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 Travel Trails By Martin B. Deutsch

martin THE HERITAGE TRAIL

BY MARTIN B. DEUTSCH

March 1, 1965 -- It's that time of the year again--time to realize that those snow tires will soon come off, time to dust off the road maps, time to take off that wraps on vacation plans.

With these pleasurable thoughts hatching beneath the snow-encrusted landscape, there also arises a familiar problem: "Where will we go this summer?" This time-worn query plagues the family man once a year, usually with the first attack of spring fever. The answer's not always simple. There are so many places you haven't been to, so many places you'd like to see, that the decision is difficult.

Then, even after deciding, making additional plans poses a perennial headache. You've picked out an area that holds a thousand possibilities. Do you sight-see, fish, or head for the beaches and then hunt? How about historical attractions or sports events? Do you camp, stay at motels or freeload with friends? Well, you get the picture.

We've got an idea which will solve all your problems, and wrap up your plans into one neat vacation package. Those inventive Yankees up in New England have cooked up an ideal, preplanned holiday for the American family on wheels. New England's famous Heritage Trail is a palatable vacation platter of scenery, recreation, art, music, sports, history and pleasure for you, the gal in your life and the offspring. The program includes hundreds of scenic miles through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Heritage Trail encompasses hundreds of diverse visitor attractions in a sprawling rectangle, with Norwalk, Connecticut, at the southwestern corner; Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket on the southeast; Bar Harbor, Maine, or Bangor at the northeast limits, and Burlington, Vermont, in the northwest.

This is a trip along excellent, modern highways, bordered by the finest accommodations in all categories and price ranges. You can make it in a week, ten days, two weeks or a month. Set your own pace and travel at your leisure. Find something appealing? Pull over and spend a few days. Not your cup of tea? Drive on!

Each of the six states has its own special charms. The colonial state of Connecticut is renowned for its lovely village greens and rolling hills, handsome old homes and a shore lined with beaches and fishing ports.

Small in size, but big in hospitality and recreational activities, Rhode Island has an abundance of history at every turn, and you'll find the terms "oldest" and "first" everywhere. Providence is a modern city with its pre-Revolutionary heritage showing through, and Newport has a magnetic resort attraction all its own.

Massachusetts, "where America began," is a state where every town or village has a just claim on history. At Lexington Battle Green, the Revolution's first shot was fired in 1775; not much has changed in the intervening years. Residents and visitors alike enjoy themselves, whether relaxing on the shore or roaming through the hills. There is also a strong element of contrast, with sophisticated Boston and village greens, beach picnics and topnotch restaurants.

Maine is big on natural beauty. There are sparkling blue lakes, huge forests and a colorful seacoast linked with offshore islands by ferries. This is a land of lobsters and beach clambakes, lighthouses, coastal forts, picturesque harbors and rivers tumbling to the sea. Fishing, swimming and hunting are fine, and the natives are friendly.

New Hampshire's woods and lakes and mountains provide a breathtaking panorama of sights as winding roads top each rise. You can climb those mountains, or ride the ski lifts that operate each year, or take the Cog Railway up Mt. Washington, highest peak in the Northeast. Or fish for real big bass in Lake Winnipesaukee, considered one of the foremost water-sports regions in North America.

Vermont, often compared to Switzerland, with its crisp mountain air and beautiful valleys, is nevertheless thoroughly "New England" in spirit and appearance. The small towns hidden in the mountains, the traditional church spires, the picket fences, the maple syrup at the country stores, the wide variety of cheese, the golfing and fishing all bear eloquent testimony to this state's appeal.

Just about an hour's drive out of New York, on Interstate 95, lies the gateway to our vacation tour, Connecticut's Norwalk, settled in 1649, and the starting point of Nathan Hale's historic trip to Long Island, during the Revolutionary War, in 1776. After the plush community of Westport and the bustling city of Bridgeport, we came to Stratford, where the American Shakespeare Theatre holds forth during the warm-weather months with a repertory from "King Lear" to "A Comedy of Errors." At New Haven, you'll enjoy a free guided tour of Yale University, chartered way back in 1701 and with its ivy-colored buildings, a memorable place to visit. Besides many attractive museums, libraries and parks, you might also get a kick out of the fabulous Winchester Gun Museum (I did). There's no charge.

We've been driving northeast along Long Island Sound until now, but at New Haven, we swing north on U.S. 5 to Wethersfield, with its historic old homes, then on to Hartford and the State Capitol Building, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Old State House, the Mark Twain Memorial, Trinity College and the Annual Rose Festival. There's a Trolley Museum at Warehouse Point, then we cross temporarily into Massachusetts. First stop: Springfield for a call the famous armory, commissioned in 1794, as well as the Armory Benton Small Arms Museum, then Forest Park and Zoo (tops for the whole family), and Musket Trail, a city tour which features sites dating from 1636.

After Holyoke and Pioneer Valley, we turn south on State 9 and U.S. 20 to Old Sturbridge Village, a recreation of things as they were fifty years ago, then back into Connecticut to New London, a fascinating community which was the rendezvous of privateers during the Revolutionary War, and the port where the whaling industry got its start in 1784.

Moving east through Groton, where the first atomic sub was designed and built, we drive into Rhode Island after a stop at Mystic Seaport, a typical nineteenth century New England water-front village.

After the summer resort of Watch Hill, in Rhode Island, we move on to Narragansett, and excellent beach resort, with boating, golf, tennis and tuna fishing in August. There are quaint fishing villages at Point Judith, then West Warwick for the Nathaniel Greene Homestead, and Providence, founded in 1936 by Roger Williams.

Down on the other side of Narragansett Bay, we arrive at Newport, home of some of the fanciest mansions this side of the Atlantic ("The Breakers" and the Belcourt Estate), music festivals in the summer months and scene of major yachting races, such as the America's Cup. Not to be missed: the ten-mile Ocean Drive, both scenic and rugged.

Driving east on U.S. 6, we move back into Massachusetts and New Bedford, once the greatest Whaling port anywhere. Cape Cod is next, a half-moon sliver of land which curves out into the Atlantic and offers a tantalizing blend of history and recreation. The pilgrims came into the harbor at Provincetown in 1620. Several centuries later, whalers added a colorful chapter to the area's colorful history, and well-to-do sea captains built fancy homes and furnished them with articles acquired during their global sojourns.

Driving north from the Cape on State 3 we'll call at Plymouth, where the Pilgrims founded their first permanent settlement. Plymouth Plantation and Mayflower II are authentic re-creations (adults $3; kids, $1.50). At Edaville, you can sample a steam-rail-road rise, then on to Quincy for the homes of two early Presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Boston is next, and we could easily spend this entire article on its attractions, but for the sake of staying on the "Heritage Trail," we'll mention just a few. Be sure to take in the Bunker Hill Monument (ten cents); the Paul Revere House (twenty-five cents); "Old Ironsides," the U.S.S. Constitution, heroine of the War of 1812; the Old State House; the King's Chapel; Beacon Hill; Faneuil Hall, known as the "Cradle of Liberty" (free); Boston Common; Louisburg Square; Old North Church; Symphony Hall; the Fine Arts Museum, and Boston College and Boston University. The seafood and the baked beans are especially good here. Also, ask your local American Automobile Association motor club for a "Freedom Trail Walking Tour" itinerary. You'll handily cover many of the places mentioned in Boston on foot.

North of Boston, on U.S. 1, we'll come to Cambridge, home of Harvard, oldest university in the country (1636), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Radcliffe College for Women, and the home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (admission thirty cents). Then on to Lexington, where the Green, or Common, was the scene of the first skirmish of the Revolutionary War. April 19, 1775. Concord is next. Here the American Minutemen were organized and, in 1774, John Hancock presided over the first Provincial Congress.

Salem is one of our last stops in this state and one of the most interesting. Founded in 1626, it was the site of the infamous 1692 witchcraft trials. Today, you can visit the courthouse, as well Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables and Pioneer's Village, a recreation of a Puritan village (forty cents).

Suddenly, we're in that little piece of New Hampshire which opens out onto the Atlantic. We'll pop in at Hudson for the wild-animal farm, and possibly spend a day or two at Hampton or Rye Beaches, along with a call at Portsmouth (1623), with its handsome colonial homes, narrow, winding street, the John Paul Jones House, and a pleasant Viking boat trip of the area ($3.50, adults; $2.50, children).

With the old buggy's wheels still firmly on U.S. 1 and the direction generally north, we enter Maine at Kittery and tour Fort McClary, then onto York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk, and old Orchard for fine beaches, before arriving in Portland, a historic port which was destroyed three times--once by Indians, then by the French and Indians, and finally, by the British in 1775. Today, it's the largest city in Maine, with worthwhile museums, famous old houses and excellent cruises offered by Casco Bay Lines, fares from ninety cents to $4. Then up the bay-riddled shore to forts, lovely harbors, art colonies, summer theatres, beaches, the Annual Lobster festival at Rockland (first weekend in August), and a marine museum, before we pull up at bay Harbor.

This picturesque community on Mount Desert Island, at Frenchman Bay, is a summer resort of international fame, as well as the gateway to Acadia National Park, a striking sanctuary for birds, animals, plant life and tourists. Driving inland on State 3 and U.S. 1A, we hit Bangor, where the Paul Bunyan Statue reaches a height of thirty-one feet; the University of Maine at Orono and a Penobscot Indian reservation at Old Town.

Now on a westerly tack on U.S. 2, our next major destination is Augusta, state capital, and a going community since 1628, when John Alden and Captain Miles Standish helped found the settlement. The Statehouse, Executive Mansion and Fort Western (1754) are all worth seeing. Before leaving Maine for New Hampshire, we'll encounter the popular summer resort of Naples in the Sebago and Long Lakes region, excellent for smallmouthed black bass, landlocked salmon and trout, and then on to Bethel, in the lovely Oxford Hills on the Androscoggin River, a center for fishing and hunting.

Still heading west on U.S. 2, we come back into New Hampshire near Mt. Washington, at 6,288 feet, one of the highest peaks east of the Rockies. The thrilling cog-railway ride, which takes nearly four hours round trip, is $4.95 for adults; children six to twelve, $3; others free. Mt. Washington, eight miles long, also offers a spectacular trip, at $5 for car and driver; each passenger $1; no charge for youngsters under twelve. After Glen Ellis Falls and Crawford Notch, we approach the Franconia Notch area, a mountain gap of great scenic splendor, with Echo Lake, the Profile (also called the "Old Man of the Mountain," The Flume, and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway ($1.50 adults; seventy-five cents for kids six to twelve).

We haven't touched on Vermont yet, but suddenly, we're in St. Johnsbury, and heading southwest on U.S. 2. Barre, granite center of the world, with free quarry tours daily at Rock of Ages, is followed by Montpelier, the capital city, then the famous year-round resort of Stowe, with the majestic Smuggler's Notch. With its ski lifts and Mt. Mansfield Toll Road, Stowe is one of the East's most magnificent spots.

The state's largest city, Burlington, was the scene of a battle during the War of 1912 at Battery Park. Then on to Shelburne and its museum depicting the early outdoor life of the U.S. Northeast; the writer's and artist's colony of Dorset, and the resort center of Manchester, with its summer ski lift and the skyline drive up to Mt. Equinox; Bennington and its battle Monument, and Brattleboro's resort area.

At this point, we loop back into New Hampshire for the five or six highlights, including the Keene resort complex.

And now we re-enter Massachusetts, first moving west on State 2, then south on U.S. 7 to Shelburne Falls and the renowned Bridge of Flowers; the Mohawk Trail; Pittsfield, with its concerts at the Temple of Music, and Great Barrington, hub the Southern Berkshire's resorts, with fine views.

In the home stretch, with the grille pointed south on U.S. 7, we find ourselves back in Connecticut, where we started. There are two more stops in this state, Litchfield, noted for fine colonial houses, and Bethel, where General Israel Putnam quartered his New England troops in the harsh winter of 1778-79.

Thus, in capsule form, we're given you a quick look at New England's "Heritage Trail," a ready-made vacation designed to please the varied tastes of everyone in your family. In this report, we've followed the "Red Route," or the main trail. There is also a "blue Route," which features alternate destinations, and recommended if you have additional time--beyond, let's say, two weeks. Incidentally, although we began and wound up in southwestern Connecticut, you can pick up the "Heritage Trail" and drop it anywhere, as you choose. All that's guaranteed is a great vacation!

This column originally appeared in Argosy magazine.

Copyright 1962-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.