Sunday morning J and I slept in, enjoying our vacation. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, I made a hot breakfast for the both of us (eggs, bacon, toast, apple cider) and then we were off adventuring.
Our first stop was the White Mountain National Forest to do some winter walking. The forest is truly spectacular- over 880,000 acres of wilderness purchased and now maintained by the federal government. New Hampshire was in a selling pattern to raise cash, auctioning off a lot of state late to the highest private bidders (mostly logging companies). The feds became involved in the purchasing frenzy in the early 1900s with the passage of the Weeks Act.
President Taft signed the Weeks Act into law on March 1, 1911. The law authorized the federal government to purchase lands for stream-flow protection, and to maintain the acquired lands as national forests. Initially, eastern lands along navigable watersheds were considered. As the years progressed however, the Forest Service acquired select western lands under the aegis of the Weeks Law.
The Forest Service recommended lands for purchase, while the Geological Survey evaluated the acreage to be sure the reserved lands would maintain navigable waterways. The law authorized a National Forest Reservation Commission to consider and approve the land purchases. The commission was composed of the Secretaries of War, the Interior, and Agriculture, and two Members each, from the House and Senate.
We hiked part of the Boulder Loop trail and took a lot of pictures. Here are some of the shots:
After our morning walk we set off to purchase a Christmas tree. With limited space in the cabin and a tight budget we decided to forgo a traditional live tree and opted for a small 3ft artificial tree that matched the proportions of the cabin living room.
Then we scoured the town for an authentic New Hampshire cookbook (I collect cookbooks from every state) with no luck. A lot of Maine and Vermont cookbooks but not a single NH publication.
We enjoyed some NY style pizza for lunch (so nice to be back in New England where you can get good pizza in any town) and headed back to the cabin.
Once at the cabin we decorated the tree, enjoyed nap time and then munched some fresh homemade popcorn. This was my first time ever making popcorn on the stove the old fashioned way. We only did it so we could conform our vacation to a favorite Christmas Carol:
It doesn't show signs of stopping
and I brought some corn for popping
the lights are turned way down low
let it snow
let it snow
let it snow
Later that evening it was time for the most anticipated event of our vacation- the horse drawn sleigh ride. The ride exceeded all of my expectations. We all have moments in our lives where we feel so very close to God and his creations - the land, the animals- and this was one of those moments. (I specifically remember the last time I had one of these moments - it was standing on the side of the highway before a meadow that stretched out as far as my eyes could see where antelope grazed against the backdrop of the Grand Tetons.)
J and I rode in the sleigh (an antique specimen over 100 years old) through the dark woods warmed under the heavy sleigh blanket draped across our bodies. The only illumination as we glided over the snow was the soft glowing light of the sleigh lamp and the moonlight reflected off the snow and lightly falling rain. The woods were quiet except for the delicate ringing of the sleigh bells and the movement of the horses. There was a misty fog all around us that further limited our view as the horses pulled us along the trail. It was breathtaking and magical and as my husband held my hands in his I took in the beauty of the moment and felt the tears welling up just before they spilled over onto my cheeks. I will never forget the experience and I am so grateful to have had the chance to go on the special ride.
Here is a picture of us in the sleigh just before departure.
Darby Field Inn Sleigh Rides.
185 Chase Hill, Albany, NH 03818
After the sleigh ride we returned to the cabin where J started a roaring fire while I made dinner for two. Once we finished dinner, we decorated our tree and then stood back to admire our efforts.