The White Mountain Region: Where solitude and splendor collide. Where one can disappear into the trees for an afternoon hike, or merely drive alongside natural waterslides, gazing skyward at the mountains that surround you. The natural attractions are as plentiful here as the man-made ones, but it is the spirit of this place that brings us back time and again.
Our journey through these mountains could begin with the Appalachian Trail, which winds its way from Maine to Georgia. It is in these parts that the trail touches the most difficult terrain, challenging hikers through Crawford Notch, up the summit of Mount Washington and on to Pinkham Notch. Or we could begin at the edge of the White Mountain National Forest, where a hiker can find 48 mountains that reach 4,000 feet or more. For non-hiker types, the drives through this stretch of landscape are equally breathtaking. A popular trip carries visitors along a scenic byway known as the Kancamagus Highway, a 34-mile road that runs from Lincoln at the Pemigewasset River to Conway. Along the Kancamagus, tourists often stop along the roadside for a dip in the chilly water at the Lower Falls. Children love to slide down the natural water slide, created by slippery rocks and a deep basin of water that serves as a pool. The waterfalls along this road and others throughout the White Mountain region alone are worth the drive.
Note the Native American Indian names, which label the rivers, roads and mountains in this region. The Kancamagus Highway for example was named for an early Penacook Indian Chief known as the "Fearless One". Mount Chocorua is also named for an early eighteenth century tribal chief. As the legend goes, Chief Chocurua was killed by white settlers at the peak of the mountain.
Mount Washington is the highest mountain in the northeast at 6,288 feet. It is known for having the worst weather in the world, with winds of over 100 miles per hour during the winter. Each year, racers climb to the clouds in the annual Mount Washington Auto Race. The Auto Road is the oldest man made tourist attraction in America.
Franconia was home to the legendary Old Man of the Mountain, formerly one of New Hampshire's most famous landmarks. The Great Stone Face fell from its perch atop Franconia Notch in the spring of 2003. The town of Bath is the proud home to the "oldest general store in the country" and is worth a trip for a visit to its two covered bridges. Haverhill houses New Hampshire's oldest covered bridge still in use. The little town of Bethlehem (no, not that one) is also found in the White Mountains. Each year at Christmas, thousands send their holiday greetings to its post office so they can be postmarked "Bethlehem".
Other "must see" stops in this area include the Basin, one of the first scenic stops along the Franconia Notch Parkway. This whirlpool-like waterfall is believed to have been formed 15,000 years ago. Profile Lake is great for fishing and there are hiking trails around its perimeter. Also found in Franconia Notch State Park is the Indian Head Profile, which peers out from the south side of Mt. Pemigewasset.
© 2016 Union Leader Corporation