Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Good of Going to the Mountains Part 2

Continues from Part 1,

The Whites from a distance appear benign but are reputed to be intolerant and unpredictable. The weather at the top of Mt. Washington, the highest of the peaks in the Northeast (elevation 6290) has the worst weather in the world. Gusts of over one hundred miles per hour have been reported during all months of the year.

“Winds funnel into the canyons from several different directions creating churning whiteouts that blind hikers and stop rescue attempts,” our guide, Nichol, told us. Hikers get lost so often the good folks of New Hampshire now require them to pay for the cost of their rescue. With the aid of New England Hiking Holidays, I was able to explore with carefree abandon the fabled notches, intervales and peaks painted by over 400 landscape artists and listen to the stories the forests tell.

The median age of our group was fifty. Fitness levels ranged from recovering couch potato to personal-trainer buff. Many of the guests were seasoned, international travelers, and most had a few week-long hiking adventures under their belts. After hiking 5-7 miles each day, we enjoyed the luxury of the Thorn Hill Inn and Spa, where we could partake in a full massage, steam or hot tub under the stars. The sophistication of the group made for stimulating conversation over gourmet meals prepared by a chef with a flare for perfection. The Inn is located in Jackson, a village oozing with White Mountain charm; pumpkin men and ladies on the lawns, benches for strollers to enjoy, bright flower boxes and a red covered bridge spanning the Wildcat River that runs through the town. Two of our nights were spent in the Sugar Hill region at the lovingly restored Sunset House, built in 1882, overlooking a vast meadow dotted with wild turkey.

Amazingly, the group of eighteen settled naturally into two groups of nine with similar degrees of fitness and aspirations. Once my group caught up with me, we tramped together to Lonesome Lake, where we enjoyed a healthful repast at the friendly AMC hut maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club, the oldest outdoor organization in the U.S. In our week we walked on several segments of the 2,125 mile Appalachian Trail that runs all the way from Maine to Georgia. In the sunny afternoon we circumnavigated the lake on boardwalks that kept us above the moose marsh surrounding the blue gem nestled in pines. I was struck by the fact that there were no mosquitoes swarming in what looked to be the perfect habitat.

“Fall is the best time to come here because there are no bugs.” Nichol explained. The pesky black flies of the summer months are at bay and ticks are out of season. The crisp nights bring out brilliant color in the foliage, but the days are in the seventies, perfect for the droves of leaf peepers who flock to the region this time of year.

On the way to the Basin hike, we passed by what remains of the Old Man in the Mountain. So loved was the jagged granite face carved by nature thousands of years ago he was put on state license plates. The “Old Man,” credited with being the guardian of the mountains, was held together for years with cables. Despite these efforts to save him, he came down in 2003. Now, he is affectionately referred to by locals as “Cliff.”

One day was spent exploring Crawford Notch, where Ethan Allan Crawford built the first hospitality house in the 1800s for the “rusticators” who came by train and stayed all summer. Tourists still pour off the train from Conway at the depot in the notch. Crawford also carved a trail to the top of Mt. Washington, which remains the oldest trail in continuous use in the United States.

Read more at Linda's website.

The Good of Going to the Mountains was originally published in Real Travel Adventures in 2006
Join us on Friday, for The Good of Going to the Mountains, Part 3


I walk in beauty on the good red road.

Linda Ballou

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