How To Make Your Day Lively With The Shakers: Off I-89 NH
On I-89 or hanging out in the White River Junction-Lebanon-Hanover VT-NH area? A budget -friendly traipse back in time may be just the right adventure: a little serenity, a little history, a little ooing and aahing. Shake a leg? Shakers are a callin’.
Don your “’tis a gift to be simple” straw hat and roll up your sleeves for some Shaker-time enthusiasm and can-do. Even the behave-yourself chairs are upside down and non-sittable: no lolly-gagging or feet up today. The historic Shaker community in Enfield NH is your goal.
Get right to it
By following the map off I-89 at Exit 17, along Route 4 and 4A. Mascoma Lake on your left brings you into Shaker territory.
You tootle along and come face to face with one of the most solid-looking buildings you have ever laid eyes on. Angular, perfectly proportioned, symmetrical, and superbly crafted of dressed granite, this building is is aptly named the Great Stone Dwelling. Who’d have thought a “simple” community would make such a monumental commitment to their sleeping quarters?
Ahhh, your day is just beginning. If it goes according to plan, the Great Stone Dwelling will be just the first of many details about “simple” Shakers that should make your aforementioned straw hat spin.
Park along the flank of the Great Stone Dwelling. But whoah Nellie, you’ve jumped to the conclusion that DCMB’s traditional “first things first” healthy exercise hour is taking a day off?
Ummm, NO. You will be playing tourist for the morning. This means climbing several flights of stairs—there are six stories total—and wandering around the area. And not to worry, if you aren’t worn out by lunchtime, you still don’t get a nap.
Where to start? Walk around to the front of the Great Stone Dwelling. Inside, you will find the Enfield Shaker Museum and tour guides. You might check in advance for hours, since they are closed during the winter months. You’ll want to take a tour, too.
In no time at all, you’ll discover that the Shakers weren’t “simple” about a whole lot of anything. You’ll likely hear about their highly profitable business enterprises, investments in technology, and development of money-making marketing techniques.
You may spot folks digging and schlepping dirt. Some may be volunteers tending to the Shaker gardens. Others may be archaeologists trying to increase understanding of the Shaker community’s business, living, and religious practices.
Feel free to wander around the pits, being careful where you tread and keeping an eye out for guy ropes. The diggers will welcome your curiosity and questions, and will likely enthusiastically invite you to attend the lunch time brown bag, with lecture by Shaker specialists.
No rest for the weary
Hustle a few miles down Route 4A to Proctor’s in Enfield Center. Pick up lunch stuff, and back you go to the archaeologists’ lab for the day’s talk, which may focus on furniture, Shaker dance, or historical archaeology at other sites.
If you’d like to pitch in and help out on the dig, volunteers may apply for two-week stints in May or June 2017. General information. Then contact the Site director, David Starbuck, firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Enfield Shaker Museum at (603) 632-4346. Digging on this crew is the ultimate 62+ limited-budget adventure! Don’t miss it.
Go have a look
At your final Shaker destination for the day. By now, you will have heard about the floating bridge the Shakers engineered and built across Lake Mascoma in the middle of winter in 1849, a marvel far and wide for its ingenuity. Try out the quite new modern version. You will easily see where it is.
On the way
Take a dip at the little beach at the west ramp of the bridge.
If you’re not into the beach, how about some more Shaker-inspired exercise? Really? Almost across the road from the Great Stone Dwelling, there’s a unit of land known as the Lower Shaker Wildlife Management Area. These acres were once an integral part of the Enfield Shaker community. Shaker remains are scattered here and there in the woods, and the Management Area includes the hilltop sacred area that was the site of Shaker rituals. There is a network of trails for walking and exploration, a place to breathe in the lingering essence of the Shaker people.
Maybe Fido needs to get into the indefatigable Shaker spirit? There’s a Shaker canine park perhaps a quarter mile south of the Great Stone Dwelling.
You’d like more stuff to eat, do, explore nearby? Voilà…
Photo credits: Featured image, Shaker Straw Hat: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Troye Owens via Flickr. Shaker Chairs: CC BY 2.0 By Richard Taylor via Wikimedia. Shaker seed label: CC BY-SA 4.0 by Doug Coldwell via Wikipedia. Shaker beds: CC BY-SA 3.0 by Doug Coldwell via Wikipedia. Shaker Bridge: Public Domain via Wikipedia. Shaker Garden: CC BY-ND-SA 2.0 by Rodney Barbour via Flickr. Others, ©DustyCarMuddyBoots.com, all rights reserved.