New England, Old Haunts
Years ago, a father and son spent two summers by the lake in New Hampshire. Now they're back for the fall foliage and a near-vertical train ride that turns their views of the state on end.
In the afternoon, we take the Kancamagus Highway, or the Kanc, through the White Mountain National Forest toward Bretton Woods. We're staying at a motel calledThe Lodge, which is across from the Mount Washington Hotel, a grandiose estate where the Allied nations signed agreements in 1944 creating the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. (Guests can stay the night there, too, although the rates are really expensive.) Our dinner later that night atFabyan's Station Restaurantis a bit disappointing, mainly because Dad is peeved that the guy at the next table gets the last order of pot roast. He settles for the salmon in lemon sauce—a poor substitute for a man with meat on the brain.
Rte. 302, Bretton Woods, 800/258-0330, mtwashingtonhotel.com, from $99
Yum Yum Shop
16 N. Main St., Wolfeboro, 603/569-1919, raspberry tart 75¢
Fabyan's Station Restaurant
Rte. 302, Bretton Woods, 603/278-2222, mountwashingtonresort.com, salmon $16
Mount Washington Cruises
211 Lakeside Ave., Weirs Beach, 888/843-6686, cruisenh.com, $26
Half Moon Amusement Arcades
240-260 Lakeside Ave., Weirs Beach, 603/366-4315
Although there's a free, guided tour of the Mount Washington Hotel this morning, we decide to bypass it because we want to take a ride onThe Mount Washington Cog Railway. To say that the rail line to the top of nearby Mount Washington is the highlight of the trip for my dad is an understatement. "Anyone who comes here and doesn't ride the train is crazy," he says afterwards. I suppose that if I can get excited over obscure video games from my childhood, he has a right to feel this strongly about a train ride.
Built in the late 1860s, the cog railway was the first in the world to be able to climb a mountain. The coal-fired locomotive pushes the passenger car up the mountain very slowly—at a speed of about three miles per hour. Both the locomotive and the passenger car also have brakes to keep the train from speeding out of control on the way down. Dad is fascinated by the train's history, especially the fact that it's known as the "Railway to the Moon" because a state lawmaker deemed the project so foolish during the planning stages that he said the builder should be given a charter to extend the railway all the way to outer space.
TheLittleton Dineris the most fitting place possible for us to eat lunch after our morning ride: It's a train car transformed into a restaurant. The 1930 Sterling Steamliner diner car has old wooden benches and the original arched ceiling, which keeps the narrow space from feeling cramped. I order the Reuben, and Dad has a hot dog with a side of homemade baked beans. While the food is just OK, the waitresses' T-shirts are truly memorable, with a philosophy for good living on the backs: EAT IN DINERS. RIDE TRAINS. PUT A PORCH ON YOUR HOUSE. SHOP ON MAIN STREET. LIVE IN A WALKABLE COMMUNITY. Littleton pretty much fits the bill.
We take a leisurely drive back to the Lake Winnipesaukee area and find a room at theBoulders Motel & Cottagesin Holderness. Then the two of us get down to some serious card playing in our screened-in sitting room. Cribbage is more exciting to us than the cog railway ride and the arcade combined. Since Dad taught me the game when I was in high school, I've gotten a lot more practice at it than he has, but filial piety prevents me from revealing who usually wins.
We play a couple of games and then go in search of dinner down the road atWalter's Basin, a restaurant on the shore of Little Squam Lake whose claim to fame is that it was in the filmOn Golden Pond. We sit by one of the huge windows inside and gaze out at the water, wishing we could eat every meal on a lake (or on a pond, for that matter).
Boulders Motel & Cottages
981 Rte. 3, Holderness, 800/968-3601, boulderslakefrontmotel.com, from $60
145 Main St., Littleton, 603/444-3994, littletondiner.com, Reuben $6.50
859 Rte. 3, Holderness, 603/968-4412, haddock $17
The Mount Washington Cog Railway
Off Rte. 302, Bretton Woods, 800/922-8825, thecog.com, $59
I'm surprised that after all this time in the New Hampshire countryside, we haven't really seen any wildlife. In an effort to remedy that, we take a morning stroll at theSquam Lakes Natural Science Center, where a number of species that are native to the state, such as black bears, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and mountain lions, are kept in fenced-in wooded areas along a pleasant path. The majority of the animals are either orphaned or injured and are not able to survive on their own in the wilderness. Interestingly, the science center doesn't have moose, because they don't do very well in captivity. Instead, there's a life-size sculpture of one.