It was Sunday morning, and both of us were restless. We wanted to relax after a long week for work, but we couldn’t see wasting an entire day sitting in front of the television, mindlessly ignoring each other. We finally had weekends together, and we wanted to spend time enjoying each other’s company. So I suggested we go driving.
Passport to adventure!
The Maine Department of Conservation, in charge of most of the state’s parks and recreational areas, launched a passport program a few years back to lure more people to state lands. Because C is an Assistant Ranger at one of the parks during the summer, she picked a couple up for us, and we’ve made a point of checking a few parks off. On this particular Sunday, we decided it would be good to at least visit one of the parks near us to get the passport stamped and scope out future fun activities. Range Ponds State Park is about 15 minutes from us, nestled in the woods between Poland and Auburn, Maine. A long access road takes you deep into the pine laden forest, and just when you think you can’t go any further without hitting the state line, a small brown sign points you to the parking lot, the Upper Range Pond glistening through the trees in the background. While the ponds aren’t huge, there is a beautiful stretch of beach along the sparkling water which, thanks to the heat and humidity that day, we were both tempted to jump right in. But we had other plans, and so after a quick stamp of the passport and brief walk down the beach, we headed back to the car.
The Random Thought
On our way out of the park, a thought randomly popped into my head: Let’s drive to North Conway, New Hampshire. It’s only a couple hours away, after all, and it would be nice to travel somewhere different. After all, the stunning White Mountains are practically outside our door; it would be a shame not to view their majesty for at least a little while. We hopped on Route 302 and headed west.
When turning onto Route 16/302 to head north toward North Conway, you’re immediately greeted with a spate of outlet shops and fast food joints. Not what you’d expect for an idyllic New England town. But thanks to several nearby attractions, including a ski area and the Saco River, the North Conway area has grown into a tourist attraction in itself. Which is fine, but heading a bit further on Route 302, you enter the Village of North Conway, which, with its main street lined with small shops and cafes, could keep you busy for a day or two. Already late in the day, C and I wandered through a few shops, grabbed a drink at one of the cafes, and wandered the street. Then, we saw it.
The Conway Scenic Railroad station sits smack dab in the middle of North Conway Village downtown. Nestled against a thicket of trees, behind the town park, sits the yellow and white Victorian style station building, designed by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee. It has been a scenic landmark since its completion in 1874. That color scheme, set against the deep green of the surrounding forest, no doubt drew they gaze of many tourists the railroad was designed to bring to the area. Today, the station is the main stopping point for the Conway Scenic Railroad, which uses diesel-electric engines to pull several vintage passenger and dining cars along gorgeous scenic routes through Crawford Notch. We didn’t have time to enjoy one of the several train journies that day, but we were able to stand on the platform and snap some pictures as the last train of the day pulled into station.
The Whirlwind Fades
The hour grew late, and thunderheads made their way into town, so we knew it was time to leave. The short stint in North Conway left us wanting to do so much more exploring. As a craft beer lover, I knew that the tasty Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company was a mere ten minutes up the road. Hiking trails, swimming holes, the Saco River, golf courses (miniature and otherwise), ski resorts, and much more await exploration, no matter white time of year. Thankfully, our spur of the moment decision to journey to North Conway only stoked our fire to head back, this time for more than a couple hours.
See | Do | Stay
L.L. Bean, Orvis, Brooks Brothers, Eddie Bauer, and dozens more.
North Conway Grand Hotel
Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company
Cranmore Mountain Resort & Ski Area
Bretton Woods Ski Area
North Conway Scenic Railway