Mount Chocorua shines on America the Beautiful quarterROB BURBANK February 02. 2013 9:59PM
The jagged, distinctive 3,500-foot Mount Chocorua "is reputedly one of the most frequently photographed mountains in the world," says the "AMC White Mountain Guide" - and now the popular peak has its own coin.
Or, more precisely, the White Mountain National Forest has its own coin - the 16th 25-cent piece to be issued in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program - and a classic image of Mount Chocorua was chosen to represent the national forest on that coin.
Mount Chocorua is certainly among New Hampshire's more popular destinations for hikers. No fewer than 10 trails ascend its slopes and the peak's rocky cone affords expansive views in all directions. With the aid of binoculars and a clear day, summit-sitters can catch a glimpse of Mount Wachusett, about 106 miles to the south in Massachusetts. To the west, Vermont can be seen. Close by, to the north, on Chocorua's ridgeline, are South, Middle and North Sister, and 20-plus miles off, Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range dominate the view.
It's a place to tote a copy of Brent E. Scudder's "Scudder's White Mountain Viewing Guide," which describes the scenes from the peak of Chocorua and several other mountains and offers line drawings of those views.
"Those who know New Hampshire well would conclude that the state's most photographed feature is the rock profile known as the Old Man of the Mountain. But the scene I describe appears on lamp shades in New Zealand and calendars in Germany. It is a picture of a steep granite prominence rising behind a lake. White birch covers the foreground. Travellers can find the spot by visiting the southern shore of Chocorua Lake," the author writes. Indeed, the scene depicted on the new quarter was captured from that very location.
The storied peak is also said to have been the model for the fictional Coruway Mountain in LeGrand Cannon Jr.'s, celebrated novel "Look to the Mountain."
Despite the relatively low altitude of the mountain, the ascent is a formidable undertaking, given the low elevation from which the approach begins. Most hikers should plan for three hours or more to reach the top, making a 'round trip hike an all-day affair. (Hikers should consult appropriate maps and guidebooks for details before hitting the trail.)
In earlier days, trampers could have ascended to the Chocorua Peak House, a two-story hotel located just below the mountain's peak, and spent the night. Built in the 1890s, the building was blown off the mountain in a violent storm in 1915. It was unoccupied at the time. In his "Vacation Tramps in New England Highlands," author Allen Chamberlain notes the hotel "was restored in part the following year only to be again swept away in that winter's storms."
Today, overnight visitors can opt for the open shelter or tent platform at Camp Penacook, off the popular Piper Trail, or the Jim Liberty Cabin a half-mile below the summit along the Liberty Trail. Details on use are available from the U.S. Forest Service by calling 447-5448 or 745-3816.
In a posting announcing the new America the Beautiful quarter, the U.S. Mint calls the image of Mount Chocorua on the coin's reverse "An iconic view of the White Mountain National Forest system lands."
"White Mountain National Forest, located in both New Hampshire and Maine, provides unique and strikingly beautiful landscapes and is one of America's most visited national forests for its wide array of recreational opportunities and rich natural resources," the site says.
The America the Beautiful Quarters Program began in 2010 to celebrate national parks and other public lands and sites of national significance. The White Mountain National Forest quarter is the first to be issued in 2013.
The U.S. Mint and the U.S. Forest Service invite the public to the coin's ceremonial launch, to be held at Plymouth State University's Hanaway Theatre at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21.
"We are honored to be included in the U.S. Mint's America the Beautiful Quarters Program," said White Mountain National Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner in a news release. "The White Mountain (National Forest) is a much loved part of the fabric of New England and we hope that the public will join us for the Feb. 21 celebration."
Rob Burbank is director of media and public affairs for the AMC in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.