Shoe Gorge

And other underrated New Hampshire attractions



illustration by brad fitzpatrick

It has occurred to me that, not only is our state a wonderful destination for out-of-towners, but my own New Hampshire home holds plenty of opportunities not always obvious to the untrained eye. Work with me here.

When Barbara and I are just too lazy to jump in the car for a two-hour drive to North Conway to take in the dizzying sights from atop Cathedral Ledge, we can scratch that itch with a 20-second descent into the basement, which looks like the Presidential Range made up of unpacked moving boxes. There are times we’ve climbed up the highest peak to U-Haul Lookout for a view of the many other exciting spots in the cellar. We once spotted a toaster oven that was assumed lost in a notch of snow-peaked storage containers. I wonder if Willem Lange would like a tour?

One of my favorite stretches of New Hampshire scenery is the Kancamagus Highway that drives us pronunciation sticklers crazy when we hear it said incorrectly, which is most of the time. Adding to our pronunciation drama is Barb’s extreme Boston accent. She actually grew up in Everett, Massachusetts, which has its own dictionary and language.

“Hey, Babs, shall we visit Shaker Village in Canterbury?,” I might ask.

“I LOVE Sha-kuh Village,” she’ll shoot back.

“Do you realize you just called it Sha-kuh Village?”

“No, suh,” she’ll always say.

If we can’t get to the White Mountains, all I have to do is walk from the living room to our bedroom, where, on any given day, I can take photos of Barbara’s Shoe Gorge. Sure, Flume Gorge offers dramatic flashes of rock meeting rushing water, but in the Shoe Gorge, Jimmy Choo ankle strap pumps meet an overflow of other Zappos footwear cascading from her closet. Why close the closet door and lose the view?

As much as I love the Mt. Washington Observatory and weather station, the two times I’ve been there, the rock pile was shrouded in a smoky gray curtain, making it impossible to see the men’s restroom in the souvenir shop, let alone Canada. In place of experiencing the world’s worst weather in person, I took WMUR meteorologist Josh Judge’s recommendation and bought the RadarScope app for my smartphone so that I can see approaching storms from the comfort of my camp chair next to Shoe Gorge.

The app cost 10 bucks, but is so good it detects storms headed to New Hampshire almost without flaw. Recently it even picked up a flying squirrel in Peterborough.

And should we ever miss the annual Highland Games in Lincoln, we can still enjoy our own version just a mile away at the Windham Transfer Station. As much as we love the caber toss and hammer throw, I can drag my trash to the dump and, with a sweaty heave and manly ho, hit the receptacle from 20 feet away. Let’s just say the dump workers are not fans of my version of the Highland Games.

I’m guessing if I were to don a kilt, they would certainly look the other way.  

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