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Archive for October 11th, 2010

Photo by Ernie Mills Photography

I’ve loved every minute of my road trip with Ernie.  He’s shown me the White Mountains as I’ve never seen them.  Ernie spent three years driving stages on the road to the summit of Mount Washington, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi.  More importantly it has the most extreme weather on earth.  Not only have I been traveling with a professional photographer who is constantly shooting me at work in the field I now have my own private guide to Mt. Washington.

We arrived at the lodge and spent a good deal of time talking with the folks that Ernie knew.  We sat with his former boss, Howie and caught up with friends and co-workers.  Spending time with the man in charge really gave me a unique perspective to this amazing road.

Over eight miles the road rises 400 feet.  Before you stop to think through the geometry, just know that the road is damned steep.  Ernie is one of the safest drivers that I’ve ridden with and I’m not afraid to admit that the drive was a bit scary.   Drops of several hundred feet are common.

I studied Mt. Washington weather in college.  I understand alpine weather.  I have been following Mt. Washington weather for the last month (Ask my wife, she’s heard re-caps of all of these reports.).  I wore several layers, including a wool vest and a thinsulate jacket.  I had my Stormy Kromer and gloves.  I was truly, absolutely, 100% shocked and unprepared for what his me when I opened the van door. (More accurately…when it was torn from my hands.)

Before I go on I need to share that we never reached the summit.  It was too windy and the road was iced up.  We stopped only half way up.

Today I experienced bright sunshine, 25 degrees temperatures and 75 mph winds!  Clouds wrapped around the summit, rolled down the mountain and passed over and around us at the speed of an express train.  Visibilityy dropped from miles and miles to zero and  leaped back to miles and miles in mere seconds.    At one point my Stormy Kromer was ripped from my head (It was fastened with its patented ear flap technology).  The only thing that saved it was a small alpine spruce.

I have a new appreciation for the folks that built this highway (before the civil war), the crews that built the buildings on the summit, the thousands of tourists who made the trip with horse and buggy or open car and especially the hikers and climbers who climb these summits without the benefit of roads or cars.

After our trip to Mt. Washington we visited Hastings National Forest Campground just across the border in Maine.  We spent a good deal of time photographing boulders fields in the Wild River.  The water raced around dramatic boulders, was ice cold and crystal clear.  In fact several of the photos I took underwater (My camera is cool like that).  If I hadn’t shot the photos I would not know which were taken from beneath the water or above the surface.

After our time there we made a dash for Pemaquid, ME.  I spent over 20 summers in Maine and Pemaquid is where my soul is at its best.  Tonight we’re hunkered down in a century old Victorian Inn just a few hundred yards from the ends of the earth at Pemaquid Point ready for sunrise in the morning.

I got my crabmeat roll, too!

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It’s Columbus Day Weekend.  It’s a big weekend in New England (Much like labor day is in Indiana).  Folks make a made dash to their favorite vacation haunts before winter settles in.  On Saturday, Sunday and Monday New England operates like high tourist season. On Monday night everyone is gone and many, many shops, restaurants and hotels shut down until June.

I love to travel New England this week.  After an exciting start you have everything to yourselves.

I’ll let the pictures tell much of the story about today.  We drove.  We stopped and shot photos.  We drove.  We stopped and shot photos, etc.  We saw some great stuff, had a few laughs and drove some more.

We crossed Lake Champlain on the last boat.  We had no idea when the last boat crossed and we arrived about 20 mins before it left.  We arrived in Burlington, VT after dark.  Rather than stop and eat there we pushed on and on and on.  It was Sunday night — late — and we could find no place to eat.  It might make a great story to go on and on about the panic that sets in with no hope of food or a hotel room — but you’ve been there, right?

We found a great pizza place in closed-up-and-dark-as-night St. Johnsbury, VT.  We enjoyed an inexpensive and quick meal.  The gal working there really couldn’t help much with lodging.  We decide to sleep in the van and left to find a spot.  A few miles later we spotted the quaint Alpine Valley Motel.  It wasn’t much to look at, but had a history and a vacancy and no WiFi.

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