North Country ATV Adventure

This weekend we headed up to the Great North Woods of NH to a friend’s family camp for some ATV fun and beautiful foliage. We boarded the pup so that she could have fun and socialize with other pups while we played out on the ATVs. We got up there on Friday night and headed on the ATVs Saturday morning. Up in North Country NH, there is an awesome trail network for ATVs called Ride the Wilds established in 2013. There are 1000+ miles of trails connected, which include town roads and sections of highway when necessary to connect sections. Eleven different clubs within the region take care of the trail system with donations only- no tax dollars were spent on them.

Before 2013, the trail network wasn’t as connected and was really dependent on permission from private landowners. The signage along the trails was amazing and really helps keep people on the trails and off land that the landowners would like to keep private. There are restaurants, lodges, general stores, and campgrounds along the way. For this adventure I wore my LLBean fleece, Harding Lane mountain hat, buff to cover my face for the dust, jeans, my old Merrell boots, and my Fox mountain biking gloves.  It was definitely a day for functional clothing that you didn’t mind getting dusty/muddy!

Our first stop on our ATV adventure was the Blueberry Hill Inn & Cafe for breakfast. The food there is fabulous- our party got blueberry pancakes, grilled blueberry muffins, bacon, homemade corn beef hash, home fries, and endless cups of coffee. The blueberries for the pancakes & muffins come from blueberry fields right on the property and of course, the maple syrup was locally produced.

From there we headed up the Cree Notch Trails to a great lookout/picnic spot. Along the way we rode along a railroad, saw glimpses of the Connecticut River, & rode through a Christmas tree farm.

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Along the railroad trail was the most dust, but I liked it because it was cool to see the old school telephone poles still standing

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Feeling like a bandit through the dusty parts

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The Christmas tree farm!

The views from Cree Notch were amazing. The foliage was just breathtaking.

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My husband Jon and I rode on a Polaris Sportsman ATV. He drove the whole way out, and I drove part of the way home. Our friend was on a Kawasaki ATV, and then his parents, our amazing hosts, were in a Polaris side by side. They have had their camp up north for about 30 years and have really been there since the beginning for ATVing up there. img_7219

From there we headed to Bear Bait Mountain which also had some beautiful views. As the day progressed, the clouds rolled in and there were even a couple rain drops but thankfully nothing that disrupted our day. We saw a juvenile moose alongside the trail coming down from the notch view. It was early in the day for it to be out and about, and it didn’t move when we approached. Sadly the poor thing might be sick with something. We didn’t stick around too long in case mom was close by. It may have had some sort of tick borne disease like lyme. It was still a pretty cool encounter.

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After our amazing day of four wheeling, Jon did some fishing at the brook right near camp, and we had a campfire to warm up before dinner. He caught and released six beautiful brook trouts to hopefully grow and increase the healthy trout population.

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Beautiful brook trout, caught & released

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We had such an amazing day and made it home on Sunday in time to watch Tom Brady play with the Patriots for the first time this season. I am pretty sure this weekend is the peak foliage for northern NH, but southern NH still has a week or so. I am just loving all the fall colors, and secretly I am totally getting excited for snow and skiing in a few months hopefully!

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The Grand Mt. Washington Hotel

Before the automobile, there were many grand hotels and boarding houses in the White Mountains, called the Great North Woods back then, where people from the cities in Massachusetts would stay for a month or two in the summer for some fresh air and recreation. The Mt. Washington wasn’t open in the winter until 2000. They would arrive by trains and ‘tallyhos’ which were horse drawn carriages. It took so long to get anywhere, you would stay longer. The Mt. Washington Hotel broke ground in 1900 and opened for guests in 1902. It was built by Joseph Stickney, who also owned the Mt. Pleasant Hotel (which is now where the Lodges at Bretton Woods are) across the street.

It is breathtaking, the largest wooden structure in New England, all white exterior with that bright popping red roof against the most beautiful backdrop- the Presidential Mountain Range. I have driven by the hotel many times in my hiking adventures, and looked down upon it from many peaks in the area. Last week was the first time I actually stayed there, and honestly I could have moved in. We stayed Wednesday night and Thursday night, and it was really great being there midweek. It was a lot less crowded from what I have heard. There was rain on Wednesday, but Thursday and Friday were gorgeous. Wednesday night we sat out on the veranda overlooking our beloved mountains. They sat tucked under a blanket of clouds until the sun set and the alpine glow set in. We went to dinner that night at Stickney’s, a restaurant in the lower level of the hotel that used to be the men’s billiard room back in the day. After, we had a couple drinks in The Cave, a space that was originally squash courts that became a speakeasy during Prohibition years. They drank from tea cups and had a view out the window to the driveway to see if any officials were coming up.

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The beautiful mountains under the clouds

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Red clay tennis courts, new from when the conference center/spa addition took up space where the old courts were.

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The Ammonoosuc River

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The Bretton Arms Inn on the property

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The carriage house that is now the stables/equestrian center

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The alpine glow at around 8PM. From left to right, the peaks are Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, and you can just see the slope of Eisenhower.

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Out on the roof of the newer section of the hotel which houses a conference center/spa

Thursday we hiked Zealand Mountain which was fantastic because it was only 15 minutes from the hotel. I will write up the hike in a separate post 🙂 Thursday night we did a little fly fishing in the trout pond out front before eating out on the veranda. After, we got a couple glasses of champagne, a book titled A Self Guided Historic Tour, and meandered around the hotel.

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No trout caught unfortunately, we just caught some creek chubs

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A place is always set for Carolyn Stickney, the wife of the original owner of the hotel. He died just a year after the great hotel had been built, and Carolyn remarried French nobility and used to summer at the hotel. The main dining room was built as a circle so that no table was inferior off in the corner, but the table just to the right of the entrance is always ready for the Princess.

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All the different place setting patterns over the years

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When Carolyn was summering at the hotel, she would watch all the dining guests make their way to the dining room and she would change if anyone was dressed more finely than her.

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The great hall aka the lobby of the hotel.

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The moose head above the grand fireplace in the lobby

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Ornate ceiling and chandelier where Carolyn would have private dinners. Now it is used as a lounge area, nice for getting a drink before dinner

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The veranda above, and Stickney’s dining below.

Friday we had breakfast and took a last lap around before heading out on a couple more adventures. We went to the Gale River right by the trailhead to hike Galehead and I happily read my new book, Kaysen’s Cambridge, while my husband caught around 5 brook trouts. From there we went to the Bretton Woods ski area and took the free ski lift up to the Latitude 44 restaurant. Bretton Woods is a part of the Omni Mt. Washington Resort as is the hotel. The view from the restaurant looking across to the hotel and the mountains was beautiful. What a great ending to our trip.

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It was an amazing place to stay. So many families and couples there were taking the cog railway up Mt. Washington, or driving up during their vacation. I heard excited children talking about their upcoming journey, parents telling them about the wind, or the pizza at the top! I have hiked all the Presidentials, and I will never forget hiking up Mt. Washington. A day in March when the world up there was still snow-covered and barren. The pizza wasn’t open, and there was no wind. It’s a beautiful place no doubt, but looking up from the plush cushions on whitewashed veranda wicker furniture to see mountains that you regard as familiar friends as opposed to awesome strangers is truly a gift.

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