Mount Moosilauke and Iron Furnace Brewing
I’m sure most of you have been to New Hampshire. It’s an interesting state. Beautiful, but interesting. I visited a couple times when I was younger, back when their “Live Free or Die” motto stirred me to my core, but it took returning there as an adult to realize they might take that statement a little too seriously.
Take, for example, the dad standing next to us at a stunning overlook on the Kancamagus Highway, a baby in his arms and a glock on his hip or the gigantic “TRUMP 2020 NO MORE BULLSHIT” banner in the Lakes region overhanging the road from a literal crane. For a state defined by tranquil lakes and serene mountains, some of the populace seemed a bit, I don't know, on edge. I feel like if you feel the need to open-carry at a scenic viewpoint you’re probably beyond the point of enjoying the scenic viewpoint, but maybe that's just me.
And oh yeah, all the motorcycles are obnoxious as shit too.
But New Hampshire is still a hell of a state.
Our trip began with a hike up Mount Moosilauke. Moosilauke is considered one of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers, of which there are 48. I felt good about tackling this mountain until I read the Wikipedia and learned that, despite being a five hour hike and the highest elevation we had thus far attempted, it’s considered only moderately difficult and “The Gentle Giant” of the bunch. I felt even worse after I was gasping for water a quarter of the way up.
Still, the hike was worth it. The trees, the tranquility, the views, the pleasantly surprising amount of dogs including a scrappy cocker spaniel that absolutely tore up the mountain. At the summit we encountered an older couple who instead of enjoying retirement being confused by Loki like most couples were instead hiking the Appalachian Trail, slated to end their journey at the peak of the ominous Katahdin some time in September. I can't imagine the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that comes with hiking from Georgia to Maine, but I also feel like it's one of those things that sounds much better in theory.
Mount Moosilauke is apparently nicknamed Dartmouth’s Mountain and is partly owned by the college. The grand Moosilauke Ravine Lodge that overlooks the head of the trail is also the final site of "famous" First-Year Traditions that include days of hiking, biking, and rock-climbing. Frankly upon learning this I felt a bit envious seeing that I remember nothing about my freshmen orientation except wanting to cry the entire time. I'm tempted to say something cynical here but I guess that's just the difference between Dartmouth College and UMass Dartmouth. All in all it was a pleasure and a privilege to climb the mountain of the elite.
The best part about hiking is how it allows you to eat and drink guilt-free for the rest of the weekend, and we did just that. I have to imagine our afternoon after summiting Moosilauke was a tad more relaxing than the retired thru-hikers who just...continued on.
Iron Furnace Brewing is in Franconia, New Hampshire, named for the 200-year-old, long-abandoned blast furnace just down the street. The brewery didn't disappoint. We sat in the grassy outdoor section, a spacious, backyard-like beer garden overlooked by the brewery's idyllic, rustic barn. The menu had a nice mix of nachos, paninis, pizzas and salads. The buffalo chicken nachos were mouth watering.
The beer selection was diverse, too, with everything from IPAs to sours to bitters. Overall Iron Furnace was one of the best brewery experiences we've had: good beer and delicious food heightened by a lazy, bucolic ambience. It was the perfect place to relax and recharge after a strenuous hike.
If you're in the mood for drinking but not necessarily beer, the Seven Birches Winery is also in nearby Lincoln, attached to the RiverWalk Resort hotel. The winery contains a tasting room with a balcony that overlooks the resort's enormous pool that sits beneath a mountainous backdrop. Flights of five wines cost $15 and the pours are generous. They had a strawberry wine they promoted as "Strawberry shortcake in a bottle" and I was skeptical but it turned out to be accurate, so accurate in fact that we ended up getting a bottle for the road.
The tasting was a little different than the typical brewery flight, considering the samples were served one-by-one and accompanied by a description from the sommelier, which were generally met with vigorous head-nodding and several repetitions of "Sounds tasty." Although I don't know shit about wine, the experience was a valuable one: comfortable (if a bit cramped) balcony seating with gorgeous views, some delicious wines (including a blueberry sangria), and nice buzz too top it all off.