New Hampshire isn’t Disneyland, New Hampshire’s better! New Hampshire has the White Mountain Attractions! Is there any place else in the world where you can bring your whole family to experience so many fun, unique and beautiful places? I do know that growing up I was one lucky kid. My parents, my day camp and our town library took me to visit many if not all the White Mountain Attractions.
As an adult I have taken my niece and friend’s children to climb through caves, ride ski lifts to mountaintops, ride trains and see Clark’s famous trained bears and meet the Wolfman. But bringing children along is not a requirement to have fun. Charlie and I went out for some fun and decided to head to the Polar Caves. The Polar Caves in Rumney, NH have been an attraction since 1922 and “polar” describes the air temperature in their caves. Sorry there have never been polar bears in New Hampshire but they do make a cute mascot.
My first visit to the Polar Caves was when I was in elementary school. I remember it well. My mother told us that when she was a child, her family went to the Flume but she wanted to go to the Polar Caves. Her father didn’t take her but told her that she could bring her children there someday. My mother waited a long time and she did take my sister and me. Mom crawled through all the caves and kept us feeling safe when the guide turned off the lights and told us this was the darkest place in the world—they don’t do that anymore and the caves are now self-guided. We made good memories. Charlie and I entered the Polar Caves’ Lodge and along with our tickets we bought packages of corn to feed the ducks and deer. The Main Lodge houses the gift shop, snack bar and bathrooms. We took photos with the polar bear statues near the entrance and we had fun feeding the greedy ducks (quack quack) and the gentle deer along the way to the caves. Everyone can take their time walking the boardwalks through the Rock Garden and the caves. There are plenty of benches along the way where you can rest and enjoy the view. The boardwalk has many steps and travels up and down the side of the granite wall where the caves hide. For those that wish to skip a cave or two, all the caves have walk around by-passes. We had a blast crawling and wiggling through caves and we even make it through the tight “Lemon Squeeze”. The air in the caves was nice and cool and a great relief from the hot humid weather outside. The boardwalks are nicely constructed and hug the granite walls and big rocks. Nearby is world-class rock climbing across the Baker River Valley at Rumney Rocks on Rattlesnake Mountain, part of the White Mountain National Forest. Charlie climbs at Rumney Rocks and he eyed the Polar Cave’s cliff and was impressed. The Polar Caves have taken advantage of their fine glacial rock wall and offer climbing experiences for an additional charge of $10 for one climb or $30 for four climbs that can be split up among a group. Helmets, climbing harnesses and ropes and an instructor to belay and coach are included. This is a good introduction to rock climbing if you ever thought about giving it a try, it is the real deal. We watched a youngster climb and we all cheered when he reached the top and rang the bell that marked his a successful climb. On the way back out we took a closer look at their exotic pheasants. I wish I had bought a Lemon Squeeze T-shirt in the gift shop. Next time.
From the Polar Caves we drove straight to Loon Mountain to try our hand at disc golf. We purchased tickets and for ten more dollars we rented disc golf bags that contained three discs—a driver, mid-distance and putter. They warned us we were responsible for lost discs at a cost of $6 per disc. Loon auctioned off their old gondola cars earlier this summer and replaced them with sparkling new ones. Seriously, they sparkle. I love to ride the gondola in the winter and it is just as nice in the summer. The grand vista just grows as the car speedily climbs the mountain. The sharp pointy summits of Mount Flume and Liberty appear and grow higher above Mount Coolidge and Osseo. We could just barely see Mount Washington through the smoky haze from the western forest fires. On Loon’s summit there was a nice cool breeze. We climbed the summit observation tower and enjoyed the full White Mountain panorama. Then we headed to the Summit Café for lunch and ate deli sandwiches on the deck overlooking Loon Pond. I had a yummy grilled chicken sandwich with mozzarella and basil. The lunch package was a good deal. I think we saved about six dollars each over the posted a la carte prices.
As we walked back toward the gondola to find the top of the disc golf course we noticed a lot of people were wearing fancy clothes. Wedding guests were arriving and soon an afternoon wedding would be taking place at their outdoor amphitheater with its dramatic mountain backdrop. Armed with our bag of discs and a scorecard we headed down the mountain. The 18-hole course winds its way down the mountain’s ski trails. That cool breeze that we enjoyed would now make flight for our discs all the more challenging. Discs are similar to but they are not Frisbees and I thought they were harder to throw. Charlie’s first three throws all ended up in the woods. I on the other hand did not throw nearly as far as Charlie and had better luck staying on the short grass. We improved the more we played but we still spend a lot of time hunting for our lost discs. Luckily we always found them. Charlie had an impressive long toss and it went out of sight below us and then we heard “Clang”! He hit the snowmaking pipes. We laughed a lot. To speed things up we skipped the tee boxes and began the hole when we could see the basket. On the steeper sections the course stuck to the work road’s switchbacks. For the last two holes we caught up with two men that had their own discs, I bet they carried a dozen different ones. They could really toss ‘em. The last hole went straight down the slope of the half-pipe. Only the narrow floor of the half-pipe was mowed. We played it as a foursome. Let’s just say discs were lost and discs were found. The winner of disc golf is the player with the fewest throws at the end of the course. Charlie played so much better than me that I stopped keeping score after the third hole. I need more practice. Have Fun.
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: email@example.com.