The Long Way Home
Words and Photos by Ashley Herrin
Every summer, when weekends allow, I make the pilgrimage to my family’s cottage on the lake. The journey north from Boston is congested with tired city folk escaping the over-heating sidewalks and brownstones, the over-stuffed Orange and Green lines and the general buzzing of Monday through Friday. It’s a mad dash out of the city – in an attempt to make it to the weekend sanctuary as quickly as possible.
The return trip is often times the same. Heading south from Ossipee’s lakes region, I’m typically greeted with highway back-ups as soon as Portsmouth. For those who have escaped to Maine for a long weekend or week away at the beach, this scene is something you’ve experienced all too often. It’s a mad dash to get home — to pick up the kids from your in-laws, the dog from the kennel, or just to get home in time to catch the end of the Sox game. We’ve all done it, we’ve all been there.
This season, my last trip to the lake was in early October. After shooting a wedding in the neighboring town with a fellow Bostonian, we decided to stop into the cabin for the night’s rest. It was a quiet night void of summer-evening laughter and the sounds of crackling fire. With the exception of the loon calling out into the October night, the lake was silent, even a touch eerie.
In the morning, I walked out onto the dock to take in the view like I do every visit. Autumn’s color dotted some of the trees that lined the lake. A light rain fell as the chill of the morning’s air acted as the cup of coffee I needed to wake myself up fully.
We gathered our belongings and closed up the cabin – I said my goodbyes until next time, and we headed for home. It was early in the morning, which meant we could be home in Boston within two hours if we kept the car pointed south. But this journey was going to be different.
Instead of heading south on Route 16, we turned north. With no real destination in mind, we embarked on our long journey home.
Our first stop was White Lake State Park. Although closed for the regular season, the park’s roads were still open. With no one in the park except us, we explored the beachfront area with free reign. The rental canoes still leaned up against the trees where one would find them during the summer months, and the camp store looked as if it were boarded up for winter only minutes prior. Summer had just departed White Lake, and winter’s embrace was beginning to move in.
White Lake mimicked the lake that I call home – a singular loon floated on the water’s surface, every now and then calling out to let us know it was there. A light rain fell and a mist danced of the water, floating into the tree line dotted with the dull hues of autumn.
A family’s laughter from the far end of the beach broke the silence and our Zen moment. We nodded in agreement and headed for the car… on to the next stop.
Departing 16 north, we turned left onto Route 113 with a new destination in mind: Tamworth, New Hampshire. This tiny town nestled in the foothills of Mount Chocorua has so much to offer. The Tamworth Lyceum serves soups and sandwiches made from the freshest local ingredients, delicious coffees, select groceries and a wonderful line of dry goods perfect for any New England adventurer. A few buildings down resides Tamworth Distilling. Owned and operated by the same crew running the Lyceum, the distillery produces an incredible line of small-batch, handcrafted spirits using locally-sourced ingredients. During the warmer months, a farmers market takes place every weekend and of course, Chocorua Lake is just a few short minutes from town center. For those unfamiliar with the area, go here. The 5-minute detour from Route 16 is worth it.
In Tamworth, we stopped by the Lyceum for breakfast and coffee, and popped into the Distillery to grab some early Christmas gifts. Back on the road, we continued onto Cleveland Hill Road. Pavement quickly turned into dirt and gravel and our excitement levels grew not knowing where the road would take us.
These New England back roads didn’t disappoint. We traversed over small bridges, past farms and pastures where cows and horses grazed. The colors of autumn seemed to pop here in the back woods more than they had at the lakes. The road curved through the woods and came to a stop sign. “Right!” we decided. So right we went. A covered bridge sign marker appeared in our viewpoint so we detoured to see it, making our journey home even longer — yet something we were even bothered by.
We continued on Route 113 West eventually greeting Squam Lake and its’ cottages all boarded up for winter. Winding roads took us to Holderness where we finally decided to stop for lunch. Overlooking the docks and the lake, we weighed our travel options… head over to 93 and then south to Boston or continue to take the long way home. We chose the latter.
The remainder of the day continued much like this. Back roads eventually led us to intersections where signs for 93 called out to us in an attempt to transport us back to Boston. And each time, we opted to take the long way home.
That Sunday we meandered and slowed down. We took notice and were observers of New England and the scenes of the season. We discovered new places and allowed the region to dictate our journey. That Sunday we took the roads less traveled by. And come Monday, that had made all the difference.