You know you've entered New Hampshire when you're greeted by a giant moose head at the White Mountains Visitor's Center, lol. The lady behind the desk gave a few maps and I made my way to the historic Mount Washington Auto Road. I was so excited for those spectacular views from the 6,000 foot summit, the highest point in all of Northeastern America.
When I reached the gate for the auto road, I was greeted by a man who looked over my vehicle and asked me a couple questions. Upon ending his inquiry, he said, "I'm afraid I have bad news. Honda does good work and makes great cars; they've even come here to test them, but the one you have doesn't have a first gear and without that first gear you can't reliably get down the mountain. Again Honda is a great company, and when this type of situation occurs, they give out a coupon for a free van tour up the mountain, free of charge. Now the last ride up the mountain is at 5:00, what time is it now? [Checks time]. It's 4:50, so you have 10 minutes, plenty of time to get over to the Visitor Center on the other side of this road and give 'em this coupon." I thought to myself, "SWEET! I can save my car the tough trip up and down the mountain, and take some great photos while someone drives and narrates! All FREE of charge! Thank you Honda!!!"
I presented my coupon to the lady at the Visitor Center, and she said, "Okay, looks good, there's just one problem." Oh great, ANOTHER problem. "It's just yourself right? Well a minimum of two people are required for an eligible tour. You can wait the next seven minutes to see if anyone else comes. Sorry." I waited, but alas, I was on my own. Bummed out, I took a seat on the bench outside. I couldn't come back tomorrow morning, because I'm going to Maine tomorrow, and the extra day would really set me back just for a trip up the mountain. Then an angel approched me and said, "Hey, after the park closes Rick (correct name?) is going to do his rounds to make sure everyone is off the mountain. If you can wait until around 7 you can go up with him." HOORAY! With the storm coming in that's even better! Exciting! With nowhere particular I had to be that evening, I quickly and gratefully accepted. Oh, and a few minutes later, she came back out and reminded that I was getting a $29 value for free and that the drivers work for tips.
Rick appeared around 7:00 and after waiting at the gate house a little bit while he closed the entrance, we ascended up the mountain. The poor guy had been working long days for two weeks straight, and it echoed in his raspy voice. He provided facts and narration at each notable point of our ascent, and we started seeing stragglers. He would stop them, get out of the van, and tell them what he needed to for them to get off the mountain. I heard things like, "There's a severe storm coming with a warning of hail"- that sure got the motorcyclist down the mountain, lol.
We approached the top and checked the parking lots, then he let me get out and run to the observation deck, so I could truthfully say I had been at the very top =) We were covered in storm clouds with near-zero visibility, and with an experienced guy like Rick who carries with him 26 years of rides up and down the mountains, it was thrilling. We continued warning stragglers off the mountain, and we picked up a couple hikers who would've been caught in the storm. About halfway down the mountain we were out of the clouds, and Rick let them off where they could sleep safely, and continue their travels in the morning.
We reached the bottom of the mountain and I shook Rick's hand, thanked him for everything (tip included, lol), and found my car. Rick had told me that National Parks charge nominal fees of only a few bucks, so I should try campground nearby. Well, I checked with the lovely old couple inside the camp office, and the $20 fee was not so lovely, so I drove to the nearby city of Godham, and parked it for the night in a lot overlooking a river, behind a McDonald's.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
This morning I cleaned up at McDonald's and headed to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, where I was greeted by a friendly fox, no I'm talking about a real fox, not a sexy lady, lol. It literally came about 3 feet from me! Then I grabbed a shower and some wifi, hiked around Glen Ellis Falls, took a nice drive through the village of Jackson, and stopped to snap a photo Cascade Falls.
With Pinkham Notch behind me, I moved on to Franconia Notch, where I first explored "The Basin: The beautiful waterfall at the Basin, has at its base, a granite pothole 20 feet in diameter. It is believed to have been eroded 15,000 years ago while the North American ice sheet was melting. It has been smoothed by small stones and sand whirled around by the Pemigewasset River." Next, I visited The Flume Gorge, a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty, with walls of Conway granite rising perpendicularly to a height of 70 to 90 feet, and 12 to 20 feet apart! I hiked the marked trails, which lead you to several points of interest, including the 19th century "Sentinal Covered Bridge," huge glacial boulders, sugar maples, the 800-ft gorge, two waterfalls, a bear den, natural pools, and a wolf den I was just barely able to climb through! This was an awesome hike!
Saturday, August 14 2010
I returned to New Hampshire this evening, since I would need to pass through it to get from Maine to Massachusetts. It was here who I met Ryan, a couch-surfing host in historic Portsmouth, settled in 1623. Ryan had just begun watching "The 5th Element" when I arrived. Sweet! I love that movie! It was an awkward start after my feeble attempt to break the ice with humor, which surprised me, since we're both fans of the show "The Office." Embarrassment aside, the awkwardness subsided, and we got acquainted over a beer, and in between the laughs from the movie. He was a thoughtful host, with clean bedding laid out of me, and the next morning he gave me a couple recommendations for exploring Portsmouth.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I started my morning with a good bowl of organic oatmeal and coffee, compliments of Ryan, and headed out. First I toured the USS Albacore submarine, a pioneering research vessel used as a test platform for experimenting ideas for future subs. It holds a place in history as the first Navy-designed vessel with a true underwater hull of cylindrical shape that has become the standard for today's submarines worldwide. I had never been inside a sub before, so it was a lot of fun.
I then stopped into Annabelle's for some of their award-winning ice cream, which has in fact been served at The White House! After sampling a variety of flavors went with Yellow Brick Road, and Black Raspberry, YUM. I walked around historic downtown and bumped into some notable places like a pub which is built on the site of the oldest bank building in the United States, established in 1782. After a fire it was rebuilt in 1803, and now it's the most unique Irish pub I've ever seen, with dining rooms in safes behind bars! And I checked out the North Cemetery, whose underground contains the coffins of important people like signers of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.