Monday, October 25, 2010

Hiking, The Cheater's Way

Continuing on the theme of "What We Did This Summer," I thought I would post some photos from our trip to Mt. Washington and the famous Cog Railroad.  This was a trip I planned with the utmost excitement.  I should confess that this was not my first journey to the Northeast's highest mountain.  You see, my parents are great nature lovers and nothing pleases them more than hiking up a tall mountain and breathing in the fresh air at the top.  This is interesting, because I am not a fan of fresh air, nor of mountains, nor of hiking up mountains to breathe fresh air.  However, I was a teenager and where my parents went, I went. 

On that first fateful trip to Mt. Washington, my sisters and I got separated from our parents and then got lost on the mountain with three strangers from Boston.  Oh!  Did I forget to mention that it was snowing?  In August?  And that all we had were thin wool sweaters and our own body heat to protect us from the deadly elements?  And did I forget to mention that my sisters and I don't have any body heat?  And did I forget to mention that said strangers from Boston were the real-deal with genuine Boston accents?  Are you getting the picture?  I, a self-described teenaged, couch potato and future chocoholic, was lost, on a mountain known for its harsh conditions, in a snowstorm with nothing but a thin, wool layer, two Raynauds-suffering sisters and three strange Bostonians to protect me!  In other words, I was probably going to die and the last thing I was going to hear was some stranger calling me "Mah-tha."  You can imagine my distress. 

After forming a human chain, we stumbled over rocky terrain that we couldn't see, and through the blowing snow.  We had just passed a sign that warned us of the danger of Mt. Washington snowstorms, when one of us had the good fortune to bump into the building at Mt. Washington's Summit and we were saved.  Our parents had made it to the top already and showed not even the least bit of concern at our late arrival.  And you could tell they didn't believe in the existence of any such dire warning sign.  Because of the snow, they did however allow us to walk down the mountain on the paved road.  Yes, you did read correctly, on the OTHER SIDE of the mountain is a paved road.  Perhaps you've seen a bumper sticker on a car at some point in your life that read "This car survived a trip up Mt. Washington."  Well car, so did I. 

It was at the bottom of that smooth, paved road that I discovered the existence of the Mt. Washington Cog Railroad, a fabulous, old-fashioned, steam train that takes a hiking-hating tourist like me up the mountain to admire the views.  It's steep, rickety and a little scary and I loved it on the spot.  I instantly wanted to take that cog train up to the top of the mountain.  And perhaps it was at that exact moment when it became a little harder to bribe me to hike simply by putting M&Ms in a baggy of trail mix and dangling it in front of my nose. 

I have always remembered the cog train, but I also remembered its steep, rickety and scary qualities which I knew were inappropriate for young children.  So I waited patiently, until this summer, when we decided the time was right to check the railroad out.  There is a lot to do in the Mt. Washington area.  The first day, we tried out the local alpine slides (which were amazing) and some water slides as well (they were a little cold.  New Hampshire is part of New England, afterall, and while they may live free or die, they are not going to heat pools in the summer). 

Here is a picture of Henry and Georgia leaving one of the water slide pools and wishing they had warm clothes to put on.

Gordy tried the water slides, too, because he is brave like that.

I am not.  I didn't even bother to wear my bathing suit.

After a night in a very pleasant, ski-resort hotel, we got up early for our cog railroad adventure.

Here are our children posing in front of the engine that is going to take us up the mountain.

We boarded our train and got a short history about the train from the conductor.  It was very interesting.

We all waited patiently for the trip to begin.

Okay, perhaps not all of us were feeling patient that day.  Some of us wanted the train to hurry up and start already.

We allowed Josie to use our camera for awhile to amuse herself.

The conductor announced that the train was about to start and I grabbed the camera back from Josie.  If you look closely, you can see the steepness of the mountain tracks in front of the train.

Josie didn't care about losing the camera, because at this point, we were moving very nimbly up the mountain.  The train has to be at such an angle that at times the front end of the train is 15 feet above the back end.  I learned the hard way that this means that if you drop your camera lens cap, it will be 15 feet behind you almost immediately.  This was a lesson that many people on the train learned quickly:  water bottles, sunglasses, and purses all went flying to the back of the train in the first five minutes of the ride. 

The conductor had encouraged everyone to get out of their seat and move to the front of the train (one at a time) to see the view.  Here is a picture of Henry following instructions.  The view was amazing.  Once the train moves above the tree line, the vistas are unbelievably gorgeous.  It was a perfectly clear day and we could see for miles.  The only slightly worrisome part was when we crossed over a few hundred yards of trestle that looked pretty old.  Some of us chose not to look down, but I practically leaned out the window to get a good perspective.  After all, this mountain was a bully who failed to kill me once before and I was not afraid of it. 

Once you hit the top, the train lets you off for an hour to admire the view and laugh at all the sweaty, tired hikers. 

It was very, very cold up on the top of the mountain but we came prepared with warm layers.  All of us except Henry, of course.  Henry chose shorts that morning and stubbornly refused to change them even after I told him about the snowstorm of '85.  That is what 10 year olds do. 

After twenty minutes of listening to him complain about the cold, we attempted to find shelter from the wind.  This was the best we could do. 

The trip back down on the train was just as much fun (and much warmer).  It was pleasing to discover that even a lazy-bum like myself can enjoy the great outdoors!  Here is what I learned:  Mt. Washington is quite pretty when it is not snowing, ten year olds should wear pants when they are told to and a baggy of M&M's tastes just as wonderful on a cog train.  It was a fabulous weekend. 


Elizabeth said...

I like the picture of Henry and Georgia -- even more blue than usual -- shivering in their wet bathing-suits as they brave the NH air. Hee hee.

Martha said...

Yes! It was painfully cold. And we were there for a long time!

Aaron said...

I love your blog, Martha. Except for one thing: It makes Gordy seem a lot cooler than he really is. Perhaps an entire post dedicated to something ridiculous that Gordy has done. Please let me know if you need some suggestions.

Martha said...

A - Thank you! I'm sure there will be suffient amounts of gordy-mocking in the months to come. Keep checking back.

Mom said...

I know it's poetic license, but you also had a bright red windbreaker with hood, bought for the adventure, which I am still wearing for gardening. And we were worried sick. I try not to think of it even now for fear of nightmares.

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