Snapshots of New Hampshire’s ‘100 Acre Wood’ Sugar Shack

Deep in the 100 Acre Wood, you won’t find a donkey, kangaroo or pig. You might actually spot a bear, but definitely not one wearing a tee shirt. This 100 Acre Wood, sits just outside the White Mountain National Forest in Intervale (near North Conway), New Hampshire. The grove of trees feels remote, but is not even 1 mile away from a Dunkin’ Donuts. 

The sugar shack, it’s trails, and literacy foundation are busy with family friendly events on the weekends, but on a Monday afternoon it’s perfectly quiet (and a rather lovely place to forget about your hangover). No formal tours were offered on this weekday, but Craig happily opened the door, gave us a tour inside, and answered our endless stream of questions. 

We were able to see the process of where they bring in the nearly clear sap from their sugar maple trees, how the water evaporates, and after all is said done the final amber maple syrup product. Did you know the conversion rate from gallons of sap to maple syrup is 40 to 1. That’s crazy!

We walked through the snowy trails, which are lined with the pages from Maple Syrup Season, a children’s book that follows along one family’s springtime sap harvest. I know that sounds super cheesey, but it was informative & truly entertaining.

At the conclusion of our self guided tour, we drove down to the foundation’s headquarters to hear more about their reading-related programing and to buy glass jugs of syrup. I’ve been spooning Grade A Amber into my morning coffee ever since and have no interest in returning to sad old regular sugar. 

You can buy 100 Acre Wood syrup online here,  where all proceeds go to the literacy programs offered by Believe in Books Literacy Foundation. Yayyy!


Shooting with Watershot

When you’re in the market for a case to take underwater iPhone photos, there aren’t many great options. Lifeproof cases work well, but aren’t completely reliable (especially not lose your phone to water damage in a foreign country reliable). If you’re wanting to go scuba diving you need something more substantial– an actual housing. Enter Watershot

Long story short: It’s a really well constructed housing, but it’s only as good as the “camera” inside. There are definitely a few software & design flaws, which you may be able to overlook. 

Long story… long: I purchased a Watershot iPhone 6s Pro Line Housing (plus their flat lens, wide angle lens, red filter, moisture absorbers, and a floating strap) for my trip to Bermuda. I love how the actual housing feels to use. It’s incredibly sturdy. It ought to have been delivered in a lifted Tacoma, it is so damn rugged. 

The Housing – I have few complaints about the quality of the housing itself. Your phone is suspended within the casing, keeping it free from impact shock à la Bubble Boy. The ‘O’ Ring felt of quality material (it didn’t come with grease and didn’t feel like it needed any in my week of use). 

Yes, you do have to operate the phone/camera by the 6 external buttons and not via touch screen (but, how else did you think this would work?).  So if you’re wanting a waterproof case to use while you’re texting or scrolling instagram on the beach– this isn’t what you want. Actually this is probably what you want.

Lenses – If you feel the need to change lenses, don’t even think about doing that underwater! You have screw off the lens, making your phone vulnerable to water & debris. This did disappoint me, as a photographer who is used to changing lenses on the fly all the time. The housing is depth rated to 195ft/60m and I’d prefer to be able to snap on different lenses while on a dive, instead of committing to one for the entire excursion. 

Software – The housing does allow you to shoot photos in the native iOS Camera app, but you can’t switch between taking still photos & recording video within that app; You don’t have the ability to swipe with the housing buttons– and forget using apps such as Phhhoto, Boomerang or Snapchat– the buttons don’t line up with the interface of those apps– much to the viewers of your Story’s chagrin.

While I was testing it underwater I would set it up to have the Watershot app & the iOS Camera app open because you can switch between the two most recently opened apps. As you can see, the learning curve for getting all the ideal settings might be a bit too steep for some users. 

You’re encouraged to shoot in their software, which includes a very handy “Burst” mode (takes 3 photos for every time you click the “shutter”). It’s really easy to switch between video & photo modes in their software, which I really liked especially on a dive. Their software also enters a black screen sleeping mode to save battery life. 

BUT, the files you create with their software can be disappointing. They’re small PNGs, with a random naming convention. Not something like IMG0001.PNG, it’s just random non-sequential numbers & letters, which makes it a pain in the ass to sort through later, unless you have prosumer photo software. 

 Ultimately, I decided the housing wasn’t for me and got rid of it after my trip. Running at $140-230 (depending on which package/accessories), it’s pricey! For the casual (but $$$) vacationing photo taker this housing might be perfect. I was disappointed by the quality of the photos in low light & deep underwater scenarios, though I do think that’s more of a reflection on the actual iPhone camera, I couldn’t justify keeping the housing around if I wasn’t going to use it regularly. 


Museum of Ice Cream [Los Angeles]

Behind this door you will not find any historical artifacts, objects of scientific significance, or awe-inspiring collections. You will, however, walk through a series of pretty dope sets in which to take a photo of yourself. And if we’re being honest with one another, that’s all an adult comes to the Museum of Ice Cream for anyway. 

So is it really a museum? Who’s to say.

Once inside, you listen to instructions from Seth Rogan…

And then eat your first ice cream sample. From McConnell’s no less! It’s a melty cup of banana & salted caramel. But there’s a trampoline! And before you know it you’re in the banana room covered with scented wallpaper…

Next is probably the least “Instagrammed” room, the Mint Chip Greenhouse. You receive a sample of a mint chip mochi ball and walk through 2 rows of raised plant beds “growing” mint plants in cocao bean hull mulch– which does smell like chocolate. 

One part of the experience at MOIC that they’ve obviously put a lot of effort into is the interaction with the staff. Each member is super friendly, approachable, and an expert at killing time. They hold your attention with conversation (& ice cream puns) and you hardly notice you’re waiting on something- whether that be a dessert sample or led into the next space. Plus, they’re all wearing baby pink!

Next is the rainbow sherbet room (complete with pink mirror wall for your gratuitous self portraits) & a white sundae wall to double as the background for their GIF photo booth.

Oversized popsicle room! One of the spaces you’re most likely to have the place to yourself while the folks behind you perfect their GIF. 

The gummy bear room was my favorite, despite the fact that I don’t particularly care for gummy bears. It just looked good!

Another small weird room with art that is supposed to say something, but no one cares. Here you get a sample of cookie dough (colored black via activated charcoal) on a mini wafer cone. You take one bite and throw it away because it is gross. Maybe that’s part of the artist’s statement? We’ll never know…

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for… SPRINKLE POOL! You have 2 minutes so hurry up and take your damn selfie. And perhaps the biggest spoiler: they’re not sprinkles. They’re little pieces of plastic. The kid in our group of 12 was supremely worried about the environmental impact of the frivolous use of plastic (okay, my words not his) and disappointed that they weren’t real edible sprinkles. His mum was probably relieved she didn’t bring home a kid with a belly full of dirty ass jimmies. 

Thanks for the memories & all the photos! Once you’ve left and you’re craving some legit ice cream, here’s where you ought to go nearby:

Salt & Straw (Arts District) - They always have new, unexpected flavors. My old standard is roasted strawberry & toasted white chocolate + something chocolate-y.

Van Leeuwen (Arts District) - The dairy flavors are suuuuuper rich & creamy. A little goes a long way. Sicilian pistachios flavor is amazing! Give the vegan varieties a go. 

Scoops (Chinatown) - Give me Salty Oreo or give me death! Brown Bread is their signature, but there are new flavors popping up in the rotation, and always at least one dairy-free option.

McConnell’s (DTLA Grand Central Market) - The perfect creaminess! Get a trio– my favorites together are chocolate covered strawberries + sea salt cream & cookies + dutchman’s chocolate. Be sure to sample their seasonal flavors.


My 2¢ on Big Sur

Ever since my first trip to Big Sur in 2008 or 2009, I’ve made an effort to visit yearly. I mean, come on! Redwood forest meet the Pacific Ocean. This little part of the world is as magical as they come. 

The spread of Hwy 1 may feel vast, but the amount of businesses and happenings in Big Sur stays small. Once you spend a long weekend up there, you get a grasp of it’s layout. And sure, of course nothing stays the same, but year to year, not that much in Big Sur changes. All the more comforting to return to, again and again.

Camping:

There are LOTS of great campgrounds in Big Sur. You kinda can’t go wrong. It’s difficult to find a place where you won’t be sleeping under redwoods. Andrew Molera State Park is quiet in the off-season and is a short walk to the ocean. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground is huge, which is a reliable Plan B if you’re heading up last minute on a Friday afternoon and the campsite you had your eye on is taken. I still have yet to camp at Limekiln’s spots overlooking the water– one of these days! Some of my favorite nights camping in Big Sur were on public land; free, unofficial, service-less, sites. 

I’m someone who likes to do my grocery shopping before hitting the road. I’d prefer to only bring what we need, and not buy full sized packages of food we won’t eat before they spoil. If I’m driving up from LA, I’ll shop & prep before leaving home. If I’m driving down from SF, I’ll stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea at Cornucopia and the other shops nearby (hello liquor store!) before reaching Big Sur. There are some general stores in Big Sur, but you won’t find a full-fledged grocery market or super healthy offerings.

Lodging Alternatives:

Sprinkled between campgrounds and the highway are cabins, which I have yet to stay in, but have heard pleasant things from those who don’t fancy themselves “outdoorsy”. Most, if not all, don’t allow dogs. Womp womp.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more there are wonderful Airstream trailer rentals hidden throughout the area. The Big Sur community as a whole do their best to keep major consumerism out of their space, which forces those who’ve been rejected neighborhood approval to take their rentals offline. So you may not find these “glamping” style rentals on Airbnb, but if you jump down an Internet rabbit hole, you’ll find them (or email me).

My Big Sur favorites: 

Eat & Drink:

Big Sur Bakery - There’s a bunch of hype surrounding BSB, specifically their weekend brunch. And in my handful of experiences, it’s lived up to it! The pancake, the breakfast pizza, the lattes, the fresh squeezed juice, even just the bread & butter– I’m down. 

Drinks @ Big Sur River Inn - Spend an afternoon here sitting in adirondack chairs in the water with a drink in your hand, watching the sun fall behind the trees. 

Nepenthe - Don’t bother eating here, you’ll be disappointed. How can a restaurant stay in business by serving such mediocre food? Once you experience the view, you’ll understand how. Come here for a drink & the vista. 

Do:

Late night hot spring bathing @ Esalen Institute - This is a special one. Or an odd one, depending on who you are and how you feel about smells & nudity. 

In the middle of the night the private Esalen Institute opens up their bath house to a small number of guests. The multi-floored bathhouse is home to many many tubs filled with (sulfur smelling) hot spring mineral water. And we’re talking 1-3am. It’s $30/person and you can only make day-of reservations (but now they do take reservations online- we’re living in the future!). Wear your swimsuit or your birthday suit, it’s your choice, and either way you won’t be the only one. There are bigger group tubs, individual bath tubs, a silent room, drinking water, and clean showers. There’s the sound of the waves crashing on the cliff below you, and the twinkling stars in the bright night sky above you. And the smell of sulfur. More information here.

Dog beaching @ Garrapata State Park - This isn’t a sanctioned “dog beach”, but it is a beach where dogs are allowed and it’s vast. Take your dog here to run, run, run, since they’re not allowed on most of the hiking trails throughout Big Sur. Bring a picnic, bring some wine. Pfeiffer Beach is beautiful and unique… but small. I’d rather spend an afternoon here.

Concert @ the Henry Miller Memorial Library - The tiny free-spirited bookstore is one of those places that some people LOVE, and one I may be too cynical to “get”. I’m a fan of Henry Miller’s writing and ideology, but I look around at the stacks of books & art inside the little house and think “Uh, okay…?” BUT, if you’re in town while they host a concert out on the lawn, GO! Their intimate backyard shows, under the stars is a special experience. Find future events here.

Nearby in Carmel-By-The-Sea:

As beautiful, and rooted in nature as Big Sur is… it’s not the most dog-friendly of places. They’re not allowed on most hiking trails, or in lots of the lodging options. Nearby Carmel-By-The-Sea is VERY dog-friendly! If staying overnight in Big Sur doesn’t work for you, commuting from a hotel in Carmel-By-The-Sea isn’t such a bad idea. My favorite is Tradewinds Inn. Gosh, I love that place. Stop by Little Swiss Cafe for breakfast on your way South.
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Road closures & campground openings change depending on fires/mudslides/rain/etc. So always remember to look online before you leave home. 

And be prepared to have little to no cell phone reception anywhere in Big Sur. Hashtag Off The Grid Y’all!


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