Please forgive me, but I feel I must be a little cliché with this next quote:
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
John Muir wrote that in a letter to his sister in 1873. Now, you can’t go to a mountain-related anything without finding it on a t-shirt or bumper sticker, but that’s for good reason. The words are very powerful to those of us who feel the call.
I have a sincere wanderlust for all places, but the mountains are home, regardless of where they are. I grew up spending every summer in Highlands, N.C. at my grandparents’ home. My mother would play her John Denver tape on the way up from Clayton, Ga. I knew every turn of the road, every hiking trail, every waterfall and every peaceful corner of their property.
Now, as Bonnie and I travel the world, I am still drawn to the mountains and we have spent the last two days engrossed in them.
Green Mountains and Connecticut River Valley
Yesterday, we cruised through rural Vermont again, headed south along the eastern side of the Green Mountains, which run north/south along the western side of the state. Just like the rest of Vermont, it was pleasantly idyllic in the best sort of way, if not very breathtaking.
There were no “OMG” moments of breathtaking beauty. Instead, a gentle sloping mountain range, with plenty of just right bucolic bliss.
Once we hit the southern edge of the Green Mountains, we turned east for Brattleboro for lunch. The one thing about New England that is very nice for us is the closeness of it all. We are used to road trips out to Montana or Wyoming where each stop is several hours away, but from end-to-end, Vermont is not very wide!
Brattleboro is a relatively large city (for Vermont) at 12,000 or so folks, but with a lively food and music scene. We ate at the top-rated brewpub Whetstone Station along the Connecticut River. Bonnie had the Pesto Artichoke Turkey Wrap and I had the Post Man, an inventive smoked pork and peach BBQ sandwich and their session IPA. Yes, it was as good as it sounds.
We turned north, shifting over to the New Hampshire side of the river for our drive back up the Connecticut River, following along a scenic byway. While the scenery was nice, it was not as spectacular as we had seen earlier in the day.
Mt. Washington and the White Mountains
Mt. Washington is the home to the Mt. Washington Weather Observatory, not to mention the worst weather in the world, including the fastest recorded wind speed: 231 mph. The tallest peak in New Hampshire, it was our first stop after relocating camp to the eastern edge of the state.
There are multiple ways to get to the top of Mount Washington and each way will either cost you money or sweat: you can hike it from a couple of different trails, you can take a crazy “cog train,” you can take a van tour to the top or you can drive your own vehicle. We opted for the latter option and forked out $39 for our toll to the top.
The road to the top is operated by the Mt. Washington Auto Road company, while the top is a New Hampshire State Park. The road up was easily doable in the truck and I enjoyed the drive. Part of the price of admission, so to speak, was an audio tour CD for drive up. It provided a lot of background info on the mountain.
One of the fun aspects of Mt. Washington is the weather change from the valley to the summit. We were very fortunate to have a bright, sunny day in both the valley and the summit, but while it was nearly 90 degrees in the valley, it was 63 on the summit with 25 mph winds. The view of the surrounding White Mountains was well worth the trip to the top.
Following the drive up Mt. Washington, we headed south to the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, an east-west road transecting the White Mountains. While the Green Mountains were gentle, the White Mountains seemed to spring straight out of the earth, offering a far more dramatic landscape.
We stopped several times along the road, making a point to get out and walk some of the shorter trails and see some of the more interesting sites along the byway. One of the more interesting sites was Sabbaday Falls, an interesting multi-level cascade which does a 90 degree turn in a tight ravine.
Tomorrow, we are off to Maine, to Millinocket, the closest city to Baxter State Park. Baxter SP is the home of Mount Katahdin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, right in the midst of the North Woods.