The winter wonderland of the Northeast is best experienced on New Hampshire’s frosty snowmobile trails and if you’ve never been it’s some of the best fun you can have this time of year. And fun is exactly what we had on a recent trip where we went snowmobiling in Ashland, NH. Here’s our story.
When you have a friend who owns a campground that just so happens to sit right on the snowmobile trails of middle New Hampshire, you go see that friend, right? The answer is a resounding yes and that’s exactly what I did.
Desperate for a break from the temperate 60-degree winter I was suffering through in Southern California I decided to amp it up a little bit. You know, mix in a little -8 degree weather and the thrill of hurtling a mechanized sled across a frozen lake at 60 miles per hour.
I’ve written about the Ames Brook Campground before after a fall visit to see the leaves and mix in some picturesque golf. But this trip was about snow, snow, and more snow. The campground shuts down for the winter, but my friend and the recent new owner of the campground keeps a couple of snow machines on the property.
I booked a cheap Southwest Airlines ticket in the midst of snowmageddon thinking I had a 50/50 chance of actually making it to New Hampshire given how many flights were being canceled, and while I did experience some wonkiness including a delay, a cancellation, a rebooking and a standby flight to Boston’s Logan Airport (instead of my original destination Manchester) I made it in safely.
We slowly slogged our way up to Ashland for the night while Nature did her best to give us fresh powder to cut up on the next morning.
And cut it up we did!
While I’ve ridden ATVs, Jet-Ski’s, motorcycles, dune buggies, and other motorized fun-machines, I’d never straddled the back of a snow machine before so I was a bit nervous. But, with a reasonable amount of hubris, I figured it can’t be that hard to learn, right? Actually, it wasn’t. In fact, it was quite easy.
We met up with a crew of hardcore snowmobilers and hit the trails. Destination: breakfast in Plymouth, NH. Some of my friend’s friends met up with us on the property and we hit the trails with my 5 minute tutorial on how-not-to-die-on-this-thing safely in the books.
I can only imagine how the crew of guys felt when they learned a first-timer was rolling with them; a first-timer from the sunny paradise of Southern California no less. But, they were gracious, offering additional tips, were patient as I found my groove, and in the end, were a fun group of guys to ride with.
The Live Free or Die state is notorious for being friendly and this group of well-to-do guys was damn pleasant. After a few miles of zipping up hills and around bends, over a river (on a train trestle…gulp) we pulled our machines right into downtown Plymouth and parked them in front of the restaurant.
As a cold-weather destination, snow is simply a part of life and well-groomed trails spiderweb across the state, through people’s property, into towns, over bridges, lakes, and pretty much everywhere and the state incorporates snowmobiles into everyday life.
After a great breakfast at a local Plymouth diner named Annie’s Overflow, full of good laughs, a friendly waitstaff, and tasty food, we hit the trails again, but not before sliding our machines over to the local gas station to fuel up.
After zipping across a lake we bid the guys farewell and turned back towards our cabin in hopes of finding some more coffee and a quick rest before an afternoon session.
After a brief rest, we hit the trails again for what was planned to be a longer session out into the hinterlands, but one of the machines tossed a belt and we had to pull over and deal with that problem. Once fixed, we opted to inch our way back to the cabin rather than risk a mechanical issue in the sticks – and it was the smart move.
With the thrill of my first snowmobile trip in the books, I reflected on the unique ways that society and cultures adapt to their surroundings. Minus 8 degree weather? No biggie. Let’s invent a mechanized sled so we can still get around. It’s pretty cool to see how a place like New Hampshire, blanketed in snow for several months, simply adapts, finding ways to make life fun and functional, no matter the temperature.
I also reflected on the people I met and interacted with and how gracious and kind they were to this wimpy Californian. Every visit I’ve ever made to places like Maine, or New Hampshire, or Vermont is always marked by pleasant interactions with the locals who seem content with their life and their climate, and in the case of those in NH…their freedom.
Riding a snowmobile was a bucket list item for me and I’m glad I made the trek. I would encourage you to give it a go if you ever get the chance. Trust me. It’s worth it! And if you can visit middle New Hampshire to do it, even better. You will have a great time. Trust me.