Nurturing the spirit of adventure
On my first visit to Hub North in Gorham, co-owner and avid mountain biker Kara Hunter gave me a tour of the grounds. It was winter, the sun was shining, and the property was covered in a shimmering, hard-packed, squeaky layer of snow. As we walked, she gestured at the glamping yurts that were tucked away in the back left corner while casually recounting the time she and her husband/co-owner, Jason Hunter, lived in a yurt for two years. Moments later, she sent me off for a joyride on one of their fat-tire bikes, and I rode around making figure-eights, laughing with delight even after I toppled off and into the snow due solely to user error. This combination of relaxed hospitality and a fun-loving attitude is the essence of Hub North, and it’s truly hard not to feel that (even when you’ve fallen off your bike) when you’re here.
Since then, I’ve returned to Hub North for this same experience for three out of the four seasons. While the adventures may change from winter to summer, the easiness and excitement of being at Hub North are always the same. This is no accident — it’s all purely by design. The vibe here is intended to be uncomplicated yet thoughtful, all the while nurturing a spirit of adventure in their guests. It’s reflected in the handcrafted touches, like beautiful pottery made by Kara’s mother, or the paintings and stained glass that hang inside the lodge. It also lives up to its name as a “hub,” given that its central location puts you close to many of the area’s biking, hiking, cross-country and backcountry ski trails. Plus, some of the most popular ski resorts are under an hour away. Outdoor adventure seekers will love that the region’s Coös Trails, a well-maintained network of mountain biking trails, are steps away from the campsite, and the Appalachia Trailhead is only a five-minute drive away.
Yes, easy access to outdoor adventure and a beautiful design make Hub North an appealing place to stay, but the heart and soul of the place lie in Jason and Kara’s local insight and the inspiration from their worldwide travels, from Antarctica to New Zealand. While exploring the latter some years back, they stayed in a unique accommodation that the Kiwis call “backpackers.” Similar to a hostel, each one was different depending on where it was located, but, according to Kara, they were almost always reliable sources for kitchens and campgrounds, which enabled them to travel throughout the country with ease. “We liked the fact that you could be a little more self-sufficient in the backpackers, so we modeled Hub North after them,” says Kara.
This idea percolated in the back of their minds, but nothing came to fruition until 2016 when Jason caught wind of the news that an old Girl Scout camp in Gorham was about to hit the market. “We knew the property and the caretaker, and were really dreamy about it because of the growing trail system that was nearby,” says Kara. “We used to ride our bikes through the trails and think how cool it would be to own this place.” Their shared love of biking led them to become co-founders of the Coös Cycling Club, a local group that builds and maintains trails. Since then, it’s grown organically into a larger organization full of dedicated cyclists with a shared passion for riding and maintaining the trails. As the former camp ground is at the epicenter of the network, the locale was a natural fit for what’s now Hub North. Luckily, everything fell into place and once they bought the property, Kara and Jason spent the next two years bring their vision to life.
The pair are handy, to say the least, and have what Kara calls “nontraditional carpentry backgrounds” from years of building structures in far-off places without typical materials.
“I worked on the construction crew at the Appalachian Mountain Club and learned how to build at the hut, carrying materials up and down the mountain using whatever was there. I was always sort of problem-solving with out-of-box objects,” says Kara. Working as Science Support Carpenters, Kara and Jason traveled to Antarctica for a number of years, once again using found objects to creatively solve problems. When they landed in Gorham, New Hampshire, their arsenal included a unique set of skills that served them well at Hub North. “That gave me a different perspective on building and how to use space and materials to make it into something better without ripping it all down,” says Kara. The Hub North aesthetic is, in a sense, equal parts handmade and restored, with plenty of room for something unexpected that somehow fits just right. In a word, it’s adventurous.
Accommodations at Hub North are divided into two categories: rooms at the lodge and glamping in a well-furnished yurt or a canvas bell tent. In the lodge, there are four rooms, communal bathrooms, a living area, and a spacious kitchen, which all have a rustic, mid-century modern design that’s comfortable and functional, with a little something special that you just can’t put your finger on. The glampsites are sprawled on the property’s expansive green space, with renovated bathrooms and showers built by Kara and Jason. The heart of this space is the pavilion, which has a large dining area with a fireplace, and a garage that was converted into a second communal kitchen.
Guests bring their own food to cook in the kitchens no matter where they sleep, something that Kara and Jason believe isn’t a drawback, but is in fact a part of Hub North’s charm and a nod to the joy of being self-sufficient. I can certainly attest to the benefits of being on your own timeline and not having to wait on breakfast to be served, especially here, when you can wake up early to enjoy a homecooked meal and coffee with friends as you take in the scenic views of the northern Presidentials from the pavilion before a day of riding the trails.
When it comes down to it, those are the moments that Hub North was built for — it’s a place to enjoy the simplest pleasures in life. Or, as Kara and Jason say, it’s a space specifically designed to support your adventurous spirit.
By Bill Burke
Longer days and milder temps are elbowing their way onto the calendar, which means only one thing: Mashed potatoes and goggle tans aren’t far behind. Normally we’d be digging out our Hawaiian shirts and dreaming up cardboard sled contraptions for slopeside events. But, of course, this isn’t a typical year. What does that mean? A little bit of bad news, and some not-quite-so-bad-but-still-not-awesome news.
First, the bad: COVID-19 restrictions throughout ski country mean annual favorites are going to remain in hibernation for one more spring. To wit, gathering spots like The Beach — an annual staple at Mount Sunapee that normally sees spring skiers tailgating between Sunapee Lodge and Spruce Lodge at the end of Flyway — is “on pause,” according to Bonnie MacPherson, communications manager for Vail Resorts. In short, if your favorite spring skiing tradition involves gathering in large groups, you can assume it’s off the schedule.
Restrictions this year include requiring (or at the very least, encouraging) online-only pass purchases, leaving extra space between people on lifts and limiting restaurant capacity — making après ski a bit of a downer. Some ski areas require advance reservations or have capacity limits. Cranmore is giving priority status to its season passholders and offering private lessons only; Gunstock — as with most ski areas — is urging skiers to boot up at the car, and reservations were required this winter for lodge, food court and pub entry.
Still, it’s not all bad. You just need to pick your spots. Historically, ski country will pick up an additional 1-2 feet of snow in March — more if we’re lucky and much more at higher elevations. Wildcat thrives this time of year, routinely shooting for the state’s longest ski season. Regulars know Cannon’s Taft Slalom Trail — cut for racing in 1933 — gets plenty of afternoon sun and is an ideal spot for a springtime mid-afternoon hideaway. Look for “The Rock” in a small enclave to your right and park it there for a warming respite and a snack. And while the aerial tramway at Cannon remained stationary this winter, skinning is a go on designated trails.
If you find yourself at Bretton Woods on one of those perfect spring days, head over to Mount Rosebrook and find Snake, which presents an ideal late season bump run for those who catch it at the right time.
“It’s narrow, but not ridiculously narrow,” says Mike Roberts of Windham, a member of the Bretton Woods club. “There are a lot of soft bumps in there, and when you get a good spring snow, assuming you had a good base allowing the bumps to build up, it’s perfect.”
The penalty for falling isn’t steep — no yard sales here — and the payoff, well, that’s why we ski in the spring.
And as those in the know can attest, Tuckerman is at its best in April and even into May. The snowpack has typically stabilized, creating a challenging backcountry experience that has become a rite of passage for skiers looking for a challenge/adrenaline rush in its steepest runs on The Chute, with rocks on both sides. But be aware (and, if possible, experienced): Testing yourself against Tucks can be beautiful and rewarding, but it can also be dangerous — think avalanches, falling ice and undermined snow. However, by April the avalanche risk has somewhat lessened, which explains the enduring popularity for the ultimate New Hampshire backcountry challenge this time of year.
All that said, there are a few drawbacks to slush season, including dodging scrub poking up through thin cover, dealing with unpredictable conditions and ice. Solution? Experts will tell you: keep your eyes open, and a liberal application of wax.
So here’s to a springtime soon filled with beach parties, pond skimming and questionable neon fashion choices.
“If it gets too warm, you’re skiing in slush,” Roberts says of the back end of the season. “If it warms up and cools down, it can get icy and you’ll be skiing on granules. But at least once every spring, I get a day that’s just right, and when it’s all done, you reflect on it and you know it was awesome.”