Lake Umbagog (August 22-24, 2016) - Click on pictures to enlarge!

In the summer Janice has four things on her mind: Maine, swimming, kayaking, and camping, roughly in that order. But since we bought in Bretton Woods in 2006 and the kids have grown up I have become lazy about these things and am sorry about it. So we checked out our old camping gear and headed to Lake Umbagog (90 minutes from Bretton Woods) for a 2-night wilderness camping experience. Umbagog straddles NH and Maine, it's not quite the Maine coast or the Allagash (where we did our honeymoon and then took the kids) but it's a start. We went to wilderness the easy way - there's a campground at the south end of the lake from which we rented kayaks, and they dropped us off at campsite #33 on a cove in the middle of the lake and promised to pick us up in two days. Here we are on the boat (left) and here's our campsite (right).
We had two perfect days on the lake. It was great to rediscover the joys of camping, hanging out around the campfire (left) and putzing around the campsite with nothing particular to do (right). I even read Catcher In The Rye - I hadn't read a novel in years.
But we also took to our kayaks and explored the lake. It was a lot of fun, the weather was perfect, and not a single bug around (late August is reliable for that). We went to Maine in our kayaks (5 minutes from our site - here's Janice in Maine at left). We heard a lot of loons, and they came fishing around our kayaks (right). We saw a bald eagle circling overhead.
The lake was just beautiful, encircled by mountains, speckled with islands. Metallak Island (to the right of Janice in the distance) has a great history that we learned all about after the trip.
Indeed, all the islands on the lake made great destinations. Some of them had a dock and a cabin tucked away from the shore. It was fun kayaking from island to island, watching the loons, just taking in the sunshine.
On the way back from Umbagog we drove through Dixville Notch to check out the Balsams Wilderness hotel, presently undergoing massive renovations under change of ownership and with all kinds of talk about making this the biggest ski resort in the East. It wasn't at all what I expected. Approaching Dixville Notch from the east it was striking to see a wind turbine farm lining the whole ridge. The notch itself was a narrow cleft and on the other side the hotel suddenly appeared with a big lake in front of it (left). No tall mountains around, no ski trails. There were all sorts of No Trespassing signs on the side road to the hotel but of course we could not resist so we parked the car and walked around the lake toward the hotel. The hotel architecture is stucco Florentine grotesque (right) - the kind you expect in Pasadena, CA, not in the Whites. Who would want to stay there?
We wandered into a first building, the one where the hotel employees do their first-in-the-nation voting. There we met a lady all dressed up - it turns out that the hotel development folks were expecting investors from New York for an open house. We didn't look like investors from New York so she told us nicely to get off property. We left and kept wandering around the dilapidated buildings (left and right), wondering who in hell would think that they could turn a profit on this weird place. Then another guy in a suit came chasing after us, he was nice enough and told us about the big hotel plans and how the ski resort would be on the other side of the mountain and accessible by gondola, and then he told us to get off the property. We had seen enough so we complied. An eerie place, hard to get to and not particularly interesting.

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