Sunday, October 13, 2013

On Golden Pond; Mt. Washington Cog Railway

Friday morning when we woke up the sun was beginning to show through the pines and other trees around our campsite, with the promise of another beautiful New England fall day!  Crisp, cool air, a bed of pine needles all around the campsite, gentle breeze blowing through the trees, rustling of the new fallen multicolored leaves that crunched underfoot as I went about the business of getting us unhooked and ready to go--just a glorious morning!  So, off we went into town--the little village at Squam Lakes, the site of the filming of On Golden Pond.  First we stopped at the On Golden Pond market and gas station for fuel--not that anybody here is trying to capitalize on their history, you understand!  Then stopped a little farther into town, at the local market, with some great views of the lake and some of the islands.  Not sure exactly where all of the scenes in the movie were filmed, but it was fun to be here and to recall that wonderful film.  We had first seen it as a play at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, before it was made into the movie, but we loved both the play and the movie.  We were both commenting on how we want to see the movie again, now that we've been here, but that it will likely have a different meaning, given our current age!  I remember the scene where Norman gets lost in the woods trying to find his way back to the cabin--Henry Fonda did a splendid job with this scene, conveying the stark terror he felt at the realization that he was losing some of his mental capacity.  As memory becomes more of a challenge with aging, this scene becomes more poignant in my mind!

Shortly after we left Squam Lakes we found a wonderful little farm stand with some luscious veggies--big lush tomatoes, some really fresh kale and some deliciously crisp McIntosh apples.  He had a fire going in a big barrel to knock down the morning chill, lots of pumpkins and varieties of squash out for decorations, along with a couple of hilarious manequins strategically placed around the stand--just a wonderful New England fall scene.  But the real treat was some fresh baked kalamata olive bread--the man running the stand offered us a slice to sample and said the woman who bakes these breads in her home had just made a delivery less than half an hour before we got there, and it was melt in your mouth delicious!  So we got us a loaf to have right away and one to tuck away in the freezer to parcel out over the next few weeks!  Yum, yum!!  The man asked where we were from, and when we told him, we had to endure some of his good natured hazing about what a big Dodger fan he was and how happy he was about the outcome of the recent playoff series!  Anyway, driving from Squam Lakes to Mt. Washington was one of the prettiest days for leaves we've had.  Just some glorious colors and some fabulous overlooks to stop and take in the vistas--we loved it!
We stopped at just about every overlook we could--some of them had limited parking and were too full for the RV, so we couldn't stop at quite all of them, or we certainly would have!  Everywhere you would turn you'd see more and more colors, some really breathtaking views.  What a wonderful sight!

We got to the Mt. Washington Cog Railway just in time to board the next scheduled train up to the summit, over 6000 ft., the highest point in New Hampshire.  As we were boarding, the brakeman told us we were lucky to have such a beautiful clear day for the ride, as it had been really overcast and socked in with fog for a week or so, thus killing the view from the top.  Even though he said we had missed the absolute peak for the leaf color--a rain and wind storm a week earlier had come through knocking many of the leaves off the trees--there were some pretty spectacular colors along the way.  This was a really interesting ride up, took about 40 minutes to make the climb from the base station to the summit.  There are two trains that go up, one right after the other, each train composed of just and engine and one coach, with the engine shoving the coach up the mountain.  The two engines that were running on this day were both biodiesel engines, much more efficient than the old steam locomotives that were formerly used.  There is still one steam engine in service, and we saw it idling down at the base station after we got back down--as we passed the big water tank on the way up, they told us that the steam engine uses a ton of coal and 1000 gallons of water for each ascent, and it stops on the way up to take on water.  It's interesting to see  how the angle of the steam boiler has to be tilted, so it will be closer to level as the engine makes its way up the 25% grade.  The rail line was built in the 1800's, and, while there have been a number of improvements obviously over the years, it still follows the same rail bed and the big trestles are in the same place up the mountain.  There is a line of small bars set in the middle of the rails where the teeth of the cog climbs along to pull the train up the mountain.  All this makes for a fairly loud and jerky ride, but it's quite fascinating to be going up this steep an incline.

At the top there's a big weather station, with lots of signs claiming that this is the worst weather in the world!  You couldn't tell by the glorious day we had, but due to the wind, snow, rain and fog that's present so much of the time, looking at some of the pictures they had on display, it's easy to see why they make this claim.  In the gift shop they had a funny postcard for sale that said "Mt. Washington in fog" and it was just a blank gray picture!!  There were lots of hikers who had made the trek up the mountain, and some who had ridden the train up and were hiking back down.  The trail along the ridgeline of the mountain is part of the Appalachian Trail, and we could see the big cairns marking the way.  As you cleared the tree line and got nearer to the summit, the trail traversed terrain that was nothing but these big rocks, so the cairns were absolutely essential to mark the way.  We talked to one hiker at the top who said that, while the ascent was long since it followed the ridge line, it was not nearly as steep as the path of the train, but that the rocks really presented a challenge on the last part of the hike.  This is also a very popular place for foreign tourists, as we heard many different languages being spoken while we were on top.  There is a vehicular road to the summit, so lots of folks came up in tour vans, but we were glad to have made the trip on the train.  Needless to say, even though it was a pretty warm day--at the base station you only needed a tshirt--at the summit it was quite a bit cooler, so we were glad we had our jackets.  Can only imagine how tough it could be when snow and wind are present!

But it was a fun place to visit and we're glad we made the trip.  We weren't too far from Franconia Notch, where we had made reservations for a campground for the weekend.  We had remembered that this was a holiday weekend, and the last weekend many of the campgrounds in New England are open, so lots of places have been booked solid for some time.  Fortunately we had thought ahead enough to find a place that still had some room.  Found our site and got settled in for the night--a great start to Columbus Day Weekend!!

The gas dock on Squam Lake, aka Golden Pond

 Looking across the lake

 To see these lovely colors!
 Remember Walter, the elusive big fish, Norman had been chasing for years?
 At the farmstand where we got the olive bread and veggies

 This mannequin was a hoot--the number sticker across his backside is a take off on the New Hampshire motto of Live Free or Die!  LOL!
 The Gourd Lady!
Along the scenic drive on the back roads toward Mt. Washington--for some reason the camera was acting up, so some of the shots didn't turn out as well as we'd hoped, but there are some pretty good scenes in these

These leaves were just spectacular against the beautiful sky!

Where we stopped for lunch, alongside this beautiful noisy river!

At the Mt. Washington Cog Railway
Old engine on display

Heading up behind the first train
Passing a train coming back down, as we ascended
The brakeman/tour guide on our way up
Passing the halfway house

Looking down on the Appalachian Trail

Cairns, marking the trail
Some hikers beginning the trek back down

The train ahead of us, just cresting the top

At the summit

Shots from the summit--just beautiful!

Ski area off in the distance
The cog way between the rails
Just loved these rays reaching down to earth!

 A glider, as it was released by the tow plane, above the summit

Good view of the rocky trail, as we started back down

 The trail runs along this ridge line

 Some hikers on the trail

 Looking back up the track, as we descended

 this rock resembles the Old Man of the Mountain, the profile that's New Hampshire's state symbol--they put up this white painted board behind it to outline the profile

 Water tank for the steam engine, about half way up
 The steam engine


  1. Replies
    1. Yes indeed--and some of the days we've been in New Hampshire have been really spectacular!