Close Encounters in the Woods!

The shriek of the air horn shattered the tranquility of the forest and stopped me in my tracks.


I had set up camp in Jigger Johnson Campground in the White Mountains of New Hampshire earlier in the afternoon and then took the bike back out onto the Kancamagus Highway to retrace my track earlier, this time without the camper.  I was putting the cover on the bike back in camp for the evening when the blast from the horn reminded me that this forest was someone else’s home.  Actually, home to many, many others that don’t walk on two legs!

Overnight campsite in Jigger Johnson Campground along the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains, NH

The camp host, about 3 campsites down from mine, used the air horn to scare the bear out of her area.  Everyone in the vicinity re-evaluated their campsite food discipline and carried on with their evening.  I felt a bit vulnerable in my soft-sided pop-up camper that night, but I double-checked that all my food and fragranced items were in my bear-proof canister and stashed in the woods well away from my pop-up. I slept surprisingly well, considering the bear sighting, and got up the next morning refreshed, although with no desire to cook breakfast in the woods!  I packed up camp upon awakening and continued to explore the amazing Kancamagus Highway on my way to Lincoln, NH for breakfast.

Tony, my homestay host in Bangor, was spot on when he recommended I ride the Kancamagus Highway.  I can’t believe that I had never heard of such an iconic road and area!  Nestled deep in the White Mountain National Forest, NH Rt 112, known as the “Kanc,” is a National Scenic Byway that boasts 34.5 miles of two-lane travel that climbs nearly 3000 ft as it traverses a section of Mt Kancamagus.  It parallels the Swift River, which provides stunning river views around just about every corner.  Though the road is not that technical (relatively speaking), I did see a downed biker in one of the turns (he was OK with several other bikers assisting righting the bike), so it still demands your full attention.

Swift River along the Kancamagus Highway
At C. L. Graham Wangan Overlook (approx. 3000 ft) with Mt Kancamagus behind me.

Since I’m not a motorcycle rally kind of person, I was not tracking that Laconia Bike week was happening in this area until I encountered all the bikes on the Kanc and rolled into town and saw the streets lined with rubber and chrome.  Every breakfast place was packed, but I managed to get a seat at the bar at a local flapjack joint.  The four guys from central Massachusetts, also seated at the bar, chatted with me about bikes and favorite rides over breakfast, and even gave me some great recommendations for routes on my journey west.  When I asked the waitress for my bill, they had already taken care of it!   I thanked them for their generosity, then we went outside so they could see my rig.  It’s always funny to see people’s faces when they see the actual size of my camper.  I think they expect a little bicycle-towing size trailer, so when they see my 400-lb pop-up hitched to my Harley, they are always a bit taken aback.  We talked bikes some more and then we went our separate ways.  It’s so great how food brings people together 🙂 

Looking back onto New Hampshire after crossing the Connecticut River into Vermont

I again heeded local rider advice and rode south along VT-5, part of the Connecticut River Byway, and enjoyed riding through little towns and farmland along the river. I veered off the scenic byway and was excited to discover a National Park along my route – the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont. Here’s a description straight from the website that sums the park up best: “Nestled among the rolling hills and pastures of eastern-central Vermont, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park to tell the story of conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship in America. The boyhood home of George Perkins Marsh, one of America’s first conservationists, and later the home of Frederick Billings, the property was given to the American people by its most recent owners, Laurance S. and Mary F. Rockefeller.” I didn’t have enough time to hike the trails, but I was able to learn about the conservation efforts and admire the Jersey cows still kept on site. 

Billings established a scientific system for managing a herd of Jersey cows that became an example for local dairy farmers

The day ended with a rainy overnight stay in Lake George, NY. My stay in Lake George wasn’t really long enough to do anything but struggle to find parking and get a hotel for the evening. The lake was beautiful, but the town was packed with tourists, so I decided to move out early the next morning after breakfast. Next up, westbound through upstate NY.

The sun came out the next morning on Lake George as I continued my ride westward.

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