Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Covered bridges, clear mountain streams and Dog Patch

We woke Saturday morning to bright blue cloudless skies and so decided on staying another day in Bethel. Because our site was reserved, we moved to another campsite closer to town and then rode our bikes around the river trails and the town. I’ve included a couple of pictures of the houses in Bethel just to illustrate their grand scale. I’m not sure of the history but you can see that most of the houses had the barns attached. Also one of the halls at the private high school, that they call academies, where rich kids are boarded away from home.

Later in the day Janice taught me to make ‘Tim’s’ World Famous Bean Dip which is one of my new favourite meals. It’s vegetarian. You mix half a can of black beans (put the other half in a baggy and freeze for next time) with an equal amount of cooked brown (or other) rice. Chop a whole tomato, about a third of a red onion, a whole avocado, a few tablespoons of salsa, and mix with the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Spread this mixture on top of the heated beans/rice and grate some Cheddar or Jack cheese on top. Easy - and eaten by dipping Tostitos chips into the mixture. Try it. It comes with a money back guarantee.

After dinner we went to the local bar because there was live music there, but it turned out to be a solo guy who was good, but very unconventional and low key. He was playing an amplified acoustic guitar with fingerpicks and it sounded like… a piano? When we got home we watched a really funny movie called Heartbreakers. Unlike Canada, almost all private American campgrounds have cable. It must be a pretty old movie because it starred Gene Hackman and Sigourney Weaver.

We woke to a cloudy sky and decided to head for New Hampshire, which is only twenty miles from where we were staying in Bethel. The state motto for New Hampshire is Live Free or Die. At the first little town, Gorman, I saw two young people selling organic produce so we stopped and bought some organic herbs and they were nice enough to throw in a bunch of organic cherry tomatoes. The whole area here is the ski destination for the Eastern Seaboard although the mountains are pretty but puny by BC standards.

The next day we stopped at the first of the covered bridges we were to encounter, pictured below. The wooden structures below the roof apparently lasted more than twice as long once covered.

It rained pretty well all day and so we didn’t get to see much of the White Mountains that everybody has been telling us are so beautiful. If it had been a nice day we would have driven to the top of 6,000 foot Mount Washington, where you can apparently see as far as Boston on a good day. Rain or no, we did stay at our nicest campground so far, called Lost River Valley near Lincoln. It has huge trees, two nice streams running through the site, the Lost River on the other side of the highway where massive boulders separate clear, deep swimming holes and lots of trees with roots clinging to the huge single boulders beneath them. I’m not sure of the elevation of the campsite but we were right below the clouds.

We played Hangman that night and I beat the pants off Janice.

Pictured is our campsite at Lost River Valley with the ubiquitous glasses of wine that keep showing up everywhere we go. Note the tree clinging to the rock. Also, one of the streams running through the property.

By the time we drove through the White Mountains, we were almost in Vermont, so we crossed over, with the idea that we’d travel down the state and then cross back over lower New Hampshire to the coast again. The capital city of Vermont is a pretty little place called Montpellier. Don’t pronounce it the French way though because people will look at you funny. We walked all around the town before driving up the road a few miles to a campsite on the Onion River at Marshfield.

Pictured is the State House at Montpellier as well as an inside picture of it - I really liked the painting displayed. Lastly a pic typical of the architecture there.

At Marshfield we got a real taste of rural Vermont when we found ourselves to be the only tourists at the campsite we checked into. By the time we were set up we thought we were somewhere in the middle of something like The Trailer Park Boys meet Dog Patch. We crossed the bridge from the highway and pulled up to a sign that said ‘office’ but was at the top of a skinny dirt path leading to a deserted barn. A guy came out of the house next door so we inquired if he had a site for the night. He said, “Sure, take your pick.“ I couldn’t see the campsite from where we were but I asked if he had an AAA discount. He said, “Naw, we don’t bother with none a’ that stuff. It’s $25, cash.” I liked his style. I handed him the money and we were done. No unnecessary niceties.

There were actually a couple of riverfront lots available but once we started to set up, almost immediately a guy came wandering through who we could tell, after two words, was ‘Special’. We decided to move a little further away from the rest of the ’campers’. Soon we saw a number of dirty little kids in diapers running around a few equally disheveled women that had started to appear out of various shoddy looking trailers.

No sooner had had we finished setting up when a skinny little guy stuck his smiling head around the corner of the trailer announcing, “Hi, I’m John Evans, your official Ambassador to Vermont.” He was about fifty or so with a friendly, deeply creased face. His manner was friendly too, if a little skittish. He said he’d be happy to sell us some firewood and then started telling me about his previous life in the navy, and smoking marijuana with the Hopi in Arizona, and so on... He even invited us to have spaghetti with is wife and three kids. This all happened within five minutes.

We declined his spaghetti offer, but I was interested in how much pot smoking went on in the US military. He said when he was in the Navy pot smoking was commonplace. They would normally go inside the gun turrets on the ships but most everybody knew it was going on so it wasn‘t that big a deal. In the mid 80’s though, two guys crashed a jet onto the deck of an aircraft carrier and were found to have THC in their systems. Ronald Regan was very pissed and, according to John, it was that incident that started The War on Drugs, and dope testing in the military.

Apparently there was a huge exodus from The Services at that point. Either people finding a way to get discharged or being dishonorably discharged after testing positive. According to John it significantly depleted the ranks at that point.

Meanwhile, at Dog Patch, some guy that must have been having a nap, could be heard mumbling gruffly at a couple of little dogs, “Shut up or I’ll stuff my _ _ _ _ _ _ _ boot down your throat.” Well, the dogs must not have liked that because all of a sudden there was a big uproar with the dogs barking furiously and him shouting over them about what he was going to do to them. After that had quieted down we would hear him (everything he said was at the top of his lungs through a real gravel whiskey voice) to “Shut up!”, or “Get over here!”, or “How many times do I have to tell you!”. He was probably fifty-something and it turned out some of the dirty little kids in diapers were his. After a while it was quite comical because he’d constantly be shouting orders at the top of his lungs but all the kids, women and dogs simply went about what they were doing, completely ignoring him. Eventually I saw the campground owner’s truck at the site and, after that, there was no more noise.

We woke to blue skies and left Dog Patch behind to tour the Green Mountains. The sunshine didn’t last long so, once again, we weren’t getting to see much of the mountains. We did see the first hints of colour in the trees though. Passing through some really pretty little towns, we stopped at Middlesbury and took a walk around.
Pictured below are a downtown street and the falls in downtown Middlesbury, the former site of a a marble works and several different grain and gin mills that are now funky shops.

We stayed at Country Village campsite outside Leichestire where we were, once again, the only tourists. We had a ripping big campfire and I made a salad, chopping up just about everything that was in the crisper before Janice added bacon and scallops with a maple syrup/ horseradish dressing.


  1. Now I'm really getting envious. I've always wanted to see the covered bridges.
    Keep safe and happy. Cousin Lois.

  2. Hey Tim or Janice - please email me as I have a q about painting sales - Frank