Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Maple Guys and Ice Out

We took a ride out to Gilmore Pond in Jaffrey on Sunday just to check conditions. Can you tell we're just a little excited for kayaking season to begin? There was still ice on about 90 percent of the pond, so I'm guessing it will be at least another three or four weeks before we can actually get out there.

How Sweet It Is
Since it was New Hampshire Maple Weekend, our next stop was The Maple Guys in Lyndeborough. I've lived here my whole life and never once visited a sugar house. Never once smelled that sweet steam as it escapes from the roof vent. Never peered into a wood-fired evaporator filled with boiling sap or watched the pure maple syrup as it flows from the tap. That is, until now.

Let me start by saying there's still so much that amazes me about the backroads of New Hampshire. As we were driving from Jaffrey to Lyndeborough, I expected dirt roads, but I never expected so much mud. We're talking mud deep enough to suck your vehicle tires right into a vortex. Luckily, that didn't happen; there would have been no one around to help us out.

Finally, we arrived at 146 Old Schoolhouse Road. At first glance, it looked like the last outpost to nowhere. But the steam was pouring out of a little building. It was supposed to be an "open house," but no other cars were in sight. Do we go in? Do we drive by? It's raining outside. And then we glimpse a young girl, maybe 10 or 11, standing by a cash register in the doorway. She looks likes she's waiting for visitors. Okay, let's go inside. Who could possibly have come way out here to visit this little sugar house in the middle of nowhere?

Well, as usual, I was wrong. The Maple Guys run a small, but full-scale operation. They've won prestigious awards for their maple syrup. They've even invented equipment that is used by other maple producers. Their family members are happy to explain the whole operation to us. Turns out they've had lots of visitors today, even despite the mud and the rain. We learned some interesting facts about maple syrup production and sampled some pure maple sugar candy...mmm.
Still Time to Visit a Sugar House, But Hurry
NH's official Maple Sugar weekend is over, but you can still discover for yourself how sap turns into pancake topping. Parker's Maple Barn in Mason offers maple syrup producing tours on weekends (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) through mid-April. It's a good idea to call ahead to be sure the sap is still running.

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