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May 03. 2013 12:42AM

Mt. Washington Auto Road ready for riding

PINKHAM NOTCH -The Mount Washington Auto Road, the region's premier manmade attraction that climbs the Northeast's highest peak, opens for public travel up to treeline Saturday for the start of its 152nd season.

It will be a beautiful ride up for those who venture about 4.5 miles, as the first soft green blush of spring spreads up from the valleys while the higher elevations are streaked with patches of white.

"The northern Presidential Range is still covered with snow and the views are just spectacular at this time of year," Auto Road office manager Regina Ferriera said. She said the phone has been ringing off the hook as people have been calling to find out if they can drive up the mountain, and now the staff can answer that they can.

It's just a little over a month since the attraction's SnowCoach made its last trip up the road, ceasing winter operations on March 31. That closure cleared the way for the road crew to start removing snow and ice.

On Thursday, under deep-blue skies, road crew members worked to clear culverts at the seven-mile stretch. Their work has been aided by a week of warm weather, allowing them to clear and prepare the road's surface with the hope of opening the road to the summit within the next two weeks.

The road will be open starting Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vehicles cannot be left unattended, so those who are considering driving up to ski the snowfields should make alternative plans. Guided tours will be available later this month.

For private vehicles, it's motorcycles only on June 10 during Laconia Bike Week. For the general public, guided tours will still run. A larger Bike Week event follows, with the Ride to the Sky on June 13, complete with expo and food at the base of the Auto Road.

The Auto Road is offering guided Bicknell's Thrush tours on six dates in June. The birds prefer breeding and nesting above 3,000 feet in areas with low vegetation and abundant moisture in the Northeast.

Other events coming up within the next couple of months are the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race June 15 and a bicycle hill climb July 6. All events are subject to the whims of the weather.


syoungknox@newstote.com


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