New England Tour – Salem, Portland and on to the Fall Foliage of the White Mountains

Past Itinerary Series

I had a roll of black & white film in my camera – it seemed appropriate for this haunted town.

Halloween is just around the corner, so how about a visit to the Salem Witch Museum? The quaint little seaport town known for the Salem witch trials is far too charming to imagine such awful acts and accusations took place there; but a visit to the Museum brought the historical experiences back to life. A multi-media sight and sound presentation explores the history of the trials with robotic human like characters acting out the events of the past.

Roger Conant

The drive around town allowed us to see, but not visit, the actual house of seven gables that Hawthorne’s famous novel was based on. Being early October, the light posts were festively decorated with bundles of cornstalks and wheat bound by autumnal colored ribbons. Beautiful purple, gold, umber, yellow and orange mums where positioned in clusters around many of the doorways of residences and median garden areas.

The thought of Hallows Eve night, with lights twinkling around all of the colorful fall harvest decorations while families of the town gather for festivals and walk house to house to trick or treat among the ghosts of this town’s past, made me smile at the excitement and wonder the children must feel.

On the road again we stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where we lunched on New England clam chowder and oyster crackers before moving on further northeast to the coastal region of Maine. The exquisite rocky coastline was dotted with beautiful mansions and elaborate New England cottages perched at the edge of the majestic, very exposed and rustic shoreline. As the wave’s powerful thrust of foam crashed into the wall of rock, I felt both the grace of God’s creation and the fear of what turmoil those explosive waves could bring with a vengeful storm.

We passed the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport that extended to the end of the small peninsula of land heavily guarded. Near sundown, we stopped at the iconic Head Light Point lighthouse, that looked over the sometimes dangerous, but always illustrious ocean.

The following day the drive was long, but the benefit of not being behind the wheel is the freedom to soak in the all of the view from every angle. As we crossed the border from Maine into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the true jewels of autumn were unveiled. Scattered along the highway and tucked among the mountain’s many hills and valleys like little pom-pms, the brilliant shades and textures of fall foliage were lined up in rows of trees for our enjoyment as far as the eye can see. For two full days I gazed in awe and wonder at the spectacular vibrant colors that with the sun’s help, sparkled like jewels in every direction. I wanted so much to capture the essence of this image and somehow detail in both words and photography the magnitude of its beauty. The drive to our resort hotel was long and allowed me a great deal of time to carefully examine and attempt to describe the multitude of shades of each color that nature had created for our pleasure.

As we maneuvered the single lane of the winding road that stretched toward the heights of the White Mountains, I was lost in the brilliant colors that hugged the landscape in every direction. I remember doing my best to focus on each and every color, attempting to identify each hue to that of another item that could be understood by someone who had not seen the foliage. The artist in me agonized over the challenge it would be to attempt to blend this multitude of shades with paint in so many ways, simply to attempt to record this kaleidoscope of colors on the canvas.

If you look really closely – you’ll see the people walking along the boulders to get a better idea of how large the boulders actually were.

I began with the shade of orange-tangerine, navel orange, blood orange, peach, rusty nail. I even found myself enlisting the names of colors I used in the Crayola boxes I had as a child, like burnt umber. I actually saw something that was burnt umber! There was one shade I simply couldn’t name. I shuffled images of various items through my mind in the same shade for nearly an hour before it finally came to me – cantaloupe- it was the color of a cantaloupe melon.

Many church steeples considered the most elegant icon of New England erected beyond the treetops in every direction. The photographer in me was deeply frustrated that I could not stop along the way to photograph all of the beautiful images along the way. Many of my photos were taken from inside the bus, through the window.

There were reds- fire engine red, little school house red, stop sign red, cranberry, maraschino and black cherry red, beet red, red hot lipstick red and then came the yellows, golden apple, banana peel, lemon, sweet corn, and harvest gold; some actually sparkled in the sunlight shining like gold. Then neatly strategically tucked in just the right places were the many shades of green, hung like a backdrop to accentuate the remarkable colors of nature representing the tranquil calm of the autumn season.

Then dotted along the way were the romantic covered bridges that gently arched over the babbling brooks, cluttered with large boulders and peppered with the elegant falling leaves from trees that framed a perfect picture. We stopped a few times along our long trek, once at one such covered bridge, and once at the spectacular Franconia Notch. I eagerly walked to the overpass where tourists were snapping photos of the gorgeous view, but the air was so cold and the wind so forceful that it took our breath away.

We quickly retreated into the cute country stores nearby where I couldn’t wait to purchase a cup of hot, steaming fresh apple cider. One sip and I knew this was both the flavor and aromatic essence of autumn that I had imagined when I dreamt of this charming area. I purchased little maple leaf shaped glass bottles of maple syrup to bring back to family.

In the distance as we traveled further toward the ski resort (used during the off season for tours), a snowstorm concentrated in one section of the mountains (an uncommon sight for a southerner). Just prior to sundown, we drove past the State House in the capital city of Vermont, Montpellier where the gold domed roof glowed in the final embers of sunlight.

Snow storm in the distance.

Just down the road we stopped at a nearby pizzeria where the small family that owned the restaurant dashed in every direction to collect orders and deliver them as quickly as possible. I don’t think they had ever experienced such a large crowd at one time. The air outside had grown quite cold and brisk and the cozy warmth of the ovens preparing our pizzas and calzones added a rosy glow to everyone’s cheeks. It reminded me of Friday nights after high school football games when we all gathered for the comforting warmth and foods of a local pizzeria.

Little did we know that the snowstorm we had seen in the distance earlier in the day had dumped several inches of snow back at our resort. Excitedly, we departed the bus knowing that this little glimpse of winter was an unexpected bonus for us. By morning the rooftops of all of the buildings and vehicles were dusted with a couple of inches of fresh snow. The warm sun would more than likely melt the remains of our brief encounter with winter, but it was a lovely touch just the same.

This tour would go on to the Shelburne Museum that offers a glimpse of American life in the 18th and 19th centuries; the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry that had an active 50 acre, 600 foot deep quarry at that time; the quaint backroads of Vermont lead us to Manchester to tour Hildene, the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, who was his only child that lived to full maturity; Stockbridge, Massachusetts – the charming town and home of Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s museum displays an impressive collection of his nostalgic paintings and magazine covers. The rich colors of his paintings far surpass the images of the prints we have seen over the years and at the rear of the property is his iconix studio and famous easel. In the Berkshires area we visited The Clark Art Institute filled with an extensive collection of nineteenth century American and European paintings before heading to Cape Cod. We saw American Folk art, Grandma Moses’ school house and artwork and enjoyed traditional New England comfort food along the way. This tour was chalked full of an incredible array fo art, history and nature.

If you’ve always wanted to tour New England in the Fall you’ll definitely get a huge bang for your buck, there is so much to see and do. On a second tour a couple of years later, ventured through Concord where several well known authors resided and also has the sight of the Minute Man National Historical Park and the North Bridge. The sights and experiences are enumerable. It is best to start planning and reserving for your trip before the beginning of summer.

As the leaves upon the trees are fading and falling away with only the skeletal limbs of their trunks and branches remaining – grab a cup of steamy apple cider and make a toast to the nature’s more amazing and colorful annual spectacle – Fall.

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