Tag Archives: Lakes Region

Steamboat

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Backroading

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Today, I thought, was a perfect day to go look at some leaves. While the autumn color isn’t in high gear just yet, it’s pretty enough out there that a Sunday drive was calling my name. Today I wanted to SEE October.

So around 9:00 I grabbed the car keys and mentally went through the list of must-haves for a backroading trip: Sunglasses? Check. Spare camera lens? Check. A general idea of where I was going? Check. I headed out the door and pointed the car north.

A half mile down the road I realized I’d forgotten the camera.

Details.

IMG_2557 (Large)My intention today was to find the Chinook Trail in the town of Wonalancet. The Chinook is a rare breed of sled dog developed here in the early 20th century; last year was the first time it appeared at the Westminster Dog Show. In the 1930s Kate and Arthur Walden purchased a house here and started the Chinook Kennels. Arthur had introduced sled dogs to the area after spending 7 years in Alaska with dog teams during the gold rush. He was also in charge of dogs for Admiral Byrd’s first trip to the South Pole in the late 20s.

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Wanting to create a new breed of sled dog that had tremendous power, endurance, speed, and a gentle nature, Walden bred a descendant of Admiral Peary’s famous lead dog, Polaris, to a mastiff-type dog. Three pups were born; one was named Chinook (that’s him on the road sign) and he grew to become the world’s most famous dog of his time.

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The Chinooks became something of a tourist attraction, and visitors would come for the opportunity of riding behind a real dog team. Indeed, the team was so superbly trained, legend has it that one of Walden’s favorite tricks was to send Chinook, his teammates, and a driverless sled out into an open field across from his farm and put them through their paces by issuing “gee” and “haw” commands by megaphone from the porch of his home.

There are historical markers along the way, and several right at the entrance to the Chinook Kennels (which is now private). One of the markers reads, in part, “These kennels produced sled dogs for exploration, racing, and showing. For almost 50 years Chinook Kennels exerted a profound influence upon the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky breeds, and many champions were born here. Dog teams were sent on the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions and to the Army’s Search and Rescue unit.”

But wait, there’s more.

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As I wandered through the towns of Wonalancet, Tamworth, and Sandwich I also came across a marker for a covered bridge. Who doesn’t love covered bridges? This one was down a narrow, bumpy road and I was delighted to find a beautiful old bridge unspoiled by anything even remotely touristy. In fact, I really had no idea where I was. The marker next to it said this was the Swift River, and the bridge is named for James Holman Durgin (1815 – 1873), who ran a grist mill near it, drove a stage from Sandwich to Farmington, and was a link in the underground slave railroad from Sandwich to Conway. I walked across the bridge and admired the wooden trusses and construction, then climbed down the hillside to the river (which was not very swift). Then, just because I could, I drove across it and back again. It’s the little things that make my day.

Photo Oct 05, 10 15 24 AM (Large)Other stops along the way were equally as interesting. I found the Sandwich Creamery, which makes its own cheeses and ice cream and sells them in a charming little shop way out in the middle of nowhere and operated completely on the honor system. I also stopped at the Wonalancet church and walked its grounds … there is a pretty little stream behind it with picnic tables and benches set on the grass to enjoy the sounds and views; I could have stayed there all day. I found the marker for the Walden graves.

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Last but not least, I discovered a dirt road that traveled high up on a ridge with gorgeous mountain views. Houses were few, but the ones that were there were beautifully proportioned, well-taken-care-of old Capes.

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Stone walls, fields, pine needle showers, granite and maple – what does it add up to? Just another day in beautiful, uncomplicated, historical, autumn-soaked New Hampshire.