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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Dreaming in color: Nothing beats fall in New England

Jul 05, 2018 02:51AM ● By Melanie Wiseman

Last year, my husband, Dan, and I had a travel epiphany. It seems we were funneling our travel funds toward annual trips to faraway countries like Peru, Cuba and New Zealand. While there’s nothing wrong with that, we realized we were missing some of the most spectacular places right here in the U.S.

So last fall, we planned what would be the first of many homeland adventures. A friend from New England helped us plan what would be a memorable experience of fall colors, rich history and pristine communities in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. If you’ve never been, this trip’s a must!

Mainely quaint

We bypassed the congestion of Boston, and flew directly to Portland, Maine, where we rented a car for 12 days. We had a general route in mind, but had an open, flexible schedule, letting the trip be a journey of spur-of-the-moment discovery.

Acadia National Park was our initial Maine destination, but not before traveling up the coast via Highway 1 and taking in the simplicity of quaint harbor towns like Camden. It didn’t take long for us to discover many things about Maine that were a fun contrast to the southwest.

A New England beachFor one, there were no RV sale lots, but plenty of boat yards. The streets made us smile with names like Happy Town Road, Pretty Marsh Road and Hogan’s Elbow Road—avenues that might you lead you to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts or ice-cream shop (both which we found about every five miles).

The state’s name also made a clever pun for many local businesses, which had names and slogans like “Mainely Used Cars,” “Mainely Cats” and “Chow Maine.”

Following a stop at Windsor Chairmakers in Ellsworth, we began our three-day exploration of Acadia National Park. Though there are endless lodging options inside and outside the park, we enjoyed our stay at the Café Dry Dock & Inn in Southwest Harbor, where we feasted on crab cakes, lobster rolls and blueberry pie. Yum!

A scenic 27-mile park loop connects Acadia’s lakes, mountains and rugged seashore. We went on coastal hikes, rode bikes on the historic carriage roads, and hiked to dramatic ocean vistas on Cadillac Mountain, the park’s highest point.

On top of the world in New Hampshire

Although warm weather delayed the fall colors, it didn’t hamper a beautiful countryside drive through Maine on Highway 2. New Hampshire’s White Mountains enveloped us as we entered the state near Conway. A brief stop at the well-staffed Pinkham Notch visitor center gave us the information we needed to climb Mount Washington, the Northeast’s highest peak at 6,288 feet.

Although Washington is foggy 300 days a year, we were greeted by a clear, blue day and were rewarded at the summit with a clear view of five states and Canada. We met people from all over the world on our journey up the mountain and made frequent stops to take in breathtaking views.

The Kancamagus (Kang-ah-mangus) Scenic Byway across New Hampshire was at the top of my must-sees list. This leisurely winding drive is full of history, waterfalls, covered bridges and scenic overlooks that we enjoyed as the fall colors finally began to pop.

Dream ticket to Vermont

As we drove, the White Mountains gave way to the gorgeous rolling hills of eastern Vermont. A tiny cabin at Point Comfort on Joe’s Pond in Danville, Vermont was one of our favorite finds. Since there were no restaurants in this tiny community, we made our way to the local grocery store and found some delicious chowder at the deli.

New England forestOn the way to Burlington, we learned about the process of making maple syrup—a Vermont staple—at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, an eighth generation family-owned maple syrup farm. We made an unplanned stop in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont and a dream-like community that was right out of the movies. The locals were very friendly and a senior volunteer gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the capitol building.

Heading north on Highway 100, we stopped at Cold Hollow Cider Mill and witnessed apple cider making first hand. We also spent time with a glass blower and wood carver, and toured the Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream factory. Of course, being a huge “Sound of Music” fan, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the Von Trapp Family Lodge, an Austrian-inspired resort specializing in European-style accommodations and cuisine.

After a good night’s rest, we completed the third major hike on our list—Mount Mansfield—Vermont’s highest point. This was the only one of our three mountain hikes that didn’t have an option to drive up.

We also rented bikes and took off on the Burlington Bike Trail, a 28- mile round trip along the shores of Lake Champlain, and took a drive through Grand Isle.

Our final day took us back to Portland for our return flight. The colors were spectacular by then and we factored in plenty of time to stop along the way. We toured a Morgan horse farm in Middlebury and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Rutland, and visited the cool little town of Woodstock.

I’m sure New England is magical year-round, but the weather and the fall colors made it an unforgettable experience. Dan and I are confident that our next trip exploring this country will be a fabulous journey.

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