Celebrate with me! Enjoy my first published piece, as seen in Country Magazine, August/September 2016 issue.
~I asked my 77-year-old mother, Lois, to accompany me last summer on a road trip through northern New England, where quaint narrow back roads weave in and out of secluded historic small towns, and towering green giants and rolling grassy hillsides frame long stretches of highway.
We would be traveling to see my daughter, Caitlin, who was working in New Hampshire for the summer. The trip would take us from Western Massachusetts through the peaceful countryside of Vermont and on to the glorious mountain ranges of Franconia, New Hampshire. Our excursion would include dining out, shopping, light hiking and, we hoped, a few laughs.
Once we hit the road, our discussions touched on family eccentricities, childhood memories and current events. Every so often our conversation slowed as we took in the scenery – old farmhouses and weathered barns nestled into open fields, white church steeples peeking above clusters of rooftops and the pure natural beauty that only a leisurely summer drive through New England can offer.
At the halfway point, we made a quick pit stop at the golden arches for Mom’s favorite, iced coffee. Before long we arrived in Caitlin’s town, Franconia. We ordered lunch at Wendle’s Deli & Café – an earthy crunchy eclectic deli fashioned with worn, cushy couches – from a menu that offered a plethora of homemade goodies including soups and sandwiches.
Mom and I took a side trip to Littleton, explored the charming downtown area and “played” the artsy pianos on the sidewalks. We stopped on Main Street at Chutters, home of the world’s longest candy counter, where colorful glass jars boasted more than 500 types of tempting treats. We happily filled small paper bags with our favorites: Mary Janes, Bit- O’-Honey, and Smarties to name a few. We felt like kids again!
With sweets in hand, we walked down a small hill to the Riverwalk Covered Bridge to watch the exuberant waters of the Ammonoosuc River flowing just below. After a brief time, we headed back to Main Street’s antique shops, clothing stores, art galleries, and gift shops all begging for our browsing attention.
The next morning, just before our ‘breakfeast’ at Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Franconia, my mother was greeted by a black bear sitting on the steep, grassy slope just outside my daughter’s bedroom window.
The bear looked wistfully at the numerous bird feeders that the owners placed on their top floor deck. Mom was fearfully unenthusiastic about the visitor, but Caitlin assured her that the bear would wander back to its home before we left.
After breakfast, Mom and I bid farewell to Caitlin and headed to the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch State Park. As we ascended in the tram, dozens of mountaintops seemed to ripple endlessly over miles of green landscape.
Once on top, we took a narrow and at times slippery trail bound for the observation deck. I held Mom’s hand as we climbed because she was struggling with her footing. Although the view was stunning, my mom’s troubles with the trail made me question whether our next stop at the Flume; a gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty, would be too much for her to handle.
From the tram we passed by the decrepit remains of the Old Man of the Mountain’s face, an ancient rock formation that had looked like a man’s profile before it collapsed in 2013, and headed to the Basin, a funnel that collects water from the Pemigewasset River.
Finally, we arrived at the Flume, where we took photos of the thundering waters, read many plant identification tags and breathed in the glorious scent of fresh hemlock greens as we alternately hiked and rested along the wooden walkways and hilly trails.
After we conquered a more challenging part of the trail, I snapped a photo of Mom—hunched over but still managing to smile for the camera. I texted the photo to my sisters with the caption, “My daughter’s trying to kill me at The Flume.” They loved it, and so did Mom. What a trooper! The hike may have challenged her athletic prowess, but the reward for this observant bird – and plant – lover far outweighed any exhaustion.
By 7 p.m. that day, we were home, retracing our steps with my dad and my husband. The next morning, as I stood in the kitchen waiting for the troops to assemble for breakfast, Mom slowly walked by me, stopped and gently grabbed me around the waist, laying her head lovingly on my shoulder.
Road – tripping with my mom—we shopped, we hiked, we ate, we talked, we laughed – was two days full of experiences that culminated in a hug that told the entire story. ~
Must – see outdoor attractions: Franconia, NH– Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, Echo Lake, the Basin, the Flume Gorge. Littleton, NH– the Riverwalk Covered Bridge
Must – see shops and restaurants: Franconia, NH– Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Applewood Antiques, Wendle’s Deli and Café, Garnet Hill Firsts and Seconds Store.
Littleton, NH – Chutters, Bailiwicks Fine Restaurant/Wine and Martini Bar.
Lincoln, NH – Gypsy Café.
Excerpts from Original Story:
“Applewood Antiques; a unique shabby chic shop jam packed with furniture, dishes, tapestries, and our favorite – a variety of eclectic jewelry.”
“Eventually we arrived at Bailiwicks Fine Restaurant/Wine and Martini Bar; a dimly lit, cozy dining spot residing on a sloped side street just off the main drag. We bonded over goat cheese salads, salmon, and chilled glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.”