Out of all the items on the list, this was the one I was least prepared for*. For whatever reason, I assumed driving up to the top of Mt. Washington would be a breeze. A quick up one side and a quick down the other side. I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life about anything. (Except that time Josh and I debated who played Tom Hanks’ wife in “Apollo 13.” It’s not Joan Allen and I’ll never forget the name Kathleen Quinlan for as long as I live.)
If my memory serves me correct, this is the only item on the list that was suggested by another person. My cousin Greg had always wanted to drive to the top of Mt. Washington. Well, so did I (after he suggested it). If you’re from the Northeast you’ve most definitely seen them, but they are less rare to those of you outside of New England. Of course I’m talking about the “This Car Climbed Mount Washington” bumper sticker.
The ride up was about four hours long, but Greg and I laughed pretty much the entire way so it didn’t feel like four hours at all. Same goes for the way back. It was awesome to spend time with him. If a topic exists in the world, we covered it.
When we reached our destination, I expected the base of the mountain to have tram like tracks, similar to those at a car wash, that you drove your car on to and would just take you up the mountain and back down. This is not the case.
Included in the fee for the drive is the coveted “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” sticker, an audio tour CD, and a few pamphlets on what goes on at the top.
“Does anyone just come for the bumper sticker and leave?” Greg asked our affable Park Ranger.
Marcia’s (I can’t remember her real name) eyes narrowed in confusion. “That’s a pretty expensive bumper sticker.” Once again, my theory that Park Rangers at Mt. Washington have no sense of humor has been proven.
I thought the set of instructions that came with our Mt. Washington goodie bag were unnecessary. Pump your breaks, don’t exceed 20 miles an hour, be safe, blah blah blah. It’s driving up a mountain, how difficult can it be? Answer: Thank goodness Greg was driving. I was terrified. It’s worth pointing out at this point that Mt. Washington is the highest point in the Northeast. There. Now you’re terrified too.
The first two miles are gorgeous. There are a few pull off areas to admire the beautiful flowers and trees. A tiny waterfall here, a tiny waterfall there. And then suddenly, you’re in the clouds teetering on the edge OF A MOUNTAIN. Obviously, I’ve never been on a mountain before. I found myself sitting angled towards the driver’s side, away from possible death and staring out the front window. I thought if my eyes even looked over the edge, we would go over drifting off of Mt. Washington like the opening credits to Mad Men. I started to feel a little sick to my stomach.
My anxiety kicked in further when the road became dirt and narrowed even more. They say it’s a two lane road, but I’m not buying it. Unfortunately, we were forced to test this theory, but we did make it out alive. (Even writing this now my stomach is turning.)
As you get closer to the top, the curves get tighter and less forgiving. It was an overcast day, so the fog thickened as we made our ascent. Of course there are other ways up Mt. Washington. You can take their train, hike, or bike. Those are way less fun though.
Once at the top, we delved into the sandwiches we bought at a deli a few miles back. Greg’s bag of Sun Chips was about to burst due to the atmospheric pressure. We both felt fairly tummy sick so we took our time adjusting and eating before venturing out to explore the top of Mt. Washington!
The weather on top of Mt. Washington can be some of the harshest in the world, as well as the most predictable. There was about a 20 degree temperature difference between land and mountain.Greg had reminded me earlier in the day to bring a sweatshirt, which is something I almost never do, but I was glad I did, because it was windy, chilly, and overcast. Perfect weather to rock a Bake and Destroy sweatshirt. However, not a perfect day to sunbathe, which for some reason, tons of dudes had chosen to do.
For having seen barely any cars on our way up, I would refer to the top of the mountain as bustling. Most of these cheaters took the train up instead of driving up like total bad asses. Aside from the amazing views at the top, Mt. Washington is host to two gift shops, a small museum, a cafe, and an old timey meeting house restaurant place with tiny wooden beds covered in straw. I didn’t take the time to read exactly what it was, but if it was the only structure that existed back in olden times, it was most likely all of those things rolled into one. (It just dawned on me that the people that work up there need to drive that mountain every day. Holy cats.)
Now, the entire point of driving to the top is to take in some of the beautiful views. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The trip was awesome. It had everything that you would expect in a good movie. Comedy, terror, colorful characters, nature, and sandwiches. We capped off the day by stopping at Newick’s Seafood Restaurant in Dover, New Hampshire – a delicious suggestion. We hit a small amount of traffic on the way back and Greg opted to take back roads. For about fifteen minutes it rained harder than I’d ever seen it before, but the results yielded a magnificent rainbow that we could see the beginning and end of. A first for both of us!
Truly a day of adventure!
*until the next one