"This car climbed Mt. Washington" bumper stickers could be seen around the village and today was the day to see if my rental car could join the club. Had arrived in North Conway around sunset the previous night and really took a liking to the town. Stopped at a Friendly's for some New England ice cream. Overnight at Eastern Inns...the super-king bed was heavenly after 2 nights of hostel bunks. Sure would've been nice to have a 'rest day' but unlike the Tour de France, no rest days were allowed for my Tour de New England.
Frost covered the windshield as the car warmed up from a mild September freeze. Going north on Hwy 16, the small town of Jackson has a covered bridge (built in 1876) that you can drive through.
Reached the entrance of the Mt. Washington Auto Road (fee $23) by 9am. There is a posted sign that describes it as "...a steep, narrow mountain road without guardrails. If you have a fear of heights, you may not appreciate this driving experience...because one small mistake could send you tumbling thousands of feet to your death in a fiery crash that will be covered by all the news networks." Or something like that. Take heed...if you are afraid of heights, guided tours or the cog railway are fine alternatives. Either way, Mt. Washinton is absolutely spectacular...a must-see 5-star attraction for any visitor...one of THE highlights of my entire 14-day trip. The weather conditions at the summit are extreme and rival Antarctica. The highest wind velocity ever observed by man--231 mph--was recorded here. It was blowing a constant 35 mph for me on a clear, sunny day...hold on to your hat. Driving up on your own allows you to spend more than 1/2 hour wandering about the summit and there is plenty to see: a museum, weather observatory, a gift/coffee shop, the 1853 Tip Top House...it's a fascinating place--like no other in all my travels. IMHO Mt. Washington gets no respect from folks outside the Northeast due to its lack of height...'what's the big deal, it's only 6000 ft, how can it even compare to Pike's Peak at 14,000'? I've been to both and MW clearly wins out because of the unbelievable weather conditions...you don't have to live on the Gulf Coast to experience a hurricane. On the Auto Road, there are many turnouts to pull over and admire the panarama...and catch your breath. It is a scary drive, but an unforgettable drive. If you are in the area and have a clear day...DO IT!
Left the MW Auto Road at 12:30pm (roughly 1 hr up, 1 hr down, 1 1/2 hrs at the summit). Circled the area counter-clockwise...Hwys 16...2...302. Stopped at the Mt. Washington Hotel and planed to have a quick look about but they were charging $5 just for that priviledge...very disappointing. Decided instead to move on and head for my next destination...the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch.
As recommended here on this board, the 1.5 mile, (1-way) 900 ft. elevation change hike up--straight up--Mt. Willard offers great bang for the buck. The 2865-ft. summit provides a wonderful view of Crawford Notch. Met a local hiker there who has climbed every peak in the state of New Hampshire and he echoed that sentiment...Mt. Willard, best reward for the effort. Total time for the hike: 2 hours, very well spent.
The clock now said 5pm and shadows were overtaking the mountains. From 302 east, Bear Notch Road led to Hwy 112, the Kancamagus Highway. The 'Kanc' is indeed a scenic byway, especially as it nears Lincoln. Arrived safe and sound at Parkers Motel as the sun was setting, 6:30pm.
So Day 12...a taste of New Hampshire's White Mountains...a very good day. And Mt Washington??...don't miss it!