Friday, June 29, 2018

Improvements to the Exterior of the Inn

We love to keep the Bridges Inn in tip-top shape both inside and out. We’re continually upgrading and improving the interior of the building. In Spring 2018, we concentrated on the exterior, tackling some much-needed work on the grounds.

We began by having McClure’s Tree Service prune the huge maple trees, including removal of problem branches. Sadly, one unhealthy maple tree and one oak tree had to be removed, which we knew was better to be done proactively than to wait for a storm to take them down. Trimming the trees has helped make the yard look much neater.

McClure's crane pruning the old maple trees

The next project was to replace the greatly deteriorated concrete carriage path, which was done by Wilder Excavating. First the old concrete had to be removed; then the surface was filled with sand; metal rods were carefully positioned to reinforce the cement; then the cement was poured.
Removing the old concrete
Filled with sand; metal rods (foreground) cement being poured (background)

Concrete carriage path completed
The final task was to pave the gravel parking lot, which had deteriorated over the years and got a bit muddy when it rained. M&L Asphalt Services LLC did the paving, first removing the material that was there and then filling and leveling the surface before applying the asphalt. The parking lot looks so much nicer and will be much easier to maintain in the winter. 
Laying the asphalt, spreading and flattening it with a steamroller

Paved parking lot is completed
We were pleased with all three contractors. These improvements to the grounds feel like such an accomplishment! And our guests have been complimenting us on the appearance of the property. 

We're not quite done for this year's projects. The pathway going to the back of the house still needs to be redone and we’ll continue to work on landscaping. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It's Time for Maple Sugaring

Buckets on the maple trees are one of the early signs of spring here in New Hampshire. Although Maple Sugaring Month is from March 10th through April 1st, ideal conditions with cold nights and warm days are what actually determine when the thawed sap runs. This year, the maple producers began tapping trees early, and many have already started to boil the sap to make maple syrup. The large, old, maple trees at the Bridges Inn are being tapped (shown below).

Maple buckets at the Bridges Inn
Our favorite grand maple tree
The Faulkners from Covered Bridge Maple Syrup House in West Swanzey gather the sap, which is a clear liquid that looks like water. Shown below is a bucket with a few inches of sap.

It takes a lot of sap to make syrup. In fact, the general rule of thumb is that it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup, which is dependent on the sugar content of the sap.

In addition to getting maple syrup from the Faulkners, we rely on Crescendo Acres Farm in Surry. Shown below are Keith (left) and Russ (right) Fiorey of Crescendo Acres, stopping for a pose while boiling sap in their sugar house.

For a list of maple syrup producers participating in the New Hampshire Maple Sugaring Month and the 23rd annual Maple Weekend, click here.

Make a reservation at the Bridges Inn for your March stay, mention this blog, and we'll give a 10% discount on any room. Of course, our scrumptious breakfast will be included. You'll also want to visit one of the local sugar houses to see and smell the experience of boiling sap.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Still Screaming for Ice Cream

Usually by mid-September, we've accepted that cooler weather has set in and summer is almost a memory. But this week has been in the 80's and fairly humid. I'm glad we haven't removed our air conditioners because they're on tonight.

And I find that little is more satisfying in hot weather than ice cream. Actually, I like ice cream any time of year but it's particularly refreshing in hot weather.

The Monadnock Region has an abundance of ice cream shops, most of which we made it to this summer. We had 9-year old and 12-year old grandchildren living with us this summer so regular trips for ice cream cones was a priority. Local ice cream shops are listed below in no particular order; we liked them all or I wouldn't have included them in this post.

We went to Walpole Creamery on Main Street in Keene many times this summer for their "super premium ice cream." They offer a wide selection of traditional flavors plus some exotic flavors such as Fijan Ginger. Not only is Walpole Creamery ice cream available at their shop in Keene and in their Walpole parlor, but also in many grocery stores. Walpole Creamery boasts fresh ingredients "from Cow to Cone."

Another gem in the area is Kimball Farms in Jaffrey. There are three other Kimball's locations, but Jaffrey is the only one in the Monadnock Region. According to Kimball's website, "with over 50 fantastic flavors, ice cream is Kimball Farm’s claim to fame and it is as good as ice cream gets."

We also like Life is Sweet, located in Central Square the heart of downtown Keene, which specializes in candy, chocolate, cupcakes, and ice cream. The hard ice cream is available in many flavors and you can make your own custom flavor of soft serve ice cream.

Friendly's on West Street in Keene has many flavors of ice cream as well as sundaes and other ice cream treats.

Frozen yogurt, a lower calorie alternative to ice cream, can be found at Yolo Frozen Yogurt at 12 Gilbo Avenue in downtown Keene.

A newcomer to the region, Keene Confectioners Pastry Shoppe, located on 10 West Street in downtown Keene, offers ice cream in addition to other homemade desserts. We did not make it to this pastry shoppe this summer but hope to in the near future.

We also like Rick's Ice Cream on 58 Key Road in Keene. Their ice cream is delicious; they have a great assortment of cones and toppings galore.

Secord's on Route 10 in West Swanzey has numerous flavors of hard ice cream and soft serve ice cream. Located just over a mile from the inn, Secord's was an easy ice cream stop with the grandchildren.

For many years we have bought chocolates from Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates on 43 Grove Street in Peterborough but they have also gained quite a reputation for their ice cream. If their ice cream is as good as their chocolates, it's worth the trip.

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.