White Mountain National Forest–First Taste

Sunday, August 17, 2013

The population of Maine’s coastal towns tends to swell during summer, especially at summer’s peak in mid-August.  The towns and villages take on the urban busyness of real cities, and their charm dwindles.   I spent so many summer days in Freeport and Old Orchard Beach, my Inner Compass was no longer reliable.  I was determined to find a forest. 

Most of the White Mountain National Forest is in New Hampshire, but the map of Maine shows a small green patch of it.  And I headed for it.

Outside of the metropolitan area, the towns are few—just crossroads with a couple of businesses.  En route to the forest, I learned that Coos County has 27 towns17 have fewer than a 1000 residents. 

The two-lane roads snake through up and down the countryside with miles and miles where it is unsafe to pass.  I imagine a few oaths were sworn at the lumbering old motorhome that averaged 45 mph on the flats and a lot less on the hills.  I do try to keep a watchful eye, and if my trail of ducklings reaches three, I look for a place to pull over and wave them on by.  Sometimes, by the time the safe and convenient pullover appears, there are 20 vehicles behind.

The first night took me 100 miles to the town of Bethel, ME, which billboards itself as the most charming mountain town in Maine.  It could be truelots of shops selling local crafts, camping outfitters, and restaurants.  Not a single fast food franchise or neon sign. 

My parking karma sharpens as I am back in the mode of foraging for parking places.   I don’t know that I ever mentioned specifically that I eschew commercial campgrounds.  It has become a game for me to find a suitable place to stay and nicer than an RV motel. 

On Saturday Bethel’s large grassy downtown park transforms into a flea market, with more emphasis on antiques than a typical city flea market.

I headed west and crossed into New Hampshire and found a ranger station near Gorham, NH.  The ranger sketched in some roads not on the maps where it was permissible to pull off the road and park.  In National Forest parlance this known as dispersed camping or dry camping, which simply means there are no services.

And so late Sunday afternoon I was driving through a thick forest on a narrow road, which was paved only for a few miles, when it became a wide one-lane twisty road.  There were few signs, and they were of a sort my non-RVing pals would never see:  “Road not maintained in winter,” “Don’t hit a moose, it could save your life,” “Bear country, stow food in metal containers ,” “Jefferson Notch, elev 3009, the highest point in New Hampshire accessible by a public road.

And so, nine miles down the hardpan road, I came upon my Sunday night parking place, a 30’ driveway hacked from the thicket, next to a brook busily heading elsewhere. 

JS Whte Mountain NF

Stream WM NF

The spot could not have been more obviously mine if it had a Reserved for AL sign.

Not since Appalachicola NF have I found a place so peaceful, so escapist, and so nourishing as I did at N44 16.347, W071 22.225, Elev 2281, Jefferson Notch Rd. Twin Mountain, NH.


About allevenson

Writer (of stories, journals, email dialogues), Reader (of books written by friends, recommended by friends, and works-in-progress of friends), Hiker (never met a trailhead I didn't like), Biker (more scenery for the buck than hiking) and lately, Blogger (about my Year on the Road at www.allevenson.wordpress.com).
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10 Responses to White Mountain National Forest–First Taste

  1. bob marcus says:

    sounds perfect ….. dont think my wife would be confortable staying… got rid of the class c … now in a 2009 class a coachmen.. 35ft…luv it….hope to travel

    next summer up to maine and into canada…..

    • allevenson says:

      Congrats on the new rig. What’s not to be comfortable in a late model 35-footer. Let’s stay in touch as you roam Maine and Canada in the summer of ’14. I expect to spend a few more months here at that time and we ought to be able to rendezvous. AL

  2. Betty St. John says:

    I hope you don’t miss St. Gauden’s (sp?) while you are in New Hampshire. The name of the town is different but it is easy to find and worth the detour.

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    So pristine, so beautiful! I know a little of Maine, around Newcastle, where my late husband’s cousin lives. If you get a chance, look up Richard Halvorson. He’s quite old now, but a writer, also, and still writing his “Mental Meanderings” in the local newspaper. I remember the town of Wiscaset (sp) nearby, where policewomen wore white gloves, directing tourist traffic. School teachers were called “Masters”- a completely different world, with the best lobster I have ever had.

  4. David L says:

    Didn’t realize there were 20 vehicles in the state, particularly the west side. Well … you’re at it again, twisting the knife. Could a life be more idyllic, a county more inviting? I,,on the other hand, weaving through traffic, dodging commuters outbursts, and listening to helicopters overhead as they search out the “evil-doers” am learning to, see a new life through yours – the travel, people and pastoral places you so generously send back to us. Keep it up, I’ve come back. Your friend,
    Walter Mitty

  5. Karen Goucher says:

    Missed you! Always fine when you come back to your writings. The scenic spot calls to you for sure. Yes – made for you. Appreciate the photos – not that the writing doesn’t paint a picture.
    Stuck here gladly on the Oregon coast – midway just north of Florence on the ocean. Waves lull me to sleep and the sun dawns – painting my eyes in the morn. Happiness is calm, peaceful and uncomplicated days sliding by. Till your next instalment of pleasure…..

    Doug and Vera are content in North Vancouver – Herb dropped by before he headed south. They have hung up their TREK spurs. They don’t miss it they say. I believe them but they did 20 years solo – on the road.

  6. Karen says:

    Ah Coos County! My first New Hamphire license plate came from Coos County back when license plates were identified by county. In those early days I spent a lot of time in Lancaster. I stillgoback to the ‘north country’ when I can. Your ‘site’ looks idyllic.

  7. Colleen Rae says:

    Those photos tell the story, although your description adds to the painted canvas. it looks very peaceful and serene. Forests, brooks and quiet are the grounds for good writing. Thanks, Al. My second husband came from Whitefield, NH and we visited there back in the 1960’s. It was a lovely, small town, pristine and fresh with a well-known writer among the residents and a famous pianist. There were lots of forests and places to rock-climb, (his hobby, not mine).Lovely small creeks meandered through the trees. You have found another outstanding place in the U.S. Aren’t you a lucky man?

  8. Michael says:

    Yep, looking very peaceful, and of course, requires a comfortable chair and a good book for awhile. Our 16 year old Beaver is getting the oil changed etc. in preparation for loading up and shoving off—— our favorite departure day is Labor Day, as all the working folks head home and all those great parking site are available. We will not be meeting you in Maine, but will head for Montana and north until it gets cold.

    Keep that writing habit going Al, we enjoy it.

  9. Histscape says:

    Great AL. Angel and I are watching the Video from 1999 of our RV trip on Highway 2. Timberland Campground 1 night $18 the drive through Gorham, shots of Mount Washington to the south of us. Then I-93 I note I said I had the RV in Low Gear going down a steep grade for the 1st time ever. Then Country Bumpkins campground $90 5 days Lincoln Loon Mountain. This was Sept 14-20th. The Hurricane hit (tail end) and if you were at that stream then you’d have been washed away. The water rose at the Campground and when I opened our door to step out at Bumpkins there were ducks swimming in puddles of water at our doorstep. Like you after we left we found our Free camp spot says Southern NH Black Forest Bakery Parking lot. GREAT DAYS. Thanks for helping us relive this AL.

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