Ask anyone in New England what the most iconic image of New Hampshire is, and they’ll probably say the Old Man of the Mountain. I imagine most of my US readers know what I’m talking about: the giant cliff face that looks like the profile of an old man. This was actually somewhat of an illusion, as the face was the combination of five perfectly-oriented cliffs. It was also huge: 40 feet (12 m) tall, 25 feet (7.5m) wide, and located 1200 feet (370 m) above Profile Lake, in which the face was sometimes reflected on a calm day.
You might have noticed my use of past tense in the previous paragraph; unfortunately, the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed in May 2003, a tragic ending for this iconic feature of New Hampshire.
In the years following his collapse, there was much debate over what to do. In the end, the state settled on creating a monument on the shore of Profile Lake, complete with a setup that allows you to stand in a particular spot based on your height and gaze up at a metal rendition of the Old Man. It’s obviously not the same, but I guess it’s the closest I’ll ever get.
Our only other stop in Franconia Notch State Park, was Flume Gorge. Though we’re budget travelers, we usually find one splurge item for each trip; this was our splurge. Admission was $16 per person, which is probably a little ridiculous, but it is what it is. It looked like a neat place and we wanted to see it, so we paid the entrance fee.
I’ve always thought flume was kind of a silly word. It’s also – in this case – not exactly being used correctly. A flume is a manmade water channel; the 800 foot (244 m) long, 70-90 foot (21-27 m) tall Flume Gorge is very much not manmade.
Anyway, once we’d purchased our tickets, we departed out the back of the visitor center onto the 2 mile (3.2 km) loop trail that led us across the Pemigewasset River on a covered bridge, through the Flume Gorge on boardwalks built into the side of the granite walls, over to Liberty Gorge, back across the river via another covered bridge, past an enormous glacial boulder, and back to the visitor center.
Unfortunately for us, we were accompanied by a steady drizzle for the duration of our hike. However, even the rain couldn’t suppress the undeniable beauty of the gorge.
Our last stop of the day was a quick visit to the New Hampshire State House in Concord. We were just about to pay for parking when a gentleman who was headed out handed us his parking receipt that still had about an hour left on it! We graciously thanked him and took advantage of the time to go on a fairly thorough self-guided tour of the State House. It looked like pretty much every other state house I’ve ever seen, but it’s always neat to see the architecture and learn some historical and political facts about a new state.
And this marks the end of our summer 2017 trip up to the White Mountains. It wasn’t the 2000+ mile road trip we’re used to taking each year, but with my internship and Pat’s school (turns out dental students don’t get much of a summer break) it was all we had time for.
Sometimes, I think I get so caught up in trip planning and list making and logisticalizing that I forget that not all trips need to be massive undertakings. There will always be things to see that are a little more local and just as beautiful/unique/interesting as the things that are far away. This trip was a good reminder of that for me.
In keeping with this theme, for the next couple weeks we will be exploring two other local New England destinations: Sturbridge Village and Cape Cod.
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: Franconia Notch State Park is located along I-93, a few minutes north of Lincoln, New Hampshire
- Fees and passes: entry to the park is free, but entry to Flume Gorge is $16/person, and the park also operates an aerial tramway that charges a per person fee
- Camping: we didn’t camp in the park, but here is the campground information
- Hiking: there’s quite a bit of hiking in the park, but we also didn’t do much of this; however, trails are busy enough that they’ve started offering a hiker shuttle
- Other: As with other areas of the White Mountains, be prepared for wind, rain, thunderstorms and muddy trails at any time, even in the summer.