Valentines Day in the White Mountains

IMG_2514For the past few years, Valentine’s Day has fallen on President’s Day weekend, making it the perfect excuse for those of us with a work holiday that Monday to take a long weekend. Two years ago, we took a ski trip with a group of close friends and decided to recreate that getaway this year.

IMG_2557We booked our chalet – Sparrow’s Nest – back in October, and anxiously waited for the cozy cold weather getaway. The problem with this year, and I’m sure even if you don’t live in Maine you’re experiencing this, is that temperatures have been up and down and there’s been minimal snow, so for the beginning part of the year we waited patiently, hoping we’d get lucky and get at least a bit of snow for some decent cross country skiing.

Turns out, while we did get a bit of snow in coastal Maine, the White Mountains, where our getaway was, had little on the ground. To top it off, we ended up visiting on the coldest weekend of the year, with temps dropping below zero. Ironically, when I’m writing this a week later we just had a 50 degree day in February.

Freezing temps and minimal snow do not make for ideal cross country conditions (especially with several of us falling into the inexperienced category) so the weekend quickly turned into a cozy cabin retreat with some frozen waterfall hikes and area adventures mixed in.

We booked our getaway on Airbnb (don’t forget – if you’re not yet signed up use this link to get $20 toward your first stay). Sparrow’s Nest turned out to be the perfect space for 8 of us. Roomy enough that we weren’t piled on top of each other, but cozy enough that we could all gather around in the living room. Located in Bartlett, New Hampshire, it was a short drive from North Conway and on the same road as Diana’s Baths and Echo Lake – which is where we spent Day 1.
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Diana’s Baths is a popular area attraction. It’s a quick, half mile hike from the parking lot to reach the main attraction, which is a series of cascading falls. Or, at least, in summer it is. When temps are hovering well below freezing, the falls look more like a scene from Frozen. Nevertheless, the area was every bit as magical as I assume it is when it’s running full force – if not more so.

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We had the area largely to ourselves, running into a few other brave souls who had ventured out into the cold on our way back to the car. Nearby Echo Lake was our next stop, one I had visited before in warm weather but, again, a spot that had a special kind of winter beauty stretching across the frozen lake this time of year.

IMG_2528Day #2 was even colder than the first and while our two bravest (and most athletic) friends admirably set off to ski, the rest of us piled into the car and made our way to Tamworth, NH. We detoured to Rocky Gorge on the way. If you’re not feeling adventurous, here’s what it looks like in winter, to save you the confusion of wondering just how far you have to walk in freezing temps to see the thing and if it’s really worth it.

Tamworth turned out to be the type of place I dream of stumbling upon while traveling. It was charming, unassuming, and unabashedly hip all at once. We entered the Tamworth Lyceum to a circle of musicians set off to the side of the cafe/shop where they were serving locally roasted coffee and homemade sandwiches and selling everything from camping gear to greeting cards crafted by local artists to chicken stock.

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Nearby Tamworth Distilling (I think the two are linked) would have been right at home in Portland, but it felt like we were stumbling across something special in what seemed to us, in our vacation state of mind, as somewhere quite remote. Farm to bottle and bottle to farm, in one unbroken cycle. That’s what their Instagram says.

They’ll give you samples of their spirits, and you’ll want to try as many as they’ll let you. Everything seems artfully put together, from their infused spirits (beet root, chicory root, and sweet potato) to their labels that shine garden scenes through the backs of the bottles. You’ll want to take it all home – everything from the cookbooks to the pineapple cocktail shakers.

For a ski weekend, our visit to the White Mountains was delightfully low key, filled with spurts of adventures and lots of time with good friends. Maybe this wasn’t the year for it, but one day I’ll pick up the cross country skis for, well, my second attempt ever at any type of skiing. On the edge of my six year Maine-iversary I don’t know how it hasn’t happened yet, but we’ll save that for next winter.

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