The tornado of ’08

P1010961 (Large)

Wild weather is uncommon in New Hampshire, but in July of 2008 a tornado came to call. We heard the warnings issued from the weather service and I remember a good number of my co-workers lined up at our second-floor office windows eager to get a glimpse of it coming across the lake. I assured them that if a tornado did appear, I would be heading for the basement. My mother didn’t raise no dummies.

We didn’t see it that day, but it did tear a path through the towns of Deerfield, Epsom, Northwood, Pittsfield, Barnstead, Alton, New Durham, Wolfeboro, Ossipee, Effingham and Freedom … fifty miles in roughly eighty minutes. Something like 200 homes were damaged and one person was killed. I remember driving past some of the destruction in the days afterward, and it was amazing – a swath of huge trees knocked over like dominoes. I’d never seen anything like it.

Fast-forward to 2015, and a random post on Instagram. It showed a house that had been damaged in the tornado, now abandoned and almost overgrown. When I asked where it was located I was told it was nearby … and my curiosity level instantly doubled. I had to find it.

So on a clear, crisp, nearly perfect autumn day last month I set out on my mission. It really wasn’t that difficult … turns out most people around here know of it, or at least the people I work with whose business are houses. This house used to be very visible from the road, but these days the drive leading into it is almost overgrown. The property wasn’t posted, alleviating my fears of trespassing, and there was only a chain across what used to be the driveway. I parked on the side of the road and walked in.

My Instagram friend who had posted the initial photos that piqued my interest had also mentioned that it was surrounded by brambles and bear tracks. Now, the thought of bears wasn’t going to stop me, but I did keep an eye out for large black furry things. Wading through knee-deep weeds toward an abandoned house set waaaay back off the road inspires thoughts like this. It was a little unsettling. I kept going.

P1010959 (Large)

P1010960 (Large)

Then … there it was, a beautiful old Colonial with classic lines, great proportions and 12-over-12 windows. Nature had nearly taken over. Through the Instagram post I’d learned that the entire back side of the house was gone, but from my angle it still seemed mostly intact. The side door was ajar. Everything seemed relatively straight. The windows were intact but the one closest to me was missing its glass. And …. it offered a glimpse of the reason why I came.

P1010964 (Large)

Inside, the walls were covered with murals. It is estimated that hundreds of early murals lie undiscovered under wallpaper in New England. The painting of wall murals began about 1800 and continued until 1850, when mass-produced wallpaper became available and the desire for paint-decorated walls waned. Though some of the plaster here had come away from the lath, the vivid colors still jumped out into the room. The paintings looked as if they represented faraway places, with buildings that looked like temples and exotic trees. What a shame that these will likely disintegrate with the rest of the house; I took photos as best I could to document them, but they don’t do them justice. It made me sad to think that they, and this once-beautiful house, might be gone after the next hard winter.

P1010970 (Large) P1010968 (Large) P1010962 (Large) P1010963 (Large)

If I hadn’t been alone I might have ventured further, but the brush kept me from doing so. If anyone out there knows more about this place, or if anything can be done to save these paintings, please comment. As for me, I’m just happy I got to see it. Even if nature reclaims this house, I know what was once there.


P1010591 (Large)

September brings the annual steamboat meet to the Lakes Region. My husband and I discovered this years ago quite by accident, and over the years we heard about it sporadically. But it seems to have grown in popularity and this year the event made the local news. I had missed it in the past and did not want to make that same mistake this year.

P1010592 (Large)

P1010572 (Large)

The steamboat meet lasts for about a week and includes a boat race and a parade; it is the largest event of its kind in the country. This year it drew around 50 boats and, judging from the number of cars in the parking lot, many people from all around the region. Who doesn’t love a steamboat?

P1010565 (Large)

P1010563 (Large)

I had meant to make just a quick stop here to get a few photos. But I am easily sucked into this sort of thing … the whole scene was fascinating, with the smell of woodsmoke and steam in the air and the sound of those whistles. The boats seemed to be everywhere – many tied up along the shore, but just as many coming and going and I could see them out in the distance, coming around the backside of an island or passing one another with that haunting whistle and a wave. I loved it. There were people there with cameras, so I was not alone in what I was doing. We stood on shore and admired the sights, sounds and smell of the boats.

P1010580 (Large)

P1010598 (Large)

About the time I should have been leaving to attend to my other chores I heard, “Do you want to go for a ride?” I looked around at the people standing nearby and I think I said, “…what?” The captain of the boat in front of us was offering a ride! Let’s see … I had a long list of things to do that day, I was already behind schedule, I had planned on being home by noon. I climbed into the boat.

P1010641 (Large)

P1010604 (Large)

As we pulled away from the dock the captain told a little about the mechanics of a steam engine, none of which I understood. I only know that the soft chukka-chukka-chukka sound coming from it was wonderful. Once we picked up steam – literally – the sound changed to a lovely soft whir. Other than that, it was complete quiet.

P1010642 (Large)

P1010637 (Large)

We were out for over an hour. Lake Winnipesaukee, in this area, is shallow. Winding our way through narrow passages we found ourselves in a little cove, everything a brilliant green, and then and there I fell in love with Green’s Basin. The power boaters can have the deep, fast water – I’ll take this any day: small islands, quiet water, rocky outcrops, kayakers, green hills rising behind it all. It was stunning.

P1010621 (Large)

P1010611 (Large)

I never imagined I would ever get to ride in a steamboat. All I could think about was that my husband would have loved it. By the time I left vintage cars were starting to arrive, including a Stanley Steamer. I wanted to stay all day. You can bet I’ll be back again next year for this wonderful, unusual, New Hampshire-unique event … and I’ll stay for the parade!

P1010633 (Large)P1010613 (Large)


Photo May 02, 3 55 59 PM (Large)

Following my own advice to “explore just outside your front door,” last week was devoted to poking around the peninsulas of mid-coast Maine. Hitting what’s been the best weather of the year so far, it’s easy to love this area … sunshine or not. But sunshine we had and I’m here to report on one of my favorite places anywhere.

I learned about Bayside years ago, when my husband and I traveled the coast and happened to hear about it from a local. It isn’t marked on the main road; we were simply advised to turn at the Mexican restaurant and follow the road to the water. We did, we followed, we discovered. This is a charming little piece of the history of Maine.

P1000111 (Large)

Bayside was founded in 1849 by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Maine.  The first purchase of land was only 25 acres; the intent of the church was to have a summer recreational area where they could gather once a year for worship and spend time socially in this beautiful area of Penobscot Bay.  And for 25 years these pioneer churchmen and farmers pitched their tents under the oaks and birches and worshipped God with sermons, songs and old fashioned religious fervor.

P1000110 (Large)

As years passed, the tents gradually gave way to wooden cottages, the first being built in 1869.  In 1875 the Wesleyan Grove House was built, launching the campground to its fate as a summer resort in addition to its religious mission. Building lots were being sold at prices from $5 to $15 and more acreage was being purchased all the time. By the end of 1879, 40 cottages had been built – ultimately over 300 cottages were constructed and most of them are still here today.

By the 1880s Bayside was in full swing as a summer resort.  Steamships came from as far away as Boston.  One report mentions as many as seven steamers coming to the landing dock (still here today) in a single day.  The report goes on to say that “250 Hampden belles and their beaux came down Tuesday on the steamer Clifford.”  Bayside was the place to be!

P1000122 (Large)

P1000115 (Large)

In the 1890’s more cottages had been built along with several retail shops to handle the needs of hundreds of visitors.  This was the era of clam bakes, picnics, hay rides, firemen’s musters, band concerts and excursions.  The first hotel had burned down but a new and larger one was put up.  Even a bowling alley was constructed, along with parks, a ball field, and tennis courts.

The glory of the late 1800’s is no longer present in Bayside, but the character of that old community still lies in the architecture and the people who come here year after year.  Many cottages have been owned by the same families for generations and there is a strong community involvement by those owners to keep Bayside as a place preserved in time.

P1000130 (Large)

P1000107 (Large)

While wandering the quiet, narrow roads we met a man walking his dog who described his experience living here. In 1989 he bought his cottage for $5800; today it’s worth approximately $400,000 even though it’s on a 60×60′ lot. The original structure had a basement that was hand-dug, the cottage wide open, and you had to go outside for a toilet, but it had a wonderful old parlor stove, double mantel, and nice woodwork. Over the years he and his wife fixed it up; talking to us he lamented the taxes and the snowplow driver (who he claimed hated Bayside) but did show pride in the fact that his cottage was one of the nicest.

P1000119 (Large)

Photo May 02, 3 58 18 PM (Large)

What Bayside offers today are walks along the shore roads, with loons swimming nearby and the occasional seal looking for breakfast. Sailboats moored on the bay offer a beautiful backdrop to the island in the distance and Blue Hill on the horizon.  On clear days the mountains of Acadia are the distant shadows. Come here to hunt for beach glass. Swing on the swingset. Admire the charming architecture and clever cottage names (“Sqeezed Inn”). Sleep. Rest. Restore. Bayside is rare, untouched, and safe and sound in the 21st century.

P1000132 (Large)


All things maple

P1170261 (Large)

New Hampshire sugar shacks fired up their evaporators this weekend and opened their doors to the public for Maple Weekend 2015. There was a long list of participating sugarhouses throughout the state, so today I chose one not too far from here and took a Sunday drive under brilliant blue skies.

P1170234 (Large)

This particular farm, about an hour away, was set amid a network of dirt roads. They had horses, chickens, two golden retrievers, and the friendliest cat in New Hampshire. The young woman who was boiling the sap said in a good year they do about 125 gallons of syrup, but because of the very cold weather they’ve done just a fraction of that this year. With a window of only 5-6 weeks, losing even one week’s time can put a big dent in the production.

P1170236 (Large)

Photo Mar 29, 10 55 06 AM (Large)

With the goal of educating the public on how maple syrup runs from tree to table, the process was explained to the onlookers in the sugarhouse and we were offered maple doughnuts, sugar-on-snow, and taste-testing. All were approved!

Photo Mar 29, 10 59 42 AM (Large)

Photo Mar 29, 10 56 46 AM (Large)

Now loaded up on sugar, I made my way back to the car and came across the previously mentioned friendly cat. In fact, he was so friendly that after a few head-pats he assumed he could go home with me.

I think not, kitty. Had a heck of a time getting him out of the car.

Photo Mar 29, 11 12 03 AM (Large)

The next stop was completely unplanned; I found the next sugarhouse as I was making my way back to the main highway. It was also in a highly unusual place: directly across the street from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway! (I suppose it’s a great spot to be selling maple products to the tens of thousands of tourists who flock here several times a year.) This was actually more of a gift shop, but they were boiling sap in the back room with a huge, shiny-new-looking evaporator. In the front, though, was live music and a crowd of people.

Photo Mar 29, 11 54 26 AM (Large)

Photo Mar 29, 11 53 54 AM (Large)

My third stop was our local sugar shack, just around the corner from where I live, and still my favorite. Many generations of the same family have collected and boiled sap off their land here. I stopped for photos only – I love the sight of the hundreds of silver sap buckets hung from the stick-bare trees amid the snow and mud, and the sound of the drip-drip-drip hitting the metal. It’s the classic image of spring (or, as they like to call it here, Mud Season) in New Hampshire.

Photo Mar 29, 1 22 57 PM (Large)

So how would I sum up this sunny Sunday?




Frozen, fabulous February

P1170087_ (Large)

On this beautiful, sunny and warm (25 degrees … it’s all relative) Saturday I took a trip to see something I’d been wanting to explore for awhile now: the Alton Bay ice runway on Lake Winnipesaukee. I had only come across it once from the road, and even then hadn’t spent much time. So this morning I drove to the southern end of the lake and …

… this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

Photo Feb 28, 12 00 01 PM_ (Large)

P1170084 (Large)

The runway is about 3000′ long and the ice approximately 18″ thick. Dictated by Mother Nature, it is the only FAA-sanctioned ice runway in the lower 48 states.

P1170079 (Large)

P1170057 (Large)

Today there were many people – most with cameras – out on the ice with me, watching the planes take off and land. All are small single-engine aircraft. There is no control tower and although there is radio contact with pilots, they pretty much govern themselves. For obvious reasons they cannot use their brakes. Landing on ice can be tricky.

P1170095 (Large)

P1170089_ (Large)

Volunteers keep this runway operational, plow it after snowstorms, and help with parking the planes. Today was a rare storm-free and windless day, perfect for a fly-in. In addition to the airplanes there were countless snowmobilers, bobhouses, fishermen, and people simply out on the ice walking their dogs. Everyone wanted to be outdoors today.

P1170101 (Large)

P1170074 (Large)

Around for more than 30 years, this little wintertime runway brings life to Alton Bay in the dead of winter. Pilots support the businesses in the Bay, and visitors like me flock to watch something you can’t see anywhere else. Yes, winter in New Hampshire is long … but while it’s here, its residents sure know how to make the most of it.

P1170106 (Large)

My second favorite


Photo Jan 16, 6 33 58 PMWinter is my second favorite season. You can’t beat autumn in New Hampshire, so that’s a no-brainer, and while most people would choose summer next I prefer winter. At this point in the season, though, I’m a little afraid to admit that.

I am probably the only person left in New England who likes winter. Yeah, we’re all winter-weary here, and I’m looking forward to spring as much as anyone else, but you can’t argue with the beauty of the season. I have included some photos here to prove my point, just in case someone pushes back on this.

Photo Jan 20, 6 04 23 PMPhoto Jan 28, 5 38 31 PMPhoto Feb 19, 7 26 07 AM

Winter here is the stuff of postcards and calendars: fluffy-white drifts of snow covering hills and fields. Curls of woodsmoke coming from chimneys. Centuries-old white architecture made even more beautiful with a frosting of ice. Little white lights in every window, illuminating the dark frigid nights.Photo Feb 10, 6 41 59 PMThen there are the things the postcards don’t tell you … the ice dams that back up on rooftops and allow water to creep into your house. Snowdrifts so high you can’t see around them to turn onto the street. High heating bills. Empty cars running in parking lots, staying warm while their owners shop. Bad hair days from all that dry static electricity in the air.Photo Feb 16, 4 19 43 PMIt’s all just part of living here, though. We know it, expect it, and put up with it, believing that spring can’t possibly be that far away. And when it does arrive it is a feeling like nothing else – new beginnings, new life, something that is looked forward to every year.

So until that day, I am loving this frigid white landscape and thankful that my roof hasn’t collapsed under the weight of two feet of snow. The ice dams haven’t caused any major damage. Yet. The car still reliably starts when it is seventeen below zero. There are no mosquitoes.

Photo Feb 14, 5 41 14 PM

Photo Feb 04, 5 53 44 PM

I’m happy when my second favorite season begins. And just as happy when it ends.

It’s right here in black and white

As New Englanders hunker down for the big Blizzard of 2015, with snow measured today in feet and high winds and low visibility, I look out my window and see … black and white. January is like that. Stripped down, raw, bare-bones January. It’s a long, cold month but if it weren’t for January we wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of spring. Winter has a quiet beauty that is, to me, second only to autumn.

Sorting through some old photos I realized I have a nice little collection of black and white photos – though they were unintentional. Color photographs with no color. Silhouettes, snowscapes, patterns and textures. Fun stuff. And I thought I would share here on this snowy, colorless day, watching the snow pile up outside.

London train station detail

London train station detail

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Gravestone, Ireland

Gravestone, Ireland

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Winter in New Hampshire

Winter in New Hampshire

It’s a good day to stay inside and dream up new places to explore in the coming year. New Hampshire is closed today!