This summer, forget the big beaches on the coasts. It’s the hidden gems, tucked away in the wilds and behind the forests, that really count. Enter Weirs Beach.
We visited Weirs Beach, right on Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia, NH, back in October. Even though it wasn’t prime swimming season, we really felt like we journeyed to a magical place. Weirs Beach comes with a retro arcade–no really, an actual arcade–right on the boardwalk, which was next to the train station, which was right across the street from the Victorian houses, which overlooked the spectacular lake, which had really ginormous houses on it, which you could see from the amazing boat tours, which…well, you get the point.
By the way, those cool Victorian houses we mentioned above, you can rent those, plus there’s plenty of other places to stay, including the Half Moon Motel and Cottages, which we’re happy to recommend. We enjoyed our time there. A nice slice of New England.
This is one of those articles where pictures say more than words. If you’re looking for a place off the beaten path to spend your summer, if you don’t want to contend with the major beach resort cities where you can’t even hear yourself think…if you’re looking for a little slice of Americana with a retro feel in a small lake town in New England…then Weirs Beach is for you!
We know we’ll be back.
OK, now pictures.
Lake Winnipesaukee is beautiful. Don’t believe us? Check out the time-lapse video we took while out boating
Then there’s the famous Vegas-like “Weirs Beach” sign, complete with a light show. We got a video.
A very special thank you to Seneca White Deer, Inc., the nonprofit that works tirelessly to preserve this piece of nature and wildlife, and who are responsible for organizing these white deer tours. The people working for Seneca White Deer were amazingly helpful to UWanderings as we got to know the history of the Seneca Army Depot and see the furry critters that call this place home.
Our recent trip to see this elusive white deer population was nothing short of amazing. This is the world’s largest population of white deer. They aren’t mutants, they aren’t albinos…they’re actually just white tailed deer. But they’ve been enclosed in a 10,000 acre compound for almost 80 years, relatively undisturbed, so they’ve had a chance to breed and pass on this rare, recessive gene that makes them primarily white in color without too much in the way of natural predators.
The site of the white deer is also of major historical significance. They live on what used to be the Seneca Army Depot, a munitions depot built by the U.S. Army in the summer of 1941—in anticipation of America’s likely looming involvement in World War II. Though useful for the war effort, the construction of this giant project came at a sad cost: over 100 families–many farmers–were given short notice to vacate. In other words, they were evicted and poorly compensated. The remains of some foundations are still visible today. However, the end of the Second World War didn’t mean the Depot was obsolete. The Cold War was just heating up, and this place was anything but redundant.
The Seneca Army Depot, or “the Depot”, as it was locally known, was a large repository of Cold War era weapons when it was still active. But the absolute secrecy of the place, coupled with the government barely acknowledging its existence in the first place, contributed to its mysterious nature and an uncomfortable level of anxiety by the community. It was Upstate New York’s Area 51.
Officially, the U.S. government kept a tight lid on the Depot’s inventory—and what went on there—by confirming nothing. But it was widely believed that aside from traditional munitions like bullets and artillery, the Depot was also home to a fairly large stockpile of nuclear weapons, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world at a moments’ notice. And because of the perceived nuclear inventory, it was also thought that the Seneca Army Depot was a top target on the Soviet hit list in the event of a nuclear exchange, so the site was not without controversy.
The secrecy and denial by Uncle Sam didn’t stop the countless anti-nuclear weapons protesters from demonstrating right outside its gates over the years, with many getting arrested for disrupting operations or even trying to break in by scaling the fence. There was even a well known group of anti-war women who continuously camped out adjacent to the Depot grounds so as to permanently remind the U.S. government that not everyone was comfortable with having nukes in their backyards.
Despite the mysteries that went on behind the fence, the white deer well known due to their occasional appearances at the border fence for passersby. The deer were protected by the soldiers that were based there, thanks to an early base commander who, in 1949, saw the first white deer on the Depot grounds and ordered all personnel to leave them alone. They were not to be hunted or bothered. The orders stood for the rest of the time the Depot operated. They even become an unofficial mascot of the Depot and the people who worked there. Now that the base is inactive, declassified, and in private hands, locals are flocking to see these white deer up close and, because it was forbidden for so long, the base itself.
This tour was awesome, not just because of the deer, but also because of all the other wildlife we saw. It’s a virtual nature preserve. Osprey, eagles, beavers, wild turkeys, turkey vultures…and so much more. And of course, there’s plenty of normal colored deer with fluffy white tails. They’re actually pretty cute.
Part of the fun with this tour is keeping a keen eye on the scenery to spot the white deer. Sometimes they’re obvious; other times, you have to intently look around as the bus moves through the terrain, so don’t be shy about shouting out “There’s one!”, at which point the bus will stop or back up so everyone can get a better view. You can really get into it. On the cold, overcast day we visited, the deer weren’t in the mood to come right up to our bus, as they sometimes do, but the sparse spring foliage made them easy to spot through the trees. But they moved fast, so our photography was a little shaky.
Although there are some small developments here and there, most of the former Depot is still either wild nature or nature that’s slowly reclaiming the land from manmade structures, which gives the whole base a sort of zombie apocalypse vibe. And since Zombies are cool right now, that definitely makes this tour much more interesting. For all the military buffs out there, there are over 500 weapons storage bunkers, otherwise known as igloos, that still stand to this day. Talk about Cold War relics. We even got to go inside one. It was pretty cool–check out the video above for more on that.
Seneca White Deer has been running these tours for about six months now, and they’re catching on fast. Since people from all over the world visit the Finger Lakes region for the wine, it’s only a matter of time before they come to see the deer, too. White deer simply don’t exist in such large numbers anywhere else in the world.
It’s human nature to explore things that are rare and unusual. Perfect for us, perfect for the curious travelers out there like you.
So we welcome you to join us as we discover the white deer of the Finger Lakes, and do be sure visit for yourself someday. The deer will be here to say “hi.”
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While we’re on the subject of Mark Twain, whose final resting place we visited last week, we also wanted to talk about how popular he was, well, everywhere. A real American legend, his time in the West cannot be understated. He spent a considerable amount of that time in Nevada, so it’s no surprise his image still lives on there to this day.
Enter the Mark Twain Casino & Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. We discovered this place after our visit to the Republic of Molossia. Virginia City is an “Old West” town. Despite being a modern place where people live and go about their lives, it does an excellent job of preserving its heritage and historical image, complete with old-style boardwalks. The Twain Saloon is rich in historical relics, too; it’s a great place to settle down after a long day, have a drink, and enjoy the sunset. Coming into town late? That’s OK–it’s open 24 hours.
The Saloon does a great job of blending historical pieces and details–like an antique cash register and chandeliers–with modern amenities. The Old West of Americana lives on here!
Even We Had Trouble Finding This Place, But That’s the Point.
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Far into the wilds of Northern California lies a place where the fish thrive and people can live as one with nature. UW found this fishing paradise on accident after a chance encounter with one of the managers. And we really lucked out.
We ventured to Northern California to see the real Northern California–you know, the one that’s a few hundred miles north of San Francisco. Yeah, that one. Located in Klamath, about 40 miles from Oregon, Gold River Lodge offers true fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts a piece of nature difficult to find these days.
For the fishing aficionados, this is the place you need to be. Perfect for a weekend getaway in a comfy lodge with a scenic view. Or you can bring your RV there if you’d like–they’ve got plenty of parking. But the best part is, Gold River Lodge does everything for you. It’s not BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) here…they’ll take care of that, plus tailor a trip and fishing packages just for you.
You won’t notice much while driving through southern Illinois, at least not until you see the billboards for the world’s largest…well, there’s a few things to see. Here in the small town of Casey, a reinvention is underway. A former oil town, Casey, Illinois is rebranding itself as the modern capital of the world’s largest wind chime. It’s also home to the world’s largest golf tee, rocking chair, and mailbox, among other things certified by Guinness World Records. Oh yeah, you can actually “ring” the wind chime. See video below:
Bolin Enterprise Inc.
So who’s behind all this? Meet Bolin Enterprise Inc.(BEI), a company specializing in pipeline cleaning and maintenance. BEI has long called Casey home, and as the town’s economy changed and many jobs went away, BEI invested in projects like the wind chime to attract tourism. This new endeavor clearly works; it did attract UW, after all. Many of Casey’s small businesses are thriving as a result, shining with the adopted slogan “Big Things in a Small Town”.
There are a number of “big things” in Casey, both official and unofficial, and they’re not all in one place, either. Turn a corner and you’ll find a giant birdcage. The World’s Largest Rocking Chair (certified, weighing about 23 tons) is located next to City Hall. The randomness of these monuments makes Casey ever more interesting. One day, UW will return to document more–unfortunately, we only had time to visit the wind chime and rocking chair.
And of course, we couldn’t leave without meeting the actual builder of all these magnificent things. UW caught up with the master wood and metalworker behind these giant creations in his workshop, conveniently located behind the wind chime. Employed by BEI, this is his “retirement” job (he works with another person, too), and loves every minute of it. He was in the middle of carving what might become the world’s largest gavel when we arrived.