Lunch with Swift

Roaming southern New Hampshire's Monadnock Region and beyond — visiting unique places and tasting the local flavor..


Revisiting the genesis of a poem written 28 years ago.

Skates,
Slicing grooves
With balance and grace
Exploring a place on a mat of water gone hard
With metal blades razor-sharp

A quiet lake
Shore trees: lacey gray
Dark green hemlock and fir
Shadow the north slopes
Like stationary black green clouds
Rocks are revealed with invisible ore
As forest thins on the nearer steep hills
Afternoon sun fares well
Into western places bowing to the cold

Alone, a skater winds and whirls
With the quite afternoon gusts

Then his midst is shattered
By the rattling chops of air
Blasting diesel turbine peeks
Over the hemlock hill shoulder and rocks
A large ‘copter with nose-down attitude
Banks and turns
In a winning battle to stay aloft

The skater, so close at times
He can see the green gun’s barrel perforations
Cuts ice with a cold blade in a cool dance
Mirror banks and runs
Machine and skater trade
Metal skates and ‘copter blades
Smelted ore to dance this day on this lake

In a winter jig
Of thrash and glide
In this late afternoon winter lake valley
Until the moments bring on a deeper dusk
Skater glides away
And chopper beats fade to distant winter.

1991

November 2019

I was reminded of this poem today when we climbed up Kulish Ledge. Because here we were in these woods “Shore trees: lacey gray
Dark green hemlock and fir
Shadow the north slopes”

This was slope over which the helicopter that I was talking about appeared. I remember at the time of the dance being curious what was up there on the hill and in the woods and thinking at the time I must explore it.

Always looking for interesting new hikes, Beth happened to suggest we take a hike up here to this very place with our new friends Guy and Jenny. As we made our way up the hill and the vistas unfolded, I realized that I was seeing the familiar country in a whole new way.

It is admittedly a minor revelation. But it is fun to connect with the countryside as we see it at different times, from different angles with, new people, with new fresh eyes.

Following our brisk Sunday morning walk, we went to the Harrisville General Store for lunch . Here is a place that reliably serves up excellent sandwiches of both familiar and adventurous variety. Today, in the spirit of our adventure, I opted for the unusual. I will report that a brie, onion, and apple sandwich, roasted is an excellent choice. Who could turn away from key lime pie to go with it? Sadly, my choice of V8 did not pair well with the pie.

Something about the way the light is in the Harrisville General Store, it accents the presentation of the food and creates a fitting place to debrief from adventures in the hills. It’s an easy place savor an afternoon with friends and recount adventures whether they involved helicopters, skates, or just hiking boots.

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A late season mountain bike ride and lunch at Plain Jane’s

We are sitting in this spotless diner called Plane Jane’s on Route 118 in Rumney, NH a few thousand feet west of the WORLD FAMOUS Polar Caves.

Beth and I are covered in mud and starved!  

 

We had just ridden 3 hours on our bikes.  We might call what we are doing a day date.

Forty five minutes before, I had been lying in the third puddle of mud I’d fallen into this day.    No harm done, it was actually par for the course on a good mountain bike ride.    Hearing that they would soon be closing for the season, she and I had decided to check out a set of trails called Green Woodland Mountain bike Trails in Dorchester.  Early in the morning we loaded up our bikes, took Hank to doggy day care and made our way north 2 hours in light traffic up Route 93 toward Plymouth.  It was a bit grey on a November Tuesday morning and we figured we would have the trails to ourselves.     We heard about the creation of this good man who bought 20,000 acres and generously made 50 miles of supremely designed mountain bike trails.    He has worked with a crew to sculpt perfectly flowing trails to take in all of the natural features this land has to offer.

The trails are not easy as the terrain is often steep, but the trail builders have laid out a ridable ribbon complete with swooping banked curves, bridges and everything is perfectly marked.  You know where you are at every trail junction.   You could come in from Phuket and be oriented.    What is the cost of using this amazing park?  Nothing.  Actually, the web site says that all that they ask in payment is a smile.  OK we can agree, they got many more than one.   At one point, I heard Beth giggling as she floated down one of the hills.

To be honest, I groaned on a few of the uphill stretches.   The trails are so well designed through these hills that the water running off from the recent rain pools in only a few of the banked curves bellies.      Those must have been the mud puddles I found and fell into.

Now we have loaded our bikes back up on the car and found this wonderful diner.    The mud that had now dried and sat caked on me left a fine dust on the clean vinyl bench at Plane Jane’s.  The place is empty, except for us.

 

I guess it is after lunch time rush.  Can I just say, with daylight savings, I think everyone is a bit discombobulated about when is when.   Point is, who know when lunch time really is.  Fall back, what a bunch of nonsense.  Anyway, we waited eagerly for our order.  I headed off to clean up my muddy skin, turned on the faucet, and let the warm water run on my hands and arms a while.  It was a moment.        When I returned, Beth sent me back rest room for another round of cleanup.  I guess she was contrasting the mud spots I had missed on my arm with a life sized cardboard cutout of Elvis Presley in a spotless satin suit in his younger days.  I didn’t measure up to Elvis, what is new.   The results from round two at the bathroom was better.    As I sat down, our stuff arrived.    It is so nice to get diner food that is home made.  My burger was thick hand pressed and juicy.  The bun was soft, the lettuce and tomato were fresh.   Beth’s Ruben had thick pieces of home cooked corned beef.  We felt a little like we had fallen into diner heaven.  Our sandwiches disappeared like wood in a chipper.  Alas, there was no room for a thick slice of lemon meringue pie.  Though I do regret not having a piece.  Certainly I was in calorie deficit from the ride.    But I held off.

We will have go back again to both the Green Woodland trails and the Plain Jane Diner.   I will certainly have some of that lemon meringue.

 

www.pjsdiner.com

http://www.greenwoodlands.org/home/recreationaluse.html


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Cherrys, Plums, and Apples

Got 25 cents, put it in the slot, pull the crank, watch the wheels spin Cherrys, Plums, and Apples.

Except we are not in Las Vegas. Today, we are at Tenny Farms on Route 202 just south of Antrim, NH and it is the middle of July. Many go here for Icecream. When I realized I was getting husky a while back, I decided to go off the stuff. But, my weakness is fruit, especially plums.

Tenny farms seems to have the best fruit around.

You carefully select the plums you want, pay, walk out of the nicely appointed countrified store, get in your car and head south.

Let me describe a perfect Tenny Farm plum. It is deep purple, room temperature, it skin is smooth and gives in with a light push but pushes back with no indentation. It has almost imperceptible small white spots as if someone had poked it everso lightly with toothpicks.

It sits in the hand happily occupying the whole palm. I

f it is going to be a good one, you may think that one is not enough.

You bring it to your lips and teeth and bear down. What gave under light finger touch, breaks under tooth. Instantly, a sweet, tart, fresh taste is released. What lies beneath the skin is not mushy nor firm. It is supple and packed with flavor. Sometimes it is deep purple, other times it is tan. I prefer purple. The second, third or fourth bite reveals a pit. The pit is easily removed by a tooth pinch. In the mouth, it glides around like a lozenge. But soon it looses its flavor. You roll down the car window, wait for no car to be passing, and smartly spit the pit into the next lane. In the rearview mirror you see it bounce once, twice and roll.

Half the plum is left. Then none.

But you know there are more in the bag. And when they are gone, you can go back to Tenny Farms.


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A little fuel

Last Wednesday the phone rang. It was the Recreation Director from the Town of Peterborough asking me if I could use 29 voulunteers from the Windsor Mountain Camp between 16 and 20. Whoa, pause, deep breath.

Yes, of course!

About 10 years ago, I had a hand in building the Cranberry Meadow Trail which goes from the center of town which goes up to the top of a local mountain called South Pack. It has turned out to be well loved but also a lingering responsibility which I feel attached to.

A month ago, my counterpart from the Monadnock Conservancy, an organization that looks after the trail with me took a walk to inventory the bridges to figure out what was needed.

I had a bit of dred to learn that 9 bridges needed work and a few were really rotten. It takes a lot to move heavy logs without equipment. Come alongs can work. But you have to think like an Egyptian to really do it right.

So out of the blue, here was an opportunity. When you have a lot of volunteers who are eager, you want to make sure their time is meaningful.

Rick and I talked about how to get ready for them. I bought some wood from a lumber mill and cut it to the right lengths. And Rick set to getting some big trees on the ground.

Before the kids arrived I needed to do one more thing. Get lunch! I thought I needed a good one because this was going to be hard. It occured to me to go to Panchos. Its a new place in town which has picked up where some other pizza places left off. Word hasnt gotten out about this place but it should. It is maybe a bit confusing. Pancho’s Pizza? The guy is from Puerto Rico and ge came to Peterboro by way of NYC where he learned his craft. He makes excellent pizza with perfect crusts. So I thought I would try the sandwiches. It didnt dissapoint. The person that made it, whipped it together in no time. It had delicious marinated roast beef, fresh bread, and vegetables. She presented it to me in tightly wrapped butcher paper. I had just enough time to savor it before the kids arrived.

When they did, I was stoked for the effort. They were too. In 10 minutes they moved 50 pieces of wood from my truck to a neatly stacked pile of lumber. This alone would have taken 2 of us 2 or 3 hours.

Then they set to moving 400 lbs logs. To do it, I paired them up with webbed slings two to a sling. On three they lifted this heavy log and it floated into place. With two logs we had our stringers. This theme kept up for three hours. Impossibly heavy stuff just got put into place like magic.

I just have to say thank you to Windsor Mountain Camp for a team who could think like Ancient Egyptians and Pancho for his awesome sandwich to fuel me up for the afternoon.

We built 3 bridges. We have six to go. Are a couple of more miracles too much to ask? Probably, but I know where to get another great sandwich.

..


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Dublin General and a Colonoscopy

So it should be that a Colonoscopy should bring me round back to my blog. Hello everyone, I have missed you.

Before I get too far, it wasn’t my colonoscopy. It was a friend’s. And I agreed to take him to the hospital. When you are the designated driver you get about 3 hours before you have to go back for the pickup.

It was just enough time to squeeze a couple of little jobs in the heat of the day. A trip to the bank here, flagging a property line there, and then back to the hosibobo (as I used to call it.)

Before returning, there was one last stop, the Dublin General Store. Unbeliviebly, I have never done a LWS on the DGS. That is as overdue as this blog entry.

The DGS is simply one of the best stores around. It is located on 101 in a place that is pretty easy to duck off the road. I don’t know how many cars go by a day, but it is alot. Many businesses along the highway have a hard time enticing drop in customers, but the DGS is designed to accommodate people with poor impulse control. Candy bars, they have it, and potato chips, coffee, scones, great big sandwiches made to order, ice tea, and beer.

Everything is nicely presented, the store is clean and crispy. The folks that work there couldn’t be nicer. There are sunny eating areas inside and out. It is a goto after climbing Mount Monadnock, swimming in Dublin Lake or just a pop in on a jaunt from here to there.

Back to my friend and his colonoscopy. I was headed back to pick him up. I had just had one myself. That fast is kind of a bear. I remember what it was like coming to. I could have chewed off my right arm. Anyway, at the DGS right by the cash register, there is a plexiglass dome filled to the brim with incredible chocolate chip cookies, 1 dolla. They are the diameter of hockey pucks, half as thick, chocolatey, chewey, and about the best afternoon treat you could ask for. Did I say 4 quarters?

I bought one for my friend and guarded it from the dogs who are always traveling with me. When I picked him up, he was starved.

It put some color back in his face.

See you soon.


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The Last Lunch at the Moon Dog Cafe. CHESTER, Vt.

We were on our 12th long run at Okemo in Ludlow, Vt.

The conditions were perfect for mid March. The snow was chalky. Every edge set bit into the snow so our skis were like rails. There was a promise of more snow but in our time there, it was just overcast sky. The temp was in the mid 20s and the winds were light. A perfect day for some hard charging cruising. And that was the way we skied.

About one p.m. our legs were screaming and someone mentioned lunch. The words barely wafted into the mountaintop air when David said “the Moon Dog Cafe!” He, being a knowledgeable patron, knew to call two days in advance and plead to the wonderful proprietress to make her legendary chicken pot pie.

It was a Pavlovian response when the lunch suggestion echoed out. Immediately, we raced down Chief, the best run at Okemo on the best snow of the winter to find the best pot pie in Vermont.

We stopped at the bottom by the lodge, lingered a minute to off (s.i.c.) our boots and extra coats and mittens, and loaded up the cars for a quick drive to the MDC.

The Moon Dog is one of those places that you wish was right around the corner. It has a great selection of sandwiches like a roast beef, apple and boursin sandwich on home made hearty bread, lightly toasted with a side of grilled sweet potato and some wild rice. That is one small example. What we were after was the secret special: Pot pie.

We walked up to the counter and didn’t see any mention of it on the menu board. David stepped forward. “Do you have any chicken pot pie?”

The chef said ” as a matter of fact, you called didn’t You? …Yes, I made some this morning … It was selling fast so I saved 4 pieces for you.”

We sighed, and ordered. Then we took our places in a table by a huge glass storefront facing the quaint village of Chester. As we waited, our legs still were burning from the skiing. We looked around to the eclectic arrangements of canned tomatoes, bananas, honey, and knitting. We chatted. And at one point Michael recited as poem he loved about “the work.” We shook our heas and wondered when he would have time to memorize that. But it was naturally appropriate to the moment.

It was not long before the good waitress brought out our plates

They were beautiful pot pies spilling out chicken and peas, caressed by a flakey butter crust. On the side was cranberry sauce baby lettuce and sweet potatoes.

We took a deep breath. We paused. We went silent. We slowly savored every forkfull.

Lisa had a rhubarb soda. We thought about beboparebop rhubarb pie. And wondered how Garrison Kiellor could have gone so astray. Who cares? The sun was pouring into the windows. We were feasting on these incredible pot pies

… And then we got the news.

The Moon Dog is closing here and moving to Bellows Falls. There are a few good things in this. It will soon be reopening with the same crew. And it will be a bit closer.

But, this was our last lunch at the Moon Dog in Chester with burning legs and the promise of more snow coming.


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Millen Pond to Sand Pond with several losses along the way… and a fake song.

My friend John B over in Washington is all about the Washington side of the world and my friends in Lempster — Sue L and Jim B  are likewise so to the Asheulot River where the Town line meets Washington.

Hey, wouldn’t it be great to go from Millen Pond in Washington to Silver Mountain in Lempster across the Ashuelot River and then up by Sand Pond?  This little idea is how an epic day starts.  Maybe there is lunch or maybe not.

I have gotten roped into the notion because I am a sucker for enthusiastic people.  So we decided to walk what could one day be a great trail through the deepest part of the woods in what is mostly protected land.  The hike day was planned for an earlier date in the summer.   In this unusually dry year, we woke up that morning to thundershowers and strong winds.  I put out for a later date in September.

Here it is, the later date.  The crew has burgeoned from a few or several to more than a handful.  I think there are eight of us.    We meet at the top of Farnsworth Hill.  John B has delivered us to the starting point with a shiny new four-wheel drive, four seat, electric dump body Gator – a true country Cadillac.   On the way over he has been telling us about those damn kids with their four-wheelers.  I say, “yep. un-huh.”  We arrive in that four wheeler and  others are waiting. We waste no time.  John B wistfully fills us in on the deep and arcane history of Farnsworth Hill.   He knows history of the Millen Family, the Farnsworths, the McNeils and a bunch of other people who lived up in this hill over 70 years ago.  We stand learning of the history.  Then he says, “follow Swift.”  I say,  “I want to warn you,  I figured this path out on the map. and laid it down on the GPS. I haven’t walked it all per se.  I think it might be crunchy.”    Even I don’t know quite what that means, but it sound like a good truth.

Soon we are a group of 8 doing just that, crunching through raspberries and balsam fir headed in the general direction of Sand Pond.    We are walking through a featureless sea of brand new forest.  One of our hikers pipes in.  “A good trail should go by some features.”  I remind him to wait a couple of years and this will emerge from stage of being hopeless brush to being  a nice young forest.  And wait twenty and it will be a real sapling and pole forest.  Forty years  and it will be bigger trees towering overhead.   He will see features soon enough, elsewhere, today.

We proceed down the hill, our eight person mule team, with two dogs, too.  By the way, they are now over their first fight.  One has a bloody face.  I hope that is from a sharp stick and not a switch tooth.  We only stop for a minute dealing with their quarrel,  all of a sudden what surrounds us is not a hopeless brush sea, but a nice open forest with big mossy rocks.  We are nearing the Asheulot River to narrow place I have charted. We can cross, here.   On the way, I pipe up how awesome it is for groups in two separate towns to understand this new connection. Furthermore,  how if it is designed as a walking trail,  walkers will walk on it probably for years to come.  Peter understands this because he is a lead worker on the Monadnock-Sunnapee Greenway.  A connection there, too??  You bet.

Now, we are paused at the crossing of the Asheulot River.   It is a step over because it is dry.  We ponder a burma bridge, a tight wire, stepping stones or a raft bridge.  None are too much to imagine and only a minor detail to make a reality.  What the collective mind believes is easy to achieve.

We cross on rocks and march on. We are hot now. We are entering Lempster.  I sing the imaginary Lempster song and have the Lempsterites wondering how they missed the fact that their town had an ancient community appreciation song.

To the music of “If You Want To Be A Badger” — I sing to everyone as we enter Lempster–

If you want to come to Lempster,

Just come along with me,

By the Light,

By the Light

Of the Bright Shining Moon…

 

They  wonder aloud, “How did we miss that?”   They didn’t. I made it up.  ‘Cuz I’m a Badger.

We head through the thickest fir East of Brattleboro, West of Newmarket.  There are an easy 30,000 stems per acre.  I am convinced it is absolutely necessary to walk right through the heart of this thicket.   At some point, I realize it is a bit easier to crawl.

When we stand on a sunny rock on the other side of the thicket,  I tell everyone that there is really no Lempster Song.  I just made it up.  Everyone sighs.  Jim sighs, too.  He has lost his pack with his water in it.  Fortunately, I have recorded our path.   I say “lets go swim back through the Balsam and find it.”  He thinks it got ripped off his back.  We re-trace and don’t find it.  But the rest of us are well rested on the sunny rock. Jim and I are dripping from our three passes through the balsam thicket.

We are half way there.  I say that we have done the easy part of the hike.  We are down one pack, a lunch, and a water.  We are now headed up out of the Ashuelot Headwaters Valley on the Lempster side to the mysterious and marvelous Isthmus between the crystal clear Long Pond and Sand Pond.  Somehow, when these two lakes got put here by the hand of the great Whoever,  he/she plunked rocks down in a fabulous way by fore finger and thumb. We are headed for them.

A hiking trail should have good features…  And up we walk the hill.  Now, we are on a ledge “hog back.”   Now, we realize the hogback ends. We peel around to the left of it and all of a sudden, we are walking at the base of an incredible mossy cliff with ferns cascading.  There is that kind of grey leathery lichen with a soot colored backing,  that if you are starving, you can eat. But no one does.

The ledge is like the Vietnam memorial but in the wildest, wild and it diminishes into the hill as we climb.    Further on up, we encounter more giant rock ledges.  I take note of one where the top of a  yellow birch 24 inches at the base and 100 feet tall  is brushing the top of its neighboring cliff.  It, too, shaggy with fern at its lip.

The excitement is starting to give way to exhaustion.  And thirst.   Our fellow hikers are generous with water, but we are down and it is dry.    I do not fear this.  Soon we are on the shores of Sand Pond with little to go.   The clear water is lapping calmly on the shore while a gaggle of surface-running-spinner beetles disturb a meat-platter size area near our feet.  Someone puts their hand down near them and they disperse like black-bean-dervishes intent on being ecstatic. They leave a pimple-ripple wake where they go.

We are ecstatic, too!  Its pushing three in the afternoon and we are almost done with this hike.  I know there are many miles to go before I sleep, sorry Mr. Frost.   Everyone is ready to have some water and lunch.

The next chapter could get interesting.     We can now all imagine this becoming a path.   If it is,  it will still be a challenge even with a cut trail.    And there will be many more stories, like this.     And they may also be crunchy!

But we are not quite done yet,   I look down at the GPS to guide us back. everything is blurry. I touch the glass in my glasses.  It is not there.  Drat, another pair of glasses which are a casualty I can chalk up to an offering to the great Whoever.  I close one eye to look with with the other through the one good lens.  Easypeasy.

We get up to the cars and finish our shuttling back to the point of beginning.

I am too pressed for time to stop anywhere for a good  lunch so its the home refrigerator for a cold pizza and some water a shortstop on the way to the seacoast.

Wait, what… the Seacoast?  That story will have to wait for another time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Lunch with Coyotes

It’s not our  lunchtime.  It’s not at a convenience store.  It’s not even with me.  But it’s lunch – a night time lunch.

Last night the Coyotes sang like I have never heard them before.  There were so many voices. And there was such immediacy. That you couldn’t miss that something big was going on in the woods.

Whenever I hear animals out back, all I can think of is the cat getting eaten.

But, here is what may have been happening instead.  Imagine if the cat has got an ongoing  thing  with the Coyotes.   Maybe he is an honorary member of the pack?

About 9 O’clock as we were settling in to juggling on America’s Got Talent,  we let him out and he was making his way to the wild wood to meet up with his friends.   
All of that noise?  The Coyotes  were just especially glad to see him.   He was joining the hunting party and the Coyotes on this side of the valley were letting the guys on the other side that game was on with Mr Cat.   Together, they would find lunch tonight!

That is what I would like to think.

As morning came today, Mr.Cat was eager to come in and say hello to us.   He made it through another night.   It just makes me think if he isn’t getting beaten (eaten,) he must be joining ’em in their night lunching.


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New Mr. Mikes 03458

Sometimes the anticipation is great and sometimes you realize it just needs to be moderated. Such is with the new gas station they have built in Peterborough.   I know I will be a frequent customer.  But I have to wait.  The shelves are stocked with slim Jim’s and Pringle’s  chips.  There is coke and beer in the fridge and the compressors are running.  But there are barricades in front of the driveway.   There is no business.  Birds are nesting under the new gas pump canopy.  The pumps are glowing red.  The new landscaping is looking like it needs tending but it is getting none.

So I wait and hope.  The potato chips will have to hang on the rack until the convenience store folks work out their traffic calming issues with the State of NH.  

But you can bet there will be no decline in their quality by the time the doors swing open.  Be that in a week or several months.   Chips and gas just keep like that- even while business people claw and grovel.  It is a great exercise in delayed gratification all.


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Vernondale Store, Sutton, NH

Hello again, my few, faithful, readers.   It has been a while.  Fingers have been a little shy, maybe.  Also, since this is a blog about great lunch places, I wouldn’t want you to think I am always eating lunch in amazing places.  First, how special would that be?  Second, I would fear your judgement and scorn to think how much of my hard-earned money gets wasted on frivolous visits at cute lunch places.  And third, how much time I waste doing this?

I can say all of these things are true, but there is one more.  With no particular need to write this, it only comes out when I really feel like it.  So my friends, there is no guilt here. And I feel like writing.

So here I am in the afterglow of a nice afternoon spent with my best friend, Beth.  It came to pass this way,  I have been telling her for weeks about an area of the state I have been working in that I did not know much about.  I have had the good fortune to be working on a project in which I have been doing a wildlife and recreation treatment on a large property just to the east of Lake Sunapee and to the west of Sutton Village and south of New London. What is amazing about this land and what we didn’t know when we started is that from it, you can see almost the whole state from the Seacoast to Mount Washington in one direction and much of it from the other.  It is in that perfect spot.    The land has had a tug on me ever since my  first day exploring, when I witnessed two moose stampeding by me last fall.    This summer, we have been doing work to reveal these vistas cutting through formerly hi-graded forest.    So, in our rare free time together,  Beth and I, went up to have a walk.  We arrived at the log landing at the far west end of the land and she said, now you are going to have to narrate.  So I explained that when we first started working on the land there was no good way in.  We then walked easterly up the new skid road up into an opening.  I said don’t turn around as we headed up the hill.  At the top, we got to the edge of a stand of white pine and I said now turn around.   And she looked west.  From our vantage point we could see over what will be future hayfield to Mount Sunapee  Ski Area, most of Lake Sunnapee across to Vermont and Mount Snow, Mount Ascutney.  Then we could see all the way up northwesterly  to the white sides of Mount Cardigan.

vista

this is 1/4 of the vista

Sailboats big and white peeled over the water of Sunapee below us.    We could count at least three lighthouses marking the shoals.   I said “that’s cool, but let’s go see more.”

We continued to head west on a skid road for about a mile going up sharply and then for quite a while walking on a gentle path meandering along the shoulder of a hill.

In about 20 minutes of walking, the sun broke through the forest canopy and we could see the opening ahead.    This seems like mountainous land but when we got to this eastview clearing, we gazed over an expanse of land flat and gently rolling.    It has been high pasture and hayfield in the past for NH farmers.   Unfortunately, the old folks lived on a road named Poor Farm Road.  Still, the soil is suitable for great field.   But, then off in the distance the land rose up.

From here she said “wow!”   We looked to the north and could see Mount Washington tiny and a bit hazy on this summer afternoon.  Also, in the distance and a little to the south and east were some peaks off in Maine — Sunday River Mountain.  Closer, we looked to Kezar Lake over which canoes were leaving razor-thin sunlit wakes.  We could see the village of Sutton with it’s looming  Mount Kearsarge.  Then across to the southeast we looked over the tiny city of Manchester and could see all the way to the NH Seacoast.  I thought of theat poem that Frost wrote about  NH that it has a little sample of everything.

Skip over this poem as you wish, but it is Frost saying that what we have here in NH may not be the best but we have what we need.   Though he didn’t know my friend Jamie Trowbridge, (who gave me the idea to write this blog)   Frost would agree with him when he says, New Hampshire is “Perfectly Good.”

 

—–

Permission to Scroll Ahead (or not)       [And it is still abridged]
I met a poet from another state,
A zealot full of fluid inspiration,
Who in the name of fluid inspiration,
But in the best style of bad salesmanship,
Angrily tried to make me write a protest
(In verse I think) against the Volstead Act.
He didn’t even offer me a drink
Until I asked for one to steady him.
This is called having an idea to sell.

It never could have happened in New Hampshire.

The only person really soiled with trade
I ever stumbled on in old New Hampshire
Was someone who had just come back ashamed
From selling things in California.

Just specimens is all New Hampshire has,
One each of everything as in a showcase,
Which naturally she doesn’t care to sell.

She had one President. (Pronounce him Purse,
And make the most of it for better or worse.
He’s your one chance to score against the state.)
She had one Daniel Webster. He was all
The Daniel Webster ever was or shall be.
She had the Dartmouth’ needed to produce him.

I call her old. She has one family
Whose claim is good to being settled here
Before the era of colonization,

As for what they were up to more than fishing—
Suppose they weren’t behaving Puritanly,
The hour bad not yet struck for being good,
Mankind had not yet gone on the Sabbatical.
It became an explorer of the deep
Not to explore too deep in others’ business.

She has a touch of gold. New Hampshire gold—
You may have heard of it. I had a farm
Offered me not long since up Berlin way
With a mine on it that was worked for gold;
But not gold in commercial quantities,
Just enough gold to make the engagement rings
And marriage rings of those who owned the farm.
What gold more innocent could one have asked for?
One of my children ranging after rocks
Lately brought home from Andover or Canaan
A specimen of beryl with a trace
Of radium. I know with radium
The trace would have to be the merest trace
To be below the threshold of commercial;
But trust New Hampshire not to have enough
Of radium or anything to sell.

A specimen of everything, I said.
She has one witch—old style. She lives in Colebrook.
(The only other witch I ever met
Was lately at a cut-glass dinner in Boston.
There were four candles and four people present.
The witch was young, and beautiful (new style),
And open-minded. She was free to question
Her gift for reading letters locked in boxes.
Why was it so much greater when the boxes
Were metal than it was when they were wooden?
It made the world seem so mysterious.

One each of everything as in a showcase.

More than enough land for a specimen
You’ll say she has, but there there enters in
Something else to protect her from herself.
There quality makes up for quantity.
Not even New Hampshire farms are much for sale.
The farm I made my home on in the mountains
1 had to take by force rather than buy.

Apples? New Hampshire has them, but unsprayed,
With no suspicion in stern end or blossom end
Of vitriol or arsenate of lead,
And so not good for anything but cider.
Her unpruned grapes are flung like lariats
Far up the birches out of reach of man.

A state producing precious metals, stones,
And—writing; none of these except perhaps
The precious literature in quantity
Or quality to worry the producer
About disposing of it. Do you know,
Considering the market, there are more
Poems produced than any other thing?
No wonder poets sometimes have to seem

If I must choose which I would elevate —
The people or the already lofty mountains
I’d elevate the already lofty mountains
The only fault I find with old New Hampshire
Is that her mountains aren’t quite high enough.
I was not always so; I’ve come to be so.
How, to my sorrow, how have I attained
A height from which to look down critical
On mountains? What has given me assurance
To say what height becomes New Hampshire mountains,
Or any mountains? Can it be some strength
I feel, as of an earthquake in my back,
To heave them higher to the morning star?
Can it be foreign travel in the Alps?
Or having seen and credited a moment
The solid molding of vast peaks of cloud

Our actual mountains given in a map
Of early times as twice the height they are—
Ten thousand feet instead of only five—
Which shows how sad an accident may be.
Five thousand is no longer high enough.
Whereas I never had a good idea
About improving people in the world,
Here I am overfertile in suggestion,
And cannot rest from planning day or night
How high I’d thrust the peaks in summer snow
To tap the upper sky and draw a flow
Of frosty night air on the vale below
Down from the stars to freeze the dew as starry.

For all her mountains fall a little short,
Her people not quite short enough for Art,
She’s still New Hampshire; a most restful state.

{editor-BUT, THEN HE SAYS:}

Well, if I have to choose one or the other,
I choose to be a plain New Hampshire farmer
With an income in cash of, say, a thousand
(From, say, a publisher in New York City).
It’s restful to arrive at a decision,
And restful just to think about New Hampshire.
At present I am living in Vermont.

-Robert Frost shortened by Swift -just because-

——–

Oh well,  the point is from this place you can see most of it and it is not  like Colorado or the Alps but it is huge, anyway.

So we turned around and headed back to the car.  And, I had another idea.  We have lived here for 35 years and have gotten used to swimming in our favorite local ponds.    The day before, I met a new pond.    It was just up the road from the land where we were walking back to the car.  I said “hey, let me show you Pleasant Lake.  She said fine so we toodled down the road to Elkins Village by the Pleasant Lake dam and once again looked out at these great low hills south and west of New London.     We parked next to an artfully painted vacation wagon with scenes of deer, churches fishing boats, and hills.  Hanging from it was ornamentation in the lobstering motif.  We slid in tight between this truck and a van and opened the front and back doors, made a makeshift beach cabana,  and put our swimming suits on in the  public park.   From there, we wasted no time to get into the golden clear water.    Pleasant Lake is lined just off the dam with interesting boulders. We played for a while marveling at out find. Holding our breaths diving deep following fish.

Shen she said good, I said good.  Let’s have some dinner so we headed over to the Flying Goose Brew Pub for a very good hamburger and a coffee colored hoppy beer with so much body you would need to dress it up in Carharts for it to be fully dressed.

Even though dinner was nice, we were not quite done.   I said I have one more place I have to show you.  So we rumbled south from the Flying Goose toward Sutton and Kezar Lake.    We were pretty tired by now so we didn’t swim but we could have.  It met our criteria of cool, clear water and it was golden too, like Pleasant Lake.    So we drove around it and watched a tiny sailboat catch the last breaths of the evening.  We wondered if they would ever get home.

Last stop on our journey before going home was the Vernondale Store.  Everything that has preceded this article ha s been a lead-up to guiding you folks this place.     If you have the chance, go!   It is right up route 114.    There are cute stores and then there stores like this.  This place has been meticulously rehabilitated and the owner is behind the marbled counter soda fountain.     I commented on what a great job someone did fixing the place up.  He said wait a minute and he came back with some pictures of the place before they did the work.  Some of the pictures featured the bathroom.  Lets just say “gross.”    The former merchandise shelves were uninteresting peg board affairs  and the stuff was a mishmash of crummy looking junk.     Now, the walls are a white pine beadboard varnished clear showing a honey color.  And the stuff throughout is artfully arranged.

He resumed to make us our deserts.  I had a Russell Pond Sunday.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, chocolate sauce, whip cream.  Beth and I headed out on the front porch and ate our sundaes on the wooden chairs.     The guy or gal in the sailboat was floating on the lake but getting no closer to the dock.  The sun was setting.     The Vernondale was closing any minute.  In the nick of time a perfectly unrestored Model A Ford pulled up with three older women who were the real life gals Katherine  Hepburn was trying to be in On Golden Pond.   But these ladies were all smiles and their salt and pepper hair was wildly tousled.  We said you will make it and they disappeared to get their ice cream.

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Beth and I finished our sundaes and she drove home.    I, like a bore, slept.

Maybe I dreamed of coming back and having lunch at the Vernondale and heading off for a swim by the Follensbee Inn on the shore of Kezar lake on yet another perfect summer Saturday afternoon.