So the old Honda made it up (and down) Mt. Washington. Don’t think we’ll put the giant bumper sticker on the green machine, but it had to earn it. The 7-mile-plus road averages a 12 percent grade with spots over 20 percent. As I said earlier, I can’t imagine racing a bike up it, but they do.
We had a gorgeous day for the drive, but the summit was still shrouded in cloud when we arrived and, at 52 degrees, it was 20 degress cooler than the valley. Even though we took the easy way up, plenty of people at the summit had hiked. Ellie said she wanted to hike it next time, which would be pretty cool. It can take much of the day to get there, but they do offer shuttles down if you don’t want to do the descent.
As we spent some time on the summit, exploring the restored TipTop House (the old summit lodge) and enjoying the views, the clouds started to boil off.
As it cleared, we got to see some of Mt. Washington’s wacky weather. Behind the girls, clouds spurt skyward after running into the wall of a ravine.
They advise you stop a few times on the way down to cool your brakes. We stopped and hiked out at one point. Coming back we spotted this thick vein of quartz in the granite.
All in all I’d recommend the toll road to the summit for anyone with good brakes. It’s a little daunting because it’s so narrow in some points, but the payoff is awe inspiring.
During our vacation we took a day to drive into the White Mountains and see the sights. Jackson, NH, has to be one of the quaintest mountain resort towns in the East. Just up the hill out of town is this waterfall, which was fun and easy to rock hop around. The girls wanted to go swimming in the cold mountain pools. Maybe next time.
Despite wise comments to the contrary, throwing Millie and Audrey didn’t hurt my back. Being in the water actually felt great. It seemed to loosen up even. The injury pre-dated the trip and there were days it didn’t bother me much. The 15-hour, stressful drive home, however, slammed it. I’d rather dwell on the fun we had at Dad and Sal’s.
Here’s another vid with a pan of the lake and the camp.
Before we left for New Hampshire, Ellie told me she wanted to bring her bike to learn how to mountain bike. Between my back and many other distractions, we didn’t get out until the last day. About 1.5 miles from my Dad’s place is a short, but fairly technical little trail that cuts through from the road to the back of the local high school. It climbs quickly away from the road crossing loose scree, roots and larger rocks jutting up through the soil. I wasn’t sure how she would handle it. I remember being nervous descending it a few years ago right after I took up mountain biking.
Ellie immediately dismounted and walked the bike through the first intimidating little section off the road. I rode my cross bike up to a more level, smoother point and stopped as she came up to me. I had her shift to her lowest gear and explained how to start and spin up the climb. She tried three times and couldn’t get rolling. I said try one more time and walk up if you can’t. And she nailed it. Not only did she nail it, but she spun about 100 meters, climbing up the trail until it got to a steep little rock face that intimidated her too much. She walked the bike around that and climbed the rest of the way. I was so dang proud and she was beaming.
We rode around the high school and went back into the trail. Now it was time to try descending. We stopped and I talked to her about keeping her weight back and riding the brakes if necessary. I also told her to follow my line. I was a little afraid she’d lose control and crash, but she did great. We weren’t bombing the trail by any means, but she descended a fairly technical trail, stopping only a couple of times.
I wish we’d had more time to work on it. She seemed real happy to have done so well.
The three-stage race includes a two-mile hill climb prologue called The Toughest Two (up the first two and steepest miles of the Mount Washington Auto Road), a crit through hilly Story Land and a traditional cross race at the trails center at the foot of Mount Washington the next day.
I can’t imagine trying to ride a bike up the 7.4-mile auto road; it’s that steep. The grade averages 12 percent with long pitches of 18 percent and other as high as 22 percent. We drove it while we were there. (Yes, my Honda minivan climbed Mt. Washington.) The Mount Washington Bicycle Hill Climb is today. I wonder if Tyler Hamilton is there again hunting to get his record back from Tom Danielson.
Porky Gulch is the local nickname for Pinkham Notch, through which NH Route 16 passes at the foot of Mount Washington. On Tuesday, the family and I went to Story Land in Glen, NH. I left two hours before they did and climbed 12.5 miles to the national forest visitor center at the notch’s peak, suffering an hour for great views of Tuckerman Ravine and New England’s highest summit on a clear day. After climbing for an hour, I bombed the descent hitting 45 mph at one point on the Giant cross bike with slicks, arriving back at the car in a half hour. Instead of waiting for them I rode back toward my Dad’s on the main road and got another 25 rolling miles in before the family caught me in the car.