Hi again! Alright, so last time I told you all about the first half of the epic northeast road trip Tony and I took in the fall of 2014. If you missed it, you can check it out here or enjoy this epicly short summary: we drank a lot of beer, ate potentially too much ice cream, and enjoyed a bit of nature. As promised, this post will include all of the best parts of our time spent in North Conway, New Hampshire, as well as Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine. Lucky for you, Part 2 includes more beer and more of the outdoors.
North Conway, NE
After making ourselves sick on ice cream, pizza, and beer in Burlington, Vermont, Tony and I headed over to Mount Washington. Along the way we stopped at the Flume Gorge in New Hampshire. This is more of a walking tour along designated catwalks than at Quechee Gorge where we were able to lounge along the rocks, but it's very impressive none-the-less. Before you go, know that it's impressiveness is also met with a hefty price tag ($16/adult) - don't say I didn't warn you.
Frankly, North Conway was mostly just a town to lay our heads and we chose it for it's vicinity to Mount Washington. Initially we thought, "Mount Washington, awesome, we'll go for a hike." No. Incorrect. It's possible, but not just your typical day hike. Mount Washington is known for its erratic and often dangerous weather. Though its peak is just over 6,000 feet high (paling in comparison to when my friends took me on a fourteener!) the conditions at the peak are notoriously windy and chilly. Unless you're really in for an adventure and have at least a full day to devote to physical exertion, the best plan is to drive or take the train to the summit. Of course the day we visited there was no wind at all, but again, it's unpredictable, so who knows what it was like minutes after we left.
Ba Haba, ME
Sorry, I mean Bar Harbor, but this one is so much fun to think about with a Bostonian accent. After our Mount Washington excursion we headed over to the coast of Maine and called Bar Harbor home for a couple of nights. Bar Harbor itself is a cute little northeastern resort town complete with polos and sail boats. And while the town is filled with lobster rolls, vacationers, and part-time seasonal workers, the real gem is Acadia National Park.
There are loads of trails that can be found throughout the park, but in my opinion there are 3 must-do activities:
1. Bike the carriage roads - From Bar Harbor you can rent bikes and enjoy the mostly flat base of the park via the wide carriage roads. There are 45 miles in all, so plenty to exhaust any vacationing cyclist.
2. Be the first to see the sunrise in the U.S. - In the fall and winter, visitors to Cadillac Mountain are the first to see the sun rise in the United States. Though the mountain is only 1,500 feet high, it is the highest point within 25 miles of the coast stretching all of the way from Canada to Mexico. For the record, if you follow the link above, that is what it actually looks like. Wouldn't it be romantic if it was really just you, your camera, and the sun like this picture would lead you to believe?
3. Complete the Beehive Trail - One of the cooler technical, but still pretty accessible trails in the park is Beehive Trail. Anyone in reasonable shape can do it, but it'll make you feel like a true mountain climber as you bear-crawl up parts of the trail and tip-toe along the exposed cliff. Not for the faint of heart, but worth the reward.
After a few days on the trails, it was time to get back to vacationing by consuming beer and we figured what better place to go in the northeast than Portland, Maine, which boasts the most breweries per capita in the U.S. (but, bear in mind not a whole lot of people live in Portland, ME). On the way down the coast we made a pit-stop at Pemaquid Point, which added quite a bit of driving time since we took highway 1, but it allowed us to explore the coast by both car and foot, as well as see a historic lighthouse with a stunning ocean backdrop.
Once in Portland, there are loads of breweries to discover. We had time to visit Shipyard, Rising Tide Brewing, and Maine Beer Company. We were really, really looking forward to visiting Allagash, but unfortunately we didn't check what days they were open before planning our trip and we showed up after they had closed up for the weekend. Note to self: make sure to check the visiting hours of any breweries you're dying to see when you're flying cross-country to do so.
Our absolute favorite beer was at Rising Tide. There had been a large event the day before so the brewery was out of all of their “always on tap” beers, so we tried four specialty beers and liked every one. We also love the name. It comes from JFK's famous economic quote, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Our host told us that in Portland the beer community is collaborative rather than competitive - the bigger breweries will often help out the smaller guys with equipment, mentoring, etc. and Rising Tide believes that this is the way to do business because if great beer keeps getting made, the beer market will expand, and everyone wins. Pretty cool philosophy.
Back to Boston. After days on the road we decided to end our trip back in Boston so that we could buy an easy round-trip plane ticket and also avoid the high-priced fees of dropping the rental car off in a different city than pick up. We spent one last relaxing night repacking our suitcases with the beers and cheeses we'd purchased along the way and a walk along the river. It was the perfect capstone evening to our trip.
Whew! You made it through Part One and Part Two (oh, you skipped part one? Go back and read it now!)! You deserve a beer. I recommend Allagash White :).
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A couple of last thoughts. Vermont has a fun Beer Passport that you can download and print at home or pick up at one of the participating breweries during your visit. If you're really into beer and want to try a ton, this is a cool way to track where you've been, and if you want, earn prizes! Vermont also has a Cheese Trail (Vermont knows how to live!). You can view or download the map here. We visited one of the stops on the Cheese Trail and it was awesome, but also a little confusing. It was a very trust-oriented establishment. There was a little shack down a gravel road and you could enter, help yourself to cheese samples, read a bit about the farm, and if you wanted to purchase anything, you helped yourself and left money in a box. It was pretty cool, but a very different experience than Sugarbush Farms, so just know what you're in for.
Alright, now you've actually finally made it all of the way through your guide to planning the ultimate northeast road trip. If you want to check out a map of the route we took, you can here.
Have you done a great road trip through the U.S. Tell me about it!