Vagabond Travelor
by Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen has been a columnist since 1964 and has written many columns for newspapers and magazines. These include cooking, history, book reviews, restaurant reviews, gardening, quiltmaking, consumer topics, children's stories and activities, homespun philosophy, travel, and marriage. Currently she writes "Country Kitchen" for newspapers in New Hampshire and Utah, "Refunder's Hotline" for a New Hampshire newspaper, and a marriage column for The Oasis, an online Christian publication. Mary Emma Allen also is a book author and newsletter editor/publisher.
(PLYMOUTH, NH) - Mary Emma Allen's book, WRITING IN MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE & VERMONT, was named on Carolyn Howard-Johnson's list of Top 10 Books for Writers. Howard-Johnson also placed a review of this resource book for writers, publishers, librarians, and educators at
This book, published by Writer's World Press, gives resources for writers, publishers, librarians and those interested in writing and publishing, whether they live in the Tri-States area or in other parts of the country.
"This little volume makes an excellent addendum to any book an author might presently be using as a resource," said Ms. Howard-Johnson, the award-winning author of "This Is the Place" and a familiar name among book reviewers.
Check out Mary Emma Allen's Web Site for more cooking information and recipes.
She also writes "Teacher to Teacher," a column for teachers, homeschooling parents, and parents who are encouraging young writers. This appears on the Rising Writers site:
Photo by Caron Gonthier


Discovering the Wonders of a Winter Woodland

Following The Trails of Ancestors

Church Suppers– An American Tradition

Weekend Getaways Close To Home

Enjoy the Scenic Splendor of the Mohawk Trail

Following the Trail of Civil War Ancestors

Discover the Joy of Exploring Country Roads

Memories of the Old Man of the Mountain

Discover The Picturesque Baker River Valley

Discovering Rural Arizona

Exploring Northern Utah

Following The Lewis & Clark Trail In Idaho

Following The Lewis & Clark Trail In Idaho - Part 2

Wandering Through Sandwich Notch In Autumn

Enjoy Jackson Hole's Splendor In Winter

Finding Country Stores in Your Travels



The wonders of a winter woodland abound around our home, situated on three wooded acres near the end of a dirt road. The other morning when we woke up to a few inches of snow, the evergreens were bent low with a white coating, the chickadees were uttering their distinctive call as they peered from the gourd bird house in the maple tree, blue jays called out from another area, and animal tracks criss-crossed the white ground.

Even though we still don’t have much snow on the ground for this time of year, the magic of winter whiteness abounds and the grandchildren called with glee, “We had snow in the night.” Later in the day, they frolicked with their dog around the house.

Exploring the Winter Woodland

I’ve always been fascinated by a winter woodland and have enjoyed living in one ever since we built this home, 27 years ago. After a snow storm, the woodland is shrouded by a silence that makes each snap and crack of frosty branch, each bird call or animal’s movement seem magnified.

When I was growing up on a farm, I’d walk along the trail to the woods behind our barn. Usually there was a trail to follow where Father had taken the tractor and wagon to get a load of wood for the kitchen stove and wood furnace. It was relaxing and refreshing to hike there and become aware of all the woodland sights and sounds.

Winter Sights & Sounds, Far & Near

You can discover a winter wonderland close to home or throughout your travels in northern country where it snows. Perhaps you’re on snowshoes or cross-country skis. As you enjoy these activities while on a winter trip, take time to notice the wonderland around you.

In the woodland, if you’re observant, you’ll encounter reminders of life other than human and often can read stories in the snow. For frequently, crossing your path or running beside it, you’ll see the tracks of forest and field animals and birds.

The other morning, as I walked back our long driveway from the mail box, I noticed small tracks running in the snow beside the tire tracks. It wasn’t our dog, because these were much smaller. They didn’t appear to be the tracks of the neighbor’s cat. Some small creature had visited.

Identifying these creatures and listening for their calls as you wend your way through little traveled areas, or even the woods around our home, can be a delightful bonus for an outdoor adventurer. Books on nature and wildlife often give a chart for deciphering the various wildlife tracks.

Photographing Tracks

If you’re interested in wildlife photography, reading the tracks in the snow may lead you to an exciting photo of winter wildlife wherever you travel throughout the country. Also, photographing tracks in the snow is a way to preserve your observations as a souvenir of this experience on your cross-country trek.

Photographing tracks is not easy because of varying light conditions. However, it is a challenge you might want to undertake on your travels through the winter woods on skis or snowshoes. This also is an enjoyable activity to undertake with youngsters.

Whether you’re skiing or trekking in Waterville Valley, NH, Jackson Hole, WY, Stowe, VT, Park City, UT, Squaw Valley, CA, Steamboat Springs, CO or numerous other well-known and out-of-the- way places, there are many stories to discover and mysteries to solve through the tracks in the snow.

Back to Contents



The search for one’s ancestors and family history can lead you on fascinating jaunts and adventures of discovery. As I delve into the stories of my ancestors’ lives, I’m led to parts of the country, distant from where I grew up. Following the trails of my ancestors has enabled me to visit interesting places, make new friends, and meet relatives.

When I was growing up in southeastern New York State, my world mainly revolved around the family I lived with and my mom’s parents and cousins 45 miles away. One aunt and uncle lived in New Hampshire, so visits with them opened our world.

However, as I searched for ancestors, I was led to western New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Kansas, and Civil War sites of the South. My genealogy travels opened up new vistas and brought me to historic sites.

Ancestors in Binghamton, NY & Kansas

As I looked for Great Grandmother Olive’s origins, I discovered she grew up near Binghamton, NY, three hours’ drive west from where I spent my childhood. I’ve visited that area and discovered more about this branch of my family.

This research introduced me to Olive’s brother, mentioned only as Uncle William Mathewson in Grandma’s photo album. However, he was known in Kansas, where he settled, as the original Buffalo Bill. He left home and took up life in the West as a fur trapper and explorer.

Eventually Uncle Buffalo Bill established trading posts on the Santa Fe Trail, married an adventurous English woman, helped found Wichita, Kansas, and was an Indian peacemaker requested by the natives at treaty talks.

Uncle George in a Civil War Cemetery

William and my Great Grandmother Olive’s half-brother, George, perished from dysentery during the Civil War. Research led me to a cemetery at Marietta, GA, north of Atlanta. On a sunny spring day, my husband and I visited the Union Cemetery, followed a description their mother’s letter, and found a marker with Uncle George’s name on it.

There also was a tall monument with a star on it, described by Great Great Grandmother Eliza. How interesting to find this evidence that Uncle George did fight in the War Between the States and was buried where his mother believed.

Early Settlers in Providence, RI

Tracing the Mathewson family to their beginnings in this country, led me to Providence, RI. There we find a street called Mathewson Street and a theatre named after this family. I’ve walked along this street, trying to visualize it as the area might have looked when the early Mathewsons lived there.

From Providence and nearby Johnston, various Mathewsons headed westward like many other families in Rhode Island. First my direct ancestors moved to the Windsor, CT area, where William married Tabitha Chaffee. Some of their children were born there and others in Triangle, Broome County NY in the early 1800s. My family descended from them.

Tracing only one branch of my family, the Mathewsons, has led me to various parts of the country. Other areas I’ve researched from my parents’ families include Columbia County, NY, Quaker Hill, NY, Salina, KS, Welton, IA, Low Moor, IA and Seattle, WA.

Meeting Today’s Descendants

In my research I’ve discovered second and third cousins and we’ve shared information and memories. Friendships have evolved as we’ve gotten to know one another.

Following the trail of your ancestors’ lives can take you to many new areas of the country and to foreign countries. As you travel for genealogy purposes, you’ll also find other enjoyable aspects of these regions.

Back to Contents



As I sat midst friends and new acquaintances dining on chicken at a church supper in South Dakota recently, I was drawn back in memory to those events of my childhood. I recall most vividly the turkey suppers in November. The ladies of our community church pooled their talents and time to prepare this meal to raise funds.

Even though I grew up in a small farming community in the Hudson River Valley of New York State, the church supper on the South Dakota prairie seemed so similar. The ladies bustled around the church kitchen, where they had worked all afternoon, preparing chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, whole wheat and white rolls, and cranberry relish.

As we made our way along the buffet line, men and ladies spooned food onto our plates. More church members made sure we had juice, coffee, or water while we enjoyed our food and visited with others at our table.

Old friends stopped by the table, and we chatted with new ones who happened to be our tablemates. The lady beside me shared quilting news about her group of friends who made quilts as a church project. The men talked about crops, and then the old house a young couple was restoring.

Pie – the Dessert of Favor

It seems that the dessert of favor at country community dinners consists of a selection of pies. The ladies of the church contributed their favorites….”I made apple crumb. Mine was crustless coconut cream. I used my mother’s recipe for cherry pie. My pumpkin pie was made from one grown in our garden. I tried a new recipe for peach pie.”

The table was laden as we chose the pie to complete our meal. We also were offered a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.

Community Spirit

Whether they are harvest festivals, church socials, turkey or chicken dinners, ham and bean suppers or spaghetti dinners, these meals prepared by church groups or community organizations reflect an age-old tradition in our country and contribute to our heritage.

They provide an occasion for members of the town to gather, share ideas, catch up with one another’s’ lives, forget misunderstandings, and forge a sense of community.

A spirit develops that characterizes a region and makes it truly unique.

Suppers Throughout the USA

As one travels around our country, they’ll see signs in front of churches and town halls, announcing the Community Suppers…“Ham & Bean Supper,” “Annual Chicken Dinner,” “Community Turkey Dinner,” "Strawberry Festival," etc.

Also, when looking at community calendars of events (often found in local newspapers or tourist hand-outs), you may find notices about these community suppers where visitors as well as church members and local residents are welcome.

Church and Community Cookbooks

From these events also have evolved cookbooks with recipes from the community members who organize the suppers. Often these cookbooks are developed as fund raisers, sold to earn money for a church or community project.

I have a cookbook from the church in the community where I grew up, as well as one my mother-in-law contributed to at her church. As I read through the recipes and the names of the contributors, memories of days ago and church suppers come forth.

Some travelers like to collect these community cookbooks, whether church groups, quilting guilds or other organizations publish them. They give a flavor of the region and often contain recipes reminding you of the enjoyable time you spent at a community meal, whether in your hometown or one you visited in your travels.

Back to Contents



So often we think we must wait for the time and money to take a trip far from home to enjoy a vacation or getaway. However, frequently there are places to visit, relax, and have fun closer to home that can provide a brief breather in one’s busy life.

These might involve a place in a nearby town that offers weekend deals. Or it may even entail day trips to local attractions while you spend the nights at home. Instead of letting your budget get in the way of mini-vacations, become creative in finding recreation and relaxation that will bring a couple or family closer together.

When I was editor of a weekly travel publication in New Hampshire, I discovered that my state had much to offer. Before that, when I thought of taking a trip or vacation, my thoughts roamed to places further away.

Regional Explorations

Below are some ideas I discovered for exploring our state. Use the general concept for discovering your area. If you don’t have a seacoast, of course, you won’t plan that type of trip. If you live on the plains with no mountains, substitute some other regional recreation idea.

*Capital Tour ­ Most state capital cities offer a variety of interesting places to visit or explore. The capitol and other state government buildings provide a learning experience and often are full of history. In New Hampshire’s capital city of Concord, in addition to those locations, there are old homes of state leaders, former governors, and historic figures.

If you like dining, generally there are unique places to visit. In Concord you’ll find a Mexican restaurant in a renovated city jail. My daughter and I discovered it fun to have a meal in a jail cell…with door unlocked, of course!

Sometimes shopping areas are located at historic sites. An old hotel and surrounding outbuildings have been transformed into a shopping mall with courtyard, exclusive stores, and restaurants.

*Mountain Trip ­ If your state has mountains and you enjoy hiking and/or camping, this can be a pleasurable weekend or few days. The White Mountains of New Hampshire also are near the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Historic old homesteads and deserted villages (or “ghost” towns) provide appeal for the archeology buff.

An auto tour of the scenic mountains can include stops at Santa’s Village, Six Gun City, Story Land, Heritage and other attractions. These will provide a number of fun-filled days.

*Seacoast Jaunt ­ New Hampshire is one of the states having both mountains and seacoast, even though the coast is only about 18 miles long. That’s one of the places for an enjoyable outing, whether you go to the ocean for a day of frolicking on the beach or decide to stay over at a motel or cottage, too.

Building sand castles, looking for seashells, studying sea life and climbing over rocks along the shore provide inexpensive yet relaxing activities. There also are shops and restaurants at towns like Hampton Beach.

*Lakes Region Round-Up ­ New Hampshire also has a region of lakes in the middle of the state, highlighted by the larger Lake Winnipesaukee. Boating, swimming, staying at a cottage along the shore, and taking side tours of nearby villages with shops and entertainment provide much to fill your time.

Regional recreational opportunities abound in one’s home area, whether a day trip, weekend or mid-week escape from your busy routine. If you’re unsure what your state or a nearby one has to offer, contact the state’s department of tourism or regional tourist associations. Usually these will have an online site.

Whatever you do, find time for a short escape from your busy schedule and discover what your town, region, and state has to offer.

Back to Contents



A favorite drive for many travelers leads over the historic Mohawk Trail of northwestern Massachusetts. This route traverses sixty-three picturesque miles of Route 2 from the Mass-New York border to Millers Falls on the Connecticut River. Following the footpath of the Native Americans, this scenic highway takes one through some of the loveliest scenery in the state, particularly during the foliage season of autumn.

The Mohawk Trail has been our favorite way to travel from New York State across Massachusetts since the days of my childhood when my family visited my aunt and uncle in New Hampshire. Winding across the Hoosac Mountain Range, stopping to enjoy the views (a four-state one is possible from the Whitcomb Summit tower). Then we looked for the statues of the elk and Indian statues along the trail.

Once Home of Native Americans

Over rugged mountains, through forested valleys, along rushing rivers, the traveler discovers a splendored vacation land and captivating drive. Natural and manmade wonders, historic sites, and recreation opportunities attract the visitor to this area where the moccasined feet of the North American natives once wore a pathway.

The Mohawk Indians trekked these mountains to hunt and fish in Deerfield and the Connecticut River Valley. History has it that in 1663, the Pocumtuck Indians from the area near present day Greenfield invaded the Mohawk’s lands, blazing a trail across the Hoosac Range from Deerfield to Troy, New York.

An attempt to end this war was made by Dutch settlers near Albany and a peace treaty was negotiated. However, when the Mohawk prince, Saheda, traveled over this path to ratify the treaty, he was murdered on the trail. It took the angry Mohawks only a day to destroy all the Pocumtuck warriors.

Pioneer Settlers Create Roads

Once the white men began settling Massachusetts, the pioneers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony reblazed the trail across the mountains to the Dutch colonies in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys of New York. Eventually this trail became known as a "shunpike." Finally in September 1914 it was officially named the New Mohawk Trail.

Nowadays the trail makes remote areas of northeastern Massachusetts accessible to the tourist. There are the famous Hairpin Turn, New England’s Natural Bridge, Whitcomb Summit (the highest point on the trail), the famed Bridge of Flowers, and numerous historic sites which are exciting to explore for the lover of picturesque scenery and those fascinated by the history of our country.

Renowned Memorial

At the eastern base of the mountain range, near the Indian Bridge, you can view the "Hail to the Sunrise" memorial to the Mohawk tribe. A statue of a native brave with uplifted arms supposedly beckons the newborn day of hope and peace. This was a favorite stopping place along the trail for my family.

The eight-foot bronze statue was sculptured by Joseph P. Polia and placed on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Kennedy. This 900-pound brave stands on a nine-ton boulder and was unveiled in October 1932. Eventually the Kennedys donated a total of six acres for Mohawk Park dedicated to the Native Americans.

Also located at the park is a pool which contains 100 stones inscribed from tribes and councils around New England as well as the United States. Some call this the Indian wishing pool.

I find the Mohawk Trail an enjoyable road to that also brings back memories of childhood when my parents took us on trips over its length, stopping for a picnic lunch at the spot where they ate on theirs on their first drive. For me the past and the present are intermingled past and present and that of the Native Americans and early settlers to this area.

Additional Information

For more information about this area along the historic Mohawk Trail and surrounding area, visit these web sites: and

Many seasonal events take place at various locations along the trail. You'll find them listed here, along with accommodations, restaurants, details about places to visit to make yours a memorable trip.

Back to Contents


Following the Trail of Civil War Ancestors

As I walked among the markers at the Union Cemetery in Marietta, GA, I realized I was striding through history. All over the hillside the white stones were aligned and the names of Civil War soldiers carved on them. Finally, I found it...the grave I'd been looking for.

"Here’s Uncle George!" I exclaimed and bent down to examine the name of George Mathewson carved into the marble.

This was the great, great uncle who'd never returned home to the Binghamton, New York area. He'd died...not in battle, but from dysentery...and had been buried far from his family. The tall granite marker designated the area of the cemetery where he and others of his regiment had lain for more than a century.

History Comes Alive

As I read marker, I compared the words to those in a letter his mother had written to her daughter, my great grandmother. History came alive when I saw the place where Uncle George lay, the cemetery his mother only imagined from reports that another son, Augustus, had given her.

These battlefields, historic sites, and memorabilia abound around Atlanta and provide fascinating destinations for the visitor to the South. If you have ancestors who fought in Georgia battles, you can retrace their steps and, if they died there, may even find their graves, as I did.

From northwest Georgia to Atlanta and then southeast to Savannah, the Confederate forces sought to defend their homes and cities from northern capture and destruction, as General Sherman and his 100,000 troops swept over the land. Many of these battle sites are designated so you can find them and explore these places where so much United States history took place.

A northerner, I discovered I had five great, great uncles who participated in the Atlanta campaign. Uncle George, who died of illness, not in battle, is buried in the Union Cemetery at Marietta, north of Atlanta. His grave is marked and a monument, set in place in 1864, stands nearby in recognition of all the men in his regiment who gave their lives to unite their country.

Retracing Ancestors’ Steps

As I retraced Uncle George’s steps and those of Uncles James, Gus, Henry Ira, and Egbert, these battle sites took on new meaning for me. Then when I could compare them with descriptions in the uncles’ letters and regimental reports, I envisioned better the fighting that took place in the spring and summer of 1864.

General William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops entered Georgia from Tennessee to the north. From there they forced the Confederate troops back to Resaca, then southward to Cassville, New Hope Church, the Kolb farm, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, where they burned the
city and then in November left in the sweep to the sea. Sherman’s strategy was to destroy the South’s railroads, factories, and food supply and bring the South to its knees.

By retracing my ancestors’ trails across the South, exploring various Civil War sites, and comparing this information with their reports, I gained more insight into my past and the sufferings of both North and South. I also found people very helpful when it came to my search.

Finding Help

For instance, as I looked for Uncle George, my search led my husband, Jim, and me to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Marietta, GA. I knew Uncle George had fought here and was buried nearby, based on the description of the cemetery in one of his brother’s letters home.

But where would I find his grave? Was it marked? Or was he just one of many buried in unmarked graves in a specific area?

Either way, I wanted to discover as much as I could. At the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, I mentioned that I was looking for Uncle George’s grave in a Union Cemetery.

The guide pulled out a diagram of the Union Cemetery in Marietta as the most likely location, looked in a listing of soldiers buried there, and found George Mathewson. From here, the young man was able to give me the approximate location of Uncle George’s stone. I've discovered that the personnel in museums, historic sites, libraries are very helpful as you search for Civil War data.

How to Search

When searching for Civil War ancestors, try to find out as much about them as possible from family records, letters, stories handed down over the generations (although stories often change with the telling), research about battles. If one died during the war, you might not be able to find the exact grave site, as I did, but you can walk over battlefields, travel along roads where soldiers trekked and get some idea of where they went and what they did.

Back to Contents



On the 600-mile trip from New Hampshire to Ohio circumstances necessitated that my husband and I travel the last 200 miles at no more than 50 mph. We soon found we didn't want to drive that slowly along the New York Thruway on a Friday afternoon. So we exited at Rochester and cut cross-country over lesser traveled roads.

Frustrated at first, because we wouldn't reach our destination as planned, we soon began to enjoy the scenery as we wound through small towns, up hill and down across miles of farm land with little traffic. The day was sunny, the countryside amazingly green. Jim and I felt ourselves relaxing without the constant tense vigilance required when traveling along a superhighway when the weekend exodus is taking place.

After leaving the dairy country, we traveled through vineyards along the shores of Lake Erie. Glimpses of the lake with the sun setting below the horizon was an additional bonus in this day vexed with many frustrations, including two flat tires. Although we were tired (we'd even left home an hour early that 5 AM) when we reached our daughter and son-in-law’s home near Cleveland, we felt enriched because we'd had the pleasure of a more leisurely trip midst splendid scenery.

Too Often Bypass Country Roads

In these days of superhighways, we so often bypass the country roads in our hurry to reach our destinations. Highways are straightened, hills cut through, stream beds changed, and trees sawed down so the roadsides can be maintained easily with modern machinery.

This all seems necessary as more people desire to get to more places more quickly. However, if we are not in a hurry and want to do some exploring, we still can find country roads to travel.

Magic of Country Roads

There is something about a country road that is friendly and welcoming. Unless it’s a dirt road in mud season! You can meander along these roads at less than superhighway speed. In fact, you have to.

You take time to notice the beauties along the way...the towering, gnarled tree that has stood for decades, the rippling brook wandering across the meadow, the cow and calf grazing near the thicket, and the multitudes of wild flowers blooming brilliantly in the wild.

Everyone will discover their favorite country roads if they take time to explore. Here are a few you might want to travel throughout the country.

Suggested Country Roads

*Route 5 from Buffalo, NY to , Ohio follows the shore of Lake Erie, providing glimpses of the water. It goes through small towns and the larger city of Dunkirk, as well as past numerous vineyards. (If you're traveling here in the fall when the grapes are ripe, the aroma is enticing.) Dunkirk, with its lighthouse and War of 1812 historic sites might be a place where you'd like to linger.

*Route 28 in Idaho offers you much diverse country to see from Mud Lake to Salmon. One stretch is so straight you seem to see the road for miles ahead before it reaches the mountains.

*The Skyline Drive of Virginia is a country type road, although one of the more publicized ones. However, it’s well worth traveling.

*Route 2 across the Lake Champlain Islands in Vermont is another we've enjoyed.

*Route 4, from Quechee to Rutland, Vermont leads the traveler through lovely countryside and picturesque villages.

*Route 26 from Ogallala, Nebraska to Fort Laramie, Wyoming follows many portions of the Oregon and Mormon Trails, with their views of historic sites.

*The Kancamagus Highway, Route 112, across the White Mountains of New Hampshire provides you with scenic views and pull-offs where you can get out and explore the countryside. Many hiking trails lead off the Kanc.

*In Florida, Route 11 from Bunnell to De Land enables you to miss heavy superhighway traffic during peak times and gives you a glimpse of agricultural countryside.

The list could go on endlessly; you must have your favorites, too. Begin exploring some of these country roads where the maximum speed is lower than the superhighways, where small towns beckon, and you take the time to explore. You may find, as others have, that often the winding byways of life can prove more interesting than always taking the straight and quickest path.

(Write to the Dept. of Tourism in individual states or the Chambers of Commerce of larger towns along the route to find out more about any of the country roads I've mentioned. Most of these also have web sites where you can find information about that state or area.)

Back to Contents



The Old Man of the Mountain, a natural granite profile hanging from a cliff in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, has been a symbol of the Granite State for decades. Visitors from all over this country and the world have traveled to this site to view the Old Man, 1,200 feet above the valley floor.

Old Man of the Mountain 2003Sometime during early May, 2003, the Old Man fell into the valley below. Obscured by clouds during May 1 and 2, his demise was noticed the morning of Saturday, May 3, around 7:30 AM, when the clouds cleared and daylight revealed the missing profile.

Sadness has enveloped the residents of the region. To some it’s almost as though a family member has passed on. The view of the Old Man’s Mountain will not be the same with this state landmark gone.

Stories of the Old Man

The Old Man supposedly was first viewed by white settlers nearly 200 years ago. A number of stories have evolved regarding the first person to see him, but once this granite phenomenon was discovered, its fame began spreading.

Author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s description of the Great Stone Face, in his story of that name, caused travelers to come from all over to see this natural marvel of the White Mountains.

Daniel Webster, that famous statesman from New Hampshire, is supposed to have said, in referring to the Old Man, "....but in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

Care of Old Man

For many years, Niels Nielsen and then his son David, when Niels was no Old Man of the Mountain 2000longer able, have checked out the Old Man and made repairs. Niels once told me, "Keeping the Old Man like that is what it’s all about. If the Old Man can be preserved for even one extra generation’s view, then all past, present, and future efforts will have been worthwhile."

Niels began working for the New Hampshire Highway Department in 1960 and two weeks later was on the crew assigned to inspect and measure the Old Man. "For me, that was it," Niels said.

Until 1981, Niels went over the face alone each year. But that year Dave joined him; Niels had decided it was time he trained someone else to take measurements and understand the intricacies of maintaining the granite profile, someone with a feeling for and understanding of the Old Man who would carry on the work when Niels could no longer do it.

For Niels, caring for the Old Man, became a labor of love. He frequently traveled around the state giving talks about his work.

Trip to the Old Man

I have childhood memories of my family vacationing in the Granite State and traveling through Franconia Notch where we were intrigued by the Old Man of the Mountain. In more recent years, my work as a writer and editor included interviews with Niels Nielsen. One involved a trip to the top of the mountain when Niels and his crew made a foray to inspect the Old Man

In my memories of the Old Man I recall that spring day, in June, 1984, when several other journalists and I accompanied Niels and David Nielsen and members of the N.H. Division of Parks to assess the winter damage. We traveled by tram to the top of Cannon Mountain, then hiked about a mile across the top over boulders and crevasses to the site of the Old Man.

Niels explained their work and what they were trying to accomplish with epoxy and make this granite profile last longer for the enjoyment of future generations. Then he and David were lowered over the face in bos’ns chairs to inspect winter damage and decide on any maintenance.

Later that summer, they would return with the materials needed to shore up the Old Man for awhile longer. Periodically, the Franconia State Park crew went out during the summer to make repairs on the turnbuckles, sluicing (which diverted water away from the face), and canopy.

When the inspection was over for the day, we hiked down the mountain, marveling at this natural creation the Nielsen family and their crew were maintaining for New Hampshire and the world to enjoy.

Back to Contents



The Baker River Valley encompasses a relatively little known region of New Hampshire, the Granite State, yet is a picturesque area winding through the mountains and small towns from Plymouth to Warren. Rich in scenery and history, this valley holds appeal any time of year.

The towns generally are small, but typically New England, with village commons, stately trees, and colonial homes, set against the backdrop of the mountains, with Mt. Stinson and Mooselauke looming over all.

Named For Capt. Baker

The river and valley acquired their name from Capt. Thomas Baker, who supposedly was the first white man to explore the area. He made a scouting trip through this uninhabited wilderness in 1712.

An encounter with the natives at the confluence of the Baker and Pemigewasset Rivers, just north of the current village of Plymouth, resulted in the loss of some soldiers and also a number of Indians. This encounter discouraged further exploration and settlement of the region until after the French and Indian War. The towns in this valley generally were settled in the 1760s.


Warren at the upper end of the valley, was granted in 1764 and named for Sir Peter Warren, a vice-admiral of the British Navy and a member of Parliament. Like so many New Hampshire towns, Warren was named for an Englishman who never visited the area.


This town received its charter in 1766 and for years celebrated an interesting tradition called, "Market Day," held in the town common in August. The Wentworth Historical Society discovered that the original town charter provided for an annual market day so long as the town contained more than 50 families.


Further down the valley, Rumney was settled. It’s thought by some to have been named for a town in England called Romney although this isn't known for sure. If so, gradually over the years, the pronunciation and then the spelling was changed.

Near the Plymouth/Rumney town line, you'll find Polar Caves with some of America’s most fascinating glacial caves.


The largest village in the valley at the juncture of the Baker and Pemigewasset Rivers, Plymouth is the home of Plymouth State College with its many cultural activities. With a historic village green, the site of a famous Boy Scout statue, Plymouth also lies along I-93 which provides easy access from Massachusetts to the White Mountains.

When you visit this area, you'll find lovely scenery and typical New England towns, unique shops and restaurants.

Back to Contents



Rural country means different things to different people. To those of us living in New Hampshire, we think of sparsely populated hills and forests some distance from towns and cities.
In Arizona, I discovered, it means desert and traveling for miles through arid country which can be fascinating too.
On one trip to the West, Jim and I drove from Phoenix, AZ to Las Vegas, NV through the
southwestern desert landscape. During the 300-mile drive, the countryside changed from the fairly flat typical desert terrain to a more rolling area and then the hillier landscape with its canyons around Lake Mead.
Each area was different and presented its own fascinating phenomena to capture our attention.

The Fascinating Saguarosaguaro

The towering saguaro cacti grow around Phoenix and for some distance north. The saguaro stand like sentinels in the desert, often 25 to 40-feet high with spiky arms branching off the main stream as well as stretching upward.
The saguaro grows slowly and will be around eight feet tall and between 45 and 55 years old before it puts out its first arms. Some live to be 100 to 200 years old.
This desert plant also is home for a variety of birds who build nests within holes first made by the gilded flickers and gila woodpeckers.
Years ago, the Papago Indians used the red colored fruit of the saguaro, which usually ripens in June. They made it into syrup, wine, vinegar, oil, flour, jam, and dehydrated pulp. (In gift shops, you may find jars of saguaro jam and jelly.)

The Joshua Tree

As we approached the Joshua Tree Forest, along the Joshua Tree Parkway, the landscape became more rolling and these unusual bristly trees begin to appear. They grow only in certain arid areas of the southwestern United States, 2,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level.
Not a forest as we think of one in the east with thick growth of trees and underbrush, the Joshua Tree Forest contains desert plants and Joshua trees scattered across the landscape. The Joshua Tree, sometimes called the yucca cactus, yucca tree, or yucca palm, can live to be 100 to 1,000 years old, grows slowly and isn't extremely tall.
Typical of one portion of the Southwest, Arizona's desert is a sampling of what we've discovered in this fascinating state.

Back to Contents



A breathtaking sight lay before us as my husband and I stood at the top of Logan Pass and looked north toward Bear Lake, spread out like an aquamarine jewel on the Utah/Idaho border.
Our cousin, who was our guide, explained that her family has a camp on the lake shore, and spends weekends here, about three hours' drive from Salt Lake City.

Utah Has Long History

Utah's history goes back to the dinosaurs; two of North America's largest dinosaur graveyards are found in the state. Trappers and mountain men passed through this region and spent much time in the Bear Lake area, where some of their summer trading rendezvous took place. In 1847, the Mormons entered the state after an arduous trek west.

Site of 2002 Olympics

The historic aura of Bear Lake still exists and lures one here as it did the Mountain Men in those days when beaver trapping was in its heyday. Now that Utah has been selected as the site of the 2002 Olympics, more people than ever want to discover the appeal of the Beehive State. Two general routes from Salt Lake City to Bear Lake take the traveler through mountain country...through Ogden Canyon or Logan Canyon. It can be a leisurely one day drive; or you can plan to spend more time and stay over enroute.

Our Day Trip

We started in early morning, winding over mountain roads and through scenic territory with golden aspen leaves in full color. After traversing the Wasatch Range east of Ogden, we wandered through ranching country near the Wyoming border. A herd of antelope caught our attention and provided enjoyment for a quarter of an hour.
We had lunch at a restaurant at Bear Lake. Then the trip from Bear Lake over Logan Pass and its hairpin turns and breathtaking scenery was a great way to return to the Ogden/Salt lake City region. Exploration of Cache Valley around Logan we left for another day, but we enjoyed the sweeping views as we made our way out of the mountains.

Discover Salt Lake City

Leave at least a day in your itinerary for discovering Salt Lake City itself. You actually need longer to do all the sites justice, but if time is limited, you may want to explore the buildings around Temple Square. Guided tours of the area will provide you with much information of historical interest about the Mormons who settled here.

Hiking a Popular Activity

For hikers, there are many places to stretch your legs, from short afternoon hikes to longer backpacking trips. Since time was limited, we opted for the afternoon hike with a friend in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.
Even though we weren't far from the city, we enjoyed the sense of isolation and the extensive views.

Kennecott Copper Mine

While you're in the area, make time to visit the Kennecott Copper Mine, the largest open pit mine in the world. We spent a morning touring this site with our friend and were awed by the huge two-mile diameter hole in the earth. We watched trucks, minuscule in appearance from so far below us, haul ore like ants climbing the routes to the top.
From exhibits and a video at the information center, we learned more about this mining operation and history of Bingham Canyon.

Utah Lures Us Back

Our first week's exploration of Utah in autumn provided us with an opportunity to touch only the tip of what the state offers. So Utah has lured us back repeatedly to discover new sites and meet new friends.

Back to Contents



During our wanderings throughout the west, Jim and I have discovered the fascinating trail of explorers Lewis and Clark in Idaho and Montana.
Everyone probably has heard of their expedition in the early 1800s, when they traveled across the continent looking for a transportation link between the newly acquired Lousiana Territory and the "Oregon Country" on the Pacific coast. However, when exploring actual areas where they traveled, their explorations become most fascinating.

History Comes Alive

While visiting friends near Salmon, Idaho we found we could walk over portions of the trail where the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled. Obtaining copies of their journals and reading of their adventure added greatly to this experience of making history come alive.
At Lemhi Pass in the Bitterroots, we stood at the spot where the expedition, with its young Indian guide Sacajawea, crossed over the Continental Divide by following a native trail.
"...we proceeded on to the top of the dividing descended the mountain...found much steeper than on the opposite side," described Captain Lewis.

On the Continental Divide

We stood here, too, more than 175 years later, on the Continental Divide separating present day Idaho and Montana. We gazed at the remote country which is much like it was when these early explorers discovered it.
We and our friend Jane reached this spot by driving over a narrow dirt road which wound through the mountains, offering breathtaking views (and I do mean "breath" taking because there are no guard rails) of more mountains beyond and steep canyons below.

Into the Lemhi River Valley

From here the expedition (The Corps of Discovery as they were sometimes called) trod downward to the Lemhi River Valley and followed it until they reached the Salmon River (that famous white water rafting river called the "River of No Return") which Clark attempted to travel against the Indians' advice and discovered it indeed impassable for their canoes.
In this valley, too, Sacajawea amazingly was reunited with her brother whom she hadn't seen since she was a child.
(Read next about the Lewis & Clark Trail in Montana)

Back to Contents



After Jim and I explored the Lewis and Clark Trail in the Salmon, Idaho area, we found more of this historic route in Montana. The Corps of Discovery made their way to the Salmon River, then headed northward to the area now known as Lost Trail Pass, another border point between Idaho and Montana.
(The previous one on the Continental Divide is described in the article about the trail in Idaho.)
This is know as Lost Trail Pass because supposedly the explorers lost the trail here and passed a few miles to the west over even more difficult mountainous country. From here, they dropped down into the valley along the Bitterroots and proceeded northward near present day Missoula before continuing west.

The Bitterroot Valley

As we traveled along this picturesque valley, we tried to imagine here, too, as we'd done in Idaho, what the country was like for these adventurers as they covered territory apparently
known to no other white men.
At Travelers Rest, just south of Missoula, the Expedition camped on their journey west and again when they returned nine months later.
After visiting friends near Missoula, we headed eastward through Butte, Bozeman, and Billings. In the area around Livingston and Bozeman, north of Yellowstone National Park, we again encountered Lewis and Clark territory where they, too, had made their way eastward.

Following the Whole Trail

We discovered that one can follow the Lewis and Clark Trail from its beginning near St. Louis to the Pacific. A map/guide is available noting the route of the Expedition and pointing out various sites of interest. This has been compiled through the efforts of the National Park Service and Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.
For those who are as fascinated by the history of our rural areas, as Jim and I are, following all or portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail should provide an exciting adventure.

Back to Contents



Travelers find Sandwich Notch a fascinating place to explore, particularly if they enjoy the wilderness of the White Mountains and would like to recapture the aura of some of New Hampshire's early days. As you wander along the hilly, winding dirt road through the notch which connects the regions around Sandwich and Waterville Valley, you seem so far from civilization and can glimpse the unspoiled natural beauty of the Granite State.
You can hike part of the way and take other hiking trails which branch off this road. Or if you're more adventuresome, place cars at each end of the Sandwich Notch Road and walk the full length...approximately nine miles.
Two books you might want to read before you travel this mountain road are "The Road Through Sandwich Notch" by Elizabeth Yates (relating her walk along this route and her explorations of its history) and the "Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide."

Road Once Heavily Traveled

Although Sandwich Notch now seems isolated (there is only one old house left standing and inhabited at the western end of the road), it once was a busy place. More than 30 families lived along this road in the early and middle l800s; a thriving settlement existed, and the heavily traveled road (for those days) was maintained.
The Sandwich Notch Road once was an important commercial roadway over which carts and wagons passed in summer and sleds in winter. During this era, farmers in northern New Hampshire and Vermont brought their produce across the mountain road as they took it to market in the coastal cities of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine.

Settled in the 1700's

The town of Sandwich was settled in 1765; by 1795 a widely used cart track had been established through the Notch. Eventually a tax of two cents an acre on all Sandwich lands was levied to pay for construction of a road from Sandwich, across the Notch to Thornton, near Waterville Valley.
Then settlement of the Notch began in earnest. Land was cleared and eventually 30 to 40 houses were built. Three schools, a sawmill, gristmill, and tavern were erected. Church services were held at Pulpit Rock or in the minister's house.
The farms were fertile in this hill country, and gardens produced well. Cattle and sheep grazed in the pastures. The land along the road wasn't forested, as it is today, but cleared and open, crisscrossed by stone walls, the remnants of which you can see today.
Over this road, cattle were driven from the hill country to the seacoast markets, creating a sight which brought children to the roadside to view the event. Farmers who needed money for goods other than what they could grow on their farms, drove their ox carts across the Notch Road as they brought their goods to markets.

Settlers Left the Notch

By the mid-1850s, the climax of life in the Notch had arrived. Population began to decline after the Civil War as the young people looked elsewhere to earn a living in the mills of Massachusetts and on the lands of the Mid-west.
As the remaining settlers grew older, they began to cut down on the amount of land they farmed.
Gradually the farms were taken over by the forest. The schools were no longer needed, and the saw mills and taverns ceased to exist.

One House Remains

Only one house remains standing from those built many years ago. The original structure went up in 1826; this latter became the woodhouse of the present larger house erected by Alpheus Munsey Hall in l877. Moses Hall lived here for most of his 84 years before his death in 1930.
Take time this fall to wander along the Sandwich Notch Road and the adjoining hiking trails and discover the enchantment of the White Mountains and their history. Other abandoned "ghost" settlements can be found in these mountains as well.

Back to Contents



Midst the grandeur of western Wyoming's Tetons, numerous experiences await the visitor from downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, to feeding the elk and exploring the unique town of Jackson. Jackson Hole in winter lures travelers from around the country and around the world.

The Tetons, jagged peaks rising steeply from the valley floor for more than 6,000 feet, to reach an altitude nearly 14,000 feet above sea level.

They provide some of the most sensational scenery and enjoyable skiing in the world.

Historic Aura

Jackson Hole is high on beauty and rich in history, as well as diverse skiing. Named for mountain man Davy Jackson, who heralded it as his favorite beaver trapping ground, this "hole," as those early adventurers called a valley, is approximately eight miles wide by 50 miles long.

For those who remember, the movie "Shane" was filmed in this lovely valley.

Three Ski Areas

With three major ski areas in the vicinity...Grand Targhee on the western side of the mountains, Jackson Mountain Resort west of town, and Snow King Resort to the south...Jackson Hole offers downhill skiing to suit every ability level. Then you have helicopter skiing for the more adventuresome who wish to experience what the untracked mountain slopes of the rugged Tetons have to offer.

When the mountains are mantled in snow, Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest also provide great terrain for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, with Yellowstone National Park not far away. Miles of trails allow the skier and snowmobiler access to the base of the towering snow-covered Tetons.

Or you can ride into the Gros Ventre Range on the east where you'll catch a glimpse of the unforgettable panorama of the entire Jackson Hole valley.

National Elk Refuge

Another unique feature of Jackson Hole is the National Elk Refuge. Begun in 1912, when elk herds were dwindling as a result of disease and increased ranching, this has evolved into a major attraction in the valley. Sleigh rides through the refuge provide a great experience and a photographer's dream.

For the visitor who doesn't care for snow activities, but wants to enjoy a winter vacation in Jackson Hole, there's shopping, dining, night spots, and, of course, the scenery.

Stop at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Park Visitors Center for information and to enjoy the educational dioramas and museum displays.

Located north of the village, the Visitors Center is unique in itself.

Lure of Its Own

Jackson Hole, south of Yellowstone National Park, has a splendor all its own, and during the winter is transformed into a scenic playground with the amenities of civilization and the lure of history and pristine backcountry wilderness.

For More Information

Check out the Visitors Center web site and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce web site: Or write the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 550, Jackson Hole, WY 83001.

Back to Contents



Whenever I encounter old-fashioned country stores in my travels, whether they're restored ones to appeal to travelers or those still existing in a small village to supply the residents, I'm reminded of my mom’s experiences as a country store owner.

Country stores are becoming rather unique in these days of shopping malls, super stores, and online shopping, but a few still exist throughout the country.

During my childhood and teen years, the country general store was a necessary fixture of the community, along with the mail order catalogs. In my early years, the general store in the village, about a mile from home, furnished our needs...from food we didn't grow to supplies for the home and farm.

Mother Acquires a Country Store

In my last year of high school, Mother became a storekeeper and brought the general store right into our family. She became a competitor with the country store in the village, where we had shopped throughout my childhood.

When the former manager of this little country store that my dad built had a heart attack, Father expected to put it up for sale. It had been an investment which now needed a manager. However, Mother, a former school teacher, insisted she would operate it.

Mother expected my sister and me to help her. We learned to cut meat and cheese, dip ice cream, plan orders, keep books, smile at customers, stock shelves and take charge when Mother was away. Mother’s Town and Country Store was a new dimension to our lives.

Today’s Country Stores vs. Yesterday’s

You'll find today’s country stores in small villages and historic restorations. Check out tourism guides and chambers of commerce to discover where you might find some to visit and shop.

See if they have penny candy, pickle barrels, cheese wheels, hand dipped ice cream, sewing notions, post cards, hardware, and a storekeeper who’s knowledgeable about what’s going on in town.

Years later, after Mother sold her store, her customers would seek her out to visit and reminisce. They've also told me that the friendliness and personal concern she showed drew them back when they could have shopped at larger stores in the next town.area, you'll find lovely scenery and typical New England towns, unique shops and restaurants.

Back to Contents




Copyright © 2009, Mary Emma Allen


Mary Emma Allen's books, available by contacting the author/illustrator at or visiting her web site where you'll find further description and an order form: http//

1. Tales of Adventure & Discovery, a collection of children's stories previously appearing in magazines, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen; published by MEA Productions; $9.95 plus postage.

2. Tales of Adventure & Discovery Coloring Book, containing illustrations and excerpts from the anthology, by Mary Emma Allen, published by MEA Productions; $1.95 plus postage, or $1.00 when purchased with the anthology.

3. When We Become the Parent to Our Parents, the chronicle of her mother's journey through Alzheimer's, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen, MEA Productions; $9.95 plus postage.

4. Writing in Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont, a resource book for writers, publishers, librarians, and teachers, written by Mary Emma Allen, published by Writer's World Press. Regularly $16.95 plus postage, now $9.95 plus postage. (The publisher is celebrating their 10th anniversary and offering specials on their books.)

5. The Magic of Patchwork, the story of quiltmaking with directions for beginners' projects, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen, published by MEA Productions; $8.00 plus postage.

6. Manuals for Writers, written by Mary Emma Allen, $5.95 each plus postage:
Writing for Children
Travel Writing
Writing for Regional Markets
Writing for Publication
Nuts & Bolts for Beginners
Marketing Your Manuscript
Writing for the Weekly Newspaper
Writing Newspaper & Magazine Columns

7. Posters - autographed enlargements of the illustrations from Tales of Adventure & Discovery or the coloring book.
$1.00 for 8 1/2 x 11; $3.00 for 11 1/2 x 14, plus shipping.

Books in Progress:
Sarah Jane's Daring Deed, a picture/coloring book by Mary Emma Allen
Tips for Teaching Writing to Young Writers by Mary Emma Allen
Tales of Adventure & Discovery Writing Activity Book
Papa Goes to War, a middle reader Civil War novel based on Mary Emma Allen's ancestors' experiences.
Uncle Buffalo Bill (Mathewson, not Cody), the story of Mary Emma Allen's ancestor who operated trading posts on the Santa Fe Trail.

Workshops: Mary Emma teaches workshops for adult and young writers. She also presents children's programs in schools and libraries


Send your comments to us at: 




Contact the Webmistress
Call or write:
Fax: 207-647-5801
Karen Hawkins
963 South High Street
Bridgton, ME 04009

Brought to you by

Off The Wall Logo


Copyright Bridgton Blues, News and Beyond
All Rights Reserved.