No, not like that, silly. You see, it all began with a question: “What do you want to do on Labor Day weekend?” While I would have to work on Saturday, we would be closed on Sunday and Monday. That meant I would be able to take advantage of something elusive to retail workers: “two days off in a row.” Since my wife’s schedule matches that of the school system, that meant she would be off too! This can be a rare occurrence, so, when it does arrive, we try to take advantage of it!
I came up with with several options: Acadia National Park, whale watching in Boston, beach time on the coast of Maine, Nantucket and even Cape Cod. I was inquiring with the Google what those options might cost when my checking account called to say “no.” It appeared a new approach was needed. Let’s just take a day trip. Then we can spend the second day just being lazy. It took a few minutes, but, we figured it out:
The weather was supposed to cooperate and it would be an opportunity to give the new car a workout.
New England is just starting to show the first signs of autumn. There are small blotches of color in the trees, the air is a little clearer, the humidity less draining. Fog fills the air in the morning from where the cool air meets the warm water. The perfect day for a nice drive! From Barre we head out Route 302 and turn onto Route 112 in New Hampshire. This road makes its way through the surprisingly green White Mountain National Forest and in Lincoln becomes known as the easy-to-pronounce Kangamanus Highway. I would love to say that we stopped to take a few pictures along the way, but, this is Labor Day weekend, so, every pull-off, small and large, was jam packed with cars, kids, dogs and other flotsam.
Upon our arrival in Conway, lunchtime was imminent. Before I continue though, a history lesson: my wife has a gluten allergy. This means that we need to be careful about where we eat and how the food is prepared. So, road trips require prior proper preparation (say that three times fast…) to make sure a restaurant in the area can accommodate her. Anyway, I settled on a nice looking little place called Chef’s Bistro. Their gluten-free menu was pretty extensive and had several things that she would eat. Despite the crowds outside, a table was easy to come across. With our order placed, I asked the server about the preparation of their Thai Duck Wings Confit since it was listed as a gluten free option. After conferring with the chef, he let us know that “the wings are cooked in the same oil as our fries, but even though the have flour on them, the oil temperature is high enough to kill the gluten.” What!? Now, I’m not an expert chef or even a scientist, but, I’m pretty sure you can’t “kill” proteins like gluten. Though, if I’m wrong, let me know because that would make life much easier for her! So, after being enlightened with that fact, she decided not to partake in the appetizer. Which is a shame, because despite the fact they were actually legs and not wings, they were pretty darn good.
Our main courses looked unappetizing so I didn’t take pictures. Fortunately they both tasted better than they looked. Both were flatbread sandwiches. Mine included ahi tuna while hers was packed with pork products.
After lunch it was back on the road for the last bit before we get to the mountain. The question about whether it will be busy or not was quickly answered as we approached the entrance to the toll road. For starters we had to get in line. Now, normally when you get in line for something, the end of the line means it’s time to do that thing. That was not the case this time. This line was the line so that we could turn left off the highway in order to get into the next line. Now, This next line was split into three rows of cars and motorcycles. The privilege of having completed this line was that you were told to follow the guy in the orange vest so that he can tell you which line to be in next. Now there are four rows.
Pictured: Where line 2 becomes line 3.
Eventually a young lady tells you to move up to the end of the parking area, but not to pull out until it’s clear (this turns out to be much like being in line). Once the cars ahead moves enough for me to fit, I pull out and stop behind a car. Yep, another line. This line, amazingly, just has a booth at the end with guys who help you part with some money. In exchange you are given a packet with an educational cd and the freedom of no longer being in line. At least not until you start heading up the mountain.
That’s right! After only 45 minutes and covering a distance of about a tenth of a mile, we were finally on our way, ascending the highest mountain in all of New England. Because it was quite crowded we caught up to someone fairly quickly and it was slow going. It’s about 8 miles from the base to the summit at a bit over 6,200 feet and it took nearly half an hour, much to the dismay of my wife, who wasn’t pleased with the large drop offs coupled with the skinny roads and the fact that the guardrail is nothing more than several small stones lining the few inches between road and death. This wasn’t helped when, about halfway up, the trees disappear.
Not pictured: Large crevasse to the right.
Picutred: We aren’t even at the top yet!
There are pull offs all the way up and most of it is paved – everything but the skinniest part with the sharpest curves and the biggest drop offs. First and second gear become your friends and you’ll become proficient in hill starts very quickly.
Eventually you arrive at the top and find a place to park. The views are amazing even when navigating around half the population of Boston. The clouds that were out were mostly to the west and it felt like we were nearly eye level with them. Probably due, in part, to the fact that we were. The clouds and humidity did hamper the furthest reaches of our view, but, the temperature was good and the wind was significantly less than the record 231mph gust, measured here back in 1934. Throughout the facility at the top and listening to the cd in the car on the ride up you get the impression they are kind of proud about this.
Around the top is a big building with food, a dining area, a line (yay, another line!) that eventually led to a humid restroom, and a small museum. Outside, a small house held in place by chains to keep it from blowing away and another building made of stone with displays on how life at the top was once upon a time. Lastly there are a couple of large towers with lots of dishes on them (Cell reception was probably pretty good). Here are a few of the shots taken from the top of the mountain. Some are from the observation deck which gives you a great north to southeast viewpoint and others from outcroppings that also allow for great views in the other directions.
Pictured: To the west.
Pictured: The parking lot and to the South-Southwest
Pictured: To the west. Two small ponds and an AMC climbers hut.
Pictured: Southeast (from the observation deck).
I’ve shared the other pictures we took along with more of the panoramas from my phone at this link: https://goo.gl/photos/2QP3QftTwQkQpX9n9
While at the top, we visited the museum which talks mostly about the bad weather and what researchers go through on a daily basis up here. There’s also details on the wind recording and what you can see if you happen to be up there on the clearest of days (which I’m not sure really exist!).
For the most part on the way down I left the car in first gear to make use of engine braking and reserve the actual brakes for emergency situations. We caught up with a couple cars quickly (big surprise there!) and went down quite slowly. A black Corvette was hot on my tail so I let him by so that I could catch up to him around the next corner.
Unfortunately, very few pictures were taken afterwards, but, we made our way east through Crawford Notch, which winds it’s way through the same mountain range. This mountain pass also includes a passenger railway that makes a huge business taking when the leaves start to turn. It wasn’t running today. What we did encounter once we made it to the highway and night began to fall, was bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. They were thick enough that I was genuinely concerned they would set off the rain sensor (which I typically just leave on all the time. What holy mess would that have made!?
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you today. Thank you for reading and you can visit the photo album by getting in line or clicking here: https://goo.gl/photos/2QP3QftTwQkQpX9n9