March Road Trip: Maple Weekend

Sweet treats to be found east of the Capital City Length of Trip: About 50 miles Spend a day meandering along back roads through the hills north of Concord, sampling the sweet flavors of New Hampshire's winter harvest. Since these sugarhouses only operate when they have enough sap collected, it is important to call ahead to be sure they are boiling. Most are open on the last weekend in March, N.H. Maple Weekend. From Route 132 in East Concord, off Exit 16 of I-93, follow Shawmut Street to a left on Oak Hill Road. Climb to Mapletree Farm, where they make and sell syrup, maple cream, sugar and candy. Continue on Oak Hill Road, crossing School Street and joining North Village Road, which parallels Route 106 before joining it. Go left on 106, but leave it again about a mile later to follow Shaker Road to the left. Just at the foot of the hill crowned by the Shaker Village, Asby Road goes to the right. A short detour uphill on Shaker Road leads to The Shaker Table restaurant, open for lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday, and for Sunday brunch. Throughout March and April, cooking classes are offered on Thursday evenings, covering subjects from bread baking and putting up pickles to planning a perfect brunch. Back on Asby Road, stop to meet the horses and perhaps ride behind them on a sled to the sugarhouse at Tamarack Farm. On maple weekend they may be making sugar-on-snow. Continue on Asby Road (it goes left at the T) to Route 106, where a detour of a few yards south (right) leads to Sunnyside Maples. Their gift shop carries not only their own maple syrup, mustard, pancake mix and seasonings, but other local products bearing the "New Hampshire Made" seal. Return north and continue on Route 106 about two miles, turning right onto Loudon Ridge Road. This may be one of the straightest roads in the state, as it climbs and follows the crest of Loudon Ridge. Opposite Page Road, look for the big white house with an attached barn, surrounded by wide fields. At Windswept Maples Farm, the Moore family has been tapping trees since its founding in 1780. Three generations of them now tend more than 100 Suffolk and Dorset sheep, along with cows and chickens, so you may get to meet baby lambs. Past Windswept Maples, detour to the right on Lower Ridge Road to visit Page's Sap Shed or continue on Loudon Ridge Road to Pearl & Sons Farm's modern 5,000-tap sugarbush. After the tiny settlement of Sabattus Heights, Loudon Ridge Road ends at Route 129, just north of Loudon Center. Go left on 129 to Kelly's Corner, and go right on Route 107, part of the historic Province Road. Following the route of a Native American trail, the Province Road was built in the 1760s from the colonial capital at Portsmouth to the farthest outpost of the time, the Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown. In about a mile, bear left onto Garland Road, another uncharacteristically straight one, which leads to Route 28 in Barnstead. Turn left, and past the intersection with Route 126 in Center Barnstead, turn left again onto Beauty Hill Road. When it bends sharp right, go straight ahead onto Carpenter Road to find Carpenter's Sugar House. Return to Route 28 and go right. If you planned ahead and reserved a table beside the fireplace at The Crystal Quail (serving prix fixe dinners Wednesday thru Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.), turn left on Route 126 in Center Barnstead. Go left at the church, on Shackford Corner Road and left again on Pitman Road to savor game, veal or fresh New England seafood. Or continue south on Route 28 to Pittsfield, taking a right on Loudon Road to end your journey with a sugarhouse tour at Journey's End Maple Farm. If you're lucky, they'll have baked goods for sale, along with the maple products. From Pittsfield, Route 28 leads through North Chichester's classic village ensemble with its white church, to Route 9/4, which returns to Concord.
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