Artists, Gorges and Very Large Rocks:
My husband and I are seasoned travelers, although we aren’t the kind of travelers that may come to mind when you hear the word “seasoned.” We are experienced travelers and even though we have traveled to many tourist attractions, we are often drawn to places other tourists may not consider. We can be structured and travel by a schedule, such as when we were part of a large group that traveled for 15 days from Seattle to Alaska, but we prefer to go where we want, when we want. We’ll never be that couple that plans months in advance where and when they will be every night and every activity they will participate in. In fact, we can’t even use up three or four weeks of our time share points each year, because we don’t stay in one spot for more than two days and those places are rarely resorts.
We decided to take our current trip on a Thursday with a departure date of the following Tuesday, just five days later. We lined up the neighbor kid to water our outside plants and hired someone to mow the acre. The perishable contents of our refrigerator were taken to another neighbor and the post office was asked to hold the mail. As has been the case for the last five or six trips, we tried to pack fewer things. Whether we did or not is debatable. We decided to travel across New York State and into New England, but that was about all the itinerary we had. If you’ve read the first three installments, you may be shaking your head in disbelief. Our style of travel is unique and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We are nearing the end of our tour of many towns in the lower two-thirds of Vermont. Coupled with time spent in the Stowe area a few years ago, we feel like we have made a fairly good sweep of the state.
We are starting this day with a drive to Windsor to see the historic Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge. We have seen numerous covered bridges beginning in eastern Pennsylvania, but this is the first that connected two states. We entered in Windsor, Vermont and exited near Cornish, New Hampshire. It was built in 1866 and spans 449 feet over the Connecticut River making it the longest covered bridge in the US until 2008. It is 24 feet wide, which allows room for traffic to travel in two directions at the same time, unlike some covered bridges. There are 54 covered bridges in New Hampshire, 29 of which are found in the White Mountains.
After seeing on a map, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, Fred decided we should stop, even if we had no idea what it was. Since we suspected it may be a Catholic shrine, we were surprised to learn it was the home, studios and gardens of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was an American sculptor.
At age 13, Augustus Sainte-Gaudens began work as an apprentice to a cameo-maker. It was at this time, he was taught clay modeling. He began his formal art training while he was an apprentice. He returned to cutting cameos to support himself while he studied in Paris and Rome. One of his works the Shaw Memorial, commemorates Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first unit of African-American volunteers raised in the north during the Civil War. It was completed in 1897, 14 years after it was begun. Over 100 of his 150 works are exhibited there. Besides many sculptures, including several of Abraham Lincoln, Sainte-Gaudens’ designs for ten and twenty dollar gold coins and some cameos are showcased.
From Cornish we drove to Tilton where we rented a room and then had dinner at the Tilt’n Diner. Inside the door of the diner were tables with files of old ads, pictures of actors, vintage magazines and record albums, all of which were for sale.
The daughter of the owner of the hotel in Tilton, made a reservation for us for two nights at a friend’s hotel in Lincoln, which is ski country. After we arrived in Lincoln, we stopped at the visitor’s center, where we picked up pamphlets and maps to help plan for the next day. We were excited to find the first pressed penny of our trip. We checked into our room, a very large suite with a long kitchen between the sitting room and bedroom. We then began to explore some of the many places and activities available in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Our first destination was Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in North Woodstock, not to be confused with Woodstock, Vermont.
We worked some muscles we had forgotten we had at Lost River Gorge as we went up or down 1,000 steps while following a winding one-mile boardwalk through the gorge. The original log steps and rough-cut wooden ladders, used in the early years, were cut by axe. The wooden boardwalk system provides a safe way for over 60,000 annual visitors to traverse the gorge while helping to protect the delicate ecosystem.
Several waterfalls of varying sizes cascaded over the rocks and giant boulders, some as a big as a cabin. My traveling companion went into a few of the eleven caves, but I did not. Eight of them were lit by light supplied by lanterns. The passageway in one cave was so small, people had to check to see if they could fit through a gauge. Most either did not fit or backed out realizing there would not be room to spare. It was not a place for even moderate claustrophobics. Along the way was a suspension bridge and a treehouse. Near the end, a giant nest awaited anyone wishing to use it for a photo opp.
In 1912, the Society For The Protection of New Hampshire Forests purchased Lost River to protect the gorge from logging operations. Areas very close to the gorge had been logged and the logs were transported to the mills by way of a logging railroad that ended 600 feet from the gorge.
That evening we ate at a restaurant that we learned was part of The Common Man family of restaurants as was the diner we ate at the night before. Each eating establishment in the large group is unique unto itself in appearance and menu. They are located throughout New Hampshire. This one was in a large house with a two-story addition in the back. It is known for its white chocolate, of which samples are given with the check. Rectangles of the sweet confection are offered for $3.00.
Our second day in Lincoln was very warm, but cooler than if we’d gone south. Our hotel was a hop, skip and a jump from Franconia Notch State Park. Our original plan was to hike the Flume Gorge, but with the heat, the threat of rain and still feeling the hike we took the day before, we visited the visitor center, but opted out of the two-mile trip.
We decided to see how the visibility was for the tram ride to the top of Cannon Mountain. The closer we got, the more convinced we were that visibility would be poor. On the way we stopped at Boise Rock. It was a massive boulder with an overhang. The sign said it had been part of the history and folklore of Franconia Notch for generations. Supposedly, Thomas Boise was traveling through the Notch in mid-winter by horse and sleigh, soon after the first road was built, when a terrible storm came through. After realizing the seriousness of his situation, he took drastic measures to survive by killing and skinning his horse. He crawled under the rock’s overhang and wrapped himself in the hide. The search party found him alive the next day, but encased in the frozen hide that had to be cut away with axes.
To be continued.