To set the pace for the weekend ahead, I opt for the slightly loner, scenic drive up Routes 302 and 35, past beautiful Songo Pond in Bethel. Having grown up in the area, I look forward to “coming home” for the weekend.
5:00 p.m. @ Good Food Store
This is always my first stop on the way up to Sunday River. The specialty grocer has lots of organic Maine products and delicious fresh prepared foods. I stock up on some healthy snacks for hikes and a gluten-free homemade chai donut for the morning.
6:00 p.m. @ Sunday River Full Moon Dinner at Peak Lodge
The view from Chondola up to the Peak Lodge at dusk is breathtaking. We sip cocktails on the outdoor terrace and enjoy the sunset before we move inside for dinner. I enjoy the Brussels sprout salad with bacon and almonds, roasted pork loin, and some Gifford’s ice cream for dessert. After dinner, Matt and the Barnburners are rocking the terrace with some fun cover tunes. The fires are blazing, and the full harvest moon is illuminating the mountains while folks are dancing and chatting.
9:40 p.m. @ Grand Summit Hotel
The lobby is buzzing with folks wheeling in their bags for the weekend. The hotel is located at the base of the mountain, perfect for skiing in and out in the winter or hiking up the trails in the summer. I catch a glimpse of people enjoying the heated outdoor pool under the stars.
7:00 p.m. @ Camp
There is a lovely huge breakfast buffet set up here, but I’m anxious to get outside and do some exploring and photography with the early morning light. I grab a coffee and head out.
7:35 a.m. @ Sunday River Lollapalooza ski trail
After looking at Sunday River’s website for info on hikes and nature walks, I decide to hike the 1.2-mile Lollapalooza trail. I start at the Jordan Hotel and follow the ski trail to the top of Jordan Bowl. The vista of the Mahoosuc Range and New Hampshire’s Presidential Range is incredible.
9:45 a.m. @ Grand Summit Hotel
Time to relax in the outdoor heated pool and hot tub, complete with slopeside and chairlift views.
11:00 a.m. @ Sport Thoma
I stop into this store along Route 2 to check out the skis and ski jackets. In addition to its extensive inventory, the retailer offers rentals and ski tuning.
11:50 a.m. @ Smokin’ Good BBQ
They had me at vintage orange trailer, but a trip to Bethel is not complete without a stop here. They smoke the meats on site, and you can eat at the picnic tables or take your food to go.
1:00 p.m. @ Bethel Harvestfest and Chowdah Cookoff
The town common is bustling with live bluegrass music, craft booths, a chowder cook-off, and an apple pie contest. I run into Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, who is busy serving food off of the grill.
2:30 p.m. @ Maine Mineral and Gem Museum
Mining has been a tradition in Maine for hundreds of years, and this museum, set to open next year, will showcase that history and collections. The store, open now, has minerals and gemstones for sale.
3:10 p.m. @ Main Street
I stop in a few of the shops on my walk through the historic Main Street. I visit my friend, Lauren Head, a co-founder and artist, along with Donna D’Aquino, at Art at 57 Maine, a small fine art and craft gallery and working jewelry studio.
4:30 p.m. @ DiCocoa’s
I go for a late afternoon coffee, but there is so much more here— gelato, homemade baked goods, and deli counter fare, with lots of fresh items like kale and fruit salad.
5:00 p.m. @ Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground
This family-run business rents kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards, and will shuttle you up and down the Androscoggin River as needed. I don’t have time today, but plan to return to paddle board on my next visit. Pattie Parsons, who is co-owner with her husband, Jeff Parsons, gives me a map to find some swimming holes I want to check out tomorrow.
6:15 p.m. @ Gould Academy
Nostalgia sets in as I drive through the small boarding school’s campus and see kids hanging out on the bank after dinner. The sun is starting to go down behind the mountains. Having been both a student and art teacher at the school, it holds a special place in my heart.
7:30 p.m. @ Camp
The rustic chic décor, complete with exposed logs and plaid fabric, gives the Grand Summit Hotel’s restaurant a fitting vibe. I love the Maine Blueberry chicken wings I order tonight.
7:00 a.m. @ Sunday River Road, Newry
I leave the ski resort early and head north to take some photos along Sunday River. My first stop is the Artists Bridge, an 1800s covered wooden bridge. I explore for a bit before continuing on scenic Sunday River Road. Next stop is a swimming hole called Letter S, where I hike around and take some photos. The green woods, the fog, the mountain air, and the river sounds relax me.
11:00 a.m. Sunday River Brewing Company
Darcy Lambert, director of communications at Sunday River, told me that besides being known for great beer, this pub has a cult-like following for their homemade donuts at breakfast. Some people stop in to just grab boxes of donuts, while I enjoy a spinach omelet.
1:10 p.m. The Gem
I meet Wade Kavanaugh, who owns this theater on Cross Street with his wife, Beth Weisberger. They offer diverse programming, from Hollywood movies to small films, local arts, and local theater. Watching a movie while enjoying beer, wine, or a Moxie? Yes, please.
1:45 p.m. on Route 26
As I wind my way back home on Route 26, I reflect on the tranquil and dreamy swimming holes and am already making plans in my head for my next trip back to Bethel for hiking in October foliage. I then begin to dream of the soon-to-be-white- filled slopes.