Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lake and Land Fun with Vistas in New Hampshire

It may be a small state, but New Hampshire has 373 lakes - more than one for every day of the year! Head for Squam Lake or hike up Rattlesnake Mountain for some breathtaking views of the lake. Hikers need not worry, there are no rattlesnakes here - just deep slithery lines embedded in the summit’s bedrock. The 35-minute ascent is so easy, young kids have no problem hopping along in sandals.
This lake has loons, so if you want to see them, take the 90-minute Squam Lakes Cruise from Holderness. The cruise boat is a cozy pontoon whose open sides allow for close viewing from all angles; plus binoculars are handed out. We spotted a mother loon gliding along with a chick on her back while hooting as dad dove for food. A naturalist from the Natural Science Centre is always on board to lead the way. Ours was Margaret, who actually comes from Saint-Jérôme. While steering the boat, she explained in lay-man’s lingo a lot about loons, and always invited us to spot them. It was exciting. Everyone felt they had just won the jackpot when they saw one. On board, we held replicas of eggs and examined facsimiles of loon bones as our guide gave us a short lesson on loons. In this very area The Loon Preservation Committee - open to the public - monitors their health and protects them. Harry Vogel, also a Canadian, is the chief biologist for this organization. “We were able to change the law. The use of led fishing tackle, and big jigs that kill these birds is now prohibited. So many end up swallowing them and die within hours.”
Squam Lake is small compared to Lake Winnipesaukee 34- kilometre length. Cruising in style on this famous lake – the third largest in New England – is the way to go.  I headed for the Ekal Activity Center in the touristy town of Meredith to hop on board a very special 7-seater boat.  Fittingly called Miss Meredith, this speed boat’s claim to fame resides in another name. It was once owned by Madame Chiang Kai Shek who summered here.  The Americans instantly took ownership of her precious vessel when the Chinese refused to side with them after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. They also booted her out of Meredith where she homed every summer. Miss Meredith smoothly made her way towards Governors Island where splendid mansions had us gushing with envy. They collectively seem to embody various lifestyles of the rich and famous. Sumptuous yachts docked beside throne-like deck chairs, and ornate facades with12-feet-tall cathedral windows looking out from on high made us feel very small. So much for Miss. Meredith!
Cottages goers and residents who live on some of the lake’s 258 islands need never worry about missing the mail - thanks to the (M/V) Sophie C. that leaves Weirs Beach weekdays and Saturdays. Since 1892, she’s been delivering mail to families who home here year-round.  Purchase your ticket at Weirs Beach; then hop on board the oldest floating post office on the continent.  You’ll see how it all happens as Sophie approaches several islands where residents wait to get the mail dropped to them on their docks.  Sophie also hands out ice cream and all kinds of snacks to everyone, including all hands on deck tourists.
The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center gives you incredible views into our world via its magical immersive exhibits. It’s just across from the loon cruise pontoon. If your feet long for land grounded in history, then tread back in time by visiting the abandoned 19th-century Canterbury  Shaker Village nearby. Guided tours every day.

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