On The Road Again: UFOs, An Old Man And Graders
My husband and I decided it was past time to get on the road, therefore we left home on fairly short notice and have traveled through the Finger Lakes area, looked at a few locks and have happily wandered around Vermont and New Hampshire. All of this was done without a plan, other than to go east.
We have left our hotel room of the last two days in Lincoln, New Hampshire. The weather was too rainy and cloudy to do much outside, so we postponed yesterday’s plans for today.
As we were heading out of town, we came upon an historic marker that told an interesting story. It was titled Betty and Barney Hill Incident and told about a couple from Portsmouth, NH who were abducted by an unidentified flying object on September 19 and 20, 1961. It was the first UFO abduction that had been reported in the United States.
Our first stop was to The Old Man of the Mountain Profiler Plaza. The Old Man was a beloved icon of New Hampshire. The rugged stone face on the side of Cannon Mountain brought countless visitors every year. The likeness can be found on state highway signs, on souvenirs and on the New Hampshire state quarter. It is the state’s trademark. The profile was formed thousands of years ago by glacial movement and was discovered in 1805. Dozens of men and women have dedicated their time to its maintenance and preservation, beginning in 1916, in an effort to anchor the Old Man to the mountain.
In 2003, the granite of the 40-foot profile crumbled after being subjected to winds, rain and snow for thousands of years. It was determined that infiltration of moisture in the area of the Old Man’s chin caused the collapse. Geologists believe a small seismic tremor earlier in the year may have contributed to this.
The Old Man of the Mountain Profiler Plaza was created to honor the memory. It was funded by contributions of hundreds of donors. The dedication took place on June 12, 2011. The plaza includes seven steel rods or profilers which make it possible for visitors to see the likeness of the Old Man. Visitors stand on pink granite markers engraved with the number closest to their height. They then close one eye and align the bumps on the rod, allowing the familiar profile to be viewed.
Even though many attractions had signs stating tickets needed to be purchased online in advance, we being last minute decision-makers, found we were not turned away from anything but dinner one evening at Applebee’s. Mom and pop restaurants are our preference, but it was a Monday and most were closed. The tramway to the summit of Cannon Mountain had plenty of room for walk-up customers. After we purchased our ticket, we pressed a souvenir penny for our collection and looked at the exhibits in a small museum near the ticket booth, while we waited for our cable car. It took less than 10 minutes to climb 4,080 feet. When we got to the top, we did a short hike of 1,500 feet to the summit observation tower. After enjoying the view from the top of the tower, we took a shorter 500-foot trail back to the tram station, and then returned to the base of the mountain.
Fred missed the turn for Cog Railway and by the time we realized, we decided it was too late in the day to go back. We came upon a visitor’s center that promoted the area. The attendant was very congenial and gave us ideas of what there was to see. A side room had framed pictures of Littleton, New Hampshire on the wall. Included was a picture of the official Pollyanna Day celebration in 2013 commemorating 100 years since Littleton author Eleanor H. Porter’s book Pollyanna was released. Not only were the pictures appealing, but the words the man spoke made us want to spend the night there.
The town’s main street looked like a typical New England town with white church steeples towering above the roofs of the other buildings. We stopped at a cute motor court with a row of attached cottages. The sign said it was the oldest motel in New Hampshire, established in 1948. The bathroom door had an antique door handle, with a latch you lifted with your thumb on the outside and on the inside a handle with a place on top to press down with your thumb. The old-style hinges attached to the door and casing by rectangular pieces of metal.
After settling in, we drove to a church that had Sunday evening services posted on their sign. There were no cars in sight and the doors were locked. We chose the Littleton Diner, with its interesting history, to have our evening meal. The dining car arrived by rail in 1930 and was set on its foundation. It seated 25 and was a success from the beginning. In 1940, the owners sold the parlor car and purchased a new diner which could handle 30 customers and erected it on the original location. The kitchen was moved from the dining room and an addition with seating for 50 was added. The Littleton Diner was featured in the September 1991 issue of Yankee Magazine and later in Food Network Magazine.
After eating dinner, we drove through a back alleyway that ran behind one side of the business district and bordered a river. It was in this area that we found metal tubes of various widths and lengths and drums for use by passersby to make music. We found many beautiful, well-maintained buildings on the main street. As we wound through the back streets, we came upon the high school that had proudly displayed two gigantic American flags, one at each end of the front of the building.
We packed up in the morning and headed to the Cog Railway to determine if this would be a good day to take it up Mount Washington since it was very cloudy. The young woman at the ticket desk told us there were only 60 clear days each year and the trip wasn’t about the weather, but the experience. We remembered being told when we were in Alaska that we were fortunate to be able to see Mount McKinley, because only thirty percent of the visitors do. We decided we would wait until the next day to ride the Cog Railroad and maybe we would have a similar experience.
While we were standing on a platform near where the passengers board, we had a conversation with a couple who were in a quandary as to whether they should hike to the top the next day. Wayne, a worker for the railroad answered their questions and made some recommendations for hotels for us. We took his advice and drove to The Evergreen Motel in Jefferson. Wayne was right! The owner of the little motel took pride in her cheerful and immaculate rooms. It had a pool, a miniature golf course and a very large DVD lending library.
Later in the day, we took a road trip to find where we would eat and to see the area. We couldn’t help notice the number of white birch trees growing near Shelburne, NH. The thin white bark stood out in contrast against the brown and gray of the other varieties. We later read that New Hampshire chose the tree as the official state tree in 1947.
We were thrilled when we woke up to beautiful weather the next morning, the day we planned for our ride up Mount Washington. As we traveled toward our destination, we were surprised when our GPS indicated we should turn onto a sideroad. I had set my phone’s GPS and the two did not coincide. Fred decided to take the road less traveled, but he had no idea how much less until it narrowed and we started running out of pavement. As is the case in most of New England, if you aren’t in the cities, you are surrounded by trees. Later, we learned, we had entered the National Forest. We soon came to a sign that said “Grading Ahead.” The dirt under our wheels became very loose and occasionally we heard rocks hit the underside of the Town and Country. We soon caught up with a pick-up truck belonging to the Forestry Service that was pulling a double set of rakes. There was no room to go around him nor any place to turn around. The only thing we could do was laugh. After following the truck for ten minutes at a speed of 5mph, we came to an area that was a few feet wider. The driver stopped the truck and Fred drove around it.
As we were finally able to pick up a little speed and had traveled about a half-mile, we came upon a very big John Deere grader that was coming toward us. Its blade took up the entire width of the narrow dirt lane. Fortunately, my husband remembered a little pull-off about 50 yards back, because one of us had to back up and we doubted it would be the grader. Soon after we were able to continue on our way, we saw a square log cabin near the edge of the road. Of course, we had to explore. The Cog could wait!
It turns out it was one of the oldest structures built by the Forest Service in New Hampshire. It was built in 1923 as an efficiently located work and living center. The forest guards were able to manage and restore the newly acquired National Forest lands from there.
As we neared the end of the secluded road, the tire pressure light came on in the mini-van.
To be continued.