Tag Archives: Wolfeboro

Frozen, fabulous February

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

365

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On the eve of each new year I try to choose something new to focus on and learn about in the coming twelve months. This is harder than it sounds. Sometimes I stick with it, and sometimes I don’t. Past picks have been all over the place: jewelry-making, Ireland’s history, how to start a blog. The year of attempting traditional Italian cooking sounded good on paper until I realized that I would also have to eat it; sadly, in the end I figured I did not need the extra pounds. So … some ideas work, and others don’t.

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For 2015 I wanted to do something creative. After days of crossing items off a mental checklist I finally settled on an idea: Instagram. Now, Instagram is nothing new, even to me. I had tried it once before. Social media isn’t really my thing. But Instagram IS photos, and I thought it might be another aspect of photography – however simple – that I should investigate. To up the ante a bit I decided it should be a Project 365 – post a photo a day – on Instagram. Let’s call it Instagram365.

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For the record (and I looked this up) “instagram” is a blend of the words “instant camera” and “telegram.” Photos are confined to a square shape, reminiscent of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images. A bit of a throwback in the midst of 21st-century technology. Not life-changing, but different enough to be fun (I hope).

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Instagram also encourages the use of filters, and this is where the creativity comes in … I have given myself permission to go a little overboard with it, creating images that might not look exactly like what I saw but maybe what I imagine it to be. After all, who cares? This is supposed to be fun. Instagram may not be challenging to learn or use, but my dare is to post something interesting – or at the very least not boring – every day.

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Twelve days in … so far, so good!

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So much to explore just outside the front door

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I didn’t take a vacation this year. I did not visit any exotic places or have bragging rights to a foreign country. I did not have to be concerned about the value of the euro or whether my luggage could survive another trip through baggage claim. And you know what? That’s ok.

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I subscribe to quite a few blogs that deal with travel … I admire those that can finagle trips for whatever reason, whether it’s as a student or as a retiree. I still intend to get to Venice and Cinque Terre and Salzburg. In the meantime I have come to realize that where I am at is pretty special; as one friend pointed out, I live in a place that many would fork over their hard-earned dollars for a two-week vacation. Now that I think of it, I did this for years. Why am I not appreciating this?

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Sure, maybe the grass is greener in Rome. Or Sarlat. Or Banff. But hey, maybe the Canadians are thinking that Wolfeboro, New Hampshire is the place to be! I guess my point here – to myself as much as anyone else – is that we all live in an interesting place. Appreciate it, celebrate it, extol its virtues. There’s so much to explore just outside your front door!

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Giving thanks in unexpected places

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The calendar may say it’s Black Friday, but here in New Hampshire it’s White Friday. Wednesday night a storm moved up the east coast and dumped a foot of heavy wet snow across the state; as a result, a whole lot of people did not get their Thanksgiving turkey yesterday. 200,000 people were without power, down to about 80,000 today. This type of snow (known in Washington State as “Cascade cement”) can cause a lot of damage, leaving in its wake downed tree branches and power lines; yesterday morning my poor lilac tree looked like an inverted U. And it isn’t even winter yet.

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So this Thanksgiving I thought about some of the little things we take for granted – like electricity, hot showers and shopping on Amazon. Of course I’m thankful for the more obvious things too; but the morning news, that first cup of coffee, and being able to email my mom rank right up there. (Yeah, I would have made a lousy pioneer.)

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Black Friday has come and gone but it looks like maybe the snow is here to stay. It’s strange how something so beautiful can also be so treacherous. Blame it on technology, or the millennium, or anything you want, but this year I am doubly thankful for my family, my friends, and my internet access. For me, at least, they are all interconnected.

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November

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November is when things start to wind down here … shorter days, colder nights, fewer leaves. The summer people have gone and everything is stripped-down bare. The stark trees – our beautiful leaves gone now until May – offer wider views but little color; the focus shifts to the wonderful architecture of New England and whatever is left on the ground from autumn.

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These photos were taken in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. If you’ve never been to this small city, add it to your bucket list. This is a treasure trove of history with museums, historic architecture, and maritime lore. Portsmouth is completely walkable; put on your walking shoes and visit Prescott Park and the waterfront – the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is just across the way, where you can sometimes see submarines at the dock (I have a thing for submarines). Strawbery Banke is here too, where 40+ buildings have been assembled to depict life here from 1695 to 1950, complete with interpreters (this is wonderful!). You can climb aboard the USS Albacore, a retired Navy submarine now on dry land that offers tours. Take a harbor tour and learn about nearly 400 years of local history.

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A little further down the road you can find Fort Constitution, one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor; Wentworth-by-the-Sea, one of the grand hotels of New Hampshire built in 1874 and saved from the wrecking ball a few years ago; and many pull-offs on the side of the road that lead to beaches with views of the Isles of Shoals. I bring visitors here for the shopping and the restaurants but the truth is there is so much more and you cannot see everything in one day.

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So … enjoy the photos and celebrate the simplicity of November. Before the snow flies, the blunt beauty of the season is what sustains us.

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The rail trail

Photo Oct 13, 10 20 47 AM (Large)Determined not to miss autumn this year (it goes by so quickly!) I went for a short drive to look at leaves, staying within fifteen minutes of my house. I was content just to drive until inspiration struck … and I parked in town and went for a walk.

The Bridge Falls Path – the former route of the Wolfeboro Railroad, born at the end of the Civil War – is one of this area’s best-kept secrets. It starts behind the old train depot in town (now the Chamber of Commerce) and travels for about a half mile along Back Bay to Wolfeboro Falls. It is short, scenic, and well-used … a great place to stretch your legs on your lunch hour, or just clear your head. Bicyclists, dog-walkers, photographers, casual visitors like me … they’re all here.

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Vacationers have been escaping to Wolfeboro since passenger rail service began in 1872. By the early 1900s, seven train stations dotted the 12-mile corridor east to Sanbornville.

The path connects with the Cotton Valley Trail, which continues to follow the abandoned railbed of the Wolfeboro Railroad. This trail travels across three lakes via causeways, several trestles, and winds through the woods and fields of the Cotton Valley – past historic rail stations and beach access. Here the rails are still in place; the trail itself is alongside the tracks and at times even runs between the rails.

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Walking this trail on an autumn day is nothing less than stunning … I came mainly to cross the 1200-foot-long Crescent Lake causeway. With water on both sides and clear blue sky above – to say nothing of the gorgeous fall foliage – it was begging to be photographed.

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Here and there I found access down to the water … little more than a steep path, but rewarding for the more intimate views. In fact, one spot seemed so perfect I made a note to come back next July – secluded and cool, it was the perfect getaway from summer heat and humidity! Although I’m guessing I am not the first one to think of this …

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The Cotton Valley Trail continues past an old resort and on through the woods; it ends in Sanbornville, once the headquarters of B&M Northern Division that ran between 1870 and 1986. Though I didn’t go nearly this far, it would be a wonderful place to explore.

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If you come to Wolfeboro, by all means see Lake Winnipesaukee. But if you’re looking for another jewel in the crown that tops the Lakes Region, consider the Bridge Falls Path/Cotton Valley Trail. Here history, scenery and a little sense of exploration all come together to make an afternoon walk something pretty special.

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