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February 11. 2013 8:08PM

Rocks Estate: Grand certified adventure in Bethlehem


Volunteer Howard Tewksbury shows visitors how to cover a sap bucket as part of The Maple Experience tour at The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem. (FILE/KRISTI GAROFALO)

BETHLEHEM - The Rocks Estate, a North Country destination for outdoor family activities and environmental education, has received the seal of approval from Certified Grand Adventures.

The 1,400-acre Rocks Estate, known for its Christmas tree farm and spring maple syrup tours, is home to the North Country Conservation and Education Center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

In the winter, The Rocks Estate partners with another certified experience - Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel of Jefferson offers dog sled rides at The Rocks.

The Rocks joins 14 other Certified Grand Adventures of northern New Hampshire. To become certified, an experience needs to be: different, better, first or bigger than other adventures within easy driving distance for people from Boston and Montreal. They also must have a 3-to-1 ratio of positive comments on web feedback sites, be interactive, endorsed by two regional and one national media outlet, open a minimum of 60 days a year, and clearly communicate safety guidelines.

Pam Sullivan, marketing coordinator for New Hampshire Grand, said the Bethlehem landmark was a natural fit.

"The Rocks has been described as a modern-day Norman Rockwell Christmas scene, complete with the jingling bells of their horse-drawn wagon rides and roasted marshmallows at the fire pit."

The Rocks Estate was the seasonal home of the Glessner family, who escaped the heat and stench of summer in Chicago to enjoy the mountain air. John Jacob and Frances Glessner purchased a 100-acre farm in 1882, constructing the 19-room mansion known then as the Big House in 1883. That house is gone, but many of the buildings they added remain, and those buildings, and the expanded land holdings, were donated to the Forest Society in 1978 by the Glessners' grandchildren.

What was a wonderful summer place for the Glessner family remains a wonderful year-round destination for all families. The trail system is open every day and includes the Heritage Trail. Springtime guests at The Rocks come to the estate to learn about maple sugaring past and present as part of the New Hampshire Maple Experience.

"The most interesting part of this experience for me is when families come for the tours the parents often think that it's going to be great for the kids - and short enough so that they don't get too bored," said Nigel Manley, director of The Rocks. "However, by the time they're midway through, the parents are asking more questions than their children, and are fascinated by the time-honored tradition of maple sugaring."

syoungknox@newstote.com



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