It's time to get outside! A leisurely day trip with great food, beautiful views and little exercise is a great way to celebrate the coming of spring.
It's a day trip my mother and I have taken countless times, in all four seasons. Our most recent encounter with this particular trip involved snow boots, winter jackets, mittens, hats and sunglasses. Oh and of course Maggie, our faithful road-trip companion and chocolate lab. But alas, spring has sprung, and the lovely weather is ideal for a trip like this.
Jump on 101 West, sit back and enjoy the scenery. Keep following 101, and you will eventually come to your first stop in Peterborough. The Miller State Park sign will triumphantly stand in its brown and white glory, inviting you to pull in and enjoy a hike to the 2,290 foot summit of Pack Monadnock. If you're not in the mood to hike, take your car up the 1.3 mile paved road all the way to the top. Miller State Park is open from June 20 to November 9, weather permitting. While in operation, a fee of $4 for adults (NH residents 65 and over are free) and $2 for children ages 6-11 is required.
In the summer months the hiking trail is a great workout and offers a few beautiful scenic outcrops on your way up the mountain. When there's snow on the ground, we opt for the paved road. Although covered in snow, it's much less treacherous than fumbling up the sometimes steep hiking trail in the snow. You still get to capture great views along the way, and you end up at the same point you would if you took the trail.
Now that you've worked up an appetite for just about anything besides granola bars and water, get back in the car and keep heading in the same direction, towards down town Peterborough. After a short drive down a winding hill, and you will soon come upon the sign directing you towards the center of town. Our destination of choice is Twelve Pine, Restaurant & Gourmet Marketplace. It's just the kind of place you want to gorge at after a nice calorie-burning hike. Twelve Pine offers a chef's deli case consisting of salads and entrees that change throughout the day. There's also a sandwich bar with a wide selection of sandwiches made to order. (Oh and don't miss the bakery section and gelato!)
Explore the store while your fresh sandwiches are being made. Flowers, chocolates, a wine shop and countless other goodies await you. Eat in the quaint dining area or take your food to go and eat out on the grass or benches by the Contoocook River. Downtown Peterborough is somewhere you could spend a whole afternoon. With shops like Red Chair Antiques, Toadstool Bookshop, Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates and Alice Blue clothing, it gets a little tough to call it a day.
Once you are able to tear yourself away from the shops and eateries downtown, it may be time to get back on the road and head towards home. Just one more stop along the way - House by the Side of the Road. This charming and surprisingling vast green house is, well, right on the side of 101. It can't be missed. Open year round, you can peruse down aisles of primrose in the wintertime, and petunias in the summer.
If you're a plant novice, there's always a helpful employee around ready to teach you a thing or two. After a few minutes of exploring you will soon find that this is more than just a plant nursery. They have tools for gardeners of every skill level, vast isles of pottery, and country gift shop. Don't forget to grab a free bag of popcorn on your way out! This is a day trip that can be taken over and over again in every season, and each time you will discover something new along the way.