Walks and Waterfalls
A late summer sojourn in Crawford Notch.The road through Crawford Notch has improved noticeably since I bounced over it in the back seat of my dad’s Pontiac. But that stone mansion that always fascinated me still stands beside it, so we headed there for a pre-foliage weekend.Friday EveningWe stopped in Bartlett at White Mountain Cider House to dine on coriander-crusted sea scallops in red-curry lobster sauce and cider-braised pork shank with potato gnocchi. Our room – the Evans Suite – at Notchland Inn was the perfect place to admire the star-filled night sky from our private deck and later through the skylight directly above the king-sized bed.Saturday MorningSeveral choices tempted us, but we opted for two of the French toast varieties on the breakfast menu – mine was orange-cinnamon – and nibbled on tender, hot muffins filled with flavor bursts of tangy wild blueberries.Looking for a short hike, we were intrigued by owners Les and Ed’s suggestion of a ghost town hidden in the woods nearby. Following the barred Sawyer River Road, we found the remains of Livermore about two miles from Route 302. A logging town, Livermore existed from the 1870s to the 1930s. Home to 200 people, it had its own railroad line, schoolhouse and general store, whose safe we found in an overgrown cellar-hole, and nearby a lone tall chimney with fine brickwork.LunchDriving past two cascades and through the narrow Crawford Notch Gateway, we came to AMC’s Highland Center, where we admired Brad Washburn photographs before ordering custom-made sandwiches to carry with us on the trail around tiny Saco Lake. Climbing to the forehead of Elephant’s Head, we enjoyed lunch and views down the notch.Saturday AfternoonAs we finished our sandwiches, Conway Scenic Railroad’s engine came through the Gateway, almost at our feet, stopping at the little Victorian station opposite the lake. We scampered down to see it, then followed the short trail behind the station to find Beecher’s Falls and two smaller waterfalls just upstream.Dinner at Notchland InnAfter resting tired legs in the whirlpool tub in a raised alcove of our suite, we descended to the candle-lit dining room and a window table overlooking white birches. We launched quickly into bowls of creamy cauliflower-shallot soup with Gorgonzola and cumin-scented sweet potato soup topped by a dollop of tangerine crême fraiche. We lingered a bit more over crab cakes with lemon aioli and sautéed sea scallops in lime-shallot glaze and were equally delighted with our entrée choices: grapevine-skewered lamb kabobs with Pinot Noir reduction and seared duck breast in hazelnut pink-peppercorn cream.Saturday EveningWe adjourned to the comfortable front parlor, designed by Gustav Stickley, a founder of the Arts & Crafts movement that revolutionized early 20th-century décor. At Les’ suggestion, we logged our laptop onto whitemountainhistory.org to watch a narrated slideshow on Livermore, trying to match those old images of a busy town with today’s overgrown cellar-holes.Sunday MorningAfter breakfast and a look at trail maps in the sun-filled solarium, we headed to Arethusa Falls trailhead. A short side-path along Bemis Brook led past two exquisite little waterfalls before reaching the state’s tallest falls. The previous week’s rains sent more water splashing over the 175-foot ledge than usual in September.Sunday AfternoonWe carried a lunch from White Mountain Cider Deli on the half-mile walk thru the woods to finish off this waterfall weekend at Diana’s Bath, following the trail beside the series of chutes and pools to eat on sunny ledges at the top.