Last Thursday night we packed up the car and travelled east. First across the beautiful Adirondack’s of New York State, across Lake Champlain by ferry to Vermont, then to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Years ago, we drove by the Mount Washington Hotel on our way home from a camping trip in Maine. The red roofed building looked so regal, we decided then, we would come back and stay there some day. That was nearly a decade ago, and so it was about time.
The Mount Washington Hotel is a historical landmark. It opened in 1902, when the White Mountains were the summer destination for wealthy industrialists of the northeast. Guests arrived in droves by train to the dozens of luxury resorts that populated the region at the turn of the last century. The glory days of the mountains would eventually end. Changes in the economy and the advent of automobiles made the destination less desirable. While most of these establishments closed, fell into disrepair, and were eventually demolished, the Mount Washington remained standing. Although, it endured some hard times, it’s been restored to a beautiful modern hotel, while maintaining so much of the original grandeur. There are still fixtures, hardware and furniture still in use from the early years. They even have a guy controlling a tiny old timey elevator. Being there was like being in history.
It was once rumoured that the hotel was Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining. This wasn’t true. It’s well known that The Stanley Hotel in Colorado was his muse for the novel. It’s a reasonable assumption though. It does have that isolated feel, and until a decade ago the hotel was only open during the summer season. There are ghost tales associated with the place as well, but we didn’t meet any during our visit.
An enormous veranda wraps around most of the building with plenty of comfortable seating to sit back and enjoy the view . Shortly after we arrived we made ourselves at home out there and ordered some refreshments. When our drinks arrived, they were accompanied by snacks! It was an unexpected and delicious surprise.
Unlimited olives and old cheddar. I love this place so much! I want to live here.
From the back of the hotel you can can see Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the range and part of the Appalachian Trial. If you haven’t done so already, I implore you to read Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods. In the book he writes a chapter about this area with much more detail and wit than I can offer.
On Sunday morning, we set out towards Mount Washington’s summit. There are three ways to get up there: trail, road or railway.
Hiking was out of the question. It’s 6200 feet uphill and it’s dangerous. More than 100 people have perished on the mountain, which is known for sudden inclement weather. While I’m sure it would be an incredible challenge and amazing experience, it’s not for me. I’m a delicate suburbanite who considers just being more than 100 km from a Starbucks an act of survival.
The road didn’t really appeal to us either. We couldn’t even imagine putting our 9 year old Mazda Protégé, with it’s manual transmission, though that kind of stress.
That left only one option.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway has been running since 1869 and was the first of it’s kind. It uses a ladder rack and cog wheels to pull the car up the mountain at about 6 miles per hour. That may seem awfully slow, but believe me, you don’t want to go any faster up there. There are some crazy inclines, including a trestle called Jacob’s Ladder, that’s regarded as the as the most treacherous section of train track in the world.
Although Mount Washington is a mere bump compared to Everest (at 29,029 ft), it felt like the top of the world.
At the summit there’s an observatory and weather station where the highest observed windspeed has been recorded, hence the need to have the building chained to the ground. Fortunately for us, we picked a stellar day to go up. It was warm, clear and not very windy at all.
From the top, there was nowhere left to go but down, and so we descended. When we reached the bottom, we got back in the car and headed west. We made our way back though New Hampshire and Vermont, across the lake, though the Adirondack’s (making a few stops along the way) and finally, back home again.