Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mt. Cube Farm Sugar House

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one makes an early spring trip to New England, one must visit a sugar shack. As a result, when NCT and I decided to climb Mt. Washington last weekend (more on this to come), I insisted that we stop at my favorite sugar house on our way back to New York. Now, it might seem odd that a young woman who has never lived in New Hampshire for more than three months might possess a favorite sugar shack, but I should point out that that three month residency belies the many weeks I've spent visiting NH over the years, and it most certainly belies the deep and abiding love I possess for the state. At the risk of turning this blog entry into a long digression on why I love New Hampshire, I'll simply say that, well, I love New Hampshire. I love its mountains and its river valleys, I love its lakes and great expanses of northern hardwood forest, I love its blueberry patches and its well-maintained interstates. I love the Granite State in snow and in sun, in its autumnal glory and in the heart of mud season. I love New Hampshire so much that I should probably, as NCT muttered during one of my long I-love-NH speeches during our six hour car ride, just marry it.
Since the government has yet to recognize person-state marital unions, however, I'll have to be content with visiting New Hampshire when I can. Unfortunately, since I moved to NYC I haven't been able to hang out in NH as often as I would like; the drive is a little too long, and the flights a little too inconvenient, for me to undertake quick weekend trips, and when I have longer stretches of vacation time I usually head home to the West Coast or off on more far-flung adventures. Still, the fact that I haven't been back to New Hampshire in almost two years was partly why we (I) decided to head to Mt. Washington, and as soon as the Upper Connecticut River Valley unfolded before us on I-91 last Friday, I began to bounce with excitement in my seat.

We passed the Mt. Cube Sugar House on our drive into Plymouth, NH, (our base camp for the weekend), which provided a wonderful opportunity for me to point out to NCT where he would be forced to stop in three days on our return trip. The Sugar House sits on NH RT-25, which bisects the state from east to west and loosely separates the White Mountains from the lakes region to the south. My first encounter with RT-25 occurred on my bike almost four years ago; I was living in Hanover for the summer with MAR, and occasionally we would ride a 40 mile loop up to Orford/Fairlee on RT-10. On the Fourth of July, after we'd watched the Orford parade, we turned west on RT-25 and headed out towards Wentworth. The primary motivation for this trip was to test part of the Prouty's route, but an unexpected bonus was my first visit to my soon to be favorite sugar shack. Even the bone-shattering frost heaves on RT-25 couldn't dampen my enthusiasm. Maple cream! Maple candy! Maple syrup! The Mt. Cube Sugar House sold them all, and at Carlisle Trophy-winning quality.
My last visit to the sugar shack occurred two years ago on my last visit to New Hampshire, which I'd taken with JFL to her parents' house in Waterville Valley. That weekend marked the first time I really started to explore the White Mountains region, and a beautiful run to the top of Mt. Tecumseh on a clear day stands as one of the best runs I've had on the East Coast (yes, I do mentally catalogue runs in that way). As we drove back to NYC, we unanimously decided to stop at Mt. Cube, and I clairvoyantly stocked up on a few containers of maple cream. Still, I ran out long before NCT and I headed north, and so when he and I entered the shack on Monday and I saw the little jars of said cream on the back shelves, I whooped for joy. Lest one think I'm exaggerating the wonderfulness that is maple cream, let me just say that I would choose maple cream over Nutella as a toast-topper any day, and that I really, really like Nutella.

I managed to convince NCT to purchase a jar as well on this visit, and we also each chose some leaves of maple candy for the drive. The sugar house stood exactly as I remembered it--well-stocked, cheery (despite the cold temps), and with its honor box for payment just inside the door. I looked around and reflected on the many things that had changed in my life since I first visited, as well as the good and important friends who've accompanied me each time I've pulled off of RT-25 for my maple fix. NCT asked me if I wanted to buy anything else, but I shook my head. We walked through the springtime NH mud, hopped in the car, and drove to Hanover for breakfast at Lou's with MAR2. NCT even ordered real New Hampshire maple syrup for his pancakes.
And so, my beloved Mt. Cube Farm Sugar House, it may be some time before my car or bike dances with the frost heaves and I return to your rustic environs. Do not doubt, however, that I will visit should I find myself near Mt. Moosilauke highway, and that I will purchase your maple products and copies of Edible White Mountains as long as I have money in my wallet. Until then, I will comfort myself with the words of that San Francisco native and New Hampshire resident Robert Frost, who wrote as follows: "'O fireman, give the fire another stoke, / And send more sparks up the chimney with the smoke.' / I thought a few might tangle, as they did, / Among bare maple boughs, and in the rare / Hill atmosphere not cease to glow, / And so be added to the moon up there. / The moon, though slight, was moon enough to show / On every tree a bucket with a lid, / And on black ground a bear-skin rug of snow. / The sparks made no attempt to be the moon. / They were content to figure in the trees / As Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades. / And that was what the boughs were full of soon".

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