(By Avoiding all the Things I did Last Year)
Mark your calendars for March 24-25, 2018. This is open house weekend for maple sugarers.
That means watch, learn, sample, and buy all the maple sweetness the Upper Valley has to offer.
Last year I went on an adventure and two hours later I only went to two sugar shacks, got turned around, ended up at the same location twice, and got one sample. I was hoping for more. Here's how to avoid my misadventure and have a more successful experience.
Have Places in Mind Before you Go
Make sure to check out the NH Maple Producers website with a map and when the maple producer will be open to the public. The list will look something like this from last year. This year's hasn't posted yet; however, searching within 25 miles of Lebanon gave me 22 results, so you can do that too.
Last year I had two places in mind I found on a local calendar, and I found another one by chance. I thought I'd see more signs and publicity for a statewide event, but no such luck. I looked on local calendars and NH and VT sites but they either weren't working or didn't provide specific information. So I was on my own. I used my gps maps a lot and followed maple signs when I found them. Only one place had a sign like this. The funny part to this is that I saw signs like this in two locations around town and found out it was the same sugar shack on a really long road. Oops.
Some May be Harder to Access
Weather can play a role in your experience. The main roads may be fine, but a lot of sugar houses are at people's private homes and often on secondary roads. On my way to one of the sugar houses I found myself on a hilly road that wasn’t fully plowed, so I didn’t risk getting stuck and turned around. I'm sure this was just my bad luck, but something to consider. You might want a back up location if you can't get to one.
Adventure with an Open Mind
I went with grand ideas of school vacation trips to maple sugaring houses I never took, where I would learn all about the process. This didn't happen (of course - remember I only had success at finding two locations...). One I got to see it being boiled, which was cool, and I got to sample some of the smoothness and best tasting maple syrup ever, but it was more of a watching than a learning experience. Of course, I didn't ask any questions (so that could've been part of the problem...)
The other location had more educational value. People could learn about tapping trees, the tools used, and facts about maple syrup production, but I didn't get to see the actual process. Maybe I missed something. I'm a newbie at this.
I would've enjoyed it a lot more if I appreciated what each had to offer instead of expecting one to offer the complete experience I was looking for that I wished I had as a kid. I don't think it helped my mindset that I had a hard time finding locations to begin with...
Bring Some Cash
I honestly don't know what I was thinking. Why wouldn't I bring cash? I guess I was just thinking I'd learn, watch, sample, and go home. I definitely would've wanted some sweets to take home or try a maple creamee (which I hear rave reviews about).
Happy Maple Adventuring!