Exploring my own backyard – Shelburne,
Northern New Hampshire…
WORDS & IMAGES: DANA BENNER
Over the years I have travelled throughout the United States, finding those truly unique environments and the people who live with and not against the natural world. Despite all of these great places, I often neglected my own backyard, namely the wild areas of Northern New England – including the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
For that reason I have decided to focus on the area that I call home. Relatively speaking, New England, when compared to the rest of the country, is a small area. Saying that, there is no other part of the United States where one can travel from seacoast, through rural farmland, deep forests and mountains all in one day.
Shelburne, New Hampshire
With this in mind I headed north, 130 miles, or so, from my home. My base of operations was to be the small, family owned Birch View Motor Lodge which is located in the small mountain town of Shelburne, New Hampshire.
Shelburne in located in the Androscoggin Valley, nestled between two of New Hampshire’s most scenic areas – The White Mountains and The Great North Woods. Activities to get outdoors are available year round, with plenty of opportunities for walking, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Northern New Hampshire is a place whose very existence depends upon a healthy natural environment. The major income comes from environmental tourism, lumber, hunting and fishing, all of which depend on respectful, sustainable use of that environment.
Fall, when the leaves are changing colors is a very busy time in the North Country, though any time of the year is a great time to visit. Snowcapped mountains, clear running streams and wildlife, particularly moose, are major draws. The area is also extremely rich in history. There are numerous small farms here that date back hundreds of years. Each one tells the story of people who worked with nature to forge a way of life.
Just one visit to New Hampshire’s North Country is not enough to fully appreciate the area. There is just so much to see and interesting people to meet. There are no big fancy hotels or amusement parks. People who come here do so because it is what it is, an escape from the fast-paced corporate world. Some people camp, or rent a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. I like to do that myself, but when I don’t I stay at establishments that hold the same values that I do.
Birch View Motor Lodge
Birch View Motor Lodge is one of those places, and owners Carol and Dave Gilbert are cut from the same piece of cloth that I am.
Coming up from the Boston, Massachusetts area 1 ½ years ago they bought the motor lodge. In that time they have made it their own and have turned it into an environmentally friendly place to stay. The main portion of the lodge is where they live and is heated with a pellet stove, though the motel rooms are heated by oil. This is something Dave told me he is working on changing.
Solar panels power the outdoor lights and Dave told me that within the next year larger solar panels will be installed to provide power for the entire lodge. There are also plans to replace all of the single pane windows of the lodge with energy efficient double pane insulated windows. Change takes funding, but both Carol and Dave are determined to make the property as environmentally friendly as possible.
Handmade and Sustainable
Before you even step into the rooms you see their commitment to sustainability. Handmade benches and chairs grace the entrances to all the rooms. Dave is a master woodworker and, using salvaged lumber which he collects from the numerous lumber mills of the area, he crafts these beautiful pieces of art. The designs on the chairs and benches represent the wildlife found in the area.
The craftsmanship doesn’t end here. Once you enter your room you really see what Dave can do. Tongue and grove knotty pine makes up the interior walls. The bed, desk and shelves are all made from rough, bark on scrap lumber. Even the trash can and wall hangings are made from the same reclaimed, recycled lumber.
Nothing is wasted. Trash here at the lodge is recycled as much as possible.
This lodge, and the people who run it, is proof that it can be done with a little determination and a dream.
Images: courtesy © Dana Benner
Birch View Motor Lodge
10 Village Rd
Shelburne, NH 03581
Visit New Hampshire:
Dana Benner has been writing about the outdoors for over 30 years with his work appearing in both regional and national publications in the U.S. He has a particular interest in wildlife, culture and the environment, and Native American history. He holds a M.Ed. in Heritage Studies and teaches Sociology, History and Political Science at the university level. Dana is based in the USA and is a regular guest writer for Our Planet Travel.
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