2011 Vacation: Days Ten and Eleven: Moosehead Lake and Mount Washington

At the close of the unsuccessful moose canoe trip
At the close of the unsuccessful moose canoe trip

Our second day at Moosehead Lake began with a 0500 wakeup to meet our guide.  We took a 45-minute drive to a hidden pond in the back country, followed by a two-hour canoe ride to try to spot moose.  We had a false start at the boat launch, because two women proved to be completely unable to paddle or steer their canoe.  So Tommy, sporting his canoeing merit badge, took over their canoe and saved the day.

View from a canoe of our moose pond
View from a canoe of our moose pond

We saw some very nice scenery, but we didn’t spot any moose.  The guide claimed she saw signs that a moose had passed that way “recently,” but that may have been a canard.  In any event, the two hours in a canoe were great fun.

Tom and Sam on Moosehead Lake
Tom and Sam on Moosehead Lake

Moosehead Lake was designed to be some “down time” in a hectic schedule.  We spent the rest of the day lounging around the hotel, reading by the lake, and playing dominoes.  It was very windy, so we couldn’t throw the frisbee around.  We were wishing we had brought the bocce set.

Washing the dishes after breakfast
Washing the dishes after breakfast

We were a bit cold and wet from the canoe trip (we were in a light rain for most of the canoeing), so we made grilled cheese and soup for lunch in the room.  For dinner we had chili dogs and salad.  The we finished the dominoes game we began the day before.  We finished the day by watching some Mickey Mouse cartoons on the computer before calling it a night.

Going uphill on the Cog Railroad up Mount Washington (the pine trees are straight up and down)
Going uphill on the Cog Railroad up Mount Washington (the pine trees are straight up and down)

The next morning we drove through western Maine to Mount Washington, NH.  Though it was obscenely expensive, we took the Cog Railway to the top of Mount Washington.  Built in the 1870’s, the train uses a gear (cog) to pull the train up 30-degree slopes.  It was a marvel when built, and it is still awesome in its conception.  If you look at the picture above, you get a sense for the slopes the train climbs; the trees in the picture point straight up and down.  This picture is taken level with the window frames of our train car.

Passing another Cog train going downhill as we were going uphill
Passing another Cog train going downhill as we were going uphill

The weather atop Mount Washington is known as the harshest climate in the world.  Because of its annual average temperatures and snowfalls, Mount Washington is officially classified as arctic tundra.  It is engulfed in fog 60% of the year.  Average temperature in July, it’s warmest month, is in the 40’s.  We were lucky.  Despite wind, fog, and rain, during our visit to Mount Washington, the temperature only reached the 50’s.

This building is held in place against the terrific winds by those chains going over the top of it
This building is held in place against the terrific winds by those chains going over the top of it.

We found this building interesting.  Originally built as a weather station, today it houses a gift shop.  Notice the chains that go from cement blocks anchored deep into the ground over the top of the roof and into cement blocks on the opposite side.  These chains hold the building from blowing off the mountain during heavy winds.

It gets windy up here
It gets windy up here

The wind did not reach 231 MPH on our trip.  The wind probably exceeded 231 MPH on this record-setting day.  At 231 MPH the dynamometer broke off and blew down the mountain.

While the clouds became thick while we were on Mount Washington, this is the best view we had of the mountains below.
While the clouds became thick while we were on Mount Washington, this is the best view we had of the mountains below.
"Jacob's Ladder," the most treacherous part of the journey
"Jacob's Ladder," the most treacherous part of the journey

This section of track is called Jacob’s Ladder.  It climbs a 37-degree slope and cants 30 degrees to the left.  The benches at the front of the car are twelve feet higher than those at the back of the car.

Hiking toward Alethusia Falls
Hiking toward Arethusa Falls

After returning to the bottom Mount Washington, we decided to take a hike to see some falls in Crawford Notch.  It was getting late, so we had to force march the 1.4 miles to the falls.  There were steep grades, steps cut in the side of the trail held in place by 14-inch logs, and very rocky trails.  It was a relatively strenuous hike.

Alethusia Falls
Arethusa Falls

In the end, the falls were worth the journey.  After some of the spectacular falls we saw in Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Rocky Mountain National Park, I wasn’t expecting much.  These are the tallest falls in New Hampshire and were very impressive to see in person.

From Crawford Notch we headed to Lincoln, NH, and our hotel for the night.  We stayed at the Mt. Coolidge Motel, which is very “mom and pop.”  When we called to let him know we would be late (since we didn’t complete our hike back from the falls until almost 2000) the owner said he’d leave the light on in our room and the key in the lock; we could check in the next day.  I love mom and pop places run by personable people!  Lincoln New Hampshire reminds me of Granville, IL, near where I spent many summers as a kid.  Despite the tourist trade, it seems to have managed to maintain a small-town ambiance.

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