fellow hikers.

We walk back down the walkways built along the waterfalls to a green pool at the bottom.

From the top of Sabbaday Falls
From the top of Sabbaday Falls
Looking back up at the falls
Looking back up at the falls
Alex
Alex

The lower pool was formed thousands of years ago by the scouring action of falling water and rock.  As time passed, the falls retreated to their present location leaving a narrow gorge or flume.

Green pool at the bottom of the falls
Green pool at the bottom of the falls

After leaving Sabbaday Falls, we drive further until we find a nice lookout.

Looking out over the White Mountains from the Kancamagus Highway
Looking out over the White Mountains from the Kancamagus Highway

At the western end of the Kancamagus Highway is the Flume Gorge, near the town of Lincoln, New Hampshire.  The Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The walls of Conway granite rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart. The two-mile round trip walk to the Gorge includes uphill walking and lots of stairs. The boardwalk allows you to look closely at the growth of flowers, ferns and mosses found here.

The Flume Covered Bridge is one of the oldest in the state. It was built in 1886 and has been restored several times.  Such bridges were often called “kissing bridges” because of the darkness and privacy they provided.  This bridge was built across the scenic Pemigewasset River.  Pemigewasset means “swift or rapid current” in the Abenaki Indian language.

Covered bridge near the Flume Gorge
Covered bridge near the Flume Gorge
stream from the Flume Gorge
stream from the Flume Gorge

Table Rock is a section of Conway granite that is 500 feet long and 75 feet wide. Over time, the rushing waters of the Flume Brook have exposed this large outcropping of rock.

Table Rock
Table Rock
Table Rock at the Flume Gorge
Table Rock at the Flume Gorge
Mossy pathways at the Flume Gorge
Mossy pathways at the Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Rainbows in the Gorge
Rainbows in the Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge
Bear Cave
Bear Cave

At the top of the Flume is the 45-foot tall Avalanche Falls.  The falls were formed during the great storm of 1883, which washed away a huge egg-shaped boulder that was suspended between the walls of the gorge.

Waterfalls at the Flume
Waterfalls at the Flume
Waterfalls at the Flume
Waterfalls at the Flume

While we’re at the Flume, Ron calls to find out how our day is going.  Yesterday, he had invited us to a party this evening, where he said I could meet some fellow travelers. He thought I’d enjoy talking to them.  I might have, but the party was to be all 70-80 year old folks with no young people in attendance for Alex to talk to.  Alex wasn’t keen on attending the gathering and we wanted some time to ourselves to have dinner at a restaurant together.

I tell Ron we’re still in the White Mountains.  He says he and Betty will drop by the cottage after their party.  We continue our walk through the Flume and then drive back to Gilford, where we change clothes at the cottage and go out for dinner at Patrick’s Pub and Eatery.

Silhouette of Alex at Patrick's Pub and Eatery
Silhouette of Alex at Patrick’s Pub and Eatery

Later, Alex and I play Ticket to Ride, a favorite family game, at the kitchen table. I learned about this game when I lived in South Korea, playing often with Anna, Seth, Myrna, Maurice and other Korean friends in Daegu.

While we’re playing, Ron and Betty drop by and join us at the kitchen table, chatting away while we finish the game.  After Alex wins the game, he and Ron go out for a swim in the lake under the full moon.  I’m not good at taking moon pictures, but here’s my attempt.

Full moon over Sanders Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee
Full moon over Sanders Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee

Another lovely day in New Hampshire. 🙂

a bit of respite at lake winnipesaukee

Thursday, July 10:  I have met some of the nicest people through blogging.  I first got acquainted with Ron through his son Spencer, a young man I worked with at the University of Nizwa.  Ron isn’t a blogger, but because I wrote my blog, a nomad in the land of nizwa, providing an insight into what Spencer’s life in Oman might be like, he followed my blog, often leaving encouraging comments.  At one point he mentioned he had a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and said I should come up to visit this summer.  At the end of June, he wrote: “The cottage is open and waiting for you.”

Needing a break from the stress of watching the decline of my mother-in-law, and knowing I wouldn’t have time later as I prepare to go to China, I responded by email to get the details about the cottage.  We planned that I’d come up right after my class on Thursday, July 10 and would stay through Monday, July 14.  As Mike and Adam were working and couldn’t take time off, Alex and I decided to take the long drive to New Hampshire on our own.

The MapQuest says it will be about a 10 hour drive.  Alex and I leave immediately after my class at around noon.  It’s a long and thankless drive all the way up I-95, through Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, then on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, then through New York (right around rush hour!).  We cross the Tappan Zee Bridge, a cantilever bridge in New York crossing the Hudson River at one of its widest points.

The Tappan Zee Bridge
The Tappan Zee Bridge

We stop for a leisurely dinner in Danbury, Connecticut after being stuck on I-84 for nearly an hour in a traffic jam caused by a car accident.  At this point, we are desperate just to get out of the car.  As Alex and I are taking turns driving every two hours, I have a Corona at dinner along with some delicious chicken and dumplings.

Alex drives the next two hours through Massachusetts and into New Hampshire.  Finally I drive the last two hours into New Hampshire, arriving in Gilford at midnight.

Ron has been patiently awaiting our arrival, taking a dip in the lake to pass the time.  He comes to the road to greet us as he sees our headlights go past the cottage and turn around.  We greet one another and he tells us he and his wife Betty will be by for lunch on the cottage porch the next day.  Their house is two miles away, not directly on the lake, so they spend most of their summer days at the cottage, having lunch and dinner on the porch, working on the cottage, or swimming in the lake.

Friday, July 11:  We haven’t brought any food with us, so the first order of business is to go out for breakfast at a local diner.  At the diner, I greet a lone man walking in at the same time as me.  “It’s a beautiful day!”  He harrumphs, “I guess.” I say, “Compared to northern Virginia, it’s beautiful.  It’s so humid at this time of year in Virginia.”  He says, “It gets pretty humid here too.”  I say, “Well, it’s beautiful today.  I love New Hampshire.”  He says, “I’ve been through Virginia often, and it’s beautiful there too.”

Ok, I can see I’m getting nowhere fast with this man.  I part ways with him and join Alex at the table where he’s been seated.  We enjoy a breakfast of pancakes, omelets, eggs, hash browns, and coffee.  Then we head to Shaw’s grocery store where we load up on breakfast and lunch makings.  At the cottage, we put all our groceries away and Alex heads out into the lake with the kayak.

the kitchen of the cottage
the kitchen of the cottage
the living room at the cottage
the living room at the cottage

I change into my walking clothes and head out for my 3 mile walk.  As I walk out, I meet Betty, Ron’s wife, who has just parked her shiny red convertible.  I introduce myself and tell her I’m going for a walk:  “I’m always fighting my weight, so I need to try to walk every day.”  She says that she and Ron changed their diet to a Mediterranean diet and lost 30-40 pounds in a couple of months.  She says, “I used to be like you.” Ouch. I know I’ve gained weight, yes, and so I walk a little harder and faster after we part ways.

Sanders Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee
Sanders Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee
the lake
the lake

When I return to the cottage, we sit on the porch with Ron and Betty.  They have finished their lunch. Alex and I make some sandwiches too.  Ron tells us stories galore about his life when he was younger and the adventures he’s been on.  He shows us some pictures from his past.  I change into my bathing suit, and Alex and I take out the kayaks for a paddle on the lake.  It’s a gorgeous day, with a cool breeze and no humidity.  How I love New England!

Looking toward the yacht club
Looking toward the yacht club

Ron and Betty invite us to have dinner with them tonight on the porch.  He says Friday nights they usually get fish dinners at Sawyer’s and eat them on the porch with a mixture of red and white wine.

Looking from the dock to the cottage
Looking from the dock to the cottage

After they leave, we have a little time to relax.  I shower and read my book, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, a novel that takes place in the courtesan houses of China in the early 1900s.  At about 4:30, Ron and Betty come back to the cottage and sit on the dock, enjoying the lake.  I sit on the porch and read, something I love to do on vacation.

Alex and Ron head out to Sawyer’s to pick up the fish dinners, and then we enjoy wine and baked haddock dinners on the porch.  It’s a lovely evening.  After dinner, Ron and Betty take us for a drive in the convertible to get the lay of the land and to indulge in some ice cream.  I order a scoop of lemon meringue with hot fudge at a cute ice cream shop beside the lake.

It’s a lovely evening, but a little cold in the convertible.  Not having brought any warm clothes, and wimps that we are, Alex and I ask if they would mind closing the convertible top.  We’re freezing!  Ron and Betty must be used to the cold night air, which is refreshing and would be fine if we had proper attire!

Blue hour on Sanders Bay
Blue hour on Sanders Bay

After our nice day on the lake today, Alex and I decide that we’ll drive up to the White Mountains tomorrow.  We’ll travel on the Kancamagus Highway and go on some short hikes.