Monday, August 1, 2016

Let Me Live Free and Die in New Hampshire’s Lake Region!


  A feature in four parts: loving the loons, mail delivery by boat, a castle in the clouds, B & B Bliss

It’s the most heroic license plate in the USA - a call for bravery. If its message is followed - at  least the "live" part -  the result is exhilaration and  long lasting rewards. The variety of rich experiences that nourished me in New Hampshire all happened in a relatively small region encircling Lake Winnipesaukee. Each separate experience reflected the bravery of those who followed their dreams and allowed me to enter them for real. 

The Loon Preservation Committee

                                    Keeping the call of the loon alive

Many of us saw our first loon on our family’s cottage lake when we were young. The beauty of their perfectly patterned white and black markings and their striking red eyes held us in awe. Their haunting wails and hoots woke us up in the morning, and sent us off to slumber in a rather unique way... "The Lullaby Wail" became my favourite bedtime song.  

We took loons for granted; yet still, we became excited when we saw them floating by with a pair of chicks – maybe one on the mother’s back, the other proving he could swim solo beside her.  When we spotted them, we never gave it a second thought that their survival might be threatened; after all, there are thousands of lakes in North America.

I was one such uninformed person.  I found out just how wrong I was during a special trip I took to a very special place to learn more about the bird I loved.

I drove from Montreal to the Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. For the past 41 years this dedicated group of brilliant biologists along with more than a thousand volunteers have been studying loons in over 350 New Hampshire lakes. They are the largest and most loon-knowledgeable organization in the world. Their long-term work has resulted in the creation of our planet’s largest and most comprehensive data base for loons. Best of all, they are completely accessible; They have to be, for the success of loon preservation is reliant on educating the public with a view to encouraging empathy and compliance.

   video by John Rockwood

LPC’s work is daunting. It is not glamorous; in fact – as  LPC’s loon biologist Tiffany Grade highlighted the ‘downside to the job” on the loon cruise – researchers have to dirty their hands, even suffer through a sea of mosquitoes and brace themselves for some loon peck wounds when rescuing and tagging them, particularly at night. 

 As Tiffany explained: "By putting bands on the loons legs, we can identify individual loons, which helps us learn about their life history and how their productivity and survival relates to their health and contaminant levels.  What we learn by following these loons around helps us understand how to better preserve the species.  We go out at night with a spotlight, locate the family, and keep the light trained on them.  Because the light is so bright, they can’t see behind the light.  At that point, we imitate chick or loon calls and they come up to the boat to confront what they believe is another loon in their territory.  At that point, we net them and get them in the boat, where we put the bands on, weigh and measure them, and take feather and blood samples that we can test for contaminants and health factors.”

This monitoring process not only involves setting up cameras, but most importantly banding the bird on its leg with an unobtrusive geo-locator which allows for following the movement and mapping territorial changes of the loon families – in some cases a single male or female – finding out answers as to why dwindling populations occur, rescuing loons, discovering the territorial habits of loons, and the importance of mankind respecting their nests. Public education is foremost, and I must say that the video I watched at LPC centre taught me so much, as did the loon cruise I signed up for.

                                                             Watch this video  

During the Squam Lake cruise, (the very lake where the movie “On Golden Pond” was shot), we were given binoculars to spot the loons. Tiffany, Squam lake Project Biologist was familiar with the loons coveted territories – no small feat considering Squam has 16 pairs of loon that enjoy 57 acres of lake. To date, 60% of the loons have been banded, and she did not hold back on sharing several success stories, such as LPC’s man-made nesting rafts comprising wire frame  with  fabric camouflage - set up for for a family, so that racoons would no longer kill the chicks. She told us about a female loon that kept looking for better locations, and her original nesting area was not giving her chicks. She ended up kicking out a female loon and taking over her “hubby’ and soon she was with chicks.

Her funny true anecdotes about loons were mixed with informative facts, and hands-on touching of a loon bone and a replica of an egg, and yes had many loon sightings. What joy!
One story she told brought us loon lovers to tears. The event occurred between the years of 2004 and 2005. In short, there was a 45% loss of loons on the lake, and by 2007, there was only one surviving chick to on Squam. Without the intense rigorous research of the LPC, the crisis would never have been known. It took years to find the source. LPC eventually found out that three tributaries full of contaminants were washing down into the lake during storms. It was killing the loons.

They also found out that loons were dying from ingesting led sinkers and gigs. After several trips and much persistent lobbying with New Hampshire’s Environment State Department, LPC gave loons their much needed voice. On June 22nd, of this year (2016), a law was passed making it illegal to sell led sinkers and gigs if they were more than one ounce.  Anything more was barred form sales.  Loons were ingesting them and their gizzards could not cope with the toxins. They were dying.  Ponder this: Analyses of loon eggs from Squam Lake during the period revealed elevated levels of flame retardants. PCB’s, furans DDT, insecticides and more which compromise the loon’s immune system causing a killer fungal growth called aspergillosis.

Truly, without LPC’s exhaustive research and the ensuing reaching out to the public and government, one wonders if loons would continue living at all. Canadian, Harry Vogel. Senior Biologist/Executive Director of LPC is always ready to answer questions, and I had many. Having studied loons for over 20 years, Mr Vogel is an expert in loons; his passion for the bird is palpable. You need only speak with him to know this. He revealed that there have been setbacks, but LPC’s persistent staff has “begun to make a dent in the issues facing loons. We’ve learned about loons and their own challenges, and we’ve discovered that they are uniquely able to illuminate threats to other wildlife and to the aquatic environments on which we all depend. Partnering with others has immensely helped us in our efforts to preserve loon. We’ve come a long way since 1976, when we had just one shabby old environmentally-harmful boat at a time there was only one loon chick to keep track of on Lake Winnipesaukee that year. Gone are those days of equipment limitation and lack of staff.”

Always fund raising, researching, educating and rescuing, The Loon Preservation Committee has given loons their own collective plea wail.

Throw away those led sinkers and gigs! Simply sit back and watch the loons as they pass by your boat, canoe or wharf.  Whaaah, whaah!

Check out their excellent video/display room and lovely gift boutique; it's a one-stop place to learn, shop, reserve your Squam Lake cruise and mix with other loon-loving folks.

                      The Loon Preservation Committee's website is
Call 603-4765666.


                                                 Read about America's  most unique post office on water: click here



  Lofty Dreams Lead to a Castle in the Clouds

Lucknow – not so lucky

It’s a lovely place to visit, an estate high up in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. The one-way winding road up to this gentleman’s estate is winding but well worth the ride. On your way up, stop off at the famous boulder that resembles a planet-sized slice of roast beef.

Ponder the fact that bigger things await you at the end of the road. 
A trolley will take you up even further to the Castle in the Clouds.

Now called, "Lucknow", it exemplifies  the early 20th-century arts and crafts romantic design style of stone and oak whose hearty construction has endured the test of time. Inspired by Norwegian architecture, the outside is humble yet rustically appealing in its alpine feel where mountain and lake blend with natural appeal. The view of Lake Winnipesaaukee is breathtaking.

Perched on 6,300 acres of land, the mansion not only comprises 16 rooms, but a green house, farm buildings, a tennis and golf court, and 45 miles of carriage and bridal trails.

Built in 1914, the grand home, which took 18 months to complete, was owned by Thomas Plant. Leaving his memories of poverty behind, he masterminded a home   where he and his first wife, Olive could live richly,  
and with the feeling of dining and dwelling on top of the world.
Mr Plant who started out working in a shoe factory in Bath Maine, ended up eleven years later taking over the factory. His rags to riches life soon however turned full circle. He invested in Russian bonds and eventually  ended up on the brink of bankruptcy. Let's not forget that his first wife divorced him, and from that, Mr Plant generously gave her $1 million – a handsome sum in 1941.                                                                           

Unable to sell the property, it was mortgaged to a friend who allowed the Plants to continue to occupy their own home. When Plant died in 1940 – on his way his way to a hospital across from the lake (he had a ruptured hernia), Lucknow’s dark clouds appeared.

It would take over a decade for a clear sky to appear.

In 1959, Lucknow was opened to the public with a new and fitting name. Now its cared for by the non-profit Lakes Region Conservation Trust, this marvellous estate with its 16 rooms offers a wonderful glimpse into his family’s personal belongings and rooms filled with furniture from the period. 
Enjoy your self-guided tour. You'll see some vintage pieces, including a kitchen chest and a really cool shower.

You may wish to drive up Park Road, an alternate route to reach the castle. Hike the Shannon Brook trail there.

The address is 171, Old Mountain Road Moultonborough, NH.

Call: 603 -476-5900. 
 The website is

The Thais Touch: tenacity turns an abandoned B&B into beauty

Since the age of six, Thais St Clair had always been fascinated with houses – especially if they had mysterious passages that led to staircases where a secret room was lurking. Such was the imagination of Thais whose interest in dwellings never seemed to wane. But life happens: she ended up traveling to Japan at the age of 16, and then worked in a high power job for a semi-conductor company that often took her to Japan. Not surprisingly, she’s fluent in Japanese. 

Thais is a giver with a gentle soul; she also had a long teaching career, but the dream of owning a B & B still lived in her mind throughout her careers.

“I wanted people to have a place to stay that was personable, where you could converse with others in an easy way. I grew tired of the cold atmosphere I experienced staying in hotels where you couldn’t talk easily to others.” 

In 2012 – though living in California – she began her Bed and Breakfast search. Her
dream became reality the following year; she bought a gracious but tired-looking. It had been lying dormant for three years. Conveniently located in Centre Harbor, the 
Victorian noble house benefited from Thais’s ingenuity. After some serious wall papering, covering walls and ceilings in colour-rich paint, and adding alluring touches,  Sutton House B&B opened its doors.


                                   A huge marine mural adorns the entrance.


Cozy corners feature Queen Ann style and Chinese pieces of furniture, creating lovely sitting areas. What a lovely nook for sitting and reading!

Mindful of the importance of family, and how she wanted her B&B to reflect this, Thais made sure most rooms were designed for inter-generational families – one that would warmly welcome children, allowing the entire family young and old to have their own suite.

She achieved this grandly. Her purple peony room sleeps four, and most rooms accommodate at least three guests with no extra charge.  

 My room had a bed big enough to fit in two King Henry the 8ths! Called the teal orchid room, it has it own turquoise orchid. There's so much room. I loved the floor-to-ceiling drapes. 

I felt like I could very well have been one of his wives (without their outcome). It was royally huge, and the bathroom was as well.  

      With its own fireplace and enormous Jacuzzi tub with a shower – I was seduced.
 I didn't want to leave this special place. I could grow old here and be perfectly content. 

Thankfully, Thais is well aware of the plight of aging travelers trying to avoid stairs. The first floor room has been designed with seniors in mind and those who are mobility challenged. There are even two access ramps.

Speaking of time passing... the B&B is 151 years old, and this is part of its charm; it continues to retain its historical Victorian appeal. Despite a fire in 1993 – the only trace of its havoc are the small charred markings on the ground floor banister. Thais wished to leave them as a historical signature of a piece of its past.


A pool sits at the back of the expansive 16-room B&B, and at its front – a glimpse of wonderful Lake Winnipesaukee stretches into view among the trees.

Breakfasts are stunningly gourmet as Thais, her son Kody and her co-chef, Nancy cook an assortment of fresh dishes that have you starting your day feeling full and in high spirits. From delicate crepes filled with mascarpone, ricotta and cream cheese – sublimely delicious – they alone deserve a Michelin star – to other kinds of sweet surprises, sensational blueberry scones – prepared from scratch in the kitchen – everything moves from fresh preparation stage into the oven and then onto your plate.

The fruit, home-made quiche, lovingly created by Nancy – New Hampshire smoked sausages, wonderful eggs with meat and all kinds of goodies mixed , the incredible French toast topped with coconut, almond slices and icing sugar – all of these morning blessings filled our bellies and put a wide smile on our faces. I loved Sutton House B&B and its convenience. I was able to drive to all the attractions and boat cruises described in the features below.


The website is: 


  1. Really enjoyed reading your review of this region in New Hampshire. Who knew! Sutton House B & B sounds amazing! Thank you for that great review of the Loon Preservation Project. So informative. How sad to think that the call of the loon might have disappeared from the lake! There is something so soothing in their calls echoing over the water when camping or in cottage country. Thank you for bringing awareness to the fact that we cannot take them for granted. Debbi

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my site, and to feel moved by what I wrote. Please do not be shy to leave your name. If you wish to contact the Loon Preservation Committee, they would be thrilled to know you are one more person who now cares about loon survival. Their email is

      I guess you are from the USA. Take care! nancy

  2. That B&B looks lovely! Your writing makes the region come to life.

    1. Yes, Mr. Richard, the area is naturally appealing. I am pleased you now know about this
      remarkable part of New Hampshire. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts about the feature.