Wednesday, October 22, 2008

White Mountains, ME

The White Mountains were at peak color over Columbus Day weekend. The skies were often pure blue, and the temperature was in the 60’s. I’m a fair weather hiker who’d rather a shorter trail than a longer one, but I’ll scale a peak for the view.

My 14-year-old son took the photo of me. I feel most myself in the mountains or by the sea. My make up was the flush of the climb. We were joking over NOT taking a step backwards. Our expedition was my son’s idea. He chose the hikes, ordered the maps and even found an inn that would take our dog.

Henry (my husband) and Stella

When I was 20, I spent a month living in a tent and backpacking in the Wind Rivers Range of Wyoming. After the trails these days, I want wine with my dinner, a hot bath, a comfortable bed and a full cooked breakfast.

L’Auberge Country Inn and Bistro in Bethel provided it all.

Our room was most unusual. At one point it had been a theater complete with stairs leading to a Juliet style balcony. Now a four-poster takes center stage. There were 2 closet-come-bedrooms, a kitchen and a full bathroom. The food was satisfying, especially the goat cheese and caramelized onion tart. I caught up on sleep.

Bethel even has an internet café, The Mouse and Bean. My son checked the radar on our one rainy morning. Our young forecaster was spot on.

The rain cleared for our hike up Blueberry Mountain. The photo is of the part before it gets steep. My kids and dog bounded up the rocky face on all fours like mountain goats. “Scrambling” is what that type of hiking/climbing without ropes is called. Terrifying is what I’d call it. I couldn’t bear to look down until we reached the summit.

Was it worth it? Check out the view here and in my opening shot.

I’ve never seen so many leaves peaking all at once. The blueberry bushes turn bright red in autumn, offset by the grey-green lichen.

We hiked up the White Cairn Trail and down the Stone House Trail, which was opposite from what John Gibson’s 50 Hikes in Coastal and Southern Maine recommended. Looking at the close contour lines, we decided it would be better on my bad knees to go up the steepest way. At 1,400 feet Blueberry Mt. is one of the smaller mountains in the park. The White Mountain National Forest stretches from Maine to New Hampshire.

I’ve seen crowds of leaf peepers in New Hampshire. In Maine we rarely encounter a soul on the trails. It’s so quiet but for the wind in the trees or a gurgle of a stream, and, oh yeah, the kids chatting. We didn’t see much wildlife, curiously.

On Deer Hill Road near North Lovell there is a wonderful blind for viewing (not shooting!) beavers, but you need to come at dawn or dusk to see them in action.

I noticed a political divide in the mountains. The few houses with year-round residents (as opposed to luxurious summer cottages) had McCain signs in their yards. All the parked cars at the trailheads had Obama stickers; most had Maine plates. On the more densely populated coast you see mostly Obama signs.

Maine is an unusual state. We have just two congressional districts, and we are one of only two states that can split our electoral college vote in presidential elections. Maine is expected to vote Democrat for the presidency even though we have two Republican senators, both moderately liberal women. Mainers are strong individuals.

Single Pole Mountain in South Paris is a good hike to break up the 2 hour drive from the White Mountains back to the coast. The leaves were just gorgeous on this easy trail.

Wind ripples made an abstract painting in an old quarry pond.

Golden leaves against the blue sky became a Japanese woodblock print.

From the summit we viewed purple mountain majesties. Those are the White Mountains. They will be snow white only too soon.

We lay on our backs to admire the perfect sky.

The leaves glowed in the late afternoon light. It was the end of the trail.

After the excitement of selling a painting at the 10X10 Art Show followed by this fun 4-day weekend, I was having trouble getting back to work on my novel. I love working for myself at home, but it requires motivation and discipline. It can get lonely. I was chatting about this with author Jane Green, and we made a pact to write a chapter on Monday and check in later. It worked so well for both of us that we did the same thing yesterday. NOT CRICKET (A MATCH FOR EVE) is back on track. Thanks, Jane!

Blog Watch

Andrew Sullivan has a really good article in The Atlantic Monthly on “Why I Blog.” Andrew is a political journalist and was one of the first bloggers. He taught me political theory at college and was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Andrew was also at Oxford with my husband in the 1980’s. It’s a small blog world.

Dave at Home Garden is hosting an on-going Fall Color Project.  Check it out for more foliage.


Cindy said...

Sarah ~ That looks like it was the perfect weekend with your family hiking and enjoying the gorgeous views. The fall color is just riotous, it's almost as if the trees are bidding us adieu and saying don't forget about me in the six plus months I'll be bare!

tina said...

Very beautiful and fun! I just adore that kaleidoscope picture of the fall color. Yes, I think the hike worth it but I have to ask. Why is it better to hike the steep trail for bad knees? Because it is shorter? Stella is beautiful with that pretty long hair. We made it back here safely with my daughter's dog. A tiny bit of adjustment then the others accepted her. We let BJ meet her first and knew once he accepted her the other two would too. Though BJ and Bella got into it for a quick second.

There is no hurry on posting on our meeting. Anytime is fine so don't worry about that. You take your time and do some more research because one of the really good things I like about your blog (in addition to meeting you in person:), is the fact you impart so much info in a well written manner so I am looking forward to that Main Street post.

Hi Cindy-I like knowing you and meeting you too!

Sarah Laurence said...

Cindy, it is a bittersweet time of year. You captured it well. I do like Maine in winter when the snow comes.

Tina, steep downhill grades put more strain on knees so it’s best to hike up the steeper trail and down the more gradual trail. It’s also safer too. I pick hikes from guidebooks or recommendations, but it’s always a good idea to check the contour lines on a geological survey map and hike with a map, compass and flashlight. It’s easy to take a wrong turn with the leaves on the ground.

I’m glad to hear you made it back safely and that the dogs are getting along. It was great meeting you, and I will be posting about it next week. I'm suffering from blog lag (too many good things going on!) but am catching up.

tina said...

Sarah, Ah, so that is why. Neat to check the contour lines before hiking. Never thought of that. I forgot to tell you Dave at the Home Garden is doing a Garden Blogger Fall Color Project, posting links to all fall color posts. A pretty good thing. Not sure if you are interested but felt I should tell you just in case. ttyl

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way to spend a weekend with the family enjoying nature. Those photos you took are gorgeous. The trees are really showing off their autumn colors at this time of the year. Thanks for stopping by my blog today & for the nice comments. :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Tina, the contour lines near the peak were pretty tight, but the rest of the hike was easy. I’ve just added at link to Dave’s Fall Color Project, see end of post. Thanks for the tip.

Perennialgardener, thanks and welcome to my blog!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I love the color in your pictures, the color is amazing. We don't have the intense color in New York yet but hopefully it will happen soon. Thanks for coming to my blog!

A Cuban In London said...

'I feel most myself in the mountains or by the sea.'

I think that that phrase pretty much sums up the content of your blog and that's why I feel so much at ease on it.

The photos are magnificent and the commentary second to none.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Greetings from London.

Anonymous said...


I have enjoyed your last two posts on the Fall in Maine. I sent my step-daughter the link to your Bowdoin photos hoping that she will consider Bowdoin for college. They were realy beautiful.

Last week we traveled on ME Route 17 between Augusta and Rockland and the colors were near peak with both individual trees bordering the highway and lush hillside meadows having the full range of yellows, oranges and reds and all combinations therein.

Fall in Maine surely lives up to the state advertising motto: The way life should be.

All the best.

Sarah Laurence said...

Louise, welcome to my blog! I’m originally from NY too. Aren’t you lucky to still have peak color coming. Our leaves are blowing down today.

ACIL, thank you. It’s nice to have company on these hikes.

Welcome, Steve G. and step daughter! You can’t go wrong with Bowdoin. It’s the quintessential New England liberal arts college. You can find more posts on Bowdoin by clicking on that label in my sidebar.

Alyson | New England Living said...

I have no words because this was just stunning! That first photo made my jaw drop.

You guys have certainly taken advantage of enjoying this beautiful fall! That hotel room was so amazing.

Yea for selling a painting!!

Dan said...

Seems like you had a very similar weekend as I did. Beautiful photo's, you most certainly visited at prime time.

I love your dog. My previous neighbor had a golden retriever, I have wanted to find one ever since she moved away.

Sarah Laurence said...

Alyson, Maine is even more stunning in real life. I think your good vibes worked magic at the art show, thanks.

Dan, welcome to my blog! I really enjoyed your fall foliage photos too. Golden retrievers are great company, but you see less wildlife when they're around.

Alyson | New England Living said...

Oh, and I didn't realize that those red bushes are blueberry ones. I've seen them around and they are amazing.

Bee said...

Many, many things: but first, your photographs are such a treat. We had that crisp, blue sky today (fairly rare in England, as you know), but it wasn't set off by those flaming colors. (Like Alyson, I had no idea that blueberry bushes turned red.) What a nice way to spend a weekend! Also, congrats on selling a painting . . . and I'm glad that you have establishing an inspirational writing buddy. When do the leaves tend to disappear?

Finally, I was interested in your comments about Maine's electoral college vote. Are the Senators not obligated to cast their votes according to the popular vote? Could they both vote Rep even if the popular vote goes Dem? I hate the winner-takes-all thing that Texas does . . . and so many votes, too!

Sarah Laurence said...

Alyson, remember where you saw those bushes and look for wild blueberries next summer. Be sure to get a positive ID on the plant first!

Bee, I remember several weeks of blue skies last fall in England although it was rare. I’m thrilled to have Jane as a writing partner. It was just the nudge I needed. The leaves are past peak and falling now, but some will last through Halloween. Sometimes snow comes before the oaks drop their last leaves in late November.

Splitting the electoral college vote is only hypothetical as it has never happened. The Congressional District Method (Maine and Nebraska) appoints votes based on the popular winner of the congressional districts. We have 2 congressional districts in Maine. The 2 Senate votes stay together so it’s only one vote out of four that could separate. Complicated, but it seems more fair than winner-takes-all.

Liisa said...

You're hiking adventure looks like it made for a wonderful weekend. The photos are beautiful. I just love the reflection in the pond of all the fall colors. I am looking forward to our trip to Maine next summer more than ever!

Sarah Laurence said...

Liisa, welcome to my blog. I enjoyed your fall photos too. Maine is especially lovely in summer and fall. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your vacation.

Les said...

Thank you for sharing your family trip with people in the flatlands where fall color is still a couple of weeks away, and where would be mountaineers are stuck unable to get away. My favorite photo is the first with the well proportioned pine, boulder and blueberries. People don't often consider just how ornamental blueberries can be. I also liked the shot of the water with the rippling colors. Thanks again!

Sarah Laurence said...

Les, thanks, those were my two favorite photos too. They didn't need any tinkering, but I took several shots to get the best one on manual settings. I’m looking forward to seeing some nice color on your blog when ours has faded all too soon. It sounds like you’ve been having a busy fall. The blueberry bushes were brighter than I’d ever seen them around Brunswick. I wonder if elevation affects the color or maybe it’s just being in full sun.

troutbirder said...

Enjoyed your pictures very much. Yes we just returned to Minnesota from New England having been among the hordes of "leaf peepers."

Sarah Laurence said...

troutbirder, welcome to my blog. You timed your leaf peeping perfectly.

Dave said...


Those pictures of the fall foliage are stunning. I would say it was well worth the challenge of climbing the rocky side to reach the top. I'm looking forward to the day when we can take the kids hiking and backpacking. It's always a great experience! I'll be adding your post to the project summaries. Thanks for joining in!


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The most exquisite pictures of the glories of the season! Almost too much to take in. I've never seen trees at that much of a peak of colour! I adore the photo of your two children and your husband walking on the leafy trail.

And I love seeing Stella! She's a beauty!

Anil P said...

What a bounty indeed. The colours are beautiful. I suppose they change with the seasons, and that it is Fall that makes them so. I'm yet to experience climbs that give way to such colour.

It's a very pretty inn. Are they booked round the year?

Just curious, why did it stop being a theatre?

Thanks for the lovely trip.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, what a wonderful outing! Your fall color is spectacular -- I was especially taken with the red lichen. I'm glad to have found your blog!

Anonymous said...

That should have read, I was especially taken with the blueberry plants ON the lichen -- what a perfect combination.

Rose said...

What beautiful views--I enjoyed going on this hike vicariously with you, Sarah. I'm afraid you won't find me hiking on any steep slopes:)
I'm curious why you didn't see many others on the trails. Do the tourists view the fall foliage from the comfort of their cars?

Looks like you had a lovely family weekend together.

walk2write said...

What a wonderful time you all had on your hike! There really is nothing like it to bring family members closer. Maybe the political divide would be healed if people from opposing camps would just go hiking together! I'm jealous of your beautiful colors there in Maine. This year, the colors in S. Illinois have been nothing to brag about, at least not yet. Glad you've found your writing groove again.

Sarah Laurence said...

Dave, welcome to my blog and thank your for the hosting fall color project. It will be nice to see more foliage as our leaves fade. I remember those years of carrying a baby on my back in the mountains. Now my son is carrying the heaviest pack with the food, and we struggle to keep up with him.

Pamela, thank you! These were the best leaves I'd ever seen. I was a bit like a dog on a walk, only I stopped to take photos instead of sniff bushes and then had to dash to catch up. I thought Edward and you would enjoy seeing Stella.

Anil, a New England fall is special. I believe the inn is open all year. We booked only a few weeks ahead of time, and they still had room. I’m not sure why it stopped being a theater, but I’d guess it was due to change in ownership.

Nancy, double welcome to my blog. It’s so easy to make typos in blog comments. I do like complementary color combinations like green and red. The contrast is so striking. I’ll come visit your blog soon.

Rose, Maine is a large state with a low population. Most leaf peepers head to New Hampshire because it’s closer and more of the White Mountain National Forest is there. Even there, the crowds thin once you hike away from the roads.

W2W, that’s a nice picture of hiking for harmony. I am back in my writing groove again. It really helps to have a partner checking in daily. It’s otherwise too easy to spend fun time on blogs etc. when we should be writing our novels.

Charlotte Agell said...

These are the days to keep in our back pockets and retrieve when the sleet slants down at that exact angle that makes it run down the back of one's neck.
AWEsome pictures. Being a middle school teacher, I am infected with that word and say it too much...but in this case I mean it - original meaning!

Donna said...

Stunning pictures! What a great weekend that must have been, and what a beautiful place. I really enjoyed reading this.

By the way, my friend was a student at Bowdoin while your husband was probably teaching there. She was there from 1998-2002. I wonder if they ever crossed paths? It sure is a small world sometimes!

Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks, Charlotte, nature is truly awe inspiring. There will be some nice snow too, but I know what you mean. I’m the poetic mouse in Frederick Fables, storing the sunshine and color for winter. We can always click back.

Thanks, Donna! My husband has taught in the Government and Asian Studies departments at Bowdoin since 1997. His webpage link is in my sidebar if your friend is curious. It’s a small world indeed.

Elizabeth said...

Your hike looked quite glorious.
The most wonderful picture was the blue/blue water reflecting the sky.
Your son took an excellent picture of you.
I too have been a bit undisciplined about the writing. What I need is a writers' group here in NY. When I lived on LI I had one for almost 20years and it forced me to get down to things.
Glad you enjoy my blog - which I spend too much time on.
I agree that S.Palin's brain is a bigger problem than her wardrobe. She would be fine if she had stayed as a sportscaster or, better yet,a too- perky weather girl......

Sarah Laurence said...

Elizabeth, thank you on the photos. Good luck forming a writers’ group. It really helps to have support. Hmm, I didn’t say anything about Sarah Palin’s brain. Maybe another commenter wrote that. What I said was that I am more concerned about her politics and lack of experience than her wardrobe.

Gretel said...

What a spectacular autumn you are having (you are not missing much over here, we are at the green and yellowy stage). I am very glad 'Not Cricket' is back on track, I am going to be one of the first to read it!

Shauna said...

What gorgeous colors! Before seeing your photos, I'd forgotten how the colors explode in the fall. It sounds like a lovely trip and how fun you brought your Golden with you. As a former Golden Retreiver owner, I've always thought they have the greatest 'smiles'.

Sarah Laurence said...

PG, I do prefer Maine in the autumn to England, but I reverse that position in the spring. Jane is my pacing partner in this novel marathon, but it’s also a big help to have readers cheering me on from the sidelines. Thank you!!!

Shauna, how right you are. Goldens do seem to smile all the time. It’s not just the expression but also the positive attitude.

kari and kijsa said...

Beautiful!!! oh -to experience fall in all its glory!! A glorious post!

Happy Saturday blessings
kari & kijsa

Sarah Laurence said...

Kari & Kijsa, thank you. I do love fall, but it’s over too soon. It was snowing in the mountains this weekend.

TBM said...

I love that your son planned this beautiful trip! I have been encouraging Roxi to tell us where she'd like to go for her breaks. She's happy to go anywhere we take here, but I would love for her to lead us on an adventure.

Your photos are truly stunning. I wish I could jump right in, Mary Poppins style.

Sarah Laurence said...

JAPRA, this was the second trip my son planned. The last one was to Scotland via train that he planned with his dad. His school vacation didn’t overlap much with his sister so I missed it. My son’s hobby is collecting maps, a most useful skill. We don’t need a GPS with him navigating. I think you’re lucky to have a daughter happy to go anywhere you choose. Sometimes we have to work to find a vacation we all want. This one was great. I loved that part of Mary Poppins too.

Curmudgeon said...

So the next time I'm "scrambling" to get my act together and get out the door in time to make my bus I'm going to try to visualize myself climbing a mountain surrounded by nature's beauty. Gorgeous colors! I will always long for Fall in New England. Here we are lacking in the intense reds and yelllows. There are mostly golds, oranges and browns. But we do have lots of the dark leafed trees that just stay dark and provide a beautiful deep plum to contrast with the golds.

Sarah Laurence said...

WWW, sometimes scrambling to get out the door on time feels harder than climbing a mountain. There really is nothing like a New England fall, but your part coast is stunning too.

Curmudgeon said...

I came back to copy the url from this post so that I could link to it in the post I did today. Looking at the pics again I was struck by Stella's sweet and quizzical expression.

The Grandpa said...

The photos are wonderful. I grew up and lived in Ohio, but moved to New Hampshire in my mid thirties when I finished graduate school. I had a friend who, when he heard where I was going, told me I was going to love it there and described the white mountains as one of his favorite places on earth. "They're like the rockies," he said, "only on a human scale." He was absolutely right.

Sarah Laurence said...

WWW, Stella does have a sweet face, but she can be very mischievous. She’s always hiding our socks and my daughter’s stuffed animals. Any food left out, especially candy, is fair game. We love her anyway. I enjoyed your scrambling post too. If others want to visit, here’s the link:

if I had a rowboat

Welcome to my blog, Grandpa! At first I thought you were my kids’ grandpa. I enjoyed visiting your blog and reading about comic grammar problems. I do love the majestic rocky mountains too, and that quotation captures the difference perfectly. Thanks for sharing it.

christina said...

Your hubby and stella are both adorable! : )

Kerri said...

Hi Sarah, I popped over from WWW's blog to see your kids scrambling up the mountain :)
Your weekend in the White Mts sounded wonderful and your photos are beautiful. The fall colors are glorious. I particularly love the 'abstract painting' in the quarry pond.
How clever of your son to find that lovely inn that accepts dogs. Stella has such a sweet face. I'll bet she loved the getaway with 'her' family :)
I linked a fall color post to Dave's too after seeing him mentioned at Nancy's Soliloquy. Great idea.

Sarah Laurence said...

Christina, thanks!

Kerri, welcome to my blog! I’m looking forward to checking out the leaves on your post. Ours have all fallen now.

Unknown said...

Came across your blog deliberately by chance: I am searching out fellow writers, particularly those living here in Maine. I grew up in the Oxford Hills, so I can appreciate your fall foliage pictures, especially those shot in South Paris, just over the tracks from my hometown of Norway...

Your blog is especially welcome. I tend to find refuge in the words of other writers when my own will not suffice. So thanks for that.

Sarah Laurence said...

Andrew, welcome to my blog! How nice to find another Maine writer. Don’t you love all the Old World Maine names: South Paris and Norway? I’ll come visit your blog too.