About the Wonderful NH Seasons
Mt. Washington Valley has been a summer resort for over 150 years. During that time it has developed an enormous variety of facilities: four golf courses - North Conway Country Club, 18 holes in the center of North Conway, Wentworth, 18 holes in Jackson, nine holes next to White Mountain Hotel off West Side Road in North Conway, nine holes at Jackson's Eagle Mountain House - with a fifth considering construction and a par three with approvals; several dozen tennis courts with 4 indoor and 4 clay outdoor at Mt. Cranmore Recreation Center in North Conway; swimming in the Saco, Swift, Ellis and Wildcat rivers as well as in Echo, Silver, Conway, Crystal, Chocorua, Loon, Kimball and Ossipee Lakes; scenic train rides; Story Land for kids and next-door Heritage NH for everyone, hiking, fishing, picnicking, or riding to the top of mountains in chairlifts or gondolas.
The Saco is a river made for canoeing; one day take the trip from North Conway's First Bridge to the covered bridge at Davis Park in Conway (where you see the public tennis courts). Another, put in at Conway's Smith-Eastman Park (at the end of the short road next to the Conway Police Station) and cruise to the beach in Fryeburg, Maine. If you don't mind getting out to push the canoe over shallow places, go from Humphrey's Ledge off West Side Road in Bartlett to First Bridge in North Conway. There are several excellent canoe rental firms that will take you and your canoe to the point of origin and pick you up where you decide to come out.
If you're looking for a new hobby, how about gem collecting? While the chances of turning up a Hope Diamond are pretty long, there is purple amethyst, topaz, pegmatite and feldspar. The District Forest Ranger Station in Conway has maps to a smokey quartz area a few miles from the village and can supply information on where other minerals might best be found. How better create your own jewelry than from nearby, beautiful, forest surroundings?
Prime blueberry picking sites are often jealously guarded secrets, but hints are available if you know whom to ask. Commercial strawberry and apple areas are publicized. There is much in the forest that is edible; the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch is the place to ask about seminars before sampling delicacies like mushrooms.
Idea: Take along a pail and the chairlift to the top of Bartlett's Mt. Attitash, at the end of July or early August when blueberries are ripe. There are excellent patches up there - Attitash is Abenaki for blueberry - and this is the comfortable way to get to them.
The only other place in the world where the leaves are (almost) as colorful as in the White Mountains is in Northern Japan. Having learned that, you can now save the price of a Trans-Pacific ticket and put those dollars toward a good digital. While a hike into the Forest and up a mountain may produce uniquely spectacular photos, some of the very best can be reached with little effort. There is a paved road to the very top of North Conway's Cathedral Ledge (closed winters and when Peregrine Falcons are nesting on the cliff). The view is broader than a wide-angle lens can encompass, broad enough to help you locate where in the Valley you might like to live. This is the time of year the towns in northern New England dress themselves up for country fairs. Closest to Mt. Washington Valley are those in Fryeburg, Maine (around the first week in October) and Sandwich, NH (usually over October 12).
For hunters: deer season extends through most of November until early December in Mt. Washington Valley. If you're over 68 the resident license is free, otherwise licenses may be purchased from license agents, NH Fish and Game and some Town Clerks. Bear season is most of September, October and November. Moose have staged an enormous comeback. They are now everywhere, a fact that southern NH politicians point to with glee in justifying their long-held belief that there are more moose than votes north of Concord. Despite their numbers, moose are protected and can only be hunted one week in October, and then only by a small number of hunters selected by lottery.
Idea: If you want to build, this is the time of year to walk land and see what your view might be without leaves and other vegetation to block it.
There are five alpine ski areas in the Valley with a mix of skiing for all levels: Attitash in Bartlett is a good intermediate mountain with a couple of excellent expert trails that has expanded onto adjoining Bear Peak; Black is for novices and those intermediates that want to look good on any trail they take; Cranmore is novice-intermediate right in North Conway, the mountain many of us learned at; King Pine is a well-cared-for little area for those starting out; Wildcat is the big one with the longest expert trails in the Valley, though also a surprisingly good novice area.
All have special rates or programs for seniors. For example: Attitash has a TGIF (Thank Goodness I'm Fifty) program on Thursday mornings. The small fee for the season includes coffee and doughnuts and a morning ski school program. It is open to all over fifty; participants pay their own lift tickets.
There are three major cross-country ski areas: Jackson Ski Touring has been judged by no less an authority than Ski Magazine as the finest in the east; Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring's trail layout enables one to ski from one participating inn to a number of others; the newest, Great Glen Trails, sits at the base of Mt. Washington with spectacular views and a quite complete base facility.
If not a skier, nor wishing to be one, New Hampshire has snowmobile trails that one can hop on and tour the whole state. Back-country hiking and ice climbing can provide adventures you won't soon forget. There are skating rinks in Conway (indoors at the Ham Arena in Conway) and in North Conway's Schouler Park illuminated for evening skating. Jackson Resort Association coordinates events leading up to Christmas, and the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce has programs during the holiday week between Christmas and New Years.
Yes, there are sleigh rides and caroling and apres ski at dozens of fascinating lounges. But for many of us there is nothing like the first snowfall. James Russell Lowell's words, "The snow had begun in the gloaming and busily all through the night was covering field and highway with a silence deep and white..." may not turn on the plowman, but give the rest of us a special feeling.
Idea: If you're looking for an unusual winter experience, contact the Mt. Washington Observatory (356-8345) for an opportunity to stay overnight on the top of the mountain with "the worst weather on earth". The trip up is by Snowcat over an Auto Road that is apt to be buried under 20' of snow.
The skiing in Tuckerman Ravine could last until July, though June is more realistic. There are no lifts, and it is a two hour climb to the base of the skiing. In the Valley, the larger commercial ski areas close by the first of May, which is when spring arrives for the rest of us. This is the time for hikes or walks in the woods. The countryside is coming alive, and the notorious black flies haven't yet appeared. These tiny no-see-ems aren't found at their thickest around stagnant ponds as one might expect, but - surprisingly - near clear running streams, and last from late May through much of June. The lilac is the New Hampshire state flower; spring is their season, and they flourish throughout the Valley.
Fishing is good in New Hampshire, and free if you are a resident over 68. Otherwise there are convenient Valley locations to purchase a license. Black Bass, Brook Trout, Atlantic Salmon Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout are some of the favorites. Ask us for choice fishing locations.
The rivers are high, and a canoe can cruise freely from Bartlett to Fryeburg. A sport for those young in body as well as heart is white-water kayaking. The best location is the Swift River near the end of April. It doesn't last long, just until the mountain melt has gone by, so, if your blood is up check with the Forest Ranger station for dates.
Idea: Here's a gentler but equally impressive experience. Park your car at the high point of Hurricane Mountain Road and take the trail through the woods and up to the top of Black Cap Mountain (the one just behind Cranmore). It is positively the best view for the littlest effort in the Valley - 25 minutes of moderate climb.