Monday, May 1, 2017

Mount Monadnock

The Monadnock Region is a beautiful place to explore for several reasons.  There is something for everyone, but the highlight of the region may be the mountain whose name it bears. Late spring is a beautiful time of year to hike Mount Monadnock, not too hot and not too cold.

Photo taken from Monadnock Berries in Troy

"Monadnock" is said to be the local Abenaki word for "mountain that stands alone" and from the top, it can be seen that few other large peaks are nearby. Mount Monadnock is generally considered the second most climbed mountain in the world; only Mount Fuji in Japan is climbed more. Mount Monadnock is 3,165 feet tall.  While it may not seem very tall, as far as mountains go, it can be a challenge to climb and physically demanding.  But for someone who is prepared, it can be a very rewarding climb. Many trails of various distances and grades all lead to the summit, where you can see in all directions for as far as the eye can see.


Located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, Mount Monadnock is about a half an hour from the Bridges Inn, depending on the trail head.  Some of the trail heads are located within Monadnock State Park, with headquarters located on Dublin Road between Route 101 in Dublin and Route 124 in Jaffrey. On the Dublin side, it is called Upper Jaffrey Road and in Jaffrey, it is called Dublin Road.

The White Cross and the White Dot Trails run to the summit from the headquarters.  Both trails are under four miles round-trip and considered to be strenuous routes to the summit.  Bald Rock awaits hikers, offering a glimpse at things to come.  Parts of the trail may require using your hands to climb. These trails should give you a good work-out.

Photo taken from the White Dot Trail

Just north of headquarters on Dublin Road, you'll find Gilson Pond, where there is a State campground as well as the Birchtoft/Red Spot Trail.  This trail is three and a half miles, beginning quite gradually and then quickly ascending the mountain.

On Route 124 in Jaffrey, there is another State Park Ranger station.  It consists of a small shed and a parking area.  All of the State facilities will charge five dollars per adult.  This trail here on Route 124 runs past the site of a former hotel, so it is called the Old Halfway House Trail.  There is a network of trails; the main trail follows the white arrows.  It is three and a half miles to the summit and back. Some people have hiked it in less than three hours. Shown below near the beginning of the Old Halfway House Trail and then closer to the top is our little Eduardo, now nine years old, who has been hiking Mount Monadnock with his family since he was a toddler.



The White Arrow/Old Toll Road, which may be the most popular trail.  The first half is easy because there is the option of a forested trail or a dirt road.  However, the second half quickly begins to start feeling like you are climbing a mountain.  The trail is mostly covered in boulders and stones, and some places are rather steep, but it is possible for those who push themselves.

Eduardo needed a rest at the top

The Dublin Trail is a little over four miles, running in a line up the mountain's north face.  Since it is not a State facility, there is no parking fee.  It is also a less crowded trail, which is important because Monadnock can be quite busy during the nice weather, especially on the weekends.  The Dublin Trail is moderately difficult, but worth the effort.  A small parking area can be found on Old Troy Road in Dublin, near Dublin Lake and Route 101.

Also ascending the mountain from the Dublin Lake area is the Pumpelly Trail.  It is the most challenging trail. The summit is four and a half miles, so it is nine miles round-trip and would take an entire day to hike.  The trail is noted for its views, particularly during foliage season, as well as interesting geological formations.  There is also a notable absence of other people.


Finally, there is the Marlborough Trail.  It can be reached from Route 124, on Shaker Farm Road in Marlborough.  Each way is a little over four miles, because the parking area is a distance from the base of the mountain.  There is a lot of tree and plant life to be seen, and rocks to be explored.

Additional information about hiking Mount Monadnock can be found on the Monadnock Travel Council's website.

A stay at the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House coupled with a hike up Mount Monadnock makes for a memorable get-away.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Blueberries are Abundant in the Monadnock Region

Early August is the perfect time for blueberries in the Monadnock Region. There are numerous places to pick blueberries in the region. It's fun and quite easy because the berries are quite abundant. We use fresh blueberries in blueberry buckle, muffins, pancakes, and more. When we have too many to use, we freeze them.

 

We recently went to Monadnock Berries in Troy, twice, and picked blueberries and raspberries; the raspberry picking season has now passed. The setting is spectacular with a picture perfect view of Mount Monadnock. They provide containers. Monadnock Berries is also the home of Mooselick Brewing, which makes blueberry beer ("Blue Moose Beer"). (545 West Hill Road, Troy, NH; call 603-242-6417 for hours and details.)


Another great place to pick berries is Crescendo Acres Farm in Surry. Bring your own container, and while you're there, don't forget to see the alpacas. (21 Carpenter Road, Surry, NH; call 603-352-9380 for hours and details.)

 

A short hike up Pitcher Mountain is well worth the trip. Pitcher Mountain Wild Blueberries, located on Andorra Forest, a private property with wild high bush blueberries to pick your own. Beautiful views and hiking trails open for public non-motorized use. Part of the Monadnock­-Sunapee Greenway Trail. (Route 123 North Stoddard, NH 03464 603-446-3655)

Richmond Blueberries in Richmond, where you'll find several varieties of high-bush blueberries, is another great place to pick your own. (44 Monument Road, Richmond, NH 03470, 603-239-4948)

   

And if you don't have time to pick blueberries, many of these places sell already-picked berries by the pound or the pint. Fresh, local blueberries are also sold at the Keene Farmer's Market (Tuesday and Saturday) and many grocery stores. For example, Gomarlo's Food and Circus on Route 10 in West Swanzey typically gets local blueberries in daily. Wherever you get them from, enjoy! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Chocolate Lovers

Did someone say "chocolate"?

If you like chocolate, then you'll find some treats at the Bridges Inn and in the Monadnock area. It would not be hard to spend a day visiting chocolate shops and indulging in this delicacy.

Each guest room at the inn has a complimentary bowl of individually-wrapped bite-sized chocolates, typically Ghirardelli chocolate squares and Hershey's kisses. We sometimes have Lindt and other fine chocolates. We have sugar-free chocolates upon request and we do offer free refills upon request. Just say "chocolate"!


  

You might start your chocolate excursion at Ye Goodie Shoppe in nearby Keene. At 49 Main Street in the heart of downtown Keene, Ye Goodie Shoppe has everything from dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate (my favorite), truffles, turtles, fudge, and sugar-free chocolate, plus numerous hard and soft candies, taffy, and other confections. "Since 1931, Ye Goodie Shoppe... has been making candy of the highest quality, from the best ingredients, fresh butter and cream, and the finest chocolate... See it made!" After you see it and smell it, you'll definitely want to taste it!

  

If you head to Peterborough, you'll find two chocolate shops worth visiting. We have been getting chocolate for years at Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates on 43 Grove Street and love their delicious chocolates. “Providing outstanding gourmet chocolate creations throughout New England since 2003, … Ava Marie is a growing company where customers value and depend on the uniqueness of [their] chocolate creations and the freshness of [their] products." Some of their specialties are "award-winning milk and dark chocolate pecan turtles, truffles, coconut clusters, toffee, caramel centers, chocolate covered cherries and more.” They also make hand-painted artisan chocolates and serve ice cream and an assortment of different pastries.
 
  
Also in Peterborough is Vicuña Chocolate Factory & Cafe on 15 Main Street. I have not actually been there yet but their handcrafted chocolate bars, pastries, chocolate chunk cookies, cocoa nib brownies, and sipping chocolate have earned them an excellent reputation. "Vicuña's 70% dark chocolate is made from organic, Fair-Trade cocoa beans & cane sugar. Varieties include Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Belize, Maras Salt, and Cocoa Nibs." 

 

And you won't want to miss L.A. Burdick's in Walpole. "Burdick’s European-inspired chocolates are made from the freshest ingredients with no artificial coloring and no preservatives. Each bonbon is hand-cut or shaped, hand-garnished, hand-finished, and hand-packed. Intentionally small and elegant, these fine chocolates are the gastronomically-correct size for tasting the complexity of flavors." Burdick's has shops in Boston, Cambridge, New York City, and Walpole. It is definitely worth the 1/2 hour trip to Walpole, not only for chocolate lovers, but also for the scenic drive! 

If anyone says "chocolate" at the Bridges Inn, chocolate it will be!

             

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Christmas Cactus

I have never had a "green thumb." In fact, I sometimes did so poorly with my house plants that we used to jokingly call them "disposable plants." When I bought the Bridges Inn almost 10 years ago, the house was totally furnished, including house plants.

Among the plants I inherited, was a gigantic Christmas cactus that is now about 70 years old. I was given instructions on when to water it, how much, and also to occasionally give it plant food. In addition to diligently feeding it, one of the secrets is to leave it where it is -- it obviously likes its spot on the east side of the house near a window.

Every year, the Christmas cactus starts blooming in early December and typically stays in bloom through January. Some years, like this year, the cactus stays in bloom longer -- it still has many flowers as I write this on February 20th. The cactus typically blooms again around Easter time, too. It's become an annual tradition to take photos of my two grandchildren at Christmas time when the cactus is in full bloom.
 



When a branch/piece of the cactus falls off, I replant it. These cactus offspring are thriving in a pot on the second floor, directly above the giant cactus, in the same eastern exposure. Over the years, I have repotted and given away many cactus offspring. Shown below, the offspring have buds.

Brought the offspring downstairs for the photo
Replanted offspring, upstairs
A bud on one of the offspring (2/20/16)
The cactus is a conversation piece and a photo opportunity -- most guests who come here have never seen a Christmas cactus so big. It has not only survived, it has thrived.




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Landscaping Improvements at the Inn - update

Summer of 2015 has been filled with landscaping projects at the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House. We began last year with pruning the large maple trees and many of the large shrubs on the perimeter of the property. 

Today, August 13, we added a new bird house -- it's actually an owlhouse! And not exactly considered landscaping, but part of the property improvement project, is a new American flag. It wasn't intentional but the owlhouse and the flag match!

 

This year, we cleared out the pathways and brought in pine bark mulch on the east side of the house near the gazebo. We planted many new flowers.

 

 
August 11, 2015
An abundance of flowering plants are in bloom now, such as black-eyed Susans, many types of lilies, pansies, hydrangeas, roses, phlox, lucifers, and Shasta daisies.

 
                       Lucifers                                   Shasta daisies
We continued work along the front, Main Street edge of the property. We pulled out overgrown shrubs and plants and planted some dogwoods and small maple trees. We filled in much of the area with pine bark mulch.  Perhaps our biggest accomplishment was to remove the old, uneven granite steps that went to the front of the inn (which no one used). This required work on the old stone wall to make it continuous, closing the opening to Main Street.



 

Masonry work on the stone wall will be done in the near future. Meanwhile, there's ongoing upkeep, such as mowing the lawn, watering the plants, and weeding. And David takes care of all the upkeep (shown weeding below)! We love the sunflowers that he planted and have sprouted around the yard!

                    

Shown below are flowering plants and bushes from earlier in the season.
        Late spring rhododendrons             Lilacs the last week of May
Lupines