Fall foliage trip-New England region- 2012

We have been obsessed with the fall colours for as long as I remember…seeing them on TV, movies, cards, calendars…but never having experienced it live, as Delhi, or the northern part of India, barely has any classical “seasons”…being limited with very hot and dry, long summer months, few rain showers in the name of “Monsoons” and hardly two months of cold weather called “winter”.
Hence, the wish to experience the beauty of nature and weathers… to see the cherry blossom of spring, fall foliage in autumn and the snow white beauty of winter! 

After seeing my brother’s pictures of his fall foliage trip, we were quite taken with the idea of a leaf peeping trip! Read about “Leaf peepers” who follow the changing colours from region to region. We decided to plan a trip “sometime” and shelved it. 

This year (2012) we got an opportunity as we had to travel to Washington DC on business, end of September, seemingly the perfect time to experience this Nature’s phenomenon!! So we promptly planned a trip to New England region, famous for the most vibrant fall colours in Northern America.
Hubby dear, planned a trip flying through Amsterdam, going on to DC, flying to Buffalo, Niagara falls, driving to Niagara on the falls in Canada, drive back, go to the Finger lakes, (wine tasting !!) then fly to Burlington, drive on a fall foliage trip & fly back from Boston.. Whew!! That was tiring, just writing it.. Keeping me and my interests in mind, he promptly modified the plans. We finally did DC-Boston-Stowe-North Conway-Boston.

We flew Swiss, via Zurich.. and I learnt an important lesson the hard way..Zurich duty-free is one of the most expensive ones.. A bottle of J’ adore, absolute for 200$.. WT**^&&**! I wasn’t really paying attention to the price, getting lost in the fragrances…only after making the purchase did I realise the foolishness of the whole deal! The ordeal didn’t end there…as soon as I took out the bottle to use it, dropped it on the floor, thankfully not breaking the bottle but majorly denting the metallic nob!

After winding up business n sightseeing in DC, we took a flight to Boston n then picked up a rental car to drive off straight to Stowe, Vermont. As usual DH at the last moment, upgraded the car, against my practical wishes…getting a beaut .. A Buick..


Hubby had researched and learnt that the more north and east we go, and the higher we go, the more colour we see…he booked us in Stowe, Vermont, which is a skiing resort and we decided to work ourselves east and south to New Hampshire in October (the best time to visit for fall colors is the second Monday of October- Columbus Day weekend, which also is the most expensive and difficult to get accommodation). Hubby kept reminding me not to expect too much colour or get disappointed if we see only Green!!

So without many expectations…we headed to Stowe, which is a skiing resort. Imagine our delight when we started seeing color enroute, in New Hampshire.. We didn’t find any great eats on the way. Stopped for fuel n loo, at Salem NH, Concorde NH, and Sharon VT..and had lots of trail mix.. (muesli, almonds, cashews, pista, sunflower seeds, nuts, cranberries, dates, figs, and prunes). We did have some good cider doughnuts at Concorde NH..

We were trying to reach Stowe by 3Pm, as Oktoberfest was being celebrated in this town, that day! However, we got late, stopped here n there.. Reaching Waterbury, a small town proximal to Stowe, by 4:30 PM. DH had (as always) researched about multiple local points of interest, one of them being the “Cold Hollow Cider Mill”.

Pumpkins at the entrance and pumpkin spice in the air .. Pumpkin spice for the uninitiated is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger, that is the essence of pumpkin pie.. Here, we tasted their famous Cider Donuts (which did not live upto the fame), the hot n cold (disappointing, apple juice) apple cider, multiple jams n relishes as well as fudge; the latter two, making up for the disappointing former items!! Ended up buying couple of absolutely delicious sauces, namely the maple mustard and maple-zucchini relish!! We then took the obligatory photos of with pumpkins! The rest of the attractions including wine tastings were shut down by this time..  

Predictably, everything’s shut after 5, so we weren’t planning on doing or seeing much in Stowe that evening. Also DH was tired, hungry, looking forward to a wine cheese hour, at our lodge, The Stone hill inn, Stowe.  
But I was enticed by some colourfully decorated crafts shops in town, which seemed very inviting!! Antique n Craft shops are something I can’t resist..n thankfully hubby dear has come to accept this in Life (I allows him the tastings and he allows me gift shops) !! Grudgingly he parked the car, we plodded in the rain towards the shops n got an incidental benefit of spotting our very first Covered bridge!! These covered bridges are famous Vermont landmarks…some 250 of these authentic ones in existence.. unique because of their covered architecture, in various shapes n sizes (red or brown, functional or not).

Covered Bridge, Stowe
I had to buy something…so bought a maple leaf shaped Pewter salt cellar. Stepped out and saw another pretty craft shop…seemingly a famous one called “Stowe Craft”.  There were pretty glazed ceramic wine glasses, coffee mugs and incredible night lamps, with printed scenes that projected beautifully.. All funnily enough from Oregon (and none of the beautiful  stuff was from Vermont !) we ended up spending some more precious dollars on glazed pottery goblets n mugs!!

Happy & satisfied, we proceeded, finally, towards Stone hill Inn, where we were booked for next 3 nights. Met by our cheerful inn-keepers George and inc.. I expected it to be a boutique, small scale B & B, but was pleasantly surprised to see a luxury resort! 

Entrance to the inn..

We were floored by our room which was humungous with a huge bathroom, separate wash basins for his and her, a twin Jacuzzi, a two way fire-place and backdoor, opening onto a lush garden (with some more coloured trees)!


George helped us in getting reservations at a local fine dining restaurant called the “Michael’s on the hill” http://www.michaelsonthehill.com/.

This happened to have a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian tasting menu, which we though would suit our appetites, perfectly. The first course for me was Roasted Mushroom Soup with Lemon Thyme & Artisan Cheese Croutons ( loads of soup, and when I requested it to be shared with hubby, got translated into two separate portions for the both of us) while DH’s first course was -Local Greens with Roasted Pumpkin, Cloth Bound Cheddar & Cider Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette (green stuff with some tasty bits, but mostly grass). The second vegetarian course was Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fall Vegetables, Shallot Confit, Browned Sage Butter & Local Cheese (this came out as a layer of cheese stuck to gnocchi, with watery confit at the bottom- texture that didn’t impress me much…I don’t really love French Onion soup) while non-veg course consisted of Roasted Winding Brook Farm Pork Loin with Brussels Sprouts, Fig & Gruyère Bread Pudding& Whole Grain Mustard Sauce(the Gruyere bread pudding was tasty but too heavy). Our desserts (we were overfull by this stage) were El rey Chocolate fondue (this was yummy, with loads of sponge cake, fruits etc to dip hot chocolate into) and the mistake, Apple & Blueberry Crisp with Cinnamon Ice Cream (this was like apple crumble and too much for our groaning tummies)
Next day we had planned to do some hiking on Stowe’s many trails…but the weather was antagonistic to the plan and it was a heavy rainy day!!

So we decided to drive on the scenic route 108, towards the smuggler’s notch, which is a mountain pass, located in the Mount Mansfield National Forest, named so, because of some smuggling & Boot-legging activities through this region, predominantly in the prohibition times of early 19’s, via Canada! This region, in my opinion, had peaked in colour at that moment, as it was so vivid and breathtakingly beautiful that we spent better half of the morning, stopping n clicking innumerable pictures! This was the first time, that we witnessed the “Autumn colours” on this trip & fell overwhelmed by this Nature’s spectacle!!

Going forward, reached Cambridge, another small town in Vermont, where we (actually DH, as he can’t ever go on a vacation without visiting some winery in that region) had planned to stop-over at the Boyden valley winery, famous for its Iced wines (dessert wine, made from frozen grapes) called “Vermont Ice”. Other than the iced wines, the apple liqueur and the mulled wine, went into the shopping cart!!

Feeling content, my husband drove onwards to the largest town in Vermont called Burlington, along lake champlain. This could have been a nice touristy spot, with many activities on the lake side, had it been a nice sunny day! But, alas, it was pouring by the time we found a parking spot, n rushed to a nearby restaurant to find shelter. This turned out to be an Italian joint called “three tomatoes” n had some good pizzas!! The rain hadn’t abated when we finished our meal…we tried to stroll around the market…in a way a letdown.. we nature lovers were not really keen on a biggish town experience, that early in the trip…and trudged back in a glum mood towards the car park..heading back towards Stowe!

Back at the inn, in time for the evening wine n cheese hour, we were, uncharacteristically, not in a very social mood, picked up our wine glasses and chose to lounge around in the living room. There’s a nice DVD collection to choose from and we spent the evening cosily in bed, ordering in some Pizzas and watching movies.
2nd day in Stowe was again overcast, practically ruling out some proper hiking! We thought of going up to Mt Mansfield, but the kind old lady at the toll booth warned us against the ride, what with dense fog, obscuring all possible valley views.
After many considerations, a drive on the scenic route 100 was decided upon, keeping in mind few lakes n ponds that we wished specifically to visit for photography! So we drove n drove, shooting away to glory, without reaching any water body for a very long time…till we got really bored n hopped off the car at a point marked “ Mad river hiking trail”. This was off the main road and we seemed to be only ones around. 

After hiking for a bit, unexpectedly chanced upon a small pond where we got our very first breathtaking shots of foliage reflections in the water… 

….contented for the day, we started hiking back to the parking lot when I suddenly heard a low grumbling noise..was just starting to wonder what..when the sound suddenly appeared louder and closer. We had seen enough landmarks saying “Bear Trail” or “BEAR Crossing”.. and we literally ran to the car… avoiding a potential close encounter with a live bear!

After this not so pleasant adventure, we drove on some more, detoured to a side road, marked scenic route… which was worth the drive! By this time we had had enough of foliage for the day and quickly took the fastest shortest way back to stowe, no more interested in any ponds or lakes!! Passed by the Ben’n’Jerry’s ice cream factory which seemed bustling with tourist’s n gave it a mis

Stopped at the Cabot farm for some cheese tasting and tried the Lake Champlain chocolates, nex door! One of the “bestest” hot mocha latte that we’ve ever had was at this chocolaterie..what with perfect temperature, and perfect balance of sweet n bitter!! (which our server made sure using a kitchen thermometer)..

….came back to stowe and did some cool shopping!!

Town of Stowe

Not wanting to still call it a day… we decided to pay a quick visit to the Trapp family lodge, having heard about their brewery with delicious locally brewed beer and some awesome valley views. … For a change, the experience lived upto the expectations!! This is the same, Sound of Music fame, Trapp Family who eventually came and settled in Vermont!

Awesome Valley view from the brewery at Trapp Family Lodge!

Perfect setting atop a hillock.. the most awesome views of the valley were to be had here, at a perfect time of the day, that is dusk.. with tasting of four Austrian beers (as a part of Oktoberfest- Oktoberfest beer, an Austrian Wheat beer, a stout, and a lavender beer). DH tried the “bratwurst”, a german-austrian sausage, to make the entire experience more authentic!

This would have been a great way to wind up a fruitful day..but alas..the quest for the perfect finale…DH, in best of faith, wanted me to have a nice vegetarian meal, as I  could not really have anything at the brewery. He had read about a nice vegetarian restaurant, called the Mint, in Waitsfield, doing innovative cuisine (lot more than the standard cheese, pasta n vegetables for us poor vegetarians). Since we were already in Stowe and had driven around enough for the day, I wasn’t so keen but DH insisted and seeing the love in his eyes, I agreed upon the 45 minute drive back, through pich dark country roads .. By the time we reached Waitsfield, it was already dark, the town was much smaller than expected and nobody seemed to have heard about this restaurant.. got lost, made the stupid mistake of not finding the exact address or the phone number, made no reservation and hence a total disaster. An idea occurred and we called our hosts at the stone hill lodge, requesting us to find the address online, fed it into the GPS n promptly found the place on the very next turn! However,… the restaurant was deserted, no lights, folded chairs,, n we learnt the hard way that this restaurant was usually closed on Mondays n Tuesdays!!! Little can one imagine our plight, especially my sweethearts, whose only intention was to delight me!! So we drove back, on a dark, scary road back, with no streetlights, bought some take away pizza n plonked ourselves on the bed!!

Woke up late next morning, had another scrumtuous breakfast at the inn and started packing up!  As was a norm throughout the trip, the day that was assigned for inter-city travel was always a nice bright sunny day!! Seeing the weather, we decided to again give Mt Mansfield a try, before setting course towards New Hampshire. Obviously every other tourist thought the same and by the time we reached the toll booth, there was a long line of vehicles queuing up to climb! 

Queueing up to climb Mt Mansfield! 

After waiting nearly 45 minutes, finally started the slow drive up the mountain…we had read about this being a hair raising ride.. And it was wimpy compared to Indian roads, thus was a cake walk.. With every car being very polite, giving way to upcoming traffic.. 

Got some awesome views on the way up, but by the time we climbed to the top, a dense fog had started rolling in, obscuring the  views, yet again!! That was the hard luck, but we were not the ones to be dismnayed by these small occurrences, n we made the most of the experience by clicking away as many pictures as we could… frankly, slightly cloudy overcast day was better for photography than a harsh sunlit day!!
We climbed down by 2 O’clock, were already late by all standards and decided to pack Subways to be had on the way, not wanting to waste any more time!

Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and Massachussets are part of a region called New England. I was asking DH, as to what exactly was our plan in North Hampshire, as we had already seen enough of good foliage colors in Vermont… me not understanding the point of seeing anymore!!
Two of the most scenic routes in North Hampshire are the 112 (popularly the Kancamagus scenic byway or just Kanc, in the White Mountain National Forest region) and NH 302. To reach north Conway, our local destination, we could choose from either of these routes from Lincoln. Since it was already getting late for the day and “Kanc” is supposed to be scenic n slow, we decided upon taking a relatively faster yet scenic route 302!! We did see the Kanc next day, but if asked to choose between the two.. I would say “do both”!! 302, though an interstate, has some breathtaking views!

Only after entering the NH territory, did I realize why leaf peepers, throng this region of New England. There is no comparison between VT n NH, VT has beautiful foliage colors, mainly shades of yellow n orange but NH has such vivid reds, violets and shades of pink (depending upon the sugar content in the maple leaves), which need to be seen to be believed!!

We reached north Conway by 6:30 or so, had an easy n friendly check in at Wyatt House country Inn, by a gregarious hostess Elaine. 

Out of the many eat-out recommendations given by her, we were glad we chose “Moat’s”.. a gastro-pub, a very busy place, expansive cuisine with many vegetarian options n free wifi!! We could do video-chat with family back home while having dinner!! And DH could do a great beer tasting from their microbrewery!!

Next day, which was, predictably, overcast, we set out late and decided to cover some local trails, instead of heading towards Kanc!! Got directions from the inn-keeper and headed towards a popular waterfall called Diana’s bath…instead reached another breathtaking view point… called the Cathedral Ledge which is a popular rock climbing destination with a spectacular lookout to the echo lake!! 

 Easily accessed by a winding road to the top of  the hillock! We spent an hour or so just sitting and soaking in the vista, the weather gods obliged for a change with the sun shining intermittently and we could get a few nice pictures!! DH and I had a major argument at this point…as he accidently deleted a few pictures…the argument continuing all the way to Diana’s bath… which was a bit difficult to find and by the time we reached the start of the trail..it was pouring!! Decided to give it a miss and headed back to Moat’s for a nice hot lunch!! Obviously a contented tummy translates into a contended soul and our moods drastically improved…the sun reappeared and we finally could hike back to Diana’s bath!!

By the time we finished, it was already about 5 O’clock! Both of us knew that if we went back to the B & B…we would not get out again…feeling tired and cold at the same time!! A major part of the attraction in North Conway was the tax-free shopping at “Settlers Green” so we (mainly to please me) decided to head there, straight! It was already dark, we were already tired so scoped out a few outlets, collected the maps and decided to come again next day…

On the way back, we spotted an Indiana restaurant called “Shalimar” that out hostess was raving about. Though, by choice, we avoid Indian food during our vacations, being more interested in local cuisine, as we did not seem to have too many options, we decided to give it a try… predictably, the food was very spicy, even by our standards and we both had a difficult night with heartburn!!

Come next day, and the weather was still playing up!! Heavily overcast with predictions of a lot of rain….we headed towards the “Kanc” which can be accessed via a bypass on 302, near Bartlett, called the Bear notch road! 

Passed by Jacksonville, celebrating Return of the pumpkin people!!

Though the day was very dreary, very wet n cold… we did stop at many of the scenic viewpoints, well marked on the trail including the sabbaday falls, the lily pond and the franconian notch!

Sabbaday Falls
The Kancamagus highway
               fog rolling in..but still breathtakingly beautiful!!
Mount Washington Valley 

At this point, I am falling short of adjectives, not wanting to reuse the awesome, breathtaking, scenic ones again! But the ride was one of a lifetime and no words can describe the brilliant vistas that kept rolling in at every turn of the road!! 

Franconia Notch State Park

We drove down again on 302, completing the loop, and gladly stopped for photo-ops that we seemed to have missed on the previous day!!

Conway Scenic Railroad
The Lunch was another Pizza place in Lincoln (midway junction between Kanc and 302). Their hot steaming mushroom soup was just what the doctor recommended on this wet-wet day!! DH spotted a wine shop.. having read about tax-free liquor shopping and bought couple of delicious reds!!

Saw another historical covered bridge in Bartlett…and realised why they are such popular landmarks of this region!

Wiley House Historical Site 
Happy feet..happy souls!!
Next day we started on the last leg of our journey, from New Hampshire, towards Boston, thus bringing us to the end of our foliage trip.. yet another trip to remember!!