Enjoy nature in Errol near the Maine border
We arrived in Berlin in time to take a quick look at the replica 19th-century logging camp at Northern Forest Heritage Park before boarding the Androscoggin River Boat Tour at 6 p.m. Out on the river, we could more easily picture what it must have been like here when the water was covered with timber during the log drives. Back on shore, we stopped at chef-owned Tea Bird's Café on Main Street for a late dinner of prime rib and baked stuffed scallops, accompanied by the Friday night half-price wine.
The last time we came to this corner of the state, we loaded camping gear into our kayaks, paddled them across the lake and pitched our tent in one of the remote paddle-in campsites in Umbagog Lake State Park. It was glorious, but this time we decided to see a bit more of the surroundings between our water explorations and booked a room at A Peace of Heaven B&B, just outside Errol. So instead of having to build a campfire before we cooked our breakfast, all we needed to do was walk downstairs to the cheery dining room, where Sonja had the coffee waiting for us and join other guests over a hearty country breakfast.
We headed straight to Umbagog Lake State Park, where we launched our kayaks (we could have rented them or canoes at the park) and set out to explore the lake and look for some of the birds that build summer homes in the National Wildlife Refuge. Bald eagle, osprey, loon, American bittern, great blue heron and several duck species are only the beginning of the birds here.
Back in Errol, we had sandwiches at Northern Exposure, then wandered across the street to see the famous albino moose at L.L Cote. Both the store and stuffed moose are such local landmarks that we're surprised no Errol restaurant offers a white chocolate "Albino Mousse" on the menu.
Following Route 26 west, we came to the smallest of New Hampshire's notches and Dixville Notch State Park. Close behind the sign that explains the notch's geology, Cascade Brook drops through The Flume, a smaller version of the one in Franconia Notch, with a series of cascades between its vertical walls. Across the road, a short trail leads to much larger Huntington Cascades. The upper, longer section of the falls is so enclosed by trees that it's hard to get a good view. Just over the head of the notch, opposite The Balsams, a trail leads up to Table Rock, definitely not a place for the acrophobic as it offers spectacular views straight down into the notch. Back on lower ground, we stopped for a refreshing drink at The Balsams Spring House and contemplated the future of the hotel itself.
We had deliberately dawdled until the shadows grew very long, having spotted what anyone familiar with the North Country would recognize as prime moose-watching territory along Rte. 26, east of the notch. So we drove back, found a spot to pull the car off the road and waited. As the evening deepened into twilight, our patience was rewarded by a large male moose and a couple of younger ones who left the cover of the woods to munch on aquatic plants in the little gully.
Dinner at Hawg Trawf
We'd spotted the cute pink pig smoker in front of this new addition to downtown Errol and stopped to look at a menu. We learned that the pig's name is Winnie and it was made by a local metal worker. I'm not a great admirer of pulled pork – or wasn't until I tried the version that owners Dotty Demers and David Lavallee serve in their new knotty-pine dining room. But this was delicious. They make their own rubs and sauces for the pork, and they serve outstanding sweet potato fries to go with it.
We had intended to enjoy the comfortable bed at A Peace of Heaven a little longer, but it was such a glorious morning that we couldn't bear to stay inside. So after breakfast we took the kayaks across the road to the little Aker's Pond Park, where we put in for a quiet paddle around its shoreline.
We had asked at Northern Waters in Errol about rafting on the Androscoggin, but decided against it when we learned that all the available trips were full-day adventures. So instead, we headed south through Thirteen Mile Woods, stopping for a picnic at Androscoggin Wayside Park, where we dropped our kayaks in the river to explore this quiet stretch of flat water before heading home.