Day Trippin’ in the Great North Woods
Route 3 or Route 16 and you’re in the Great North Woods.
• The North Country Moose Festival, Aug. 27-29 in Colebrook (North Country Chamber of Commerce, 237-8939, northcountrychamber.org) celebrates all the majesty and mayhem of North America’s largest land mammal. Street fairs, food, live music, arts and crafts, and of course, guided moose tours are all part of this three-day memorial to the moose.
• Beaver Brook Falls Wayside Area (323-2087, nhstateparks.org) between Colebrook and Stewartstown Hollow is a popular place to begin your Great North Woods hike. Some of the trails here are for experienced hikers, but the park also offers picnic areas and great views of the Beaver Brook Falls can be seen not far from the parking lot.
• Lake Francis and the Connecticut Lakes (North Country Chamber of Commerce, 237-8939, nhconnlakes.com) near Pittsburg shows off New Hampshire at its pristine best and has some of the best fishing in the Northeast. Even if the trout and salmon aren’t biting, there’s plenty of other wildlife — beaver, deer, moose, even the occasional black bear are just some of the area’s permanent residents. If you get angled out, the Pittsburg-Clarksville, the Happy Corner and the River Road covered bridges make some of the best photo ops in the area.
• Acquired by the state in 1998, Lake Umbagog (482-7795, nhstateparks.org) is located on the Maine border near the town of Errol. (Is there another town called Flynn? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Lake Umbagog has just about everything – unspoiled scenery, camping, fishing, hiking, boating, you name it.
Lake Umbagog, like the other state parks, has an admission charge, typically $3, and additional fees, like campground reservations, may have an additional charge, so do check before you go.
Since the trip up north represents quite a little jaunt for some of us, it would be a tall order to experience everything the Great North Woods has to offer and still get home in time for “The Sopranos,” so I’ve included a few places to stay.
Most of our doin’s have camp sites available, but if you’re more like me —where roughing it means cutting my filet mignon with a butter knife — I need an actual bed to sleep on, and I prefer not to share it with any four-, six- or eight-legged partners. (My dogs and cat don’t count; I’m reasonably certain they won’t bite me in the middle of the night — well, the dogs anyway.)
If you’re going north in style, it’s got to be The Balsams (800-255-0800, thebalsams.com) in Dixville Notch. One hundred and thirty years young, this grand dame of the North Country is luxury at its finest. The service is on the American Plan, which essentially means it’s all-inclusive. One price gets you accommodations, choice of the menu dining and unlimited use of all the facilities, activities and entertainment at this 15,000-acre resort. This ain’t the “No Tell Motel,” so the service, expected attire of hotel guests (guys: jackets, gals: keep it covered) and the prices reflect that.
This is my pick for regally roughing it: The Tall Timber Lodge (800-83-LODGE, talltimber.com) in Pittsburg features rustically elegant rooms in the lodge and lakeside cabins and cottages with cathedral ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, barbecue grills, fully equipped kitchens, VCRs, stereos with CD players and spa tubs, many with views of Back Lake, an “unofficial” Connecticut Lake.
Dining at The Balsams is part of the whole experience there. Entrees like veal medallions and seared scallops with sun-dried tomato cream and sautéed orange marinated chicken breast with fig compote will make you wonder why you don’t get up north more often. What’s more, meals are included in your room rate if you’re a guest. If you’re not staying at the resort, you might still be able to get a table, but try and make plans well in advance. This is a popular resort.
The Rainbow Grille and Tavern at the Tall Timber Lodge serves hearty breakfasts and the dinner menu features seafood and game. Although lunch is not served in the dining room, you can ask for a midday meal packed to go.
The Sutton Place (237-8842, suttonplacedining.com) in Colebrook has been a landmark in the area since 1868. The seafood, chicken and steak must be of the highest quality or the chef won’t buy it. One note here: they are open Tuesday through Saturday and serve dinner only, seating 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
If you’re looking for something arguably lighter, try the Le Rendez Vous French Bakery Café & Belgian Chocolate (237-5150) on Main Street in Colebrook. Certified bakers Marc Ounis and Verlaine Daeron hail from Paris and create just about any type of bread you can think of. Friday is the big bread day here, so you may have to wait in line for your blackberry croissants or herb bread. They also have gluten-free pastries and breads. If you’re looking to satisfy you sweet tooth, you also can nibble on some imported hand-dipped Belgian chocolate while waiting for your baguettes. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday.