russell-colbath house, white mountain national forest

Day 27 – White Mountain Wonderland Part 2

Outside of waking up in a house and going to bed in a house, today was like a bad day at the office when the task list remains untouched due to other challenges that arise throughout the day.  The good news:  an irritating day on the road is still better than a good day in the office!

From the outset, today entailed a significant amount of driving.  The end of the drive yesterday took me to the northern part of New Hampshire which is how I scored the house in northwestern Maine, but the drive today began in Littleton, NH around the middle of the state and headed east to Conway, NH before I turned southeast to stay with my stepdad’s cousin George in Prouts Neck, Maine which is south of Portland.  I basically completed a giant U-turn.

Franconia Notch State Park

After about 2 ½ hours of driving, I began the “scheduled” scenic tour in Franconia Notch State Park.  The Reader’s Digest Book suggested to ride the Aerial Tramway, the first of its kind in North America, across the highway at Cannon Mountain for a picturesque view of Echo Lake.  Since it was almost noon, and I hadn’t taken the dogs for their morning walk, I decided to take a 1.5 mile loop hike.  Little did I know that the loop went up and over the mountain.  Parts of the path were so steep that I could have used the ropes the climbers were using to scale the cliff above!  I was able to catch a glimpse of Echo Lake including the parking lot behind it, which seemed to tarnish the beauty in my opinion.

I intended to make my next stop at Old Man of the Mountain, a rock ledge that resembles a human profile and dubbed Great Stone Face by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Given it was the first sunny day of the last week and it was a holiday weekend, everyone in New England fit in their last outing for the summer.  Overflow parking for main park attractions lined the two lane highway for several hundred yards in every direction.  A steady flow of traffic created a parking lot along Kancamagus Highway which is one of the highest roadways in the Northeast.  According to Reader’s Digest, the corkscrewing route is also one of the prettiest.  I must have arrived a day too late.  The leafless trees provided one of the most barren of all the drives I have taken thus far.

Russell-Colbath House

I chose to plug along, skip seeing Sabbaday Falls, and dodge the cars pulling in and out of the scenic overlooks and trailhead parking areas until I climbed the pass and arrived at the Russell-Colbath House.  I’m not quite certain what the draw to this house is except it is the valley’s earliest remaining historic farmhouse.    The house was built in 1832 by Thomas Russell and his son Amzi after Russell purchased five 100 acre lots the previous year for $5.25.

Amzi and his wife Eliza raised five daughters in the home and lived off their garden crops and fruits of the surrounding forest and stream.  For the next 40 years, Amzi continued purchasing forest land nearby presuming the railroad would come to the valley.  Eventually, the railroad arrived, but not until after Amzi died and the family had to sell most of its land to meet financial obligations.

In the 1880’s, Eliza deeded the property to her daughter Ruth, married to Thomas Colbath, who continued farming the land.  One day, Thomas left the house, telling Ruth he’d be back in a little while to never return during her lifetime.  It is said that Ruth placed a candle in the window each night awaiting his return.  Thomas finally returned 42 years after he left, 3 years after Ruth’s death.

After a quick visit to the house and cemetery and a walk around the surrounding nature trail, Scout, Petey, and I traveled to Maine to meet Moxie, Arrow, and George.  George and I chatted until about 10:30 when we finally sat down for a flank steak and broccoli dinner.  His friend Pharibe came by too.  Pharibe and George have known each other since they were kids from spending summers in Maine.  Pharibe has three girls all in boarding school at Miss Porter’s.  She recently sold her house in Massachusetts and plans on moving to a small town in Virginia.  Uniquely, her college roommate at Duke was from Highland Park, Texas…small world!

George, when not in Maine, spends his time in Denver.  He owns several rental properties that he leases to DU kids.  His house in Maine is seven bedrooms with a view of the ocean and sunset…fantastic.  He has two great dogs, Moxie and Arrow that were probably disappointed that Petey and Scout are so OLD!  We enjoyed an evening of good times, good food, and good spirits. While the day was a bust in terms of enjoying the nature, the night of good company made up for it! ETB



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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

9 thoughts on “Day 27 – White Mountain Wonderland Part 2

  1. The Russell-Colbath house seems to hold some sad tales. Poor Ruth!

    Did Pharibe go to Miss Porter’s too? Wondering if she might know Catie.
    I can’t believe her college roommate was from HP!

    Glad you has such a delightful evening. Give George a big hug from me!

    xo’s Mom

    1. It he said he was nearby for a year, but embarrassed to return since he was gone so long and then he went on to South America and other places around the world.

  2. So did you make it to the Old Man in the Mountain site?
    I saw him about 10 years ago but I read that part of his face fell off around five years ago.

    1. If I did, unknowingly. I took a picture of a view cliffs from the highway, but wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for as I didn’t make it to the tourist spot — WAY TOO MUCH TRAFFIC! I read locals wire his face back together every year, but don’t know.

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