New Hampshire was a blank slate in our minds. I don't think I'd actually met anyone who'd stepped foot in the state, let alone talked about it. It's rare to visit a place you have no preconceived notions about; perhaps that's why New Hampshire left such an impression on us.
Our week in the Granite State convinced us that New Hampshire just might be the happiest place on earth. And we've got five definitive moments to prove our point.
1. Errol is the Place you'd Live if you were a Fugitive on the Run
I grew up in a town lucky to be pushing 1,300 residents, so I always thought I knew better than almost anyone just how small small towns can be. But Errol, clocking in at just 291, made me feel like a city slicker. There's just one restaurant. One gas station. One grocery store. And somehow, one pretty large LL Cote store. It takes less than 15 seconds to cruise the main drag, and yet somehow this tiny town had its grips on us. We lived our own tiny version of Twin Peaks, sitting in the diner every morning sipping coffee, splitting the $5.95 breakfast special and small talking with the rotating cast of waitresses, wondering if this just might be the only place to give it a go should we decide to Bonnie and Clyde it one day.
2. Lake Umbagog will Change your Mind about Lake Life Forever
We're from Nebraska, so swimming in lakes and rivers is pretty much second nature to us. But it can be a pretty gross concept to coastalites who believe the ocean is the only pristine kind of water recreation out there. However, Lake Umbagog is a deep blue ocean-like lake that stretches 12 miles into the North Woods of New Hampshire. It's the most breath-taking lake I'd ever laid eyes on. We spent an entire day canoeing and swimming and reading on its beaches and private islands. And for a water-loving dog, Costello was pretty much in 7th heaven.
3. The Balsams is the Most Beautiful Countryside Chateau You Never Knew You Needed
In White Mountain country, you can drive miles without seeing a single town. So imagine rounding the turn through Dixville Notch and unfolding before you is the most serene, idyllic and impressive chateaus you've ever seen. That is The Balsams, a once renowned hotel and ski lodge currently under renovation and slated for reopening in 2017. We had the chance to snag a private tour of the grounds (one of the only perks of dating a journalist), our guide one of the influential partners and masterminds behind the rehabbing of the Balsams. While there's still lots of work to be done, it's hard not see so much potential in this place. It's pure magic.
4. Hiking Table Rock = Incredibly Satisfying View Worth 20 Minutes of Torture
On our private tour of the Balsams, Table Rock was recommended to us as a short but breath taking hike in the area. And holy moly did it live up to expectations. The breathtaking views gave us a chance to try out some new gear we'd just gotten from Mountain Khakis, a renowned yet new to us outdoor apparel company. It passed the test and so did the hike -- the 360 degree views from the top were amazing. And at the risk of sounding to much like Sarah Palin, you can see Canada from up there! Just be careful when you make the trek; the lookout has an incredibly steep drop off that made my fear of heights flare up pretty badly. But you have to do it. Just bring water because while it's a short trek, it's a challenging one.
5. You'll Most Definitely See a Bonafide Bullwinkle
I was a little nervous that we would leave the northeast without seeing one of the only animals I'd been dying to see IRL: a motherfrigging moose. After two days in NH and no moose yet, I was just about to complain when Carson slammed on the breaks and spied our first two moose, grazing in the grass just 15 feet from the shoulder. I don't think you'll have any problems finding yourself a moose moment of your very own.
So let's go through the checklist. You've got cartoonish wildlife roaming free. A castle in the middle of nowhere. Miles of deep blue waters. A solid $5.95 breakfast special. And a breath-taking hike that takes less time than standing in line for Splash Mountain.
Yep, New Hampshire is definitely the New Disneyland.