Category Archives: New Hampshire

Photo: New Hampshire… Rocks!!!

Madison Boulder

huge glacial erraticIn the “list of odd things I’ve seen but never expected to” category, I am now including this rock.  It is the Madison Boulder, located innocuously off a stretch of road and hidden in the forest so you don’t really see the thing until you suddenly find yourself almost right in front of it.  And when you do it seems a bit crazy that something so very big and impressive could be hiding out in the forest without you knowing about it.  What is the biggest rock I’ve ever seen doing in the middle of the woods?

It turns out the Madison Boulder is a glacial erratic- one of the biggest in the world, in fact, with an estimated weight of 4,662 tons (though- warning, geek joke- such a precise number made me question the sign maker’s significant figure usage…).  About 25,000 years ago during the last Ice Age the entire region was covered in a giant sheet of ice more than a mile thick, which carried along boulders big and small which were made smooth by the constant pressures, but as anyone who has visited the area knows many of these were then left behind during the glacial retreat (along with a few thousand glacial lakes).  The Madison Boulder just happens to be the very biggest in all of New England.

And I know I must say this a lot guys, but science is so cool.  For thousands of years after the Ice Ages people surely stumbled across this rock wondering what on Earth it was doing hiding in the middle of the forest, but we are lucky enough to not have to wonder!  And frankly a giant sheet of ice a mile high stretching thousands of miles is probably way cooler than anything you could think up as a credible answer anyway…

Photo: View of Mount Washington

Mount WashingtonThis is the view from the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, where two things of note have happened in my opinion: the IMF was founded in the Bretton Woods conference here in 1944, and my sister got married here last week.

Which explains the silence here: the wedding was such a lovely and wonderful affair that it took a week to recover from.

That said, a bit more to come in a bit on exploring the White Mountains in New Hampshire since the wedding!  The mountains seen in the range here by the way are the Presidentials, named such since they are all named after former US Presidents, with the highest peak of the bunch being Mount Washington.  You can drive up it and gawk at the house tied down with iron chains where in April 1934 observers recorded what was the fastest wind gust in the world for many decades.  Lots of odd bits of history pop up in New Hampshire, but it makes for a lovely background to say wedding vows.


The Portsmouth, NH Country Kickin’ Booze Cruise

About a month ago while in New Hampshire my brother Patrick, who lives in the South, got super-excited to hear that there was going to be a “Country-Kickin’ Booze Cruise” down in Portsmouth (an 1.5 hour drive away from our usual lake haunt) and we should all clearly go (“we” being me, bro, sis, and our cousin Judit- remember her?).  I had a bit of trepidation- country?– but it turned out there was less of an emphasis on the country part and more one on “booze cruise” so it all worked out.  It didn’t stop us from dressing up though-

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Climbing Red Hill, New Hampshire

The Hungarian side of my family was in New Hampshire this past week so I took off to visit with them, and when in New Hampshire it’s inevitable that one decides to climb one of the numerous peaks in the area (or, if you’re lazy, drive up the Mount Washington Auto Road). As we were in an enterprising mood one day we instead decided to climb Red Hill-

Before the trails in the White Mountains got developed this was one of the great hikes in New England- the likes of Thoreau and Emerson came here and praised the view from the top (you’ll see why in a second!). So up we go!

Pictures of hikes along the way aren’t particularly exciting- the best part is usually the top after all- but I’ll take this moment to say Red Hill is probably the biggest hill you’ll ever come across at 2029 feet.  But hey we got up in about an hour and got about seven geocaches along the way! (Or rather I did and others looked on with various levels of interest.)

Finally the top- hooray! Red Hill is sorta famous in the local area for the fire tower on top of it, but this was the first time at the end of the climb where there was no ranger inside and the top of the tower was shut. Budget cuts perhaps? Kind of a shame, he was a nice guy to talk to.

Finally what we’ve all been waiting for- the spectacular view!

First picture above is towards the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire (can’t remember what they all are but you can’t see Mount Washington from here due to a few peaks in between us and there), second is Lake Winnipesaukee which is the lake my family frequents, and the third is towards Squam Lake.  Squam Lake is probably the more famous as On Golden Pond was filmed there.Finally a view from the fire tower towards the ever-important picnic table, as whoever heard of going on a hike without a picnic? All in all a good day.

Bear Island Post Office

In New Hampshire this week, so seemed like a good time to write this one up.  Pictures are from a hodgepodge of years, but not like the lake ever changes much.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the Mecca of my summertime is Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, right next door to where On Golden Pond was filmed.  A childhood of summers spent here might make me a touch biased, but I don’t know why someone would go anywhere else when the weather’s good!

The lake itself is the biggest in the NH Lakes Region and has several hundred islands but I’ll just introduce you to a favorite, which is arguably the most famous of the islands to the point where National Geographic wrote about it a few years ago.  As the biggest island not connected to the mainland it sports what has to be the most adorable little post office anywhere-

Every summer one of only two floating post offices in the United States, the Sophie C, comes here to deliver mail to the ~200-odd cottages on the island (I checked and the other one is based out of Detroit and gets mail to passing ships in the Great Lakes).  Cool!  But the funny thing to admit is even though I’ve passed it hundreds of times we’d never docked here until last Memorial Day because I wanted to find a geocache.  Good a reason as any right?

So it turns out if you hop onto the dock this is what you find in the back of the post office- normal enough, but please realize that it’s kinda cool to see after seeing the other side of a building for 15 years or so!  And it turns out inside the post office building itself is actually a little library of books and movies for people on the island to borrow which I had no idea- makes sense though, as I suspect summering on an island not accessible by car involves a lot less heading to town for an ice cream and more sitting around enjoying a book.  I suspect moving in/out would be seriously annoying though.

Anyway, I didn’t take pictures but the geocache near the post office is a pleasant half mile walk into the forest behind the P.O. on a series of trails we had no idea existed before.  It’s hidden in the old ruins of a hotel that we also had no idea had been there, but that’s the fun of geocaching!

Finally we got back to the boat, and took another picture to prove that we’d actually set foot on Bear Island-

Certainly something worth mentioning if you hang out on Winnipesaukee long enough.  And yes just enough goes on around here that visiting a post office counts as a feat, but isn’t that part of the appeal?

Center Harbor, NH Fireworks

There are a few things I know in life, and one of them is that you will never, ever find a better place to watch 4th of July fireworks then Lake Winnipesaukee.  You might call me biased in this since this has been a tradition in my life since I was a little girl, but maybe I can convince you!

The story begins on the dock at sunset.  Our destination tonight is the little town of Center Harbor which is a 10 minute boat ride away because the rule of the lake is the second conditions get good you do everything via motorboat, and this being New England we’re pretty liberal in the definition of “good.”  Typically it’s still plenty cold in early July so that having the big summer holiday so early on seems like a terrible mistake by the Founding Fathers who were clearly thinking of such things (you couldn’t bear the yoke of tyranny until, say, mid-August?), and one can’t rule out bad weather either.  In fact, in what was arguably the worst firework year ever they started an hour early without warning so we only saw the last few!

Luckily there was a heat wave this year so weather was no problem, and probably the prettiest 4th of July sunset I’ve ever seen too.  These first two pictures are basically looking straight ahead off the dock and then turning 90 degrees to the right.

Anyway, we’re off!  And very, very quickly while heading towards Center Harbor it appears that we’ve got company as so many other people know the magic of fireworks by boat, making an impromptu regatta on the water amidst the rolling waves.  So beautiful and magical, filled with people in good spirits waving to each other and singing America the Beautiful (ok I don’t know who else did, but my rendition got a few fist pumps) and enjoying the holiday.

Finally we pass the buoys (rocks are a definite problem around here) to enter the bay and set up anchor a fair distance away from the fireworks barge.  There are hundreds and hundreds of boats bobbing in the water all around us as far as the eye can see- keep in mind that if you saw ten boats in this same shot on a normal day it’d be considered quite busy!  A real party on the water if there ever was one.

My brother Patrick, my dad and me waiting for the sunset to finish and the fireworks to begin.  We were kind of late coming to grab a good spot in time this year as we only arrived 45 minutes early- usually we stake out a half hour earlier than that!  But hey nothing like hanging out with your family to pass the time and the residents of the surrounding cottages keep everyone’s interest piqued by conducting their own mini fireworks shows going on the shoreline.  Very pretty, and no stray ones like when we did ours! *wink*

Finally at around 915pm the fireworks begins!  No more pictures unfortunately as the bobbing of the boats isn’t very good for fireworks pictures, but the funny thing is for all I’ve hyped this fireworks show I think most people who have seen them in big cities would be at all impressed by it.  You see Center Harbor is tiny- less than 1,000 people live here year-round though those numbers swell a few times in summer- so budget dictates a bit more modest affair than a bigger place.  I really don’t mind it though because it ends up fostering the philosophy that the Dutch had when they first brought tulips over from China- planting a field full was too expensive so you would only do one at a time to admire its individual beauty.  And trust me this works really well for fireworks- shooting off three at a time is considered to be a big deal so instead we have time to admire the ones we have until they disappear, hearing the rolling booms echoing from the surrounding hillsides and honking boat horns so the organizers know the favorites. I always wonder if they make a note of which ones get the most noise.

After 20 minutes of fireworks (it’s usually 30 minutes but it was short this year- town budget must be hurting due to the recession) the show is done and it’s time to head home- by this point it’s dark so the boats heading out go slowly so as to give ample caution to the not-really-visible buoys.  We end up spending over a half hour to weave home in the darkness while keeping an eye on boats, rocks, and the mini fireworks shows that have started up again at the shoreline cottages.

And that is what I look forward to every 4th of July no matter where I am in the world.  The astute will notice that this story isn’t even about the fireworks so much really because they themselves aren’t the most spectacular you’ll ever see or anything but rather part of the whole adventure.  After all, all good travelers know that the journey is as important as the destination, and who can object to such a fun journey and family to share it with?

The New Hampshire Fireworks Incident

In hindsight, maybe there’s a reason fireworks are illegal in most states.  New Hampshire is not one of these of course, a fact evidenced by how you can see several being shot off all over the countryside when flying in on 4th of July weekend, and our parents got me and my brother some to shoot off.  GOOD fireworks mind, the kind with several rounds and put us in great competition with those also on our lake!  So neighbors and relatives were invited, boats were moved away from our little point, and excitement and mosquitoes mounted in the humid air.

The first ones took off without detrimental incident and mounting excitement- we even had some passing boats pause to anchor in the water and enjoy the show, and positive comments were shouted around the lake in our direction.  Sweet!  But then around the sixth bundle of fireworks something happened- maybe it just got bounced around too much on the grass, maybe the person who lit the fuse with his cigarette accidentally knocked it, we won’t know.  What I do know is around the fifth or six rocket instead of going up in the air to explode like the rest it shot way to the right into the water, and I was vaguely thinking that wasn’t right for a few seconds until another rocket shot off in the distinctly wrong direction.  Over the heads of our invited audience.  Starting little fires behind where they were sitting in the forest.

Now let me tell you, when uncontrolled explosives are still being fired you run first and think of others later.  (I figured I could always say I was running to extinguish the little fires in the forest, which I did successfully after some stomping.) And then later downplay things and claim the divebombing mosquitoes are the reason we’re cutting things short, feeling sorry for the passing boaters who shouted “are you ok?!” and we never responded to- in hindsight a much more interesting story!  And then try to convince the neighbors you’re normal by playing a game of Ticket to Ride, a board game where you try to build railroads across the country, well normal as we get anyway-

As an epilogue to this bit of excitement, a friend pointed out there’s a joke in which a physicist, an engineer, and a mathematician go into a room and see a fire in it.  In such a situation, the physicist grabs a hose of water and douses the room quickly- everything’s soaked, but the fire’s out.  The engineer on the other hand looks at the size of the fire and calculates exactly how much water is needed to douse the fire, measures it out, and the fire is extinguished with minimum mess.  Lastly, the mathematician goes in and scribbles on paper, determines that it’s possible to extinguish fire with water, and leaves the room.  Guess we know which one I am!

Photo: Mount Washington Boat and Mountain

Off to New Hampshire in a few minutes for the long weekend (4th of July for the non-Yanks who read these pages).  Fireworks, lake, family, what more could one want?

The boat above is called the Mount Washington, named after the snow-capped peak behind it which is the tallest peak in New England and the site of the world’s biggest wind ever recorded at 216mph.  Trust me, it’s a lot bigger when it’s not so far away!