New Hampshire’s Northern Tip
A trio of towns — Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown — fill the narrow triangle at the tip of the state, a vast area of forests, lakes and streams and headwaters of the Connecticut River
The laugh-like cries of a pair of loons brought us out of our lakefront cabin almost as soon as we’d arrived at Tall Timber Lodge, and we watched them dive for dinner until it was time for our own. Dinner at Rainbow Grille began with one of the most delicious chowders we’ve tasted — delicately seasoned and filled with large chunks of fish. From the night’s specials I chose rare seared tuna that was served with traditional sushi accompaniments of pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. Tim’s duck was juicy and tender, surrounded by rich blackberry sauce. The dining room is decorated in traditional sporting lodge style, with basket creels, wood-framed snowshoes and a model birch-bark canoe.
Back Lake looked like glass as we walked to breakfast, and we continued to admire it from a window table as we ate poached eggs over pan-fried rainbow trout. Where we live, the Connecticut is a mighty river rushing on its way to Long Island Sound, so it was just too tempting to see where it begins, a few paces from the Canadian border at Fourth Connecticut Lake. At the trailhead beside the border crossing, we found maps and followed the trail through a forest of fir and birch to a small glacial pond. In the floating bog at its rim, pitcher plants were keeping the insect population down, and at its southern end we crossed a tiny stream, the beginning of the 400-mile river. Back at the border we presented our cards, so much handier than carrying passports, and drove across to test Magnetic Hill in Chartierville, Quebec. It really does feel as though the car is rolling backwards up the hill.
It wasn’t the right time of day to see moose along Moose Alley, but we saw wild turkey and a red fox as we drove back into Pittsburg for lunch at Happy Corner Café. We chuckled at sandwich names as we ordered a Bull Moose (roast beef and cheddar with horseradish) and a Cordon Bleu Suede Shoes (chicken, Canadian bacon, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms). We asked about the café’s name and our server told us the story of the nearby covered bridge.
Down in a little hollow, Happy Corner Covered Bridge sits next to the former home of the gregarious Danforth family, where neighbors gathered on Saturday evenings for music, dancing and card games. Thus the crossing over Perry Stream became known as Happy Corner. This is one of three covered bridges in Pittsburg.
Rte. 145 is a steady series of steep dips and climbs as it cuts south, bypassing Rte. 3. A sign marks the crossing of the 45th parallel as the road continues across a series of ridges to the Poore Family Homestead. This unique house/farm museum preserves a forgotten way of life, left just as it was when its last owner left in the 1980s (when the house still didn’t have electricity). The house itself is not open, but the large windows show each room and outdoor signage adds details of family life from the 1830s to the 1980s. We explored the barns and sheds filled with tools, wagons and equipment; the barn has the most unusual bridge entrance, built by the family with the help of neighbors.
Back Lake was too inviting to ignore, so we took Tall Timber’s kayaks out for a paddle around the lake as the sun dropped lower. The loons were fishing again, and we were able to glide close enough to watch them, while a pair of terns swooped overhead.
Dinner at Rainbow Grille
After my good experience with the tuna, we were both convinced of the chef’s way with fish, so chose two different haddock dishes. The pistachio-coated filet was tender and flaky beneath a crunchy layer of chopped nuts that nuanced the flavor without overwhelming the delicate fish. I was glad I asked for a half portion of One Big Fish, as even half was a lot. A tender filet was topped with a crab meat dressing — a bit like crab cake but with more dressing and a little less crab. Again, the flavors balanced well, and the fish was perfectly cooked.
Ever since we saw a “Windows to the Wild” with Wilhelm Lang at Falls in the River, we have been itching to see this waterfall in the upper Connecticut. We could hear the roar even before we saw the frothing rapids that stretch below the falls. Then the trail began to climb until we reached a ledge extending out into the falls as they poured over the jagged rocks.
After BLTs at Spa Restaurant in West Stewartstown, we indulged our nose for history as we explored the territory that was briefly the Indian Stream Republic. The dispute over which stream was the international boundary led settlers here to force the issue by declaring independence from either country in 1832. We followed Indian Stream as far as we could to the timber company gate, then followed Halls Stream — the actual border finally agreed upon — into a peculiar corner of New Hampshire that is only accessible from Vermont. The only road to these homes and farms overlooking the little brook that separates them from the farms on the Canadian side, is from Beecher Falls, Vt.