Sunday, September 3, 2017



Cruises, Hikes, Rural Roaming, Village Exploring
Last year I visited New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, and was profoundly impressed with its rugged beauty. Magnificent loon-filled lakes and mountain forests with walking trails traveled on by humans and critters alike converge to create that “wow” factor in scenic appeal.

The region’s endless treed canopy comes with its own chameleon agenda. Fall turns the region into a riot of color.

                                   When winter arrives, everything glistens white. 

Twenty percent of the region is a woodland wonder of birch, oak, hemlock, maple and pine, but it's the lakes that take the lion’s share of sunset splendor.

Free and Easy Living
The Lakes Region is a natural template for rejuvenation. Head for the mountains, linger on the lakes, let out your loon calls, and immerse yourself in farm settings where country roads are lined with colorful clusters of wild flowers, scrappy shrubs and purple wheat grass. 

 I longed for the region's sense-enlivening surprises whose rural mystique makes you want to pack up and move there. And so I returned.

I parked my car to watch wild turkeys waddling along a field.

                  The best sighting was a black bear cub bounding across the road. 

Four Days of Heady Experiences
For this second visit, I turned to the expert knowledge of the friendly folks at the Lakes Region Tourism Association. Amy Landers, Executive Director of the region and her associate, Kim Sperry are angels.  Their guidance was invaluable. Thank you!
They presented me with an itinerary that catered to my near-obsessive yen for nature, and fulfilled my quest for culturally authentic milieus of rural life. 
The next four days were packed with experiences that pleased my senses, stimulated my mind and made my spirit soar as high as the bald eagle I spotted during Squam Lakes “Nature of the Lakes Cruise". Fortunately, all places were within an easy 10 to 30-minute reach by car. The route signs are excellent. No GPS needed! 

Kim Sperry, Executive Vice President, lakes region Tourism Association

                      Freedom at your feet, Heaven at your head, Scenery in between!
Terra firma, fresh air and a view meant for the gods – that was my reward for taking the 30-minute hike up the west side of Rattlesnake Mountain in Holderness. Its well-groomed 450-foot ascent was easy; even little ones can do it. Bring your dog with you.


                    Go Gunstock! 

Another panoramic open-air site is Gunstock Mountain in Gilford. Celebrating its 80th anniversary, this place comprises hundreds of acres of beauty. 

There’s a spring-fed lake at the entrance.

A grand variety of year-round outdoor activities has been designed for the entire family, and so not every family member has to be “joined at the hip” in a single activity.
There are fifty downhill ski trails and four major cross country ski trails. An entire flat area at the foot of the escarpment is dedicated to teaching cross-country skiing to children. How smart is that!?

                         For summer adventure, hop on the mountain coaster ride.

Adding to the rush is the zip lining from various heights (4000 feet from the top of the mountain and 3800 feet from the middle of it).

There’s even a “before-you-zip along” mini training session for kids and adults.  A trailer area also accommodates those who wish to summer here. 

                An authentic rustic style country lodge has hosted many a wedding.

Gunstock is a gorgeous four-season fun and outdoor recreation. Interestingly, there are four vintage ski jumps that are slated for “resurrection”.

I took the chairlift up the 1400-foot mountain, then hiked down Brook trail with Amy Landers.


Lakes Alive!
When it comes to water, a bountiful bastion of some 1,300 lakes and ponds spread throughout the region. The largest is Lake Winnipesaukee. With an area of 183.90 sq miles and a depth of 212 feet, this majestic lake has 258 islands, and many are lived on.

There’s even a mail boat delivery service – the only one of its kind in North America! A star attraction, Lake Winnipesaukee is best traveled in style. After all, its shores are lined with million-dollar “cottages” (estate mansions is more like it); and so the lake begs for prestige boat travel if you want to live like royalty for a moment. 
And that’s exactly how I traveled when I was booked to ride the Miss Meredith. I pictured myself getting on a humungous cruise boat such as the Mount Washington that travels here, but my mode for riding its waves was even more illustrious. I was escorted onto a handsomely polished mahogany speed boat that was once owned by the wife of Chiang Kai-shek

This happened at the Ekal Activity Centre in Meredith. They supply your own captain/guide to take you out. Leaving Church Landing where the Ekal Activity Centre is located, we traveled some 45 minutes along a part of Lake Winnipesaukee, to gape at the imperious houses on Governor’s Island – while pretending we owned one or two of them! 

Captain Jake, myself and the Miss Meredith on Lake Winnipesaukee

This 5-mile pleasure ride was only 35$ US per person. You can actually reserve the boat for your own private group (seats seven comfortably), but you can ask Ekal to charter you one of the same ilk that seats ten people (15$ each) Your Ekal captain will be steering you into lifestyles of the rich and famous on Lake Winnipesaukee – and on a boat once owned by China’s most famous first lady!

Calling all Loon Lovers
Equally thrilling, was the exceptional Squam Lakes “Nature of the Lakes Cruise” in Holderness. This marvelous 90-minute excursion leaves right across from the Science Centre (more about this extraordinary place later). The cruise brings you close to loons without causing them any threat. We rode on a comfy pontoon steered by Margaret, an experienced naturalist who invited us to do our own spotting of bird life. Binoculars were handed out for close-up viewing. 
How thrilling it was to spot a mother loon swimming towards her chick. When they reunited, Margaret explained that the little chick was probably hiding out of sight to avoid danger that her mother had spotted. 

We also saw a bald eagle, and some mergansers and a lone red throated loon that seemed lost in time. Squam Lake was formed by a deep glacier some 12,000 years ago. Its picturesque shoreline extends 60 miles. Margaret handed out a replica of a loon egg and the skull of a bald eagle. 


The Loon Preservation Committee monitors loons on New Hampshire’s lakes, studying their habits, rescuing them, examining diseases and they even got the state’s fishing laws changed to prohibit lead jigs which kills loons once swallowed.                                                                         (Click here to read about their work). 

                                     Educational and exhilarating, this cruise is unforgettable.

Garden Glory

Tarbin Gardens is a mother-son labor of love endeavor. I met up with Richard Tarbin and his mother, Jackie – both born in England.To enjoy the gardens, a special Turkish tea is served that makes it way to Tarbin Gardens all the way from Denmark. This typifies the family’s love for the exotic and rare – as seen in the gardens, described as English landscape style gardens.

Aside from lilies, hostas, hydrangeas, and oodles more, they grow china vines, kiwi, quinces, Japanese silver pines, pineapples plants, blue yucca, senna, the seven sons flowering tree and so much more. Still not tea, though!

The gardens with their wild-like, non-manicured look are brimming with 1000 species of all kinds of flora sprawled out over five acres.

Every seed and bulb count 1000 tulips among that -  has been lovingly planted by Richard, a gifted horticulturist who began the garden back in 1978 after 40 bulldozers came in to do away with the massive tangle of trees. 

Greenhouses, ponds, wrought iron benches and a bridle pathway make Tarbin Gardens a rare retreat for serenity amidst fairy-tale flora magic.


Homemade scones with Devon clotted cream and jam are also served here. After all, this is an English garden! Bring on the tea!


Environmental Enlightenment
 I was eager to enter into unique love-of-the-land landmarks the kind that that defy the normal and excite young and old alike, so the Lakes Region Tourism Association suggested Prescott Farm in Belknap County.

Its idyllic pastoral hills, gentle valleys and pastures cover 160 acres. Here, environmentally-conscious educational programs happen with wonderful workshops and play areas for kids in nature.

One such creation includes an outdoor, mini-makeshift “kitchen” with a vintage aluminum sink, pots and pans and tiny antique "burner" for “cooking up” a truly organic meal made from leaves picked off the ground. How imaginative!  

For four months, starting in July,  an array of courses on earthy educational themes are shared by parent, grandparent and child alike.  Start walking!There’s a fall polliwog excursion into the forest, fields and gardens at Prescott, along with mushroom foraging. Much to do and much to learn while journeying into nature.

   What a wonderful black walnut tree - the largest in the county, and it's right here!

So events get more and more original as summer fades. Attend a cider pressing party, an acorn eating class, and don’t overlook the sugar shack where maple syrup is made.


Want to learn how to turn raw sheep’s wool into yarn? You can on October 28th. Bread and cheese- making are offered, along with sessions on wild forest foods and fall foraging. There was also a three-month herbal series on harvesting for food and medicine that I sure would have loved to have attended. This extraordinary farm is not only wholly dedicated to ecology and the environment, but is intent on integrating us humans into it all; and that’s what makes it special. Environmentally educational, it’s where nature and us all are harmoniously united. 
You don't have to take courses or pay a single dime to explore Prescott Farm's trails, meadows and woods. It’s all free. Do it alone or with your family. 
For those who want to get back to nature and pick up skills to do it, Prescott Farm is the place to take your journey. This non-profit family-owned farm is a utopia!

An Abandoned Village

Another tranquil destination is Canterbury Shaker Village. Founded in 1792, its unique heritage has left a legacy that’s embodied in the site’s 29 historical buildings – 25 of them still stand in their original state...  abandoned beacons of a time long gone.


One of the buildings is now used as a museum to display furniture and clothes the Shakers made.

Over 694 acres of outlying farm land, forests, ponds and trails spreads over this serene sanctuary of religious austerity.
The Shaker community practiced celibacy, communalism and confession in the presence of an elder. It’s described as “nuns and monks without the bolts and bars”. 

Yet, despite its strict adherence to the three above-mentioned Cs, the Shaker community loved music, stomp dancing to religious songs, learning how to play all kinds of instruments, even putting on plays.

School was obligatory.

Theatrical presentations often took place inside the chapel , but they usually centered around religion. 
Shakers were fascinated with technology, and so they developed innovative ways to be totally self-sufficient with the emphasis on efficiency.

They had electricity, a printing press and stoves.

Dental care, an infirmary and meeting houses for discussion, printing, box making using cherry wood, baking and spinning were part of a daily routine. 

The community even had its own firehouse and library.
As my guide Becky explained, the community took in converts and acted as shelters for women whose life during those days could be brutal, if left widowed or homeless. It’s amazing to think that this community lasted over 200 years without the right for women to bear children. Is it any wonder this community of rural-loving folks endured? Its laid-back simplicity hearkens back to bygone days when you could “park” a horse instead of a car, and haul barrels of hay instead of plastic bags.

Guided tours, craft demonstrations, a lovely museum, and a big barn serving locally-made light snacks enliven this historical site.

A Sensational Science Center
Reserve at least two hours to explore the phenomenal Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Unique exhibits, trails, wetlands, fields and the splendour of Kirkwood Gardens at the entrance (a moving story in itself about its creator) are all palpably inspiring. 

Expanding beautifully over 232 acres, the center is a paradise of sorts; you won't find any concrete buildings here. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, this center has cleverly turned science into a kind of natural Disneyland where games full of rich learning experiences leave an indelible imprint through hands-on participation. Although there are no rides as such, the amount of knob pulling, button pressing, ducking, scrambling and ear phone listening to get answers to all kind of challenging questions – all presented in super creative ways is exciting, even exhilarating. 

Exploring underground life as certain critters do, ducking, climbing into a huge squirrel’s nest, descending slides and enjoying an enormous oversized rope spider web
 -- these are only "raindrops" in the grand scheme of natural science discovery here.

Experience how dynamic our earth is by witnessing “Water Matters”. It consists of 18  water-related exhibits -- all fascinating, but the rainfall one was really ingenious.

There's a centerpiece of kinetic colored sand representing different geographical elements. You can actually play with the sand, molding it to shape your landscape. Hold your hand over it, and your hand becomes a rain maker changing topography. You’ll see how mountains, valleys and hills change as water flows into them. Of course, there really is no water; it’s all in your hand. That’s what I call magical learning.
Aside from the umpteen ecological and environmental workshops offered by the center, there's another educational surprise: a Montessori school right on the premises – the first of its kind in New Hampshire. Called Blue Heron School, it’s nature-based; the entire center becomes a field classroom for the school’s children.
Live animals are here as well, including, two mountain lions, two bears, eight raptors, three minks and two foxes, deer, otters, even coyotes – all in spacious caged habitats, of course. The only animal that wasn't real was the moose poking out near a pond; but you could have fooled me!
Don’t forget to purchase your ticket across the street for the Nature of the Lake Cruise, run by the inimitable Natural Science Center.



  1. Sounds like you had a splendid trip! The photos are gorgeous.

  2. The vivid writing transported me there. I would love to go there.This wonderful article covered so many different aspects that I know more about the lakes region and what to do there.

  3. What a beautiful area. Seems to be a beautiful place to relax and enjoy nature. Great post, so much to do and see!

  4. Fantastic trip....out of this world....great article and stunning photos!!!

  5. You really captured the feel of not only the Science Center but of the whole Lakes Region. Nicely done!
    All the best,
    Amanda Gillen, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center