New England in the Fall
Approaching Route 112 in northern New Hampshire, we find a local eatery offering local fare and friendly service. One disappointment is that on a weekday in October the ice cream shop is closed. Across the street is a fire hall that sits along a two-lane highway that slices through town.
We are reminded that once we turn on Route 112, there are no services for 34.5 miles. No gasoline, no restaurants, motels, not even a dollar store. Rather, the stops are scenic overlooks, camping spots and places to hike into the White Mountains or along the Swift River.
In this section of highway, driving expectations change. Rather than a purpose of “making time” from point A to point B, motorists expect people to take it easy, allowing time to absorb the area and take the curves at moderate speeds. You plan for the 34 miles to take more than an hour.
Our first stop was a rocky section of river featuring rapids that produced the sound and feel of the mountains. The rocks were suitable for climbing, including four-legged companions, and backed by trees in full fall color.
Further up the hill we found two different lookouts that showcase both a valley and mountains, full of trees in bright and varied colors. Though we weren’t prepared for one, a picnic would have been perfect along with a short hike.
The route known as the Kancamagus Highway is one many motorists find in the fall. For us, it was the first of two days in the northern part of New Hampshire and Vermont just a few weeks ago.
Vermont brings a different feel, but no less color. We worked our way toward connecting with Route 100 near Stowe, stopping to see apple cider production as well as a taste of Ben & Jerry’s straight from headquarters.
Stowe is a beautiful small town, but you find the brilliance of fall on the outskirts as you get past the ski mountain about six miles out of town, now on Route 108. First, you see cars parked along the road at a meadow with a broad view of the Green Mountain. When the road sign says “no semis,” you quickly learn why. A canopy of trees cover the road as it winds through the forest. In just a few miles, we discover why so many find such enjoyment each year from the change in seasons.
As I enjoy a fresh perspective from a part of the country I’ve spent little time, I think about an episode of the TV show MASH. Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester, played by David Ogden Stiers, is a Boston native, a top-flight surgeon and more than a bit arrogant. When letters from young school children addressed to “any soldier” arrive in the camp, he sneers at the joy of his comrades ready to consume any words from home. What good may come of a letter from a youngster you don’t even know? he thinks. Then Winchester opens one of the envelopes.
Inside is a single leaf from a birch tree with a short note from a youngster who thought a soldier might enjoy a peep at leaf season back home. “New England in the fall,” Winchester says, fighting off tears. Soon he’s writing her a note thanking the youngster for a reminder of a beautiful time of year.