Rediscovering The Rugged Beauty of New Hampshire

New Hampshire oozes rustic charm with the majestic white mountains and picturesque villages.  As a child I spent languid summers on Lake Winnipesaukee at camp during some of the most indelible weeks of my life.  However, decades have passed since my last rendezvous with this northeastern New England state.  Thankfully my attendance at a wedding near North Conway reacquainted me with New Hampshire’s rugged charm.

Rediscovering The Rugged Beauty of New Hampshire

Rediscovering New Hampshire. The Glen covered bridge doubles as a souvenir shop. The commercialism detracts from this otherwise quaint structure.
Rediscovering New Hampshire. The Glen covered bridge doubles as a souvenir shop. The commercialism detracts from this otherwise quaint structure.

Allan’s grandson, Nick, invited us to his August wedding in Fryeburg, Maine, just over the border from New Hampshire.  So Allan and I rented a cozy Airbnb in neighboring North Conway, New Hampshire for the occasion.  Although we were most excited about celebrating a joyous occasion with friends and family, we also savored the scenery.

Roughly half-way during our three hour drive from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to North Conway, we sensed we were entering the wilderness.  Verdant green sugar maples flanked the roadsides, hugging the curbs as we descended deeper into the country.  Off in the distance the undulating peaks of the white mountains lined the horizon.  Excitedly I scanned the skyline searching for that perfect vista to satisfy my inmost photographer.

Rediscovering New Hampshire. On our way back from the Glen covered bridge we stopped in North Conway to view the White Mountains.
Rediscovering New Hampshire. On our way back from the Glen covered bridge we stopped in North Conway to view the White Mountains.

North Conway and the Wedding

As we arrived in North Conway, we were greeted with a majestic town situated in the heart of the Mount Washington Valley.  Picturesque peaks envelop this tourist hub, reminding visitors that many great ski resorts surround the area like Mount Cranmore and Attitash.  Nevertheless our summertime soiree involved a wedding and partaking in whatever natural wonders time allowed.

Allan’s grandson, Nick, was married at Hardy Farm, a boutique bridal barn glazed with a kaleidoscope of colorful flowers.  Under a veranda nestled on the side of thick forest we witnessed the matrimony of two kindred spirits.  Then under the backdrop of the White Mountains, we congregated around a fire pit and danced under the stars.  I highly recommend Hardy Farm to any lovers looking to tie the knot in a celestial country setting.

Rediscovering New Hampshire. Hardy Farm in Fryeburg, Maine, just over the New Hampshire border. Nick and his wife are celebrating their honeymoon by staying in our home in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Rediscovering New Hampshire. Hardy Farm in Fryeburg, Maine, just over the New Hampshire border. Nick and his wife are celebrating their honeymoon by staying in our home in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Covered Bridges

The following day we jumped in our rented Jeep and headed in search of photographic opportunity in the form of covered bridges.  New Hampshire possesses a total of 54 covered bridges.  However we visited only five of these historical structures.

Historically covered bridges were constructed out of practicality rather than romanticism.  The roof and sides of these beauties protect the timbered overpasses from the elements, elongating their lifespan.  Regardless their intrinsic charm wooed me to seek and explore.

We toured the four covered bridges in the near vicinity of North Conway: Bartlett, Saco River, Swift River and Albany.  I spent hours photographing each one from several angles, never boring of their simplistic charm.  Then the last covered bridge we visited spanned the Flume Gorge ninety minutes away in Franconia National Park.

Rediscovering New Hampshire. The Flume Bridge is used by buses bringing guests to the gorge and by maintenance vehicles.
Rediscovering New Hampshire. The Flume Bridge is used by buses bringing guests to the gorge and by maintenance vehicles.

Kancamagus Highway

Our route to reach Franconia National Park and the Flume Gorge involved navigating the 34.5 mile Kancamagus Highway which stretches from North Conway to Lincoln.  The Kancamagus or “Kanc” runs through the scenic White Mountains, and is almost untouched by time. No stores, gas stations or businesses reside on this mountain passage, other than at either end.  Furthermore, the Kanc serves as the primary viewpoint for the leaf peepers who travel here to see the famous fall foliage.

As we drove we skirted side roads leading to alluring points like hiking gorges and waterfalls.  Unfortunately for us, we were low on gas, short on time and inhibited by rain.  Our vision blurred as we literally drove through the clouds.

So we rambled along this scenic road without stopping once or taking a single photo.  However, I am totally motivated to return in the fall to capture on camera the splendid wonder of the mountains and autumn colors.  Now I know why my friend who summers in North Conway speaks of the Kanc so frequently.  I had never realized this highway was a destination in itself.

Rediscovering New Hampshire. Avalanche Falls in the Flume Gorge. The Flume offers several stunning falls.
Rediscovering New Hampshire. Avalanche Falls in the Flume Gorge. The Flume offers several stunning falls.

The Flume Gorge

A guest at the wedding recommended we explore the Flume Gorge for its dramatic terrain.  After viewing shots online, I knew we had to visit.  This was one sight not to be missed.

The Flume Gorge rests at the base of Mount Liberty and is cut out of Concord granite.  Since the two mile circuitous trek to the canyon was rather strenuous and precipitous, Allan elected to hang out at the visitor’s center.  Therefore I jogged half the way, camera and tripod in hand, so I didn’t keep him waiting too long.

Needless to say the Flume Gorge delighted my druthers.  Swift streams of cold mountain water flowed through narrow passages.  Sharply cut granite, accented by green moss delineated the way.  Thankfully a wooden walkway, slightly slippery from a recent rainfall, provided a relatively safe foothold considering the rocky alternative.

At my speedy pace, despite my frequent stops for portraits, I managed to maneuver the Flume Gorge in ninety minutes.  This includes beholding a couple of magnificent waterfalls and a crimson colored covered bridge.  Certainly I would enjoy coming back and spending more time soaking in the scenery.

Rediscovering New Hampshire. The Flume Gorge is a natural gorge extending 800 feet (240 m) horizontally at the base of Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch State Park
Rediscovering New Hampshire. The Flume Gorge is a natural gorge extending 800 feet (240 m) horizontally at the base of Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch State Park

The Conclusion of Rediscovering New Hampshire

I never remembered New Hampshire being so scenic. Granted approximately twenty-five years have passed since my last visit.  Even though all my memories of the state are positive, I obviously forgot just how beautiful it was.

Perhaps through maturing and traveling the globe, I’ve developed more of perspective to help me better appreciate New Hampshire’s rugged allure.  For example, I traveled thousands of miles to witness sites like the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, which stunned my senses with jagged cliffs that crash into the sea.  Or to be delighted by the Sumidero Canyon in Mexico as it curved its way through the mountains of Chiapas like a regal aquatic envoy.

Now in the backyard of my youth, I’m reacquainted with New Hampshire, which is equally marvelous and inspiring.  For decades I’ve traveled the planet in search of amazement and excitement.  Yet, brilliant landscapes lay only a few hours drive away.  Even though I enjoy navigating remote lands across our wonderful planet, often beauty hides in plain sight right in my own neighborhood.

Do you have any questions or comments?

Please let me know in the comments!

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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