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).
Gordy tried the water slides, too, because he is brave like that.
After a night in a very pleasant, ski-resort hotel, we got up early for our cog railroad adventure.
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.
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.
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.