I was awake bright and early for my second day of adventure – a downside of moving forward a time zone and still on a work routine. I didn’t mind terribly because it gave me a chance to work away at a few things, prepare for the day, and not feel rushed for my first destination. I was going to visit Mount Washington – a must if you are in the White Mountain area.
Standing at 6288 feet or 1917 meters above sea level, Mount Washington isn’t as tall as many newer mountains in the world, but it is the tallest in the White Mountains and one of the tallest peaks in the Appalachian mountain range that extends up east coast of America/Canada. (Only some of the mountains in the Tennessee area are taller.) Mount Washington is known for its wild weather. It holds the record for the highest wind speed experienced and recorded by man. Many companies send their products there to be tested for extreme weather durability. It is an alpine zone so we were above the treeline, and there are flowers that bloom here that do not grow anywhere else. While I was there, the temperatures were just above the freezing point, but it was foggy when we first arrived which made the wind seem much colder. Later the sun came through and it made quite a difference. The clouds parted and I was able to see down to the valley below, and surrounding mountain peaks.
I had heard enough stories that made me doubt whether I would enjoy driving up myself, and I knew I didn’t have enough time/stamina to hike up, so I chose one of the other 2 options: you can take a cog train to the top or you can ride in a 12 passenger van with a guide who drives this narrow curving road missing a guardrail on a daily basis. I opted for the passenger van – it was only $5 more than it would cost if I drove myself up to the top, but much more informative and certainly more relaxing. I did not have pry my fingers off of the steering wheel or clean the seat of my car when it was over, so that is always a bonus in my books. It was a 2 hour tour – 1/2 hour up, an hour at the top to visit the museum, observation deck, cafeteria, gift shop, and the Tip Top House, and then the 1/2 hour trip back down. The Tip Top House is one of the few remaining buildings from the 1800’s when tourists came by horse and wagon to stay overnight. Our guide was very informative during the drive, explaining the history, science, local folklore of the mountain, as well as the races that are held up this steep and narrow road – by car, bike, and running by foot.
After putting Mount Washington in my rear-view mirror, I made a circuitous route through the mountains and small towns to the area of Bath, NH where the Kancamagus Scenic Byway starts. I had heard this road was a beautiful and scenic drive through the White Mountain National Forest, with several hiking trails, campgrounds, and mountain look-outs and I was looking forward to a relaxing drive. My GPS had no problems leading me around to the start of route 112 and the views did not disappoint. One local who works in the tourist industry was surprised I was starting at the beginning of the 112 as most cut through the interstate and start their drive half-way through at North Woodstock/Lincoln. I highly recommend making the effort of starting (or ending) near Bath as this section is just as beautiful. There are many hiking trails of various lengths and experience levels. I chose a few short ones leading in to waterfalls and also stopped at all the look-outs off the highway. The National Forest has a self-pay system. I found this a bit confusing at first and was not very clear from their website. You can’t buy a day pass from the ranger stations, you need to go to one of the many trail parking sites with a $5 bill and pen and use one of their envelopes and their dropbox. There are instructions on leaving the stub visible in your vehicle.
When I arrived back in North Conway I visited a few of the stores in the outlet malls. Who can visit North Conway without doing a little shopping? 😉 I only had an hour or so before stores were closing for the evening, but it was fun to do a little browsing. I had supper at the Barley and Salt Tap House and Kitchen. I had their Korean Beef Tacos which was a wonderful fusion of shredded brisket, kimchi, pickles, and had a sriracha mayo sauce. I then started what I came south for in the first place and searched the North Conway grocery stores for dairy-free food items not carried in my local stores. I found a few interesting things and made good use of the coolers I brought with me. I went to sleep knowing there would be more to find exploring Portland, ME the next day.