Lakes Region Profiles — Laconia's Jewel on Winnipesaukee: South Down Shores and Long Bay

by Frank Roche

President, Roche Realty Group

South Down Shores and Long Bay are two flagship communities on Lake Winnipesauke that originally started in 1981. Over the years, these two adjoining communities have blossomed into some of New England's finest neighborhoods. The execution of multiple architectural designs, superb landscaping and comprehensive amenities, all within various prices ranges, is quite an accomplishment that Laconia should truly be proud of.
Today, South Down and Long Bay have 600 property owners from many geographic areas who can call the Lakes Region "home." The landscape is spread out over 360 acres with almost a mile of shorefront on Lake Winnipesaukee. They contribute over $3.2 million annually to the City of Laconia's tax revenue. These two gated communities combined are assessed in excess of $114,000,000 by the city's tax assessor.
The ongoing development of these two major communities has produced a huge economic impact for the entire Lakes Region. The pure size of the development's infrastructure and amenity package has created a massive amount of jobs over the years for local engineers, surveyors, architects, attorneys, site contractors, home builders, landscape companies and all of the other trades connected with the home building industry. Realtors have also benefited, I know our company and our associates have been involved in more than 600 sales since the 1980s. Most importantly, all of the vacation home owners, semi-retirees, and residents who have called South Down Shores "home" since its inception have immensely supported all of the businesses which operate in the Lakes Region. Just think of the boat dealers, home improvement stores, contractors, furniture stores, automotive dealers, restaurants, entertainment venues, ski areas and all other attractions that have profited from the families who have become a fabric of our area.
Although Stanford, Connecticut, may have more Fortune 500 Companies per square mile and Boston is certainly an economic engine, these major cities lack one critical resource that the Lakes Region has in abundance. Our beautiful lakes, mountains, forests and rivers continue to attract tourists to our area, and these visitors contribute to the Lakes Region growth and prosperity. Business development and industry growth is likewise important for our economy's engine and, like any community, we need jobs to prosper. However, we can't lose sight of what our region is all about; we're primarily a tourist and vacation market. All of us in the Lakes Region should strive to make it the best possible New England destination. Quality development is critical, we need to develop communities we can be proud of, like South Down and Long Bay. I've seen the excitement first-hand in the comments from families who have purchased over the years. They absolutely love the community and the entire Lakes Region. They may have started out by renting in the community and then graduated to a small condominium and eventually into a permanent single family home. So many of them have commented that there's so much more to do here in the Lakes Region than there was 25 years ago. Nowadays we have many attractions like The Tanger Outlet Mall, Bank of NH Music Pavilion, the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, Gunstock Mountain Resort, The NH Motor Speedway, and many new restaurants and eateries. Additionally, there are so many more events to participate in, such as craft fairs, triathlons, The New England Pond Hockey Classic, fishing derbies, car and boat shows, and the NH Pumpkin Festival, which is this weekend!
The popularity of these two communities is evident by the strong sales activity over the past years. From Oct. 20, 2015, to Oct. 30 of this year, we saw 56 sales at South Down and Long Bay, representing $18,785,303 in sales, at a medium price point of $314,250. During the previous year, Oct. 20, 2014, to Oct. 20, 2015, we saw 60 sales, representing $19,262,600 with a medium price point of $303,505. At the present time there are approximately 15 properties available for sale out of over 600 homes. That's a pretty good testimonial to the success of these fine communities.

Please feel free to visit to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Frank Roche is president of Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia, and can be reached at 603-279-7046.

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 37

Lakes Region Hiking — Ice Gulch, a wild a beautiful ravine

Fall colors in Ice Gulch

By Gordon DuBois

Ice Gulch, located in Randolph, New Hampshire, is a rare and spectacular ravine filled with huge boulders, alpine flora, matts of moss and lichen. It's one of the most ecologically unique areas in the White Mountains. The technical term for the ravine is subalpine cold-air talus shrubland. It's a narrow ravine that forms a "reverse alpine zone." The environment is similar to that found in alpine regions above 4,000 feet, yet it lies at only 1,780 feet. "Because of the steepness of its walls and its east-west orientation, the north-facing slope of the gulch is in almost permanent shade, allowing ice to persist beneath and between some of the boulders well into summer. This extreme microclimate creates very difficult growing conditions for most plants, and some black spruce trees in the ravine, while little more than inch in diameter, are over 100 years old" (NH Division of Forest and Land). Plants such as black spruce, alpine bilberry, mountain cranberry, and mats of labrador tea cover many of the boulders. Because the ravine is very narrow and the walls are steep it receives little sunlight. Ice can be found lingering into mid-summer beneath the jumble of boulders on the ravine floor.

I have wanted to hike the ravine for quite some time and the opportunity came knocking when Sandy Price invited me and others to hike the Ice Gulch trail with her. The day before I had climbed to the summit of Mt. John Quincy Adams via the King Ravine trail. The King Ravine trail is rough and difficult, winding up the sheer headwall of this north facing cirque. It provides significant challenges, especially non-technical rock climbing skills. To say the least, I wasn't enthused to trek through a boulder-strewn ravine trail the following day, rated as one of the most difficult in the White Mountains. The AMC White Mountain Guide states, "The trip through the gulch itself is one of the most difficult and strenuous trail segments in the White Mountains." However, even with these trepidations it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

On a bright, sunny day, Sandy, Dave Unger and I drove to Randolph Hill Road, which runs off Route 2 in Randolph, where we found the trail head. The trail system into Ice Gulch is maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club. The RMC is a voluntary organization, "dedicated to promoting the enjoyment of hiking in the Randolph area by building and maintaining hiking trails, camp sites and shelters. It maintains a network of nearly 102 miles of hiking trails, principally on the northern slopes of Mount Madison, Mount Adams, and Mount Jefferson in the Presidential range of the White Mountain National Forest, and on the Crescent Range in the town of Randolph, NH." (RMC)

We parked the car in a small turnoff located across from the Ice Gulch Path. We hiked through a managed forest and came to a sign that read, "The Marked Birch". From here the trail split. We took the left fork which headed down to the lower end of the ravine. After a steep descent into the ravine, we trekked eastward toward the Peboamauk falls, which means "winter's home." Here Moose Brook leaves Ice Gulch on its way to the Androscoggin River. The falls were impressive, even though the water flow was reduced due to the ongoing drought. The trail to the falls was rugged and difficult to follow in some places, climbing over downed trees and rock ledges. This was a foreshadowing of things to come.

We then backtracked up the gulch to Ferry Spring, the beginning of Moose Brook. From here we began our .8-mile trek through the gulch. The "book time" states the hike should take 1.5 hours. This is one time the book was way off the mark. Due to the incredibly difficult rock scrambles, jumping over gigantic slabs of rock and climbing through tunnels of boulders, it took us well over three hours to complete our journey through the ravine. Of course we spent considerable time marveling at the rock formations, the cliffs above our heads and the diversity of plant life. It was a photographer's paradise.

We began our nearly constant struggle over wet rocks and boulders, with deep, dark holes between them. I knew from others that this was not a hike for dogs. I heeded their advice and left Reuben at home. We made our way slowly and carefully. We couldn't afford to misstep and break an ankle or worse. The fissures between the rocks seemed bottomless and signaled disaster if we lost our balance or slipped on the moss-covered rock. We were amazed at the dense cover of small spruce growing over the boulders covered with lush layers of moss and liverworts or hepatics, plants that thrive in moist, wet environments.

As we made our way deeper into the ravine, the trail became more challenging. We struggled over boulders that were wet, slick and slippery. We carefully worked our way along, often searching for the best way over and around the boulder field. We felt cold air as it rose from the deep, dark crevices in the rock-strewn trail. The cold air rising up through the rock creates the microclimate that is similar to that found at higher elevations. We peered into the deep holes between the boulders, looking for ice left from the last winter. We found none. If we were hiking earlier in the summer I'm sure we would have found blocks of ice deep inside the rock openings. This persistent accumulation of ice supports the unique growing conditions and gives the ravine its name.

Sandy, Dave and I trudged on, wondering when the trail would start its climb out of the ravine. The continued rock hopping, ducking under angular boulders and climbing over slippery rocks seemed never-ending. But even with our grumbling about the challenges of the hike we were continually fascinated and in awe of the hue in the granite walls, the beautiful carpets of moss and piles of gigantic rock that had fallen from heights above. This had to be not only one of the most challenging hikes I've been on, but also one of the most rewarding. At .7 miles we entered the Vestibule, the final opening out of the ravine. After leaving this cold microclimate we began to climb steeply, following a stream and a series of cascades that would take us out of the dark, cool environment and into the bright, warm sunlight above. We were relieved to be out of Ice Gulch with no broken bones. At the end of Ice Gulch path the trail turned left in a southerly direction and onto Cook Path. This trail was another 2.6 miles back to Randolph Hill Road, where we started our hike.

It was a hike I looked forward with great anticipation and I'm elated that I did it. Would I do it again? I'm not so sure. Perhaps I would go back if I could again photograph the incredible scenery found in the ravine. It is a rare, unique and beautiful environment. All the photos I took were lost with my camera when it came up missing on a subsequent hike to Devil's Mountain in New Durham. I guess the evil spirit haunting the mountain was at play. More on that hike in my next article. Until then, happy trails and stay safe.

Ice Gulch trail

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 181

The Belknap Buzz


Welcome October! Fall is among us, and we have been trying to get outside and enjoy the nice temperatures as well as the beautiful colors! We are in the middle of a pumpkin-decorating contest, so we can donate them to the Pumpkin Festival that is taking place this weekend.
September brought us School Days, and we went back in time to the days when we were in school! We re-created Home Ec. classes and made apple cupcakes and spiced apple pie in cup. We had gym class, where we played kick the ball, exercised, and had a balloon toss. We went to English class and brushed up on all the stuff we've already learned and forgotten! Go ahead, ask us anything, we know it! We had science class and made wave bottles. We had art classes and painted beautiful watercolor pictures. We reminisced about days long ago when there were one-room classrooms, or classrooms with nuns and rulers. We watched some movies that reminded us of those long ago days, like "Grease" and "To Sir With Love." It was fun to go back in time!
We look forward now to what October and November will bring. The pumpkin-decorating contest, trick-or-treaters, an Oktoberfest party, making pumpkin bread and cookies, having an apple tasting, and our Halloween party. Watching our courtyards lose the color and get ready for winter as the darkness comes earlier and earlier. Our Craft Fair, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and maybe, dare I say it, some SNOW!
October finds us getting ready for our Annual Craft Fair. The residents are looking forward to opening up their home and inviting crafters and the public in! Many local shops have donated items for a raffle to help raise money for the Resident Council Fund. Come support Belknap County Nursing Home, and our community. We have local vendors with unique and reasonably priced items that make GREAT gifts. The Craft Fair is on Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you would like to be a vendor, or know someone who does, we still have a few spots available, so contact the Recreation Department soon.
We celebrated Healthcare Food Service Week from Oct. 3 to the 7. We had potlucks (scary cooking for the food people), made a banner, and remembered to thank them daily for a job well done. They supply so many of the great food items we enjoy during activities: cookies for a treat, birthday cakes monthly to celebrate all our residents' birthdays, frog cupcakes for our "Leap Year" party, and so on. They keep us healthy and well fed! On your visits to BCNH, if you see any of our dietary staff, let them know what a great job they do every day!
The BCNH Shooting Star for September was Annie Kercheval, an LPN. Congratulations, Annie! The Shooting Star is a program to recognize staff members who go above the call of duty. Residents, visitors, family members, or staff can nominate someone they feel is deserving. They write up their nomination, drop it in the box, and one person is chosen each month. Thank you to all of our Shooting Stars for all the wonderful things you do for our residents and our facility!
Do you have some extra time? Want to join us? Come volunteer with us at Belknap County Nursing Home! Come help take the residents shopping, do some crafts, read to someone, or just make a difference in someone's day. Volunteers are always wanted! Contact the Activity Department to sign up today!

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 137

Fresh frenzy for fall

By JASON ROBIE, Badger Realty

Forgive me for my failing fortitude on my funny, featured headlines. It's been a long summer. Actually, if you're like me, the summer wasn't quite long enough. I got in a boatload of cycling, a handful of hiking and a teaspoon of swimming. While fall is my favorite time of year, like many of you, I still look forward to feeling that summer sun warming my face. Alas, we're headed for the white stuff now. Let's look at a few reasons why fall is a great time for real estate.

My old boss used to say: "Liars figure and figures lie." I'm reminded of that every time I read a new article about "this" being the perfect time to buy or sell real estate. I think if you asked a car salesman what the best time to buy a car would be, he or she would inevitably say "today!" Let's not pretend that there are not "preferred" times to be buying or selling a home. As we've talked about before, winter is certainly not the most ideal time to buy or sell. Nobody wants to be tromping around in the freezing cold, fighting the snow and wind, just to view a home. And I certainly don't want you tracking in your snow and mud onto my clean floors!

Since we're dancing into the autumn season, let's review how this impacts you as both a seller and a buyer. First of all, you've made it past the high season and are now floating into the shoulder seasons. If you are a seller, and I'm being perfectly honest with you, chances are your home is over-priced. There I said it. If you listed your home while there was still snow atop Mt. Washington, and you're still holding out for that perfect buyer, it's beyond time to reconsider your asking price. There's a reason your agent has bags under their eyes.

The good news about this time of year is that both buyers and sellers tend to be a bit more serious about their process. Buyers tend to be a little more aggressive in the fall and winter. And sellers, if they've been sitting on this home for five months, will be a bit more willing to negotiate. And this is what I mean by the quote two paragraphs up. You can look at this from the side of the seller and assume that they are "desperate" because they're still listed. And you can look at this from the buyer's side and assume they are "desperate" because they're still looking. I think there is a touch of truth to both of those sentiments.

One factor that also applies to both parties is there is simply less activity. Many folks have removed their homes from the market and will wait until spring to re-list. Others have stopped looking for a home in hopes that spring will blossom a new crop of listings for sale. All this typically means is that those who are still in the game are savvy enough to now that this is not a bad time to be looking or listing. In many cases, as we mentioned, these folks tend to be a bit more motivated on both sides of the deal.

When the market is hopping and skipping like it has been this summer, buyers can start to feel a bit overwhelmed and intimidated by the pace. One of the nicer things about the fall buying season is that fervor tends to wane a bit. I'm not someone who deals well with lots of pressure, especially when making a large investment. If you're like me, the fall buying season might suit you just fine. "While the market is still moving at a good pace, the fall and winter tend to slow things down a bit," notes Badger Realty agent, Norman Head. He continued, "New listings still arrive daily and deals are closed on a regular basis. It's just not at the hectic pace we experience in the summertime."

Another trend we're expecting to see this fall is rents will continue to climb. We've touched on this a few times over the past couple months. With no real foreseeable changes coming, you can expect to see your rents continue on their upward trend and ideally more renters making the change to become homeowners. Many renters, like myself in the past, assumed that ownership was out of the question. With rents being very competitive this was true. But as those rents start to climb, we will see lots of those folks awaken to the reality that they could own where they live, enjoy the benefits of being a homeowner and not see a drastic increase in their monthly expenses.

When we were kids, our family would make a trip to LL Bean on Christmas day. Growing up in Maine, it was inevitable that our Christmas presents involved gift cards and other treats from that iconic store. On those mornings, not only were the employees fun to be around, but we essentially had the place to ourselves. The "off" season is a great time to be in the real estate game. We've made it past the bustle of the summer season and you are now able to take advantage of a more relaxed pace. Don't be discouraged if you haven't found that perfect home or your home has not sold. This is the season of the more serious buyer and seller and there's a good chance you'll find your match. See you out there!

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 40

Lakes Region Profiles — Show them what you're made of

By Mary O'Neill

Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group

"Show them what you're made of"

Amos Somers once described early settlers of New Hampshire: "There was a persevering hardiness in the character of the people of those days that saved them from failure" (History of Lancaster New Hampshire, 1899). This statement depicts those courageous people who first settled Center Harbor in the 1760s.

As early as 1763, Moses Senter and his friend, John Bean, traveled to Lake Winnipesaukee from their homes in Londonderry for the purpose of surveying the land for the colony. Looking across the expanse of water in what is now Center Harbor, Mr. Senter was captivated by the beauty and was determined to establish a settlement on the spot. He built a log house close to the shore with the intent of returning with his family (Bardwell and Bergeron, The Lakes Region New Hampshire).

The following summer, Mr. Senter, his wife, and little son, Sam, gathered all their belongings and household goods and packed them into birch canoes. Early on a June morning they set off up the Merrimack River. Each time they encountered a fall, they were obliged to unpack their canoes and carry their furnishings around it, before carefully repacking and setting off again. For six days they paddled, finally entering the lake at the Weirs. It was just before dark but they continued on, determined to spend the night in the log home Mr. Senter had built at the head of the bay the year before. They lost their way among the many islands of Winnipesaukee and were forced to spend the night on one of them. In the morning they set off again and eventually reached their destination (Speare, More New Hampshire Folk Tales).

The following spring, Mr. Bean and his bride, Lettice Aulds, joined the Senters and built their own homestead. This was against the wishes of Lettice's parents, for she had been "reared tenderly in her father's home in comparative luxury" (Speare). At the time, there were no neighbors for many miles in any direction. The two families toiled on the land for more than ten years, at which time Mr. Senter and Mr. Bean were called to fight in the Revolutionary War. The two mothers and their children were left "in the wilderness with no one to care for them save the God in whom they trusted" (Speare).

It was once said of early settlers of New Hampshire: "They may be deemed actual trespassers on that part of creation destined by its author for the residence of bears, wolves, moose, and other animals of the forest" (The Gazetteer of NH, 1823, Somers). One night, Mrs. Bean "sat in the moonlight by her lonely hearthstone, having put the children to bed and thinking of him for whom she had left all and wondering if she would ever see him again" (Speare). She heard a noise outside the house. A large bear was at the window. Mrs. Bean immediately looked for the gun, forgetting in that instant that her husband had taken it with him to war. For a moment she was frozen, but then "she caught up a small shovel of live coals from the hearth and taking out an old hat that filled the space where a pane of glass was broken, she poured them directly upon the bear's back, and as he ran off to the woods with his hair all ablaze she could not refrain from a hearty laugh" (Speare).
Mr. Senter returned from the war after two years. He had not seen Mr. Bean for many months and presumed him to be dead. When peace was declared in 1783, Mrs. Bean was gazing down a path towards the lake and saw a man approaching the house: "If I did not believe my husband dead I should say that was John Bean's lope" (Speare). It was her husband, who although sick from imprisonment, had survived the war.

The traditions of Lakes Region towns are full of hardships and the surmounting of difficulties. The town of Center Harbor is no exception. Using the words of Somers, the settlers "could accommodate themselves to adverse circumstances and await the coming of better times, as they confidently expected such times would come again."

Today Center Harbor is a town covering around 16 square miles. With shoreline on Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, and Lake Waukewan, the town draws a large summer population. The small village center contains charming shops and interesting restaurants, most with an unsurpassed view of the big lake (

Center Harbor's population is about 1,100 permanent residents. Surely among these are some of the progeny of the Senter and Bean families who demonstrated courage and perseverance in adversity. They put everything they had towards the challenge. This is what Center Harbor and other Lakes Region towns are made of.

Please feel free to visit to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith and Laconia, and can be reached at 603-366-6306.

 Center Harbor pic

Peaceful downtown Center Harbor was established on the backbone of courage and perseverance. (Courtesy photo)

  • Category: Columns
  • Hits: 433