Monday, August 3, 2009

Mountains of White and Green

As we pedaled through the remainder of Vermont we basked in the beauty of the Green Mountains. The land is similar to the mountainous terrain of Oregon, only with smaller hills and more of them. The hillsides were as lush and as green as could be, in part due to the uncharacteristically wet summer that New England has experienced this year. During the fall we were told that the landscape ignites into a fiery sea of oranges, yellows, and browns as the deciduous trees begin to change colors and loose their leaves. This prompts an influx of what locals call “leaf peepers,” retirees that come from hundreds of miles away to pile into vans and tour the countryside at speeds nearing 5 mph.

At the end of our riding day we were lucky enough to ask the right people where to camp and were directed to a farmhouse across the road from a café. Turns out that a delightful gal named Sheila, a triathalete and bicycle tourist, owned the café and welcomed us to camp nearby! She insisted that we drop in the next morning for a homemade breakfast at her establishment free of charge. We graciously accepted and found ourselves eating some of the most delicious fresh baked bread and apple cider donuts ever created. We truly enjoyed Shiela’s company and her stories from her latest tour in New Zealand.

Once we crossed over into New Hampshire we were greeted by the White Mountains. Larger in size than their neighbors, the Green mountains, the White Mountain range contained Kancamagus pass, the last real mountain standing between us and the east coast. Affectionately called “the Kanc” by the locals, the pass reaches into the sky 2,855 feet. I suspect the name was abbreviated due to pronunciation problems for all parties involved, but it sounds a little too much like some kind of VD. “Don’t mess around with the Kanc man, you better get that checked out.” Unfortunately, the riding day was dominated by heavy, unrelenting showers. One nearby area put out flood warnings in anticipation of the four inches of forecasted rain. Nonetheless, we were determined to make the best of the day despite the conditions. Here you can see the only picture I took all day for fear that the rain might ruin my camera. It‘s a shame too - the terrain was stunning. The landscape reminded me of Hawaiian mountains found on Maui that shot directly up into the ceiling of the sky, penetrating the mist only to be lost in the clouds. In one particularly pristine place there sat a peaceful, high mountain lake with boulders jutting up like icebergs from the water’s surface. Straight out of one of these colossal stones grew a tall pine, like an object you would expect to read about in a fairy tale. Beaver dams held back placid pools of water that acted as reflecting ponds, and rivers so ran so red they look like blood. This is wilderness my friends. In one memorable instance I was pedaling into the rain with my head down when I heard a splashing calamity nearby. I quickly glanced up to see a moose trotting gracefully towards the woods. The huge beast had not been 20 feet to my right, wading in a roadside pool when I had startled her. Once each party realized the other meant no harm, we each calmly headed our separate ways, though I did so with a slightly elevated heart rate. Moose can be aggressive at times and I was thankful that I had not been perceived a threat.

As the day came to a close we rolled into the town of Conway, NH. We took time to check out Eastern Mountain Supply (EMS), a store similar to REI. Though we didn’t find the store overly impressive, we did strike up conversation with Paul and Dave, two fellows from Massachusetts that were doing some hiking in the area. Paul shared with us pieces of a cross country bicycle tour that he had taken when he was younger. After some good conversation we said our farewells and headed deeper into town to find a place to camp. We were striking out everywhere - no one was even manning the city fire station where we hoped we might find some guidance or a place to stay. We did find some people outside the station though - Paul and Dave had taken pity and came to offer us a place to stay! That night we had a terrific time staying up, talking about all sorts of adventurous activities. I was especially fascinated by Paul’s background, having owned an operated an advertising agency, he is now retired and is motorcycle safety instructor. He had a gorgeous Ducati 1198S in his stable (right) along with other awesome toys like a Porsche 911 and an Austin Healy. Paul and Dave were super nice, down to earth guys. They actually live in Massachusetts, so maybe we will meet again…

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