After the loss of our beloved dogs, Jaya and Grover, Mr. Hallock and I decided to get out of the house. We wanted to take a trip that we could never have done while taking care of two geriatric dogs. So what is there to see in New Hampshire? How about the highest peak in the northeastern US, Mount Washington!
Now, Mr. H and I are not big hikers. Back in the day, maybe. Now? Up a mountain? No. I won’t even drive up the harrowing Auto Road. (There are no guard rails.) Nope, the Cog Railway is my style. It’s historic, too, built in 1868. This is the way that tourists have visited Mount Washington since the days of President Ulysses S. Grant. They still run two original steam locomotives—one from 1895 and one from 1908—up and down the mountain each day. (The rest are bio-diesel, which the environment appreciates.)
How does it work, you ask? The key is the cog in the middle of the track. The outer two rails do nothing but balance the load, but the train actually clicks up the mountain with a large spoked wheel. The sprockets fit in between the links of the metal chain bolted to the tracks. Smart, isn’t it? It is one of only two mountain-climbing cog railways still in existence.
People travel all over the world to visit Mount Washington and ride the cog railway. Yeah, I did not believe that, either, but the push pin map does not lie! The owners of the railway invite guests to place a pin on the map to represent their home—and they start over with an empty map every year. So all the pins you see? New this year. Check out the representation from the Philippines! Impressive.
I should not have been that surprised. Even on the platform, I saw a Philippines flag, so they know where their fans are from.
In case you’re wondering how the workers in the 1860s descended the mountain, check out the cog slide on the right—it’s like an old-fashioned luge. Mr. H and I did not get to slide down the mountain at 60 mph—they’ve changed the mechanism to prevent such adventurism. And, honestly, I was relieved. Am I getting old?
Once we got to the top, we hoped to have a nice venue for eclipse viewing. The Weather Warrior from NBC Boston had the same idea. All of us were out of luck, though. Even though it was the middle of August, it was foggy and 48°F at the peak.
Inside the Tip Top House, it was clear and…still the nineteenth century. If a person did climb Mount Washington back in the day, this was the only place to stay. And, trust me, it could not have been that comfortable. The record low at Mount Washington is -50°F, and it is the home of the world record surface wind speed—231 miles per hour! I would have stayed home, thank you very much.
People climb Mount Washington for this extreme weather, especially if they are preparing a trek to the Himalayas. Though the altitude is not world-breaking, this peak is considered the best place to test your clothing and gear for the elements. I was happy to get up there through less blizzard-defying means. And I had the best of company.