Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Scary and Exhilarating Drive

Hi Folks! Today I am going to share with you an adventure we did on vacation... Mt. Washington Auto Road. If I were to sum up our drive up Mt. Washington in one sentence, it would be this: "8 miles of nail biting driving with breathtaking views".

It is way more than just the “This Car Climbed Mount Washington” bumper sticker. It’s about a new experience at every turn. Even if you’ve already driven the Auto Road, you won’t have the same drive twice. Weather, foliage, views…they’re always changing.

Due to its remarkable location, weather, and history, the Mt Washington Auto Road is unlike any other driving experience in the Eastern United States. Constantly-changing weather adds to the allure and mystique of the famous peak, often allowing visitors to experience high winds and dramatic cloud formations. With an average grade of 12%, one mile of gravel road (usually hard packed) at mid mountain, and tree-line at only 4,000 feet, this is one of the most spectacular drives you can partake in. If you are a first time visitor who is not comfortable with heights, narrow mountain roads without guardrails, you may enjoy a comfortable guided tour rather than driving your own vehicle.


Our good friend and her son joined us for the weekend. So we all decided to be brave and conquer the auto road. The day we drove the auto road the weather was sunny with a few clouds and a temperature of 56º. By the time we made it to the top we were in the clouds with a wind chill temperature of 11º.

As we started the climb up the mountain the sky was bright and sunny. The tree lined road was full of beautiful color. 

As we made our way up our ears started to pop and each mile we climbed was marked with a post. We all cheered as we hit each mile. Then the trees started to become more scarce. 

We pulled over at about 3 miles up to take pictures. The wind was strong here and at times almost pushed us around. You can see I am bracing myself against my Hubby.

As we climbed up further, we noticed the sheer drop off on the side of the road. The only thing between the road and falling off was a boulder. The road is a 2-way road, that just about fits 2 cars passing. At times we had to stop to let cars pass, some areas were too tight to fit 2 cars. It was hard to look down and I found myself starting to lean towards my Hubby (sorry no pictures, was too scared). Our friend has her eyes closed at time, she is afraid of heights.

Then we noticed the weather start to change, clouds starting rolling in. Then before we new it we were driving in the clouds/fog. It was so dense that we could barely see 5 feet in front of our car. The picture below was just at the start, once we were in the thick of it I was too tense to take any pictures. (seems to be a theme going here... scared = no pictures!)

Now I have to say this helped with the fear of heights since you could not see any of the drop offs along the side of the car, but now you couldn't see in front of you. My Hubby, tho, was relentless, driving up that mountain, nerves of steel. We finally made it to the top with a sigh of relief. We parked and got out of the car. WOW, was it cold. The fog around us caused frost on our jackets.

To get to the peak, we had to walk up a staircase. Here is our friend and her son climbing what is named the "staircase to heaven".

At the top, there was an old bunk house that we toured. 

There is also a cafe where we relaxed and had lunch, soup in a bread bowl, just what the doctor ordered. The vistas in the cafe was unbelievable, a wall of glass. While we were there the clouds started to clear, at times, offering spectacular views. The way the clouds moved over the building was amazing, like waves on the ocean.

The trek down was less scary, as we knew what to expect. The clouds had cleared and we were able to enjoy the ride down. My Hubby truly earned his bumper sticker.

What a great experience, one I will soon not forget.

Here are some Facts and History about the Auto Road:
  • The Tip Top House, still standing, was erected in 1853, and in that year, the New Hampshire State Legislature granted Gen. David O. Macomber of Middletown, Conn., the charter for the Mount Washington Road Company. The grand plan envisioned horse-drawn omnibuses on the Road, a massive hotel and observatory. Not all that came about, but work on the road began in the summer of 1854.
  • The nearest source of supplies was eight miles away, and all transportation was by horse, oxen or on the backs of men. Dynamite was unknown. Black powder was the explosive, and blasting holes were all drilled by hand. There was no machinery to handle the countless tons of rock and gravel that had to be moved. Even in Mount Washington’s bad weather, laborers worked 10-12 hours a day and lived in primitive shanties or tents.
  • Work progressed until the fall of 1856, when the halfway point was reached. Then money ran out, and the effort was halted. But, a new company, the present Mount Washington Summit Road Company, was formed in 1859. The next year, work resumed, and the first tolls were collected for passage to the Halfway House.
  • The gala opening of the Road to the summit took place on August 8, 1861, with many local dignitaries arriving at the summit in a Concord Coach. But, the honor of driving the first horse-drawn vehicle to the summit went to Col. Joseph Thompson, then proprietor of the Glen House. 
  • After the Road was opened to the public, its business doubled every year until 1869. 
  • The very first motorized ascent was by Freelan O. Stanley, of Stanley Steamer fame, in 1899. There were more steam-powered ascents during the next three years, and then in 1902, the first two gasoline-powered cars reached the summit.
  • In recent years, more than 45,000 vehicles have driven the Auto Road each year.

      For more info on the Mt. Washington Auto Road, visit here.

If you get a chance to drive the auto road, it really is worth the experience

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