Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mt. Washington - The Cog Railway and A Bucket List!

We receive hundreds of calls a year from potential guests asking what there is to do in the Bethlehem area so they can plan on how long to stay at our NH B&B.  So I'm determined to blog more and help guests experience all of the adventures within a short drive of Bear Mountain Lodge.  With so much to do, I thought I'd have a hard time picking my first experience to share but that only lasted a minute -- of course I had to pick The Cog Railway since it's our favorite as well as the top pick for guests in summer and foliage seasons.

My fascination with Mt. Washington started when I was a little kid in the mid-70s!   One summer our family decided to take the van up the Auto Road and I can say that we were totally unprepared for what we experienced.  Down below it may have been in the 80s, but at the summit it was in the 30s and windy.  By the time we came out of the observatory, it had started snowing and was a total whiteout.  I have distinct memories of everyone on the van holding hands making a chain of people as our guide got us back to the van for the nail biting ride back below the summit.  Back in 1998 just before Michael and I got married, we recreated that trip but drove Michael's pickup up instead of taking the van.  It again was sunny at the bottom but windy up top.  That's the way Mt. Washington rolls - she tricks you!  While he enjoyed it, he had to concentrate so hard on the road that he didn't get to see it all.  So we figured someday we'd ride The Cog and he could relax and take it all in.

Mt. Washington Facts:  At 6,288 ft. Mt. Washington is the highest point in the Northeast and the observatory at the top is a cool place to learn about Mt. Washington's incredible weather.  The highest recorded wind was 231 miles per hour recorded back in April 1934, which remains to this day the world record for land-based weather stations.   Knowing how crazy the weather can be up there, we always warn our guests to bring along a coat even when it's in the 80s and 90s here just 20 minutes away.  That's because the average temp on the summit is 26.5 degrees and the average windspeed is 35.3 mph.  Most guests realize we probably know what we're talking about and bring a coat or sweatshirt.  Those who don't often return with a warm new souvenir from the top!

So once we moved to Bethlehem and opened Bear Mountain Lodge, we of course had to ride The Cog.  After all, our great room looks directly at Mt. Washington and our guests have been enjoying the trip since the B&B opened back in 2005.  On our first trip up Michael basically rode the train standing the entire time … the photo above shows the observatory in the background as we're approaching the summit!

If you're still reading you probably wonder how this all relates to a bucket list … after living here for almost a decade, Michael's Mom Tomi casually mentioned that riding The Cog Railway was on her bucket list.  We looked at each other and thought you've got to be kidding us, you never mentioned it and we live right here.  So last year we waited until we saw the weather was going to be perfect and had her drive over.  One of us typically has to "man the Lodge" so I volunteered to stay back and Michael and the kids took her to fulfill that bucket list item.  What a day they all had.

So if you want to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip up to the summit of Mt. Washington, my recommendation is to take The Cog.  The views are incredible, the history of the train is fascinating and on a clear day you can see all the way to New York and Maine!  And you'll have the memories of the ride to share and last a lifetime.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Moving Tons of Snow … Opening the Mt. Washington AutoRoad!

Every year, the crew at The Mt. Washington Auto Road undertakes the huge task of getting the snow off the road so that thousands of guests can enjoy a ride into the clouds to visit the Observatory and capture amazing photos.  At 6,288 ft in elevation, Mt. Washington is the tallest peak east of the Rockies and is known to have the worst weather in the World!

As I'm writing this post, it's 17.9 degrees at the Observatory with wind blowing at over 36 miles an hour - and it's April 25th.  You can just imagine what the weather is like all winter long when the road is closed because of the conditions and is only accessible by SnowCoach.  These photos show what an enormous task they have to get the road ready for visitors come May - sometimes it's not ready to mid-May depending on Mother Nature. 

As I scrolled through Facebook photos on the Mt. Washington AutoRoad's page, I was amazed to see these old photos showing just how this incredible task was accomplished years ago before we had modern machinery.  And to think we all squawk when we have to shovel out our car - these guys did miles of road with 20' or more by hand with shovels. 

                                              Photo from the Douglas A Philbrook collection.

As Innkeepers, we are often asked what's a must do activity when coming to The White Mountains.  I can honestly say that if a guest only has a couple days and wants to have an amazing experience, then they should definitely go to the top of Mt. Washington.  Whether by train on the Cog Railway, driving up in their own car listening to the audio CD they provide, or riding up with a guide in the coach (now a large passenger van but previously a horse drawn stagecoach) it's an amazing experience.

But be warned, it can be 80 degrees down here at Bear Mountain Lodge and only 20 degrees up on the mountain so jackets are always recommended.  So if you're coming to visit us this year and want to have an incredible day, check out the many options for getting to the top of Mt. Washington and taking in the splendor - Michael and I never tire of the trip.

And thanks to all the hardworking people who clear the road and make it possible for us all to enjoy the ride!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

ATV Adventures - Beautiful NH Scenery & Wildlife The Fun Way!

Jericho State Park w/ Jericho Lake in Background
Many of our guests enjoy driving through NH's White Mountains to view our fabulous scenery, while others head out early to climb one of our 4,000 footers.  Some board The Cog Railway to ascend to the top of Mt. Washington and many explore the breathtaking Flume Gorge.  But our most adventurous guests looking for a day of fun zipping down trails with incredible views head up to Jericho State Park for an incredible day of ATV riding.

And we can personally attest that it's one of the most fun days you'll have taking in our beautiful natural surroundings.  Last summer the four of us loaded up our Polaris 2 seat ATV and headed up to Gorham and Northeast ATV Rentals to rent another Polaris Razor for the day.  After a brief video and picking out helmets, we followed their guide down the streets of Gorham on the ATVs to the trailhead and the fun began.  If you've never driven an ATV down the main streets of a town in line with passenger vehicles, it's an odd feeling at first but you quickly get used to it.  It's part of the norm here in the Gorham and Berlin and the drivers watch out for the ATVs.

Jericho has hundreds of miles of ATV trails, a beautiful lake where you can also rent canoes and kayaks and one incredible view after another.  The trails are very well laid out offering various terrain providing a great day of riding.  You never feel bored like it's one long trail offering the same view, it's constantly changing.  Navigating boulders, avoiding (or ploughing through) mud holes, slow rides down tree lined sections with appreciated shade and ascending open mountain top trails leading to a warming hut and bathroom facilities with these incredible views all round out the perfect day.

We entered Jericho in Gorham but there are entrances in Berlin as well.  We decided to do the entire loop leaving Jericho in Berlin (again driving down the streets of Downtown Berlin on our ATVs) and looped over to the railroad bed which follows along the Androscoggin River.  Along that route, there is a side road leading to this beautiful waterfall.  Back on the trail heading toward Gorham, you'll cross a bridge spanning the river and back into the park.  All in all, a beautiful day of fun in our New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Whether you bring your own ATVs here to Bear Mountain Lodge (we gave spaces for trailer parking) or you rent them from Northeast ATV, we hope you'll come visit us and enjoy a trip to Jericho State Park this season - open from May 23rd to November 11, 2014.  Happy riding!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Accommodations For New England Brewfest - Bear Mountain Lodge Willie Bear Contest

On Saturday, June 29th, breweries from all over New England will gather at the Lincoln Village Shops (Exit 32 off of Route 93) for the 9th Annual New England Brewfest. Over 30 breweries will be participating with over 100 beers on tap, including: Woodstock Brewery, Long Trail, Angry Orchard, Sam Adams, Magic Hat, Tuckerman, Shipyard, Harpoon and Redhook. The day features a great lineup of live entertainment from Rustic Overtones, Mo's Blue Band and Air Traffic Controller. Your ticket includes admission into the event, an official tasting glass and all beer samples (no drink tickets required), live entertainment and free parking. This is a must for beer enthusiasts.
Bear Mountain Lodge is located just 25 minutes north of Lincoln. Our award-winning log cabin B&B features 9 guest rooms, many with steam showers, fireplaces and jacuzzis. To make the weekend even more exciting, all guests staying at Bear Mountain Lodge will receive a free Willie Bear (our Lodge mascot) that they can take to the New England Brewfest. Photos taken of Willie Bear at the Brewfest can be submitted to us and we'll post them on our Facebook page. You'll then be entered to win a weekend stay here at Bear Mountain Lodge in our beautiful jacuzzi room Bear Den, valued at over $650. You can check availability and book online at Bear Mountain Lodge. Just enter "Brewfest" in the notes section of your online reservation to have your Willie Bear waiting in your room upon arrival.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Hiking in Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch's Flume Gorge

This almost snowless winter has been challenging for us as Innkeepers helping guests find alternatives to snowshoeing here at Bear Mountain Lodge. Normally we measure our snow in feet and our onsite trails are awesome, but with only a couple inches on the ground Michael and I decided to head out this week and find trails for guests for the upcoming busy February weekends. Not a tough assignment for us as we love to be outdoors together in the Winter.

Our first stop on Wednesday was the Crawford Connector which to our great surprise had plenty of snow to snowshoe. The Trail involves a slow easy climb through evergreens and birch trees and an easy bridge over the running brook. After a 15 minute trek we came upon another bridge that would have taken us to Crawford Path. Instead, we decided to try out Crawford Cliff Spur which took us up to "The Pool," a lookout over Gibbs Brook. The next section was shear ice but we decided the view would be worth it so up we went on a steep, steady climb. However, we didn't get to make the summit as the trail soon became a cliff covered in more ice than we could handle without spikes. But the day was glorious, the trail covered in plenty of snow and we were out snowshoeing so it was a good day.

Thursday brought us over to The Flume Gorge, one of New Hampshire's most beautiful treasures. Having never done The Gorge in the winter, we decided not to let the lack of deep snow stop us. We left the snowshoes behind, taking just our poles, and had the best 3 miles of winter hiking ever. After crossing the iconic Pemi Covered Bridge, one of NH's oldest built back in 1886, we began our hike to the Gorge which included stops along the way for some fabulous photos of ice cliffs and Table Rock - we didn't pass another soul as midweek is quiet and a great time to get out without the crowds.

When you reach the Gorge, your suddenly struck by how beautiful a group of rocks can be. Rising nearly 90' high with walls 12-20' apart, the Gorge is made of granite and in the summer the boardwalks go completely through it. However in the winter, they fold up the boardwalks so you can only venture so far. After a great stop at the top of the Gorge, we headed down the path to Sentinel Bridge and Pool. In the Hurricane of 1938 a huge pine tree was blown down across the Pool and later a beautiful covered bridge, Sentinel Bridge, was built on top of that pine. It's still there today and the bridge offers a great view of the Pool. I learned from one of the historical markers that a gentleman built a crude boat and used to take people for rides in the Pool, talk about an entrepreneur.

Our walk back from Sentinel Bridge to the Visitor's Center brought us down a path lined with huge glacial boulders, many weighing over 300 tons. Just as we were heading out, we passed a couple ice climbers heading up to the Gorge to meet some students from a local school for an ice climbing lesson. They asked us if the floor of the Gorge was frozen and we told them it wasn't, there was plenty of running water. To which they replied, "Well someone's falling in today no doubt." Why I'm sure ice climbing is awesome, Michael and I are planning to stick to snowshoeing and hiking and will never forget our wonderful day at Flume Gorge!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our Christmas Tree Tradition & How It All Started

Before we ever thought about owning a B&B, we stumbled upon a great little tree farm that started our family's tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree. Who would have thought that 3 years later we would sell everything we owned in Massachusetts and build our dream B&B in that same little Town of Bethlehem.

You see, our daughter Emily was born the week after the horror of September 11th. It was such a joyous time for us but all of the news and talk everywhere was of 9/11. It was too depressing for me as a new mother, so I checked myself out of the hospital the day after she was born so that we could go home and tune out the world and enjoy Emily and help Connor get used to being a big brother. After a couple weeks, I was online and saw that eBay was having a bunch of auctions from which all of the money would go to help support the families of 9/11. So figuring that it was something I could do to help, I went on eBay and looked at the listings and found a weekend getaway donated by The Mt. Washington Resort. I kept bidding on the weekend until I ultimately won, and the first week of December Michael and I packed up the kids and headed to New Hampshire. The resort was beautifully decorated and we got some cute photos of Connor trying to hold his little sister Emily up for my Christmas card that year. When we were checking out, we asked at the front desk about where we should go to get a Christmas tree with the kids. They offer packages with The Rocks Estate, as we do now, and suggested we go there.

As we were heading west on Route 302 we had no idea that we were passing by what is now the current driveway to Bear Mountain Lodge. Less than a mile from The Rocks Estate, Michael spotted a sign that said "Finnegan's Fine Firs" and asked me if I wanted to try it as it sounded like a smaller place and maybe not so busy. So he turned right and when we came upon Finnegan's we knew we'd made the right decision. It's on a residential side street and surrounds the Finnegan family home. After Connor checked out the donkey and goats, we headed down a little path marked with cute sayings to find our tree. My video of that day is priceless -- as Michael is pointing out trees to Connor to help him choose, I'm recording this all while carrying Emily in my other arm all wrapped up in winter gear. At one point, Connor yells "I found it Daddy, I want that one." As I turned the camcorder in that direction, I started laughing as I saw the huge 10+ foot tree that Connor picked out. I told him that it was a beautiful tree but that our ceilings were only 8' tall and that he'd have to pick another one. After a half hour or so of wandering through the fields, he settled on a great tree and we headed to the main building to pay for the tree and some kissing balls.

Here's where the best part happened. I went to pay with my credit card and Mr. Finnegan informed me that they didn't take credit cards, cash or check only. I said that I didn't have either and Miles looked at us and said "No problem. Here's our card with our address, when you get home just send us a check." We were in shock and said that this would never happen back home. We vowed that Finnegan's Fine Firs in Bethlehem NH would be our family tree farm from now on. But the next couple of years got really busy for us at work and with two little kids that we didn't make it back to NH to get our tree, we had to get one locally in Mass.

Then in 2004 when we were looking for the land to build Bear Mountain Lodge, our broker said he found a great piece of land for us in Bethlehem. On our way to view the land, we passed that same little sign saying Finnegan's Fine Firs and laughed at Connor saying he wanted that huge tree. We knew that once we built the Lodge he could pretty much pick out any tree he wanted for the great room since the ceilings would be almost 15' tall. And the rest is history. We moved to Bethlehem in 2004 to build Bear Mountain Lodge and we've gotten all of our trees and wreaths from Finnegan's since and all of them have been at least 12' tall. In fact, the year before last when we were at Finnegan's I saw the perfect tree. I called over to the kids and said I wanted this one to which they both replied "No, it's too small!" The lady beside me started laughing as the tree was about 10' tall and I told her this was important business for the kids to get the most beautiful, huge tree they could find at Finnegan's every year. And here's my favorite photo in front of our 13' Finnegan's Fir from 2006, the year after Bear Mountain Lodge opened.

So as the leaves are falling from the trees and all of our guests are enjoying beautiful foliage, we all start talking about a trip to Finnegan's the day after Thanksgiving to get our perfect tree. And now I'm prepared as I never forget my checkbook!

To learn more about our two great tree farms in Bethlehem, you can go to:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

B&Bs For Vets and Honoring Our Military

Each year we participate in the B&Bs For Vets program. It's a group of B&Bs/Inns across the country that donate free nights on the evening of November 10th so that the Veterans - active duty, reserves and retired - can wake up and celebrate Veterans Day with a great breakfast in their honor. My husband Michael proudly served in the Marines for 8 years and is so committed to supporting the Troops that we will be doing this as long as the program lasts. Like last year, our four rooms filled up lightening fast.

We had so many calls last year from those who missed out or were on duty or couldn't get a weeknight off, that we decided that we'd give all Veterans the ability to stay with us anytime they wanted the first couple weeks of November and pay for one night and get their second night free. We figured that we'd get a few takers but the response was overwhelming and it was awesome having so many Veterans stay with us during that two week period. And the gratitude that they showed to us for putting this special together was incredible. Especially the active duty guys who maybe can't afford to stay here for two nights in a beautiful jacuzzi room given their pay rate.

So this year we decided to extend the period a week longer - from October 23rd to November 13th. So if you know a Veteran who wants to escape to New Hampshire's White Mountains and enjoy the comradery of Marine Innkeeper Michael and other Veterans visiting us, tell them they can go online to our website and see what's still available. Semper Fi and God Bless our Troops!