Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vermont/NH: Day 4A - Franconia Notch

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(Map key: Point A - the cabin; Point B - Old Man of the Mountain memorial; Point C - Flume Gorge; Point D - Conway.)

The New Hampshire day was the day I was anticipating the most, mostly in anticipation of our "climb" of Mount Washington. But before we get that far, New Hampshire has some other neat stuff, too!

This is Franconia Notch, located along Interstate 93 in northern New Hampshire. It's home to Cannon Mountain (which we could have taken a tramway up, but didn't), Flume Gorge (which we did visit), and the iconic Old Man of the Mountain...or at least, it used to be home of the Old Man of the Mountain. The rock formation fell down in 2003.

So, that's where the Old Man used to be. It's a real shame, if nothing else because of how much New Hampshire has promoted the image of the Old Man of the Mountain heavily over the years. It's on their state quarters, their license plates, state route symbols, you name it...and now, it's gone. But as Amber pointed out to me, perhaps sustaining all of those things as "tributes" or "memorials" is kind of cool, in a way. The Old Man will live on!

And, in fact, they've built a 3-D memorial of the Old Man from the former viewpoint, configured such that when you stand in just the right place, the 3-D memorial creates a 'fake' image of the Old Man profile exactly as it used to be, like so:

Here's me from the side, taking that picture:

I thought that this was kind of neat. The Old Man will live on!

Next, we went to Flume Gorge, where we broke out the baby hiking backpack again and went for a nice two mile walk. Pictures as follows:

It was a nice walk and a nice gorge (kind of reminiscent of Watkins Glen), and it gave us a few nice views of the surrounding mountains. Well worth it, despite the price: $17/adult.

Now...about that price. In the Northeast, a lot of tourist attractions are on private land rather than public, due to being scooped up before the concept of "National Parks" was popularized. Privately owned attractions are almost always more expensive than the corresponding National or State Park, in part because they can't rely on taxpayer subsidies (obviously), but also because the owners of said attractions...well, they might occasionally engage in a little price gouging to take advantage of gullible tourists. (Ouimet Canyon in Northern Ontario, and Matanuska Glacier in Alaska, come to mind.) The price of Flume Gorge would suggest that this is privately owned, too, but...nope! It's all part of Franconia Notch State Park. Well, taxpayer subsidies or not, I guess you set the price according to the demand. Flume Gorge was pretty busy, especially among Tour Buses Full of Old People*. And actually, most everything that's worth doing in the White Mountains costs about that much, privately owned or not.

(* - They have a shuttle bus that takes you within 0.2 miles of the Gorge, for the sake of the physically challenged. We declined the bus ride.)

As for Marla...well, she missed most of it. The backpack must have been comfy, because she slept during virtually the entire hike.

After that, we drove the Kancamagus Highway (NH Route 112) east to Conway. The Kancamagus Highway has a reputation as being one of the most scenic drives in New England, especially this time of year. It didn't disappoint! Pictures don't do it justice, but here's what I have:

We might have stopped at more pullouts, but virtually every pullout was crowded - not necessarily to capacity, but still. It was a popular day to be up in the White Mountains. Conway was very crowded, too, but that was only because of a fair or something.

This picture was taken at a McDonald's in Conway (or maybe North Conway?). Calling Mr. Plow!

It never really occurred to me that private business would have to actively hire a third party to plow their parking lots. Then again, I've never really thought about it, either. I mean, how else would they do it?

Next up: Mount Washington.

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