We are heading up Route 16 for North Conway. We are starving and it's almost 2 p.m., that dreaded moment when roadside eateries turn off their luncheon grills. At the next crossroads, a sign points west on Route 113 to ''Tamworth: 3 miles." We turn, hoping.
It seems a long way through the woods to Tamworth Village and there's no visible diner when we get there. We decide to check out a clapboard house with a sign above the door that reads ''The Other Store."
Inside, beyond a room full of hardware and paints, a sign reading ''The Daley Cafe" hangs above a counter with four stools. We order from a blackboard menu listing several soups and sandwiches and sink gratefully into chairs at a table beside a window that overlooks birch trees and a snowy field.
The walls are hung with local art. Blooming narcissi and Christmas cactus brighten the small, open grill. Locals come in to use the ATM or fax machine, to buy a paper or a cup of tea. Waiting for lunch, we check out the shelves on this side of the store. The stock includes office supplies, cards, gifts, kitchen utensils, and more. I end up buying a mini-stapler, a card, and a book on New Hampshire history.
The cream of tomato soup is freshly homemade, studded with real tomatoes.
According to June Crowell, our cook and waitress, this is the Daley Cafe because Daley was the name of the woman who began serving food here and it's The Other Store because that's what it was called when it was an annex to Remick's, as the larger store next door (now the Tamworth Village Store) was called. Remick, we learn, is a big name in Tamworth, obviously a town that honors its history. Down the street there's a Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm.
Housed in a rambling white clapboard house, the museum is open even on this winter Monday, and it's free. The Remick family, the receptionist tells us, has been in Tamworth for more than 200 years, and two members, a father and son, were both country doctors, with a combined service to the area of 99 years. Before his death in 1993, Dr. Edwin Remick created a foundation to preserve his home, farm, and family history for the public to enjoy.
A school group fills the museum on this day. They've learned to make biscuits on an open hearth and are eating them. We look into the doctors' offices and Remick's modest living quarters.
According to Bob Cottrell, its director, the Remick Museum is about the way people have worked and played here over the past couple of hundred years. Normally open only on weekdays in winter, it's also the venue for special events such as therecent celebration of maple sugaring from Native American to modern times.
Tamworth, we learn, is a town of 2,550, encompassing the villages of Wonalancet, Chocorua, Whittier, and South Tamworth, as well as Tamworth Village. It includes Mount Chocorua, a Matterhorn-shaped peak that has inspired numerous paintings and poems since the mid-19th century.
According to legend, Chocorua was a Pequawket Indian who refused to leave the graves of his ancestors here when his tribe fled to Canada. He lived amicably among the settlers and left his son in the care of a local farm family while he visited his tribesmen in Canada. When he returned, his child was dead. He refused to believe the farmer's story that the boy had eaten poison meant for a fox. In retaliation, he killed the farmer's wife and children. The husband tracked him to the summit and shot him, but not before Chocorua laid a curse on the settlers.
What happened next varies with 19th-century travel accounts, but whether settlers died or not, it's a fact that their cattle did, and continued to do so until a University of New Hampshire professor tested the local streams and discovered that they contained a form of lime that kills livestock.
Chocorua, Cottrell says, is not the only backdrop to Tamworth Village. On the south it's backed by the Ossipee Mountains and it is this view of the village, of the high-steepled church and line of clapboard buildings, set off by the museum's 100 acres of fields and farm buildings, that graces many calendars, postcards, and maps.
Tamworth Village has been a summer resort since the mid-19th century, and the current Remick Museum was once the Swift River Inn. The town's summer residents included Grover Cleveland, the two-term president whose son Francis founded the Barnstormers Theatre in 1931. It is still very much in operation and said to be the oldest professional summer theater in the country.
In the era when the train stopped on Depot Street, this was also a winter resort with skiing (there was a rope tow). It was best known, however, for dogsledding, based at the Chinook Kennels in Wonalancet.
Cross-country trails along the Swift River through the village, and the wooded loops in Hemenway State Forest a few miles north on Route 113A, are worth finding.
Afternoon shadows lengthen and we stop by the Tamworth Inn, known for its dining room, but it's closed on Mondays. At the Brass Heart Inn, also a prime dining spot, we learn that the chef would have been there just for us, had we called before 3 p.m.
Whittier House, near the junction of Routes 25 and 16, is open. In a big, ornate Victorian house, it is surprisingly informal, obviously a local favorite. No complaints about the steak tips. The restaurant is named for the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, a patron of an inn that stood at this crossroads for much of the 19th century.
Obviously we are not going to North Conway tonight. Four miles back up Route 16 we come to the blinking yellow light in Chocorua Village and the Tamworth sign. This time we continue a mile or so north to the Riverbend Inn Bed & Breakfast.
Yankee plain on the outside, the Riverbend's interior is wonderful to behold. Hosts Craig Cox and Jerry Weiss have traveled widely in Asia, collecting sizable souvenirs such as a statue of the South Indian god of doorways that graces a living room with persimmon-colored walls. We settle into comfortable armchairs by the crackling fire and eventually make our way to a soothing, forest green guest room with a king-size bed. We are lulled to sleep by the gentle murmur of flowing water.
The morning sun reveals the Chocorua River, partially frozen in the snow. Sun fills the breakfast room, an enclosed patio with white-linen-dressed tables and massive candelabra, overlooking the river. Breakfast begins with gingered melon and apple coffee cake, followed by blueberry pancakes with locally made syrup.
Our hosts are full of suggestions about antiques shops nearby, peaceful places to snowshoe, and cross-country trails. Actually we wouldn't mind spending the better part of the day in this hospitable inn, but today we really do have to be in North Conway. We plan to return to Tamworth, though, perhaps for Farm Fest, scheduled May 7 at the Remick Museum, for farming demonstrations and agricultural tips.
Christina Tree is a freelance writer in Cambridge.