the december cocktail hour: letting go & moving forward

Thursday, December 28: It’s time for our December cocktail hour, so please, come in out of the cold and get cozy.  Though Christmas is behind us, I can still offer up some holiday cheer, possibly a classic eggnog (will it be bourbon or rum?), a cranberry mimosa, a pomegranate Moscow mule, or just some red wine. For those of you who don’t drink, I have sodas and seltzer water of various flavors.

You may wonder why I’m even serving alcohol in my house.  Maybe you’re even wondering if our alcoholic has been miraculously cured. No, because once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.  It’s just that I’m slowly but surely learning that I must live my life as I see fit, that I cannot fix another person or make them into what I want them to be.  I’m trying hard to let go and let live, and simply to move forward, one day at a time, asking for help from my “higher power.”  Someone recently told me something wise: I have my higher power (however I choose to define that power).  My son has his own higher power, and I’M NOT IT.  Even though I like to think I can see clearly how to fix his problems, I have to let go and let him make his own decisions, even if they’re detrimental. Mainly, I need to work on myself, and figure out what I can change and what I can’t.  What I can change is myself, and what I can’t change is everyone else.

I hope December has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you had any winter getaways? Have you encountered any new songs?  Have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you embarked on any new endeavors?  Have you been drinking enough water?

Over Thanksgiving, my daughter encouraged me to add an app to my phone to calculate how much water I should drink every day; it helps keep track of how much I actually drink. It’s called Plant Nanny, and I’m happy to say, I’ve been drinking more water than ever because of it. Normally, I have been drinking about one tall glass of water a day, mainly because I never get naturally thirsty, so I never think about it.  I also don’t like to drink water because when I do, I’m always running to the bathroom!  But now, since Thanksgiving, I’ve been doing pretty well.  I don’t always drink the 6 large containers a day I’m supposed to, but I usually get to five, a big improvement. 🙂

The Plant Nanny app

I’ve been keeping track of area hikes organized by the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group. I ended up joining a 7.7 mile hike around Burke Lake on Saturday, December 2 with a fun group.  I met a lady named Susan who has walked the Camino de Santiago. She belongs to a group called the American Pilgrims on the Camino – Mid-Atlantic Chapter.  She told me about an event scheduled for Saturday, the 9th: a hike followed by a wine-tasting.  I was thrilled to learn about this group and am now on their mailing list.  The group is for anyone who has ever done the Camino or who wants to do the Camino.

Burke Lake
Burke Lake

Susan is the lady in the green jacket. Sadly, it turned out the Camino group hike on the 9th was cancelled because of snow and, since that was the group’s last event of the year, I’ll have to wait until they start meeting again in 2018.

The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group at Burke Lake

On Sunday, the 3rd, Mike and I went to a special showing of a Belgian movie called Sum of Histories.  It was being shown on this one Sunday as a pilot to see if American audiences would like it.  The director and producer hope to release it in the U.S. next year. The director talked to the audience about the movie after we watched it. I loved it.  It was about two professors who figured out how to send emails back in time.  Rather than attempting to change big historical events, they send an email to alter what happened to one of the professor’s wives; she had been paralyzed by an accident as a child and he wanted to change what happened to her so she would live a normal life. It shows the domino effect that changes in the past have on the present and future, and how messing with the past can have unforeseen consequences.

Thursday, December 7 was Adam’s 25th birthday, and though we’d hardly seen him since our big altercation the previous week, I asked him if he’d eat his favorite fruit pizza if I made it.  He said he would, so Mike and I took him out to dinner at Artie’s and then presented him with the fruit pizza.  This has been his favorite treat since I started making it when he was a child.  It has a sugar cookie dough crust topped with whipped cream & sugar, and various fruits, including strawberries, raspberries, bananas, crushed pineapple, and blueberries.

When he ordered a beer at dinner, I didn’t flinch.  I’m no longer going to comment or even act like I notice when he drinks. I realize now it doesn’t help for me to try to control him, but I can remove myself if a situation gets uncomfortable for me.  It was fine, and we all actually had a nice time together.

Adam and his fruit pizza

I continued taking my 3 mile walks.  Scenes below are from a walk around Lake Newport and Lake Anne in Reston.  I call it my two lakes walk.  You can see it’s getting pretty drab and gloomy here these days.

Lake Newport, Reston
grasses at Lake Newport
Lake Newport
Fall leaves at Lake Anne

When we had a snowfall on December 9, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found a little snow on the bushes.

bits of snow in the neighborhood

On another late afternoon walk, I found a beautiful sunset.  I love the spindly silhouettes of winter trees against the pink-tinged sky.

From December 12-14, I went on a solo mini-escape to Cape May, New Jersey.  It was about a 4-hour drive.  I think I must have picked the most miserable days of the year to go.  It was about 33F degrees, near 0C, and fiercely blustery.  The wind assaulted me with a vengeance as I walked around the town and on a trail at Cape May Point State Park.  It didn’t let up at night, where I stayed on the third floor of the Pink Cottage, but groaned and hissed and sent the house swaying, shutters banging, all night.  I was freezing with the small wall heating unit in the room, insufficient heat for this kind of weather.  The second night, I luckily found a space heater in the closet, which helped. I loved this little getaway, as I always enjoy a solo road trip. 🙂  I’ll write more about this trip in January.

The Merry Widow at Cape May

My hike around Cape May Point State Park was wonderful and invigorating, but my fingers, toes and cheeks were stinging in the icy wind.

Cape May Point State Park
Cape May Point State Park
sea grasses at Cape May Point State Park

On December 17, as we approached the winter solstice, I took another walk through the woods.  It had become more drab and gloomy than it was in early December.  That same evening, Mike and I went to see the Swiss movie, The Divine Order, about a young housewife who organizes the women in her small town to petition for the right to vote. We enjoyed it.

At least there were some glorious sunsets.

sunset in my neighborhood

We’ve still been watching Longmire, Easy, A Place to Call Home, Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Ken Burns documentary on The Vietnam War, all of which we are enjoying.

I finished three books in December: (1) Call it Wonder: an odyssey of love, sex, spirit and travel, by Kate Evans (I met Kate virtually after I left China and she went to China to teach at SCIC, the same college where I taught); (2) The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner; and (3) Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett. I enjoyed all three of them; you can read my reviews on Goodreads, hopefully by clicking on the links.

Finally, we celebrated Christmas.  On Christmas Eve, we went for a fabulous dinner and gift exchange at my sister-in-law’s house, which, as always, was beautifully decorated.

We should be better at taking pictures of the whole family on Christmas, but all we managed to get was a picture of Mike and me.

Mike and me on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Day, we opened gifts, ate my traditional Christmas brunch, and then played Rummikub, a game we found under the tree from Santa.  We had a wonderful day all around.

our Christmas tree

On Wednesday, December 27, Mike and I took off on a road trip (10 hour drive) to Nashville, Tennessee.  I’ll have to write more about this trip in 2018.

Alex, our oldest son, is taking off on December 30 to start a new phase of his life in Denver, Colorado.  He has a friend there with whom he’ll share an apartment, and he already has a job lined up.  I’ll be sad not to see him as much, but I hope it will be a good move for him, a fresh start.

In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy New Year and I’ll see you again in twenty-eighteen. 🙂

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finding inspiration from literature: nabokov’s & philadelphia’s lolita

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

– Jim Jarmusch

the streets of Philadelphia at night
the streets of Philadelphia at night

On December 20, I started reading the classic novel by Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita.  I wrote this review of it on Goodreads:

It’s easy to despise the deeply flawed pedophile Humbert Humbert, with his long-time sexual abuse of his 12-year-old nymphet/daughter Dolores Haze (his Lolita, his Lo). I have put off reading the book forever because of the subject matter, which is certainly hard to take.

That being said, it’s hard not to fall in love with Nabokov’s prose. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Jeremy Irons, and found some scenes to be so perfectly rendered, so engrossing, that I had to check the book out of the library so I could read and study the passages. Nabokov’s prose is so detailed, so observant, so meticulous, so perfect, so nuanced! If only I had such command of the English language. And to think that Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899 and English wasn’t even his first language, having moved to the U.S. in 1940. I highly recommend this book just to experience the author’s writing style and wonderful use of language.

Philadelphia nights
Philadelphia nights

I was engrossed in the book at the time we went to Philadelphia, admittedly bowled over by the author’s writing style.  So it was a strange coincidence when we went out to look for a dinner restaurant near our hotel, The Independent, and we happened upon the enticing Lolita tucked into a narrow space on South 13th Street.

Philadelphia Muses by Meg Saligman, 13th and Locust Streets, Center City
Philadelphia Muses by Meg Saligman, 13th and Locust Streets, Center City

We sat down at the bar because it was crowded; no matter, we enjoy sitting at the bar anyway.  I found an appealing new drink on the menu: a jalapeno and cucumber margarita, which was ultra-refreshing and not too sweet.  As I sipped this marvelous concoction, I mentioned to one of the bartenders, a young woman, that it was serendipitous that we found Lolita because I’m right in the middle of listening to the audiobook.

jalapeno and cucumber margarita at Lolita
jalapeno and cucumber margarita at Lolita

She gushed that she adored Nabokov: “His prose is amazing!  There is nothing like it!”  Her enthusiasm matched my feelings, and I felt an instant kinship with her. This is what reading will do to a person.

Lolita in Philadelphia
Lolita in Philadelphia

We enjoyed Lolita’s ambiance, as well as our fabulous dinners: chipotle shrimp enchiladas verdes (charred tomatillos, serranos, garlic & cilantro) stuffed with roasted sunchokes, sauteed local greens, queso mixto & radish salad for me, and queso fundido (charred corn puree, queso mixto, local mushroom mix, roasted baby corn & poblanos, served with warm corn tortillas – served with house-made chorizo for Mike.

food
chipotle shrimp enchiladas verdes (charred tomatillos, serranos, garlic & cilantro) stuffed with roasted sunchokes, sauteed local greens, queso mixto & radish salad

Inspiration is found in unlikely places.  All one has to do it be open to it, recognize it, and run with it.  After reading Lolita,  I can only dream of writing like Nabokov. I know I don’t have that talent, but if I could remotely approach him, I would be happy.  I’ve been thrilled by writers before, and I’ve yearned to have such natural and spontaneous creativity.  In writing classes, teachers often encourage students to find admired masters and try to mimic their style.  Of course, a writer is also supposed to find his or her own “voice” when writing.  But my voice seems so boring!

When I read something like Lolita that makes my heart beat faster, that takes my breath away, then I want to study it, dissect it, analyze it, and try to take something away from it.  If I could write even one sentence like that, just one….it might be possible to write another, and yet another.

In the book, at the beginning of part two, Humbert Humbert and Lolita take a road trip across the country.  I’ve taken many American road trips in my life, and Nabokov captures a small part of their journey perfectly in this passage:

Now and then, in the vastness of those plains, huge trees would advance toward us to cluster self-consciously by the roadside, and provide a bit of humanitarian shade above a picnic table, with sun flecks, flattened paper cups, samaras and discarded ice-cream sticks littering the brown ground. A great user of roadside facilities, my unfastidious Lo would be charmed by toilet signs — Guys-Gals, John-Jane, Jack-Jill and even Buck’s-Doe’s; while lost in an artist’s dream, I would stare at the honest brightness of the gasoline paraphernalia against the splendid green of oaks, or at a distant hill scrambling out — scarred but still untamed — from the wilderness of agriculture that was trying to swallow it. (p. 153, 50th anniversary edition, Lolita, June 1997)

This scene is wonderfully rendered.  The picture of “huge trees” advancing toward the moving car, clustering “self-consciously by the roadside,” and providing “a bit of humanitarian shade” is not only great description but it prompts in the reader a leap of imagination.  It endows the trees with human qualities — self-consciousness and humanitarianism — and prods us to see them with vague and tender recognition. We might not have described them that way ourselves, but we feel the rightness of the description.  The “sun flecks” suggest a summer afternoon, indolent and barely breezy, the setting for a romantic rendezvous that has now ended, with remnants of confetti scattered as reminders.  Samaras seem exotic; when I look them up, I find they are a type of fruit with a flattened wing of papery tissue developing from the ovary wall.  The discarded ice-cream sticks conjure up children, and yes, Lolita is a child, a nymphet, that thing Humbert longs for, that thing he can’t resist.  Here, like the child Lolita is the object of Humbert’s desires, the flower and the ice-cream sticks are both exotic and sexual; together, they hint at  the protagonist’s pedophilia, of which we are all too aware from our reading.  Humbert even finds Lo’s unfastidiousness attractive; we already know this from what we’ve read before. Nabokov doesn’t waste any opportunity to infuse his writing with reminders of Humbert’s obsession.

I love the different names on the toilet signs, a fantastic detail which captures the nuances in the monotony that one sees on a road trip. We all know the frequent stops we have to make on a road trip, especially as a child, “How much further, Dad?  I need to go to the bathroom!”  I can just picture the gleaming “gasoline paraphernalia” of the 1950s (Lolita was published in 1955), painstakingly polished by gas station attendants who cared lovingly for their roadside facilities. And I love how the distant hill “scrambles out — scarred but still untamed” much like his own Lolita.  She is certainly scarred, but he’s never really able to tame her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Philadelphia’s Lolita –  the day after

How can we write fabulous prose?  It seems to me some people have a natural ability to do so; others of us have to struggle mightily to come up with one good sentence.  Just looking at Nabokov’s prose, here’s what I take away:

  • Be observant when you’re out in the world.  Notice every little detail.    This one is hardest for me, as I seem to wander around with blinders on half the time.
  • Carry a notebook or a camera so you’re always ready to capture what you see or feel, what you smell or hear, what you taste.  Take time-outs with your notebook at a cafe to write notes.
  • Note anything unique and unusual; anything that is out of place.  The flattened paper cups, the discarded ice-cream sticks.  Things that seem unimportant yet create such perfect details in a story.
  • Note things that are mundane: the picnic tables, the roadside facilities, the gasoline paraphernalia, the names on the toilets.  These are things that everyone sees and expects to see, and often go unnoticed.
  • Describe the things you see using human qualities – “cluster self-consciously” or “provide a bit of humanitarian shade.”
  • If you have trouble with this, note what you see and then brainstorm words that might describe human emotions or states.  Experiment with word pairings.  I love when a word is paired with another word in a surprising way.
  • Find active verbs to describe static things: “a distant hill scrambling out.”
  • Make something mundane seem interesting: as in the frequent stops at the roadside facilities and the bathroom names.

So, what could I come up with in my attempt to write a Nabokov-like paragraph about a road trip?

________________________

As we drive north on that white-lined freeway fenced in by concrete barriers, the Toyota RAV’s rubber wipers swish the drizzle to and fro on the windshield, a squeaky metronome.  Sedans and SUVs from Maryland, Virginia, The Garden State — even the Sunshine State with its green-leafed oranges — press in as they whizz past, their tires flinging dirt-infused mist on our windshield.  A Warehouse for Lease! slumps on the fringes, punctuated by green highway signs with white letters announcing exits like Bel Air and Emmorton Road.  Black spiny trees blur along the roadside approaching Exit 80, where blue signs announce Food: McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts.  U2 sings “Mysterious Ways” and highway vagabond Miranda Lambert wants to “go somewhere where nobody knows.”  I’ve snagged my left thumbnail and as usual, I don’t have any nail clippers in my purse.  The annoying snag persists. A brown sign announces we’re passing Susquehanna State Park and another forbids U-turns and when we cross the bridge, a ghost brigade of mist rises off the Susquehanna. Barns, silos, and bristly sepia fields scroll past and an aqua “Town of Perryville” water tower mutters a greeting.  On the stretch of industrial corridor near Port of Wilm, metal utility towers spread their triple-triangle arms and factories belch smoke, gasping their last breath.  Blue-green porta-potties stand in formation along the tracks and containers lie like coffins on idle trains.  The derelict train station’s windows are broken.  Citywide Limousine squats beside a lot of Ryder trucks and an empty pedestrian bridge covered in chain-link looms over us as we sputter underneath.

Finally, “Pennsylvania, State of Independence,” welcomes us while Hidden Figures of NASA stand in all their mathematical genius on an electronic billboard.  Run-down brick row houses hug the highway behind a thin veil of chain-links.  CSX rail cars hunker along the highway, dead in their tracks.  Another billboard promises “The Wounded Warrior Project helps me heal the wounds you can’t see.”  At Philadelphia Energy Solutions, giant cylindrical tanks with blue bands around the tops squat on the land and, next door, bundled paper haphazardly occupies a recycling plant. A pink “Risqué Video” sign entices those so-inclined.   We skid into the Philly outskirts, land of the free and home of the tired.

______________________

I’d like to challenge my readers to write a paragraph describing something or someplace and share it as a link in my comments.

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.

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. 🙂