Fall Activities and an actual in person race in New Hampshire, state 32!

Last weekend, I headed up to the capital of New Hampshire, Concord for a weekend full of fall activities! I’m so eternally grateful that living in Massachusetts means there are so many states close by and also on the very short list of states we can visit without having to get tested or quarantine for 14 days when we return. Also, very thankful to my parents who drive their car over to me so my carless self has a way to getaway for a few days.

Start line photo

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to run a half marathon in all 50 states, with a goal of completing this before I turn 50. Covid has definitely messed up the timeline of this goal, depending how 2021 goes, the date to complete the goal may be pushed out. Anyways, I had been keeping my eye on smaller races to see which ones in the New England states I still had left might end up happening in person this year. As luck would have it, I found one in New Hampshire which was originally planned to be my final state, but I’m now going to do Rhode Island as my final state since my race there this year went virtual.

The New England Half Marathon was being held by Millenium Running who had just held a successful socially distant 10 miler the week before I signed up. On their website, they had a very detailed plan along with a video that showed all of their safety protocols. These included things like face mask requirements at the start and finish of the race, a time trial start where each runner would start by themselves every 10 seconds and marked cones 6 feet apart to line up at the start. After watching the video, I felt very comfortable with signing up for the race. State 32 here I come!

I am so glad that this was my New Hampshire race, October is the absolute perfect time to run a race in New Hampshire. Who wouldn’t want to run thru the beautiful fall foliage? It was like accomplishing two things at once, running a half marathon and leaf peeping at the same time. If you are planning to run all 50 states, definitely pick a fall race for New Hampshire.

Not only was the scenery amazing but the weather was great for running. It was pretty cold waiting to start, the temperature was 48 degrees and it was really windy, but once I started running, it was just perfect, in the 50s thru the entire race. It was good it was a cooler day, due to the timed trial start and me being on the slower side, it was almost 10:30am by the time I started, had it been a warm day, it would have been a little too warm by the time I finished after 1pm.

We were all given an estimated start time and a time to load the bus from the finish to the start area. It was all extremely organized and I never felt like there were too many people around me. Millenium Running definitely did an excellent job and have proven that smaller races can happen during this time.

Check out the gorgeous fall views during the race below:

View from Gould Hill Farm

The race started at Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton, NH, not to be confused with Hopkinton, MA where the start line of the Boston Marathon is.

This beautiful farm has been around since the 1700s and is a great place to go for apple picking, checking out the farm store, getting some apple cider donuts and also cider samplings. I definitely have to get back there some day for the cider sampling!

NH State house in Concord

The race ended in the state capital of Concord right in front of the New Hampshire State House. Opened in 1819, it is the oldest state capitol in which both houses of the legislature meet in their original chambers. It was a beautiful site to see at the end of the race. Oddly enough, even though it’s only located an hour drive from Boston, I think this may be the first time I’ve ever been to Concord. With the amount of time I’ve spent in New Hampshire over the years, it’s crazy to think of how many times I’ve driven right by the state capital without stopping.

Clock Tower

Concord has that small town New England city feel. One of the striking features of this downtown that I saw was the clock tower.

In 1873, this clock was installed on the top of the 4 story Board of Trade Building on the corner of School and North Main Street. In 1950 the top two stories of the building were taken off the building and the parts of the clock were lost.

Years later, local architect Duncan McGowan decided to bring back the history of the downtown area and went for a search for the missing parts of the clock. The bell was found thousands of miles away at a flea market in Michigan. In December of 1998, the bells of the clock tolled once again 48 years after it’s removal. What an amazing story on how important history is to a city.

Now that the race was over, I was ready to celebrate with all the New England fall activities!

Carter Hill Orchard

First up was my favorite fall activity, apple picking! Like everywhere else in New England there were multiple orchards to choose from. I checked out all the websites and settled on Carter Hill Orchard in Concord. Carter Hill is family owned and has been around since the 1700s. The current family that owns the orchards lives right on site. The orchard includes apple picking, farm stand, bakery (cider donuts!), observation tower, playground and a cider mill.

After picking apples I headed into the farm stand for my post race treat! What better way to celebrate finishing a half marathon than the true fall classic, an apple cider donut! (I also celebrated walking 4 miles today by having two of them, so running a half marathon not required to enjoy these delicious donuts lol) I also bought some fresh maple syrup and pancake mix, since I don’t feel comfortable going out to brunch, I started treating myself to brunch at home this weekend!

Medal photo in the corn maze

Another great fall activity which I have always wanted to try is a corn maze. Beech Hill Farm & Ice Cream Barn is a great place to check out in the Corncord, NH area.

Another family owned business, this farm has been owned by the Kimball family for 9 generations since 1800! If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we should all be supporting small family businesses more than ever.

There was so much to do at this farm! They have two corn mazes, an ice cream barn (which seems to be a big draw, it was in the high 50s and the line looked so long, you would have thought it was a hot 90 degree summer day!), country store, gardener’s barn, farm museum, picnic area and all sorts of farm animals! It’s definitely a great place for families to check out!

I had more fun than I thought I would in the corn mazes. They had signs within the maze to make it a little scavenger hunt where you learned some interesting facts on the theme of each maze. It definitely made it more fun and who doesn’t love learning some interesting facts? The corn mazes run from August thru October each year and are then harvested and fed to the cattle in the winter.

After finishing both corn mazes, I checked out the farm animals, they had cows, horses, sheep, goats, alpacas and even baby goats and a baby alpaca, they were so cute!

I’m a total city girl and I don’t have a car, so it’s rare that I make it out to a farm, but I must admit, I was very impressed with this farm it was just beautiful and definitely what I needed for me to be excited about fall since I’ve been spending too much time mourning summer ending.

If not for covid, I would have been doing my typical busy fall traveling and probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate a true New England weekend. It was definitely a weekend I needed, along with the fall activities and the race, I also met a good friend for some shopping at the outlets. This was the first friend I’ve seen since March and it was definitely something I needed. What a great fall getaway!

Have you taken any wonderful local trips that you normally wouldn’t have taken if not for covid?

Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated by Salsa World Traveler’s Blog for the Liebster Award. What a wonderful surprise! Please check out the blog for all sorts of interesting travel all around the world!

Rules: 

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. 
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers.
  4. Ask your nominees 11 questions.
  5. Notify your 11 nominees .

Salsa World Traveler’s Blog’s Questions and my responses:

  1. Describe the best vacation you have taken? My best vacation was to Maui in 2011, Hawaii has been the one location that I have always dreamed of visiting since I was a child and it beyond lived up to expectations! At some point I’ll get around to blogging about it, it will definitely end up being a few posts, so much to see and do there!
  2. What is the best vacation you want to take? I actually want to go back to Hawaii and visit the other islands, especially Kaui! I’m planning on hopefully taking this trip to celebrate my 50th birthday, that’s still a few years away, so hopefully covid will be a distant memory by then!
  3. What are the three best blog posts you have published? My most popular blog post was on Glacier National Park, Acadia National Park and White Mountains in New Hampshire . Obviously my readers love the outdoors!
  4. How do you measure success with your blog? I’m fairly new at blogging, so my biggest success so far is getting over 100 followers! I also measure my success by seeing if my views are increasing each month, which they are, yay!
  5. What do think about using miles and points for travel? I love using points! I just used some Marriott points last week for a free two night hotel stay. I want to feel more comfortable traveling again, I have so many JetBlue points waiting to be used!
  6. Are you no longer travelling?  If so, what will it take for you to resume travelling? I’ve done a couple of trips to neighboring state of New Hampshire. I’m a little hesitant when it comes to being indoors during covid and although I have faith in the airflow on planes, the airports are what bothers me most. Plus my state of Massachusetts is requiring either a negative test or a 14 day quarantine when returning from just about everywhere with the exception of a few states, most of which are nearby. They are going to put a testing site in the airport though, so I’m starting to book trips for 2021 though, a year without travel is about all I can take!
  7. What do you look for in deciding which blogs to follow and read? If they are things that interest me or things that will help me grow as a person and/or a business.
  8.  Who is your favorite author?  Stephen King
  9. What is favorite musical album? My all time favorite is Slippery when wet by Bon Jovi. I’m a total 80s music girl!
  10. If you had a favorite sports team in the city you lived in and moved to a new city with its own team, who would you root for? Definitely my hometown team. I am from Boston and moved to Tampa for about 11 years, never stopped rooting for the Red Sox or Patriots, they will always be my teams!
  11. What is your favorite non-blogging activity? Well obviously travel, but also running and I of course combine the two and am trying to run a half marathon in all 50 states, 32 done, 18 more to go, hopefully before that 50th birthday trip to Hawaii.

And now I nominate the following 11 blogs:

  1. Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta
  2. Lannie’s Food and Travel
  3. Jojo’s Cup of Mocha
  4. The Gen X Travels
  5. Carpe Diem Eire
  6. Lyssy in the City
  7. Travel Bugs World
  8. Adventuring Woman
  9. Meandering My Way
  10. Chalk and Cheese Travels
  11. WattWhereHow?

My Questions:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. Have you been blogging more since covid started?
  3. What do you miss the most about pre-covid times?
  4. Has anything changed for the better for you since covid?
  5. What do you do for a living?
  6. How many places have you lived?
  7. What is your favorite type of vacation to take?
  8. Do you tend to take one or two big trips a year or multiple smaller trips?
  9. Do you plan your own travel or use a travel agent?
  10. Is there one place that you continue to travel to on a regular basis?
  11. Will your holiday plans later this year be different due to covid?

No obligation to answer if I tagged you. Thanks again for the nomination Salsa World Traveler’s Blog!

Fall weekend in Acadia National Park

Going way back in the travel vault for this post. About 10 years ago in search of some beautiful fall colors, a few friends and I made the almost 300 mile drive north for a weekend at Acadia National Park.

We picked a weekend in mid October after the busy long Columbus Day holiday weekend in hopes that maybe we would be there during peak foliage with maybe less crowds. Well, fall foliage is unpredictable and doesn’t always peak at the same time each year. A lot of it has to do with summer weather. For instance this year, it is peaking earlier than normal due to the fact we experienced a very dry summer here in New England.

We ended up visiting after the peak foliage, but did luck out with lower crowds. Please do not let past peak foliage cause you to change your mind on visiting as the colors were still beautiful and vibrant and it was definitely worth the long drive there. It also was rainy and windy the day we drove up there, but luckily that did not cause too many leaves to fall off the trees just yet.

As you can see there was definitely no shortage of vibrant fall colors even though it was past peak. Even though we get the fall colors here in the city of Boston, something about being out in the wilderness just makes it so much more amazing to see!

After driving around for a bit and taking in the foliage we decided to hike to the summit of Champlain Mountain. On this 6.5 mile hike, you will gain over 1,000 feet of elevation and the views are so worth it, even on a cloudy day. I can only imagine how far you can see on a clear day. There are some great views of Frenchman Bay and you can see all the cruise ships coming in. This is a popular stop on fall cruises out of Boston heading up to Canada.

The hike up was pretty uneventful, but the hike down was pretty difficult! There were a lot of rocks with fairly smooth surfaces, that were made extra slippery from the rain the day before. I think I spent more time sliding down on my butt than actually walking on two feet to get down the mountain. Lol I’m a bit clumsy and tend to get overly cautious whenever I’m hiking down a mountain, but this was definitely something else. Thankfully we made it down in one piece!

Most people stay in Bar Harbor, Maine when visiting Acadia National Park. We checked out this cute New England town while grabbing some dinner to reward ourselves after finishing the difficult hike in one piece. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and relaxed with some local beers we picked up.

While enjoying our local beers, we were researching what to do the next day before we headed back to Boston. We found the absolute perfect way to end the trip, although when our alarms went off in the very early morning hours we weren’t too sure about our choice.

But thank god we did force ourselves to get up and out the door. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain in the park and it just so happens to be the first place in the Continental United States to see the sunrise from October to early March. How can we pass up saying we saw the sunrise in the first place in the continental US?

For the sunrise, you can get up extra early and hike to the summit or you can still get up early, just not quite as early, and drive up to the summit. We chose to drive up and were so surprised at how crowded, there were so many people out there with tripods, so we then knew this was going to be quite the greet view! Words of advice, leave earlier than you think you should so you can get a parking spot and bring something warm to wear, it’s definitely cooler and more windy at the summit! I wish I had been dressed for January weather not October!

The sunrise was probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, so it was more than worth getting out of bed so early and freezing my butt off waiting for the sun to rise. This is definitely a must do when visiting Acadia National Park!

A quick weekend definitely isn’t enough time to fully explore this park. No matter the season, there is so much to see here. Some of the activities include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, camping, beach, whale watches, puffin watches, leave peeping, scenic drives, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling to name a view.

I most definitely need to go back in the summer and take a puffin watching cruise! More to add to the bucket list!

Seattle Coffee Crawl – All the coffee and so much more!

In honor of International Coffee Day this week, I’m thinking back on probably the best tour I’ve taken while traveling, a coffee crawl in Seattle, Washington.

A number of years ago, I visited Seattle with a friend of mine to run the Rock n Roll Seattle Half Marathon. As big coffee lovers, we decided to start our trip with Seattle By Foot’s Coffee Crawl. This was the best decision we could have made, as it is still to this day the best tour I’ve ever taken!

Seattle weather is often grey and rainy, so it’s not surprising that people in Seattle consume more coffee than any other city in America. Seattle is known for it’s coffee, specifically their most famous coffee chain, Starbucks.

The first Starbucks opened in 1971 in the Pike Place Market at 2000 Western Avenue. In 1976, it moved just a short 1 minute walk away to 1912 Pike Place where it still operates today as the Original Starbucks. The store features the original logo and has kept it’s original appearance over all these years. It’s quite the tourist attraction and there is often a line to get in. But definitely worth visiting, as a major Starbucks fan, I was pretty excited to say I’ve been to the original Starbucks!

Original Starbucks

Now on to the Coffee Crawl. It was a small group, it was just me and my friend and 3 or 4 other people from what I can remember. The tour gave us some interesting history about coffee in Seattle. One thing we were surprised to learn was that the Seattle’s Best Coffee chain is actually owned by Starbucks. Here I always thought they were competitors, I guess I didn’t know my coffee chain trivia as well as I thought! Even though Seattle is known for these big giant brand name coffee shops, they also have alot of great independent coffee houses as well and we explored a few of these on the tour.

From lattes to mochas to espressos, we got to try it all at these wonderful Seattle cafes. It was interesting to hear more about the different types of coffees and cafes as well as see the large roasters that are used to help bring us these delicious coffees.

Our favorite shop was Caffe D’arte https://www.caffedarte.com/. If you are in the Seattle area, definitely check it out. Their latte was one of the best I’ve ever had! We definitely visited them again during our trip!

Waterfall Garden in Pioneer Square

Another great thing about this tour was the sites of Seattle that were pointed out to us along the way. While visiting Caffe Umbria in Pioneer Square we stopped at the Waterfall Garden for photos. Pioneer Square is the neighborhood that took over the area that was once the headquarters of UPS, back when it first started and was known as American Messenger Service. The Anne E. Casey Foundation which was started by the founder of UPS still maintains this beautiful city park which features this 22 foot man-made waterfall.

The tour guide also told us about the local transportation options in the city, suggested restaurants and told us about some lesser known sites to see. It was definitely a perfect way to start off our first full day in Seattle.

Per our tour guide’s suggestion, we headed over to the Smith Tower after the tour. After taking the historic elevators that have been in operation since 1914, we got off at the 35th floor for the observatory. When you get off the elevator you enter the China Room, home to the Wishing Chair. Legend has it if an unmarried woman sits in this chair she will be married within a chair. As someone who wasn’t (and still isn’t) in any rush to get married, I steered clear of that chair!

The views from the observation deck were pretty amazing, even on a typical grey day, this city is absolutely beautiful!

Beignets at Toulouse Petit

The absolute best recommendation we received from the coffee crawl tour guide was a restaurant recommendation. She said we just had to go to Toulouse Petit located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle and try the beignets. Say no more, if there are beignets, I’m there! The hotel we were staying at was located in the same neighborhood so we headed over there for breakfast the following morning and it exceeded expectations! The beignets were amazing, the coffee was delicious and the service was outstanding. We enjoyed it so much, we headed back there for dinner the following night and dinner was just as amazing as breakfast. I recommended this restaurant to a friend who visited Seattle the following year and her and her husband loved it as well. I will forever recommend this restaurant as one of the best in Seattle to family, friends and travel clients! If you like New Orleans type cuisine, you must check this place out! http://toulousepetit.com/

It’s so great when you go on a tour to try some coffee and you end up learning and experiencing so much more during the rest of your trip due to one tour. A good tour guide can definitely make or break a tour. I feel our tour guide not only made the tour, but also made our trip! If in Seattle, definitely check this tour out! http://seattlebyfoot.com/seattle-walking-tours/seattle-walking-tours-coffee

Do you have any tours that you’ve taken while traveling that stand out to you as some of the best?

Spectacle Island

Did you know there are 34 islands and peninsulas in the Boston Harbor? These islands and peninsulas make up the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. They make the perfect way to get away from the city life for a day. Some are accessible by public ferry while others are only accessible via private boat. This summer, due to covid-19, only Spectacle Island was accessible via public ferry, and I decided to revisit this island one Saturday in the beginning of September.

The round trip ferry costs $25 and leaves from Long Wharf in Boston, not far from the New England Aquarium. The Island is a great place to have a picnic, so stop at Faneuil Hall or the Boston Public Market and grab some sandwiches, drinks and snacks to take with you.

The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes and includes some really beautiful views of the harbor and the city of Boston. It’s a nice short relaxing trip to take in the views of this gorgeous city.

Spectacle Island is 114 acres and is located just 4 miles offshore of downtown Boston. It’s named Spectacle Island as the island is composed of two drumlins connected by a spit which make it resemble a pair of spectacles.

Back in 1847, two hotels were built on the island. Sadly they were closed just ten years later when police discovered the hotels were being used for gambling and other illegal activities. In 1857, it was used as a horse rendering plant and after that it was used as a landfill. The dump on the island closed in 1959, but the trash remained there until 1992.

In the 1990s, the main highway thru Boston started to go through a major reconstruction. They basically took the highway which originally went straight thru the city and instead built a tunnel for the part of the highway that went thru downtown. It took years and was a big nightmare for locals and visitors alike. They called it the “Big Dig”. I mean it is quite the Big Dig to build a tunnel thru a busy downtown. Well when the Big Dig took place, they decided to use the land that was dug up in the Big Dig and take it to Spectacle Island to fill in the landfill

Then finally in 2006, the beautiful Spectacle Island we know today was opened to the public. Visiting there today you would never know that it was a landfill for all those years.

There are many activities that you can enjoy on Spectacle Island, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a great place to have a picnic with views of the Boston skyline in the distance. There’s a small beach, hiking trails and plenty of beautiful areas to sit and enjoy your surroundings.

During pre-covid times, there was even more to do on the island including a small visitors center with some history of the island and a snack bar.

The island would host many events over the summer months, such as a yoga classes, kayaking, clam bakes and live jazz music to name a few.

As most of you know I’m an avid runner, so one of my favorite events on the island is the annual 5K. Nothing better than taking a boat to a race! Due to the island being pretty hilly and the lack of shade, it’s definitely a challenging 5K, but also a lot of fun!

Definitely make sure to walk around the entire island to take in the views from all sides of the island, I honestly could not get enough of the gorgeous views. So close to Boston, yet I still felt so far away, which in a year lacking travel, that definitely felt really nice.

Have you ever visited one of the Boston Harbor Islands? If not, and you will be in Boston during the summer thru the beginning of fall, definitely put this on your list, it’s a great little break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

More to do in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

There is so much to see in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From hiking trails to covered bridges to waterfalls and kayaking or tubing down the river, you will not run out of things to see when visiting this region. It’s actually the perfect covid trip since there is so much to do outside in the fresh air where it’s safer than indoors and so much wide open space making it easy to social distance.

Flume Gorge

On my first full day of my trip to New Hampshire last month, I visited Franconia Notch State Park. I started the day visiting the Flume Gorge. If you have limited time in this area, this is a great place to visit to get a taste of quite a few of the highlights of the area. While visiting the Flume Gorge, you can see the gorge itself as well as a couple of covered bridges, a waterfall and beautiful mountain views. It’s suitable for families, but some of the uphill parts may be difficult if you aren’t in the best shape. Even though I run all the time, parts of it had me out of breath.

The first site you will come to is The Flume Covered Bridge. It was built in 1886, making it one of the oldest covered bridges in the state. It stretches across the Pemigewasset River. This was an easier part of the walk, as you started high above and made your way down to the bridge.

You then make your way up into the gorge. The gorge is absolutely beautiful and makes life seem small while walking thru with the 70-90 foot tall granite walls along side you.

Once you make it to the top, you will reach Avalanche Falls. Spend some time listening to these relaxing falls.

As you make your way down, you will come to the Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool. The Pool was formed at the end of the Ice Age some 14,000 years ago. by a stream flowing thru a glacier.

It’s a great experience to walk thru the covered bridge and look down at the pool below.

There were definitely some gorgeous views on this hike thru the flume gorge.

After the Flume Gorge, I decided to take a short hike nearby. I hiked up the Artist Bluff Trail and the views were just amazing! It was just a 1.5 mile hike with only 390 feet elevation gain. Hiking this trail reminded me of how much I miss traveling. I started talking to a guy on the trail who had been making the best of the bad situation that is 2020, he was from California and had been laid off and decided to take a solo road trip across the country. It was interesting to hear his experience and it reminded me what I absolutely love about solo travel – meeting new people and hearing their travel experiences!

The trail was a little more strenuous than I thought it would be since it was pretty rocky. The whole way up I imagined my clumsy self slipping on the rocks on the way down. Luckily I made it down in one piece without falling and boy were those views worth it!

Old Man of the Mountain

When I was a child we spent many summer vacations in New Hampshire and one of the highlights of the ride there was to stop and see the Old Man of the Mountain. The rocks at the top of this mountain jut out in a way that it looked like the profile of a man and it was a big tourist spot right off the highway. Sadly in May of 2003, the rocks collapsed and the old man was no more. They have since created a memorial to the Old Man and have these steel profilers that if you stand behind them it makes it look like the old man is back on the mountain. Definitely needed to visit this for nostalgia purposes.

Kayaking the Saco River

The next day I headed east over to North Conway. North Conway is located not far from the New Hampshire-Main border and is a busy town with lots of restaurants and shops. The Saco River flows thru here and is a great place to go tubing, kayaking and canoeing. There were so many groups of people out tubing together. Since I was alone, I decided to take a 5 mile kayak trip. It started off as a beautiful day but a little over halfway thru, it started pouring so hard I had to go to shore and get out of the kayak because I could not see! After about 20 minutes of trying to take cover under a tree (which didn’t really help much), the rain stopped and the sun came back out. The ironic thing about this is that according to the weather app on my phone, this was the one day there wasn’t a chance of rain on my trip and the only day I got stuck outside in it! It was a great kayaking experience but even though it poured during it, there has been a lack of rain this summer and the already shallow Saco River was even more shallow. There were parts I had to get out of the kayak and push it down river to deeper water. But it was a lot of fun and after I had a late lunch and did some shopping at the outlet mall.

Echo Lake State Park

My last day of the trip, I headed over to Echo Lake State Park. This beautiful park has a picnic area, swimming and kayaking in the lake and hiking. There was a beautiful easy hike around the lake. There was also other more difficult trails that went off of the lake trail. I took one of these up to Cathedral Ledge and it was so nice to hang out by the lake in the picnic area after the hike to relax and have something to eat.

The Cathedral Ledge Hike was 2.8 miles round trip and had 669 feet elevation. Every time I do these hikes, I wonder how I ever managed hikes that were in the 1000s of feet since these ones in the 100s make me feel so out of shape! I guess things were easier when I was younger.

It was really a beautiful hike and the views from the top definitely made it worth it. I could have sat up there all day taking in these views!

On my way back to the hotel I stopped in Crawford Notch State Park to hike up to Ripley Falls. This hike was just 1.1 miles roundtrip with 308 feet elevation gain. It was definitely well worth it! The falls were beautiful and the hike wasn’t too bad. It started by crossing some train tracks which had me thinking of the movie, Stand By Me, which I ended up watching this weekend for the first time in forever and I had forgotten what a great movie it is!

Although summer is a beautiful time to visit the White Mountains, I wish I could head up there in the fall as well to see all the colorful leaves. But even though it was only August, there were definitely some signs of fall already.

Thankfully the leaves get beautiful here in Boston as well so I’ll still get some beautiful fall views just without the mountains.

I hope you enjoyed my few posts on New Hampshire, this is just a few of the many things to do in this wonderful state. There is so much more to see! If you are ever planning a trip here, remember Beyond the Miles Travel is here to help you plan that perfect New England getaway. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com

Mount Washington

We all have those places not too far from home that we always say we will go visit someday but never do since we are so busy traveling all over the world. 2020 has given us a perfect opportunity to turn someday into today. For me one of those places was the summit of Mount Washington, just a few hours away from home.

Part of the Presidential range, located in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, Mount Washington is the highest summit in the northeastern US at 6,288 feet.

Mount Washington is well known for having some of the worst weather on earth. It’s in the path of three major storm tracks and usually takes the brunt of any passing storms due to it being the highest peak in the northeast. Due to this erratic weather, there is a weather observatory located on the summit.

The temperature at the summit is usually much colder than down in the valley below. While summer days can get up to 80-90 degrees in the valley, the highest ever recorded temperature on the summit is only 74 degrees. The lowest recorded temperature was 49 degrees below zero. On average the temperature falls below zero on over 65 days each year.

But the big weather story on the summit is the wind. In the winter, over half the days see hurricane force wind speeds of over 75 mph. The highest wind speed ever observed by man was 231 mph on the summit of Mount Washington on April 12, 1934. Note that I used the words “observed by man” because there is actually a higher wind speed of 253 mph that has been recorded by weather instruments in April 1996 on Barrow Island off the coast of western Australia during Typhoon Olivia. Regardless of where the highest wind speed was recorded, Mount Washington is definitely known for the wind. Just this August Tropical Storm Isaias quickly went thru New England (I swear it lasted about 20 minutes in the city of Boston, nothing more than a summer thunder storm) and the wind on Mount Washington reached 147 mph.

Now that you know a little more about what makes Mount Washington so special, let’s talk about the three ways that you can reach the summit:

Hike to the summit – If you are up for it, hiking to the summit is the most adventurous way to go. There are numerous trails you can take, some easier or harder than others. They are all full day difficult hikes, so not necessarily for a beginner hiker. Maybe something to work up to after trying some more moderate hikes. The most popular trail is the Tuckerman Ravine Trail which is 8.2 miles roundtrip, has 4,280 ft elevation gain and will take you 7-9 hours. There is a Shelter half way up the trail with a well water pump and restrooms available.

Mount Washington Auto Road – Not up for a hard hike, feel free to drive the 7.6 mile auto road up to the summit. The auto road opened in 1861 as the Mount Washington Carriage Road and is America’s oldest and continuously operating man made attraction. The narrow road has an average 12% grade and no guardrails so it’s not the most fun ride for anyone with a fear of heights. To commemorate the somewhat scary ride on this road, each car driven up is given a “This car climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself or just want to be able to sit back and enjoy the view, there are guided tours that will take you up the road.

Cog Railway: The final way to get to the summit is to take the Mount Washington Cog Railway to the summit. Being that I was on a solo trip, I decided that this was my best option to get to the summit. And I’m glad I did, it was such a unique experience.

After getting stuck in a pretty bad storm and having to spend the night on the mountain, New Hampshire native, Sylvester Marsh came up with the idea to invent a train that would transport tourist up to the summit. He took the idea to the state Legislature where they thought his idea was so crazy that they allowed him to build his “railway to the moon”.

On July 3, 1869 the first trip set off to the summit and trains have been using these same tracks and cog technology ever since.

For the first 40 years, wood-fired boilers powered the trains up the mountain and beginning in 1910, coal was used to power the train.

In 2008, the first biodiesel powered locomotive was dedicated. During the peak summer months, the six biodiesel locomotives take tourists up the mountain on an hourly basis.

A couple of times a day a steam powered locomotive will take tourists up to the summit. When my train was making it’s way down the mountain, we passed the steam locomotive at the Waumbek tank where it was stopped to take on more water.

About halfway up, you will reach Jacob’s ladder, the second steepest trestle in the world at a 37.41% grade.

Once at the summit, you are given an hour to look around before catching another train back down the mountain. On a clear day, you can see 4 states, the Canadian province of Quebec and even the Atlantic Ocean. I was lucky that it was somewhat clear when I reached the summit, you could see up to 80 miles away. But the weather on the summit definitely changed quickly in that hour. By the time I met the train to head down there was nothing but clouds. I most definitely lucked out with the view!

I highly recommend taking the cog railway up to the summit of Mount Washington. It was definitely a unique experience and the guides on the train made the ride even more interesting by discussing the history and even talking of personal stories from over the years working there.

They also had safety precautions in place due to covid-19 including: face masks required on the train, hand sanitizer provided as you got on and empty rows to separate families.

It was really great to be able to do something on vacation with some history involved. For those few hours, I felt like I forgot about everything going on in 2020 and felt like I was back to my normal traveling self! Definitely no better feeling in the world than that!

Omni Mount Washington Resort

I recently returned from my first covid trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Since 2020 is the year of so many cancelled trips, I decided to treat myself and stay at a hotel that I’ve always dreamed of staying at, The Omni Mount Washington Resort.

This historic hotel located in the shadow of Mt Washington is on the US National Register of Historic Places and is a US National Historic Landmark.

The hotel opened in July of 1902 and in 1944 it was the location of the Bretton Woods Monetary Conference, where the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were established.

For decades, the hotel would close in late fall and reopen in the spring. But in 1999, it became a year round hotel when it opened for it’s first winter season.

The hotel definitely has that vibe that it looks like it’s straight out of a Stephen King movie, so it’s not surprising it’s been featured in a couple of episodes of the TV show Ghost Hunters.

The interior of the hotel definitely had that old school charm with the usual modern amenities. They also did a wonderful job with their covid protocols. The Omni website listed all of the protocols down to the extra cleaning they would do. They had the sitting areas in the lobby roped off and had signs to encourage social distancing. There was also ample hand sanitizer available in common areas and two masks and hand wipes available in the hotel room. They also had items such as the tv remote and do not disturb sign in a sealed bag in the room. All of these items made me feel extremely safe and happy with my choice of lodging.

My favorite feature of the hotel was the beautiful wraparound porch. It’s a great place to sit in the mornings enjoying your coffee and in the evening it comes alive with people taking in the mountain views while enjoying drinks and small plates. I could sit there every morning and night and it would never get old.

The grounds around the hotel are beautiful. There is a golf course as well as hiking trails. But be mindful that you are in the mountains, so watch out for bears. I actually saw a bear cross the path as I was running one morning. I really wish I had gotten a picture of the bear, it was so adorable! Although I was glad I was at the end of my room so I wouldn’t be spending too much time on the lookout for more bears!

I highly recommend this hotel if you are heading to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In next week’s blog, I’ll talk more about Mount Washington and all the ways you can see the highest mountain in the northeastern US.

First covid vacation

Quick post this week as I’m on my last night of my first vacation during covid.

I left for my trip last Thursday August 20th. As I was packing, I thought of the last trip I took, hard to believe I returned from that trip on February 25th, almost 6 full months ago. Since I don’t own a car, I hadn’t left the city of Boston at all in those 6 months and I had cancelled 6 trips in that time : Disney, Punta Cana, Providence RI, Ireland, Minnesota and Atlanta. Crazy how different 2020 ended up.

So many places I wanted to go! I originally was going to road trip to WV and run a half marathon this weekend (which was still held in a socially distanced way), but due to quarantine requirements in MA, I decided to play it safe and head to NH for some hiking, kayaking and relaxing.

It ended up being a great trip and I felt very safe since I was outdoors most of the time. 2020 is definitely the year we take advantage of everything nearby that we normally take for granted. Look out for future blog post starting next week all about my trip!

Tips to plan travel during a pandemic

2020…it’s been a long year so far and now that things have opened up a little more, we are all eager to get a change of scenery and also to get a little bit of normalcy back into our lives. For those of us who live to travel, that’s the top thing on our mind.

While we all are eager to get on a plane and go explore far off lands, that may not be the best idea at the moment. But we can still travel somewhere, it may not be somewhere that was originally on our bucket list and it may not be that far from home, but there is always some place for us to explore. There are things to keep in mind while traveling during this time though….

Travel Restrictions: The number one thing you must do when planning a trip is to find out the travel restrictions of where you are going and at home for when you return. Most countries have closed their borders, but even when staying within your own country, different states have different restrictions. I live in the US in the state of Massachusetts. We had quite a surge at the beginning of the pandemic, but the past few months our numbers have been on the low side. I originally was planning to head to West Virginia later this week to run a half marathon. It’s one of the few road races that is actually still happening, but a few weeks ago, our governor in Massachusetts said there is a mandatory 14 day quarantine to anyone coming into the state (with the exception of a few other states with lower new cases, mainly the other states in the northeast) and there was actually a fine involved if caught not quarantining. Now I’ve been working from home and could get away with quarantining when I return, but do I really want to not be able to leave the house for 2 full weeks, I’m not sure I could handle the thought of not being able to go for a run or a walk for that long! Also, there’s the thought of, how will they even enforce this, but being that I’m a big rule follower and have a guilty conscience, I just can’t risk it. So I deferred the race to 2021 (fingers crossed things improve a bit by then) and I’m headed to New Hampshire for vacation instead.

Virus Spread: Another thing to consider, is the virus spreading alot where you plan on visiting. New Hampshire has a low amount of cases, only about 20-30 per day vs. Massachusetts 100-300 per day. I may be safer going on vacation than being home in Boston!

Transportation: How will you get there, do you need to fly or can you drive? Everyone will have their own comfort level when it comes to flying, I’m not at the point that I don’t feel comfortable being inside a plane around other people for hours, so driving seems like a safer option to me. With driving you do still need to think of things, like restrooms along the way or if you will need to stop and eat and if you will feel comfortable with this. How comfortable you feel about these things will help decide if you go somewhere just a couple of hours away so you don’t need to stop or if you feel comfortable stopping you can take a longer road trip.

Activities available at location: What activities are available at the location you are going? Are there things you can do outside where the risk is lower than inside? Are there activities you can do that allows you to social distance? Also do these activities require reservations? You’d be amazed at the number of places that now do require a reservation. Some of the state parks in New Hampshire are requiring reservations to limit the amount of people in the park. Make your reservations early, i went to make a reservation and only one day that I was going to be there was available!

Lodging: Where will you stay? Do you feel comfortable staying in a hotel where you will have to walk thru lobby and take elevators where you may come into contact with other people? Do you prefer to rent a house so you can stay away from others? Either way, make sure to check the covid-19 procedures. Will they require face masks in public areas and what are their cleaning procedures? Most major hotel chains are doing extra cleanings and even keeping rooms empty for a few days after a guest checks out. I am staying in a hotel and have purchased this tool to open doors and push elevator buttons, may be overkill, but definitely won’t bother me to use it.

Extras to pack: During this time there are some items you may not normally pack that you will need to now. Face masks, lots of places are requiring them (if only everywhere would) and you should bring multiple with you as you will probably be wearing them each day. Also bring along some disinfecting wipes to wipe things down in the hotel room that you will be touching frequently. Hand sanitizer is something I always have with me, but I’m definitely bringing extra as I’ll probably be using it more than normal. You may also want to bring some snacks and water with you to limit the amount of places you need to stop inside. Also a good idea to bring paper towels to use to open restroom doors and other high touch areas in public. I am also bringing my own pillow, may sound crazy, but with the virus entering our body thru mouth, nose or eyes, I prefer to have my head on my own pillow that I know only I’ve handled.

Strengthen your Immune System: It doesn’t hurt to make sure your immune system is in tip top shape when you travel even without a pandemic going on. No one wants their vacation ruined by illness. About a week before I travel, I usually up my elderberry and vitamin c intake.

I also make sure to pack these items as well and take them each morning while on my trip.

Have fun! Most important, have fun on your trip, be safe, take all the precautions necessary but enjoy your trip like you enjoyed your pre-pandemic travels.

It’s a lot to have to think about, more so than when planning a vacation prior to 2020. Remember no matter how far or close you are traveling, there are many travel agents out there willing to help. They will know all the current travel restrictions and other covid-19 related information you will need for your trip. And by using a travel agent you can also help a small business during a time their industry is struggling.

Have you gone on a trip recently? Do you have one coming up? Do you have any tips to share?