Excerpts from My Upcoming Book, New England in a Nutshell
These entries are excerpted from my latest book, New England in a Nutshell. The book/ebook is slated to published on July 2nd and you can pre-order now at Amazon. The ebook includes all hyperlinks to listings. The paperback includes front and back cover illustrations from Manhattan-based artist, Sarah Schechter, and a small sampling of photos from Lisa, who accompanied me on many of my assignments, resulting in published work for the Boston Globe.
Life’s a Beach, My Top 12 Picks, Including Popham Beach, Phippsburg, Maine
At the end of one of those fingers of land that dangles off the Maine coast into the Atlantic, Popham is hopelessly exposed to all the elements. There’s nothing manicured about this rare spit of sand sandwiched between the rocky shores. Pieces of driftwood lie on the beach, backed by dwarf pines and uprooted trees. Come at low tide and the grooved sand leads to a tiny island where seagulls have picked over unfortunate crabs and mussels that lay exposed on the kelp. When the water rolls in, kids swim in the warm (yes, warm) waters of the tidal pool as parents take long beach walks, watching three-masted schooners and lobstermen cruise past the pine-studded islands and lighthouses. Let the cool breeze blow through your hair and breathe in the salty air. This is the raw, genuine Maine coast you have yearned for.
10 Classic New England Hikes, Including Mount Pisgah, West Burke, Vermont
Arriving at Lake Willoughby from the south, the dark blue waters come into view, dwarfed by faces of rock that stand directly across from each other—Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah. Here, cliffs plummet precipitously over 1,000 feet to the glacial waters below. The scenery becomes even more enchanting as you snake your way to the 2,751-foot summit of Pisgah. The trail starts easily on switchbacks. Halfway up, take a slight detour to the left to stand atop Pulpit Rock. This small, semi-circular ledge juts out of Mount Pisgah like a box seat at a Broadway play. The arduous trail proceeds upward in a spiral fashion. On a clear day, you should be able to spot the spine of the Green Mountains and that distinctive peak seen across much of Vermont, Camel’s Hump. Who needs to visit nearby St. Johnsbury’s Athenaeum and view Albert Bierstadt’s famous painting, Domes of Yosemite, when you can see such natural beauty come to life less than an hour north?
3 hours. Moderate. From West Burke, take State Route 5A North for 6 miles to a parking area on the left-hand side, just south of Lake Willoughby. The South Trail begins across the highway.
6 Hidden Art Historical Gems, Including Weir Farm National Historic Site, Wilton, Connecticut
When New York City collector Erwin Davis became obsessed with a painting owned by artist Julian Alden Weir, he gave him an offer that was hard to refuse. In exchange for the painting and ten dollars, Davis would transfer over the deed to a 153-acre farm less than an hour outside of New York in the Connecticut countryside. Weir arrived in the summer of 1882, immediately became enamored with the sylvan setting, and painted the first of hundreds of works he and his friends would create over the next 40 years. To this day, the property remains a rural retreat that continues to inspire artists and is now the only site in the National Park System dedicated to American painting. Walk inside the Visitor Center to see a short film on the life J. Alden Weir, considered one of the fathers of American Impressionism. That’s not to say he wasn’t disgusted with this style of painting when he first encountered it in Paris, calling an exhibition showcasing the works of Monet, Manet, and Degas “worse than the Chamber of Horrors.” Yet, soon enough, Weir was utilizing the loose brushstrokes and plein air painting that would become the trademarks of Impressionism.
View the wonderful photographs of Weir with John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam, two of the celebrated artists that enjoyed visiting Weir at his country home, and see the lone original work in the building, The Truants (1895). Then immerse yourself in the same natural setting that inspired Weir. Trails lead to a pond, barns, old stone walls, a sunken garden, and his house and studio. Better yet, bring a sketchbook.
7 Best Bike Rides, Including Tiverton Four Corners to Little Compton, Rhode Island
South of Route 195 and the gritty mill towns of Fall River and New Bedford lies countryside so fertile you’ll feel like you’re in Vermont. Stretching from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to Little Compton, Rhode Island, the area is known as the Heritage Farm Coast. It has the sunniest and most temperate climate in New England and thus the longest growing season. Dairy farms, corn fields, even vineyards, border the Sakonnet River as it washes into the Atlantic.
For a good 20-mile loop, take Route 77 south from Tiverton Four Corners to Sakonnet Point and return on backcountry roads past the village green of Little Compton. Tiverton Four Corners is a rural village that dates from the 17th century and is now home to artisans like jeweler Tiffany Peay (3851 Main Road), who uses brightly colored gems to create bracelets and necklaces with contemporary flair. Or energize with an ice cream cone at the legendary Gray’s (16 East Road), which serves my favorite black raspberry in New England. The stretch of road heading south from Tiverton Four Corners is a beaut, with views of rolled hay leading to the shores of the wide Sakonnet River. When you finally reach Little Compton, you’ve earned those Johnnycakes (fried cornmeal) at The Common’s Lunch. But first, get a feel for the history of this quintessential New England village by walking across the street to the white steeple, village green, and cemetery. Stubs stick out of the ground and if you peer closely, you’ll notice that the first settlers are buried here, with dates of death registered as far back as 1711.