There are not enough superlatives to describe the amazing day we had! I took so many photos that I’m going to break the day into two posts so that I don’t overwhelm everyone with too many photos!
Our plan for the day was to drive to New Hampshire and drive the Mt. Washington Auto Road. The forecast was still looking dicey and we considered changing our plans, but after some discussion we decided to head that way and hope for the best. I have to thank everyone for the prayers for good weather, and thank God for answering those prayers! We hoped for the best, and we got it!
As we headed toward New Hampshire, the sun and clouds were battling it out over the mountains. We hoped by time we made it to the toll road, that the fog and low clouds would have burned off. We were happy to see that by the time we got to the toll gate, the sky was clearing up.
The Mt. Washington Auto Road is run by a private business, operated by the same family for several generations. It costs $28 for a vehicle and driver and $8 for each additional adult and $6 per child passenger. It is an 8 mile climb to the parking area near the summit at 6,200 feet. (They say it takes about a half-hour if you don’t stop.) You have to keep your vehicle in low gear and the maximum speed is 20 miles per hour. There are plenty of places to get off the road and enjoy the stunning views or hike.
We pulled off not long after we started up the mountain to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
Of course, it started to spit rain as soon as we got out of our vehicle. Thankfully it didn’t last long.
We soon learned why New Hampshire is called The Granite State. Hiking here includes as much rock climbing as actual “hiking” and the trails look like this.
Then like this.
But eventually they lead to vistas like this.
Soon the sun was breaking out through the clouds and we enjoyed the drive so very much. Around every curve was another breathtaking view. We pulled off often so I could take photos.
As we neared the summit we had to spend a little time playing King and Queen of the mountain.
Near the summit, the road turns from pavement to dirt and this is when the drive got just a teensy bit SCARY! The road was very narrow and there was a sheer drop off on the one side. It was barely wide enough for two cars to get past each other. It definitely was an “I think we are going to die” moment! Thankfully, just beyond this point there is a pull-off where you can get out and rejoice at the fact that you did, in fact, live through the ordeal.
By time we reached the parking area near the summit, we were in the clouds. The visitor’s center and observation deck were barely visible.
Mt. Washington is known as the home of the “World’s Worst Weather”. Since it is the highest point in New Hampshire and also because of its geographical location in the north/south – east/west wind corridors, it has a tendency to create its own weather patterns. The highest wind speed ever recorded was here at the summit.
Mark later looked this up on the internet and found out that the record was broken in 2012.
Mt. Washington is in a state forest area, and even though the toll road is privately operated, there is a 59 acre state park at the top. The visitor’s center offers restrooms, a café, gift shop, ranger station, and a registry for hikers. There is plenty to see and do at the top, including an “Extreme Weather” exhibit.
We couldn’t really see much of anything from the top. I got a photo of the clouds from the observation deck. The temperature was 53 degrees and the wind was blowing about 15 MPH.
There are actually crazy people who hike across the mountain. These cairns are trail markers to keep those people from straying off the trail.
Mark and I considered ourselves fairly experienced hikers until we arrived in this area. Vermont and New Hampshire are crawling with what we would call back home “granolas”. These are people who live-eat-breath hiking/biking/kayaking/running, etc. They are SERIOUS. (And just a bit nuts, if you ask me. LOL) It turns out Mark and I don’t know a thing about hiking.
In the visitor’s center there is a wall with a list of all the people who have died on the mountain. Every year people die on Mt. Washington, usually hikers who die from falls. It can be a dangerous place. This wood carving welcomes you to the Crawford Path.
We did go down the trail just a little way from the observation deck, but not too far because we were well aware that how far we went down was exactly how far we had to climb BACK UP.
Mark did take my photo at the summit.
We also checked out the Tip-Top house, which is all that is left from the hotel that was originally at the summit.
Eventually we had to make our way back down the mountain. Mark found that driving down was actually a lot easier than driving up. I prayed there wouldn’t be any oncoming cars at the narrow, sheer drop off, we might die part of the road and once again God answered my prayers!
The weather quickly changed as we descended and the beautiful day returned. We stopped a couple more times to enjoy the magnificent views.
Once at the bottom, we crossed the road to the outfitters across from the entrance to the toll road and had lunch at the Glen View Café. They have a deck that faces the mountain so we ate out there and enjoyed the fabulous view with our lunch. The deck also had several hummingbird feeders and the hummingbirds were very active, but I had left my camera in the car.
After we had shopped for souvenirs, we got back on the road and headed around the base of the mountain. All the beautiful sights we saw on the drive will make up Part 2! Check back soon, you don’t want to miss the waterfall!!