Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Country Girl Gets Her Day In The Sun

Church Among The Lupines - Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
June 7, 2012
When planning a tentative itinerary for each of our stops, I work hard to plan a semi-rest day between each difficult day of driving, touring, sightseeing, etc.  Thanks to the uncooperative weather pattern which stalled over New England while we were in Meredith, we had to either chose two HARD days in a row, do one of our long sightseeing days in the rain/wind or leave something out.  We chose option one which meant two long days in a row, but we promised ourselves we'd be good troopers and just do it.   So after our long day in Boston, we were up and out early the next morning for a trip 80 miles NORTH to the White Mountains.

This sure was a different drive than the previous morning's white-knuckle trip into Boston.  Heading north on Interstate 93, I doubt we saw 30 other vehicles along the way.  Exiting at Franconia Notch, our first stop was at the Visitor Center to pick up a Fields of Lupine festival brochure.  Prior to our leaving each summer, I spend a lot of time researching things we want to see and do in each location.  A lot of room is left for what we find along the way, but the prior planning (which I really enjoy doing) has sure helped us find many things we might otherwise have missed.  Knowing we were following spring through New England, I had researched "flower festivals" discovering this one as well as another Maine Lupine festival we'll be visiting this coming weekend.  The Tulip Festival I mentioned while in the Adirondacks is another I found thanks to prior research.

The Fields of Lupine Festival guide contained a driving tour with several fields of lupines well marked.  We finally had a gorgeous New England day and couldn't wait to get started.  I can't begin to describe how beautiful these fields of lupine were with the White Mountains in the background nor will pictures even remotely do it justice.  But here are just a few of the favorites we took along the way.  My guess is that the entire driving tour was no more than a five mile circuit.  All of these pictures were taken within that radius.  They were EVERYWHERE!!

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

This country girl enjoyed our day in Boston, but this is where she's happiest!

 I can't describe the beauty of this field with the red barn and the mountains to our left!

 This will probably be our "official" 35th Anniversary picture.   What do you think?

We aren't sure who established this path through the largest of the fields we came to, but it wound around and different quotes were placed about every 20 feet or so.  Really cool!

It seems Polly's Pancake Parlor is still the place to go if anywhere near Franconia Notch.  Believe me, it is out in the middle of nowhere, but its reputation spreads far and wide.  We had actually eaten here on our whirlwind trip through New England in 2001 and had only planned to eat here again if the timing was right and we were hungry.  It is definitely quaint and the pancakes are good, BUT when you live near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park gateway cities where "the world's best pancakes" are served on every corner, believe me, we aren't easily impressed by places that charge outrageous prices for pancakes.  As luck would have it, one of the larger lupine fields was directly across from Polly's and we hadn't yet eaten our picnic lunch.  Add in the fact that for some odd reason, there was no waiting and Bill really wanted to eat there, so in we went.  Polly's has done a good job of changing with the times and does offer several alternatives for those who prefer something a little different.  Bill chose the very traditional breakfast with pancakes.  I decided on a waffle made from Polly's "secret recipe" Oatmeal Buttermilk mix.  Both of our meals were excellent and we were glad it worked out.  There was a bit of nostalgia involved as we reminisced about that trip in 2001.  We'd already traveled a lot by then, but still had a lot to learn.  Sitting in Polly's was a like a trip back through time.  Good memories!!

Polly's Pancake Parlor - Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
June 7, 2012

Now we needed to hike off those pancakes and waffles.   We were headed toward just the place to do that.   The Flume Gorge, part of Franconia Notch State Park, is another must-see when in the area.  Read about the Flume Gorge here, but in a nutshell, it is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty.   It walls sometimes rise 70-90 feet above the gorge floor and width ranges from 12-20 feet throughout the 800 feet.  After having walked the gorge, I can imagine it would always be spectacular, but bear in mind, we were traversing this series of boardwalks after three FULL days of solid rain.  At times, the sound was deafening.  But it wasn't just the water, the tall rock walls or the extensive boardwalk system that caught our eyes.  How many different shades of green could there possibly be?  Between the mosses, ferns, hanging gardens and occasional wildflower tucked behind a rock face, this whole thing was simply a buffet of color, fresh scents and sound.  We were so lucky to be there early in the season as most of the time, we were totally alone.  

Once through the gorge, you have the option of continuing around a forest trail making a two mile loop or heading directly back to the starting point.   We elected to do the loop and found it to be a restful and lovely meander through the woods.  

 Covered Bridge along pathway leading to start of Flume Gorge

Near the start of the 800 foot boardwalk.  Still very wide and open at this point!
 Hard to find words to describe the beauty and crashing sound of water as it echoed off the walls.

 We crossed from one side of the gorge to the other several times.

Avalanche Falls - the end of our gorge walk, the beginning of the gorge.

Near the top right hand corner of the last picture, you can see the boardwalk curve as we ascended one more series of steps, then crossed over Avalanche Falls. Here, the boardwalk ended and the surface became a pine straw covered walking trail which we then followed for another 1 1/4 mile through the forest, along a stream, across a much smaller gorge, over another covered bridge and through a glacial boulder forest before arriving back at the Visitor Center.  

Following a short rest at the VC while we watched the excellent movie about the park and the gorge, we headed back to Meredith anticipating a much needed day with no agenda on Friday.   Well, no agenda except for one very exciting thing.    The owners of our apartment had graciously invited us to join them in their boat on a sunset cruise of Lake Winnipesaukee Friday evening.  We were so excited!  But Friday dawned rainy and cloudy with a worsening forecast as the day progressed.  Around 3, a storm blew through and we gave up all hope of the boat ride happening.  But would you believe that by 5, the sun was shining and the lake was like shimmering glass?  We took off in their boat and enjoyed an absolutely delightful tour of the villages we'd visited on the circle driving tour from a completely different perspective.  We traveled along the shoreline past huge mansions, smaller "camps" that have been around for decades, small uninhabited islands and larger islands that have been designated as nature preserves.  What a kind and generous gesture from Dave and Marie.  We will be forever grateful.

 Just pulling away from our dock!

 Bridge separating the mainland from a small private island!

 Behind us the White Mountains in the far distance!

 Known as Sally's Gut, this tiny inlet separates an island designated as a nature preserve from the mainland.   No one knew where the name originated!

 Meredith, New Hampshire from the water.

 We were having a blast - can you tell?

 All good things must come to an end - back at our dock and the cozy lights of home!

And so ended our time in the Lakes Region of New Hamshire.  Despite less than ideal weather, we accomplished just about everything we had planned, threw in a few surprises (remember my 2012 mantra) and made some new friends along the way.  It was a wonderful week, but time to move on.

Maine Was Calling!


  1. My college roommate used to wear a nail polish called Lupine for years! I had no idea it was a flower.

  2. I love the "official" picture. And, his shirt matches the lovely Lupine. :)

  3. Absolutely beautiful!! I like the anniversary picture...but I really think the one of you two on the boat is wonderful too.

  4. The lupines are beautiful! I've been thinking about a trip to Vermont in the next few years for the fall foliage. Can't wait to find out where you go in Maine. We went 11 years ago and loved it! Maybe I'll write a "retro" post soon about our trip.

  5. Traveling has been wonderful for your photography skills! I think your photos improve all the time. Simply wonderful.

  6. What an amazing hike! Just beautiful! You have been drooling and dreaming.

  7. Those lupines are absolutely gorgeous! Gorgeous!!! I need to mark the calender for next year for that festival.

    Love, love the photo of the two of you on the boat :D

  8. I adore wild lupine. We had quite a bit here in NW WI last week. Not as lush fields as you found, but still just lovely. Did you know that there is one butterfly who's host plant is wild lupine? The Karner Blue. Exquisite small butterfly.

    Beautiful picture of a happy couple. Love the picture of the water along the gorge. I could hear the water roaring through.

  9. Ahhhhhhh--- Now you know that this day is probably a favorite of ours. We'd love to see that gorge... Even though hubby loves history --and I do too, to an extent, we'd much rather be out there hiking and seeing beautiful churches, flowers, waterfalls, hikes, etc. rather than walking around a city! That's just US.

    I'd love the boat ride also... Love both pictures of you and your sweetie together.... Fabulous!!!!

    I'm a little jealous of all of the traveling you two have done.. We didn't get started soon enough --so we have alot to see!!!!!

    Thanks so much for sharing. I love following you all on your wonderful trip.

  10. That sounds like a wonderful day. I would love to see the gorge.

    I love the picture of you alone in the flowers. It could be a postcard.

  11. Oh, Sharon - you look SO happy!! What absolutely stunning photos. I've never visited that part of the US but now have added it to my bucket list (and will call you for my itinerary beforehand!) That first photo is contest worthy, by the way. Gorgeous.

  12. Oh those lupine fields, and I'd love to walk that gorge. And yes, i agree with Ellen. The first picture is fantastic. It would make a great hooked rug!!

  13. I love Polly's Pancake Parlor - what a cute name. Those steps up by the waterfall look challenging and fun!

  14. I'm enjoying following along on your trip. Next to the Smokies, the New England States is our favorite. We were at the Flume Gorge. It is so beautiful! Love seeing your photos too.