How many times have you cycled a road wondering a bit about the homes, farms and other structures along the way?
For the nearly 20 members of the Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Club who turned out for last Sunday’s spin along North Road and other lanes in Shelburne, there were several opportunities to stop and learn a bit about history as the town celebrated its 250th anniversary.
For example, the long-standing Philbrook Farm Inn took in its first guests during the Civili War in 1961 and is known as the being the oldest inn in the country to be operated by the same family at the same site. Harvey Philbrook first owned the farm when he settled in town in 1834 and the family-owned property is now in its fifth generation.
Up the road, another display told of the Crow Mountain Farm that was once called the Wheeler Farmhouse. Samuel Wheeler was the first settler there and built his cabin on Ingalls Brook. His son, Samuel Jr., built the farmhouse that’s still standing in 1803. Near the farm is the Wheeler Cemetery that bears the family name.
Founded in 1769 on the banks of the Androscoggin River, the town of about 365 residents is named after William Petty Fitzmaurice, Earl of Shelburne, who supported the independence of the American colonies.
Shelburne has its charm and natural wonders easily found along Route 2. The white and wispy Shelburne birches are a fine example, the magnificent grove providing a canopy along the roadway. A small grassy common with a boulder affixed with a plaque honors the 23 local men and women who fought in World War II.
A couple of rock features are also found along the road, perhaps the best-known since the fall of the Old Man of the Mountain being the Old Man of the Valley, which looks like a profile face of a man with an extremely huge cranium. The other, a crafted stone fish, is presumably best spotted on the left side of the road when traveling from east to west.
But there is more to the small town by getting off the road most travelled by motorists. In the small village anchored by the Shelburne Church built in the 1830s and remodeled in 1877 is another stone fixture across from town hall. A stone bench called Granny Starbird’s Seat is flanked by potted annuals.
Village Road and Meadow Road which cross the Androscoggin have several homes still standing from the 1800s. Meadow Road which leads to North Road from the village serves up fine meadow and mountain vistas.
Hiking trails abound, including the famed Appalachian Trail through the White Mountain National Forest which crosses dirt Hogan Road. A local hiking club, the Shelburne Trails Club formed in 2010, maintains a network of trails around the Shelburne Valley. Paddlers can launch into the Androscoggin and canoe or kayak by the iron bridge in Gilead.
Then of course, well-known to cyclists, is the rolling North Road on the north side of the Androscoggin. North Road beginning off Route 2 near the Shelburne Dam meanders along farms, forest, tucked away homes and through history into Maine and the towns of Gilead and Bethel.
The road has long been a valley north favorite and now has the spotlight shine on it is more intensely for being included in the new 83-mile Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail between Woodsville and Bethe, Maine. It is the route’s final paved roadway before Bethel’s Davis Park riding west to east and the first stretch of pavement for those riding east to west.
Another way to reach North Road is from the town’s village common — Chester Hayes Memorial Park. A bucolic spot with its playground and mountain views, it was the launching point for some bike rides to largely showcase North Road — a 4-mile family ride, a 20-mile spin that included a portion of Evans Notch with new pavement and a 34-miler to Bethel and back.
No display told how to know when you’ve crossed from New Hampshire into Maine. There’s no sign. License plates on vehicles parked in driveways provide that answer and you definitely know you’re in Maine when you reach the iron bridge. But locals say there’s one sure way to figure out which state you’re in — you can tell by the change in pavement as you ride the road.