New Hampshire Vacation

New Hampshire Vacation

The last week of February was a full week in Bartlett, New Hampshire, at the Attitash resort.  Neither of us enjoy skiing at Attitash, but our timeshare transfers there and puts us close to Bretton Woods, Great Glen Trails, Mt Washington, and the cute little town of North Conway.  On the way up on Saturday, we stopped off at a little Meadery, the Saphouse Meadery.  Chatted with the brewer for a while, sampled all the meads, and bought a few too – they were REALLY amazing, and reasonably priced.  My favorite by far was the Hopped Blueberry mead – there was something about the subtle bitterness of the hops that combined with the sweet of the honey and blueberry that REALLY worked for me.  We left, our heads swimming with all kinds of new ideas for brewing more of our own mead.

Sunday we spent some time in North Conway and relaxed at the resort.  That’s what vacation is for, right?  We also geared up for our trip to the summit of Mt Washington, gathering some extra base layers and clothing that aren’t really available in our warmer suburban Philadelphia area.

Monday we got up early and headed to the meet up point at the base of the Mt Washington auto road.  Our guide collected all of us who had signed up for this special trip up the mountain.  The observatory and auto road are closed during the winter, and the only ways up are on foot (if you’ve got the experience and gear to do so) or by these special winter day trips with the Mt Washington Observatory.  There were 13 total people in the Snow Cat that took us to the summit – a driver, a driver’s apprentice, our guide, and 11 guests.  Think of the Snow Cat as what could be the baby of a snow plow and a tank – it had treads somewhat like a tank and a hugenormous plow on the front, with a cab in the back for the guests.  Not a bad piece of equipment!  The Snow Cat reaches a max speed of 8 miles per hour, so the trip up took 2 hours, and another 2 hours back down.  We did make a few stops along the way to swap out people sitting in the front cab with the driver/operator and to take a look around, watching the scenery change from sunny and mild to windy and grey.

Starting the journey at the very bottom. The skies are cloudy, but the sun is still peeking through. DSC_5362
About two-thirds (4,000 ft) of the way up. The vegetation is all short and scrubby from the high winds and cold. DSC_5376
The Snow Cat overlooking the summit. Weather was changing the whole way up, and by the time we arrived, we were in the clouds. DSC_5383

At the summit, we deposited our gear in the area that’s open to the public in the summer as a cafeteria. The observatory uses volunteers that swap out once a week to help with the day-to-day chores around the observatory – cleaning, cooking meals, etc. The volunteer had prepared a wonderful lunch for us, and we had some time to sit and chat with her for a while. After that, we geared back up and went for a walk around the summit. Winds were gusting around 80mph and the temperature was reading at -9 with the wind chill factor. Really, not terrible weather when you think about how bad it can get up there. I don’t think I’ve ever been subject to an 80mph wind gust before then, so that was quite the experience!  We even went an additional height above the summit into the observation tower.  Husband took a short video of a small group of us at the top of the tower.  Even shielded somewhat by a part of the tower, you can still see our jackets rippling in the wind.  Rime ice covers pretty much everything up there and forms due to a combination of high wind and cold temperatures that cause any moisture in the air to freeze to any surface.  Periodically, the observers have to come out and hack away at the ice to remove it from their weather monitoring equipment using ‘specialized’ tools (ie. crowbars, metal rods, poles, anything heavy and blunt).  We came back in from the tower, took our gear back off, and had some time to chat with the observers (three, plus one intern) who also rotate out on a weekly basis.

Doug (left) and me (right) at the Mt Washington summit, next to the famous sign, covered in Rime ice DSC_5392
Summit of Mt Washington, showing the summit marker sign and observatory tower DSC_5395

Our Snow Cat operator gave the signal – weather at the summit was deteriorating (or getting more interesting?), and it was time to go if we wanted to reach the bottom before dusk. We geared back up and climbed in the Snow Cat for our trip down. We made a few stops in order to swap out the person in the front cab, and made it to the bottom before dusk. It was really an incredible trip and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire day. You wouldn’t think that a short walk outside in that weather would affect a person as much as it did, but a lot of the other guests took short naps on the way down. The combination of the pressure difference and physical exertion just to keep standing in the wind was enough to tire anyone out.

For the rest of the vacation, husband took a day skiing while I did some knitting in the lodge, and we took two nice snowshoeing adventures. On our way back home, we made two stops in Lee, New Hampshire. First stop was at the Flag Hill winery.  We sampled some wines and ended up buying a few bottles.  The other stop was at a little farm, Riverslea Farm, just down the road that has wool and yarn and even sheep and goat meat.  Needless to say, I consider the combination of these two things, wine and wool, to be the absolute best place on earth.  We had a good long chat with the owner of the farm and came home with wool and some goat meat.

There are a few more photos on flickr here, in case you’re interested!

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