DNA X #12 The Great North Woods
N 44 52, 00 /W 71 15, 00
Elevation – 1821 FT
Weather – cool, 68F
Average snowfall- 250 inches
At last we found some cool air on our Discover North America Expedition. We aim Blackie away from coastal Maine to neighboring New Hampshire. This was the first state to declare itself independent of England and that pioneering ethos has continued ever-since. Just north of here is the Canadian province of Quebec, south; Massachusetts; west, Vermont. A little piece of NH touches the Atlantic Ocean, but the state is usually associated with the imposing White Mountains. Called the Granite State it’s easy to see why, the rugged terrain dominates the senses and challenges the mind. Cutting through the mountains at various intervals are the famous “notches” (passes) of the state. Either carved by glaciers or rivers these gaps in the granite have names like Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch and Dixville Notch. We head for Dixville and one of the remaining grand dames of New Hampshire’s old resort hotels; The Balsams. First opened after the civil war, the hotel has changed hands and had numerous renovations, most during the early 20th century. The website looked impressive and the all-inclusive price was attractive. The resort has it’s own ski mountain, 2 golf courses and 15,000 acres of private trails and lakes with guides to show you around. We check in and realize there are no TV – no loss – or air conditioning in the room but it seems cool enough and the room has a fan (small). The room is definitely turn of the last century and even though we are in the “new” wing – circa 1920 – things are vintage but clean. We head out to explore the area; the 18-hole golf course is up the mountain and aptly called the Panorama Golf Course – (complementary to hotel guests). Dixville Notch overlooks the lake in front of the hotel and the gardens are beautiful. We take our time getting to dinner – jackets required after 6pm gentlemen and no jeans – and arrive a few minutes late. We are informed that the dinning room closes in 15 minutes, that’s at 8pm. We are taken to “our” table that will be ours for the duration of the stay, no excuse for getting lost or being late and quickly order from the set menu. In walks one big unhappy family, just arriving from one of those clogged cities to the south. The teenagers look unimpressed and the surly son blurts out “out of the car and into the land of no service” as he fumbles with his cell phone. God forbid if he can’t be texting 24/7, 365. The Balsams is as old school as it gets and even though some things are a little rough around the edges the whole point of going there is to un-plug from the techno world and get outside to smell the flowers and hear the birds sing. It’s a sad fact that the younger generation has been blindsided with technology in an age that needs more people to tune in to the natural world and help protect what’s left of it. After dinner there is “entertainment” so we check out the act. In the theater is a real live Hypnotist- complete with audience participation and no cell phones.
We retire to the room with the windows open and hear the loon calling from the lake below- AC would have drowned out his song after-all. In the night, a squall line rumbled up the valley toward the notch. Acting like a funnel, the notch sucked in the approaching gale and drove the rain side-ways right into our room. As Jay snored, I rushed to the windows to close them – no luck – they are the old types that have counter weights inside the frame (inaccessible) and somehow it would not budge. The only hope of averting a flood and electrocution – the fan was propelling rain across the room – was to close the window shade and hang on! Lightning flashed and thunder roared. In the maelstrom Jay woke up and asked what was I doing wrestling with that window shade? He tried to shut the stuck window, to no avail. He decides to try to close the bathroom window and in the confusion ends up in the closet! I’m sure the chaos woke up some of the resident ghosts as more creaking and tapping continued after the storm departed.
The next day was spectacular. We take a hike and then drive to Colebrook for some shopping. Back at the Balsams we realize why Dixville Notch seemed so familiar. It is the site of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Just before midnight the day before the election every registered voter in Dixville arrives at the Balsams Ballot Room for a head count and all must be present. At the stroke of midnight the voters cast their ballots and become the first in the nation to report the results. The Ballot room is open for visits during the day.
The surrounding forests accented with waterfalls are home to large mammals like moose, Black Bear and deer and smaller animals like beaver, porcupine, Red Fox and snow shoe hare. There are birds galore including the once endangered Peregrine Falcon that calls the cliffs above the Balsams home. This pristine wilderness is protected forever for all to enjoy and emulates the phrase the resident humans have given this state – “Live Free or Die”.