1. Appalachian Mountains:
Stretching almost 2,000 miles from Newfoundland, in Canada, to Alabama, in the US, the Appalachian Mountains-or the eastern counterpart to Rockies in the west-form a natural barrier between North America’s coastal plain and its interior lowlands. Subdivided into three northern, central, and southern physiographic regions, they encompass numerous ranges.
Consisting of metamorphic rock formed by catastrophic eruptions, intense heat, and crushing pressure during the Precambrian Period of between 1.1 billion and 540 million years ago, the Appalachians constitute some of the planet’s oldest mountains. Rising during terrestrial crust upheavals at the end of the Paleozoic Era (about 250 million years ago), they were formed when interior crumbling of inconceivable proportions exerted strains on subterranean rock, which then buckled, folded, faulted, and cracked, before being counteracted by uplifting-sometimes into parallel ridges. Secondary shaping and chiseling, by water, ice, and weather over the millennia, produced valleys and ravines, at a time when plants and most animal species had yet to exist.
When the earth’s forces had subsided, they had left the highest peak, of 6,684 feet, in today’s North Carolina in the form of Mount Mitchell.
2. White Mountains:
New Hampshire had hardly been neglected when it came to elevation superlatives. Indeed, its own section of the Appalachian chain, the White Mountains, poked the sky with 48 peaks considered “four thousand footers,” several at least 5,000 feet in height, and the crown of its kingdom, 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the tallest peak in all of the northeast.
Glaciation had formed deep mountain passes named “notches” by early settlers because they resembled the shapes they had made in wood with axes, while cirques had produced the heads of ravines, such as Mount Washington’s Tuckerman and Mount Adam’s King ravines.
Man had also had a hand-and sometimes a detrimental one-in the shaping of New Hampshire’s section of the Appalachians. Striped of their arboreal fashion by the logging concerns that had purchased most of the land and then reduced it to shreds with the 1,832 area sawmills before being hauled away by railroads, they were left bare until the Weeks Act was signed into law and permitted the 1914 reacquisition of the original 7,000 acres.
Subsequent purchases, coupled with logging prohibitions in designated wilderness areas, ensured the establishment of 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, which today totes the slogan, “Land of many uses.”
Prominent in the state is its Presidential Range, whose peaks, as their name implies, are named after presidents and other prominent Americans.
Its abundant wildlife ranges from deer to mouse, black bears, bobcats, gray fox, coyotes, beaver, porcupines, raccoons, and 184 species of birds, including Peregrine falcons.
Although its protected status restricts its use, this limitation does not apply to its enjoyment, whose opportunities are plentiful and vary according to the season.
Abundant snowfalls re-dimension the landscape into pristine postcards and sports paradises during the winter, for instance, luring sightseers, tourists, athletes, and enthusiasts, as the mountains lend their sides and summits to world class resorts that facilitate a range of activities, including alpine and cross country skiing, snow boarding, snow tubing, snow shoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, sleigh riding, ice fishing, dog sledding, and even frozen waterfall climbing.
Ablaze with color, the region becomes a never-ending canvas of Impressionism paintings in the autumn, becoming a magnet for photographers, leaf peepers, and naturalists. Color peeking depends upon time, elevation, and tree type. Red maples, for example, pinnacle at low elevations in mid-September, while beech, sugar maples, and birches reach this level a month later below 2,000 feet. This peak occurs earlier, at the beginning of October, between 2,000 and 3,500 feet, and yellow birch, mountain maple, and mountain ash glow with color intensity in mid-September between 3,500 and 5,500 feet.
However, the area’s peaks reach their greatest heights during the summer tourist season when its some two dozen sights provide natural scenery, links to its railroad past, family-oriented theme parks, and outdoor activities.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains, located in the northern portion of the state, are easily accessible, with Route 16, Interstate 93, and Route 3 providing north-south travel, and Routes 2, 302, and 112 slicing the area in an easterly-westerly direction.
4. White Mountain Sights:
A. On Route 2:
Santa’s Village, located in Jefferson, New Hampshire, and open from May to December, is a Christmas-themed park and allows children to visit the bearded man in the red suit in July, feed his reindeer, and enjoy 19 different rides and activities, including antique cars, a yule log flume, a flying sleigh, a Jingle Bells Express train, a roller coaster, and a waterpark. Live, 3-D shows are presented in the Polar Theater, and the Burgermeister Food Court offers an array of items for lunch, including the opportunity to decorate gingerbread cookies.
Single-, two-day, and season passes permit unlimited use of the park’s rides, shows, and attractions.
Six Gun City and Fort Splash is another family-oriented theme park in Jefferson accessed by Route 2, but with a western focus. Open between May and September, it enables its visitors to “ride, slide, and play all day” on attractions that include go-carts, laser tag, water slides, bumper boats, sawmill rides, mechanical stage coaches, log boats, and a Gold Rush Runaway Train.
Kids can earn a deputy badge from the sheriff or step over to the other side of the law and have their pictures adorn wanted posters.
A transportation museum exhibits more than a hundred antique carriages and sleighs, including the oldest Concord Coach.
Children can down doubles (of soda) at the Six Gun Saloon or have lunch at Grabby’s Grub House, and cowboy-related clothes and gifts can be purchased at the Trading Post and in the General Store.
The Fort Jefferson Campground, with its own swimming pool, offers 100 sites, from tenting to full hookups.
B. On Route 302:
Challenging mankind to surmount its imposing, 6,288-foot peak, and counting Darby Field as the first to have successfully done so when he had climbed to the top in 1652 with the aid of two Indian guides, Mount Washington has never ceased to entice people to duplicate his success. However, the present-day tourist can do so far easier, quicker, and more comfortably with the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
When Sylvester Marsh, a Compton, New Hampshire native and Chicago meat-packing businessman had followed in Field’s footsteps some two hundred years later and became entrapped on the mountain by a life-threatening snowstorm, he vowed to devise a method which would eliminate the ascent’s inherent dangers and make it accessible to anyone.
Securing a charter for a mountain-climbing railroad, whose concept was initially met with laughter by the New Hampshire Legislature and accompanied by the now-famous words that he “might as well build a railway to the moon,” he invented technology that incorporated a small, geared, below-locomotive cogwheel that meshed with the rungs installed between a tiny track and permitted the engine to pull itself up inclines as steep as 37.41-percent.
Successfully reaching its lofty goal and elevation in 1869, it has been running ever since. A National Historic Landmark, it is the world’s second steepest rail system and the oldest still-operating one.
Accessed by the six-mile base road next to Fabyan’s Station from Route 302, the Mount Washington Cog Railway offers three-hour round-trips from its own Marshfield Station to the summit by both steam and bio-diesel locomotives between May and October and one-hour halfway trips in November and December. All trains consist of a pushing engine and a single passenger coach.
Aside from featuring a ticketing office; a self-service restaurant, Catalano’s at the Cog; and a gift shop, the station itself offers a glimpse into early cog railroad technology through its Cog Museum and outside displays, which include the first locomotive to climb the mountain.
Views from the rocky, windswept moonscape summit encompass the northern Presidential Range peaks, and riders can visit the Sherman Adams Summit Building; the Mount Washington Observatory; the Tip-Top House, a National Historic Landmark; and the Summit Stage Office, where the world’s highest wind velocity-of 231 mph-was recorded.
A short distance from the Mount Washington Cog Railway’s base road on Route 302 in Bretton Woods is yet another namesaked attraction, the Mount Washington Resort.
Rising from the forest green, and always within the shadow of the mountain itself, this white facaded, red-roofed mega-mansion, one of the area’s original grand hotels, was constructed between 1900 and 1902 by Joseph Stickney, a New Hampshire native who had amassed his wealth in the coal mining industry and with the Pennsylvania Railroad, in Spanish Renaissance Revival style.
Built 250 Italian craftsmen, who applied meticulous detail to its woodwork and masonry, it featured a rare steel framework and innovative heating, electric powerplant, plumbing, and private telephone systems, along with its still-existent post office, transforming forest into luxury in the form of the grandest of the grand hotels.
Staffed by 350, it opened its doors on July 28, 1902, catering to wealthy guests from the northeast, celebrities, and dignitaries, including Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Joan Crawford, Princess Margaret, and three US presidents, who all had area access by up to 50 daily trains that served three local stations.
In 1944, it hosted the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference, during which delegates from 44 nations established the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, setting the gold standard at $35.00 and designating the US dollar as the backbone of international exchange.
In 1978, the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places and nine years later was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of Interior.
Echoing its century-old elegance are its 900-foot verandah and “Great Hall” lobby, which features high ceilings and rocky fireplaces.
Other opulent era echoes sound in the form of afternoon teas in its Princess Room, five-star meals in the Dining Room, lighter fare in Stickney’s Restaurant, cocktails in the Rosebrook Bar, Verandah, or rock-formed Cave, operator-attended elevator, and hose-drawn carriage tours of the grounds, which are surrounded by the White Mountain peaks and Crawford Notch.
A 25,000-square-foot spa, with 13 treatment rooms, and two golf courses round out the amenities, the latter of which include the nine-hole, Mount Pleasant Course opened in 1895, and the 18-hole Mount Washington Course, which was restored to its 1915 Donald Ross design.
The equally Omni-owned Bretton Arms Inn is a bed-and-breakfast.
Across Route 302 from the Fabyan’s Station Restaurant is the Bretton Woods Ski Resort at Mount Rosebrook. It features 433 acres of skiing and snow boarding, 101 alpine trails, 100 kilometers of Nordic trails, four terrain parks, night skiing, and a canopy tour with ten ziplines, two sky bridges, and three rappel stations.
Other than skiing itself, winter activities include dog sledding, sleigh riding, snow tubing, ice skating, snow shoeing, and ice climbing, while summer sports include hiking, bicycling, swimming, fly fishing, tennis, and trail and carriage riding.
Dining options include Lucy Crawford’s Food Court and the Slopeside Restaurant in the base lodge and the Top O’ Quad Restaurant on the summit.
Further east on Route 302 is Crawford Notch State Park.
Discovered in 1771 when Timothy Nash, a Lancaster hunter, discovered a gap while tracking a moose over Cherry Mountain, its lands was promised to him by Governor John Wentworth if he could both ride a horse and construct a road through it-feats he ultimately achieved, despite significant topographical obstacles.
The area itself was named after the Crawford family, its first settlers. Establishing inns for travelers and forging the first path up Mount Washington, they conducted climbing expeditions.