Still inspired by the sights of Vermont, we expected to see no less in New Hampshire. And nature-wise, this turned out to be largely so. Yet the urban side of the state was greatly inferior to its western neighbor. Based on the prior research, our itinerary for New Hampshire included primarily parks and mountains; so we did not feel like we were missing out on something too important by not visiting a lot of cities. The only upsetting thing was that we had to cancel out Mount Major due to the lack of time; but from our previous experience we could probably predict that something like that would happen.
Because we were coming from the west, we immediately entered the White Mountain National Forest—area comprising a decent spot above Lake Winnipesaukee in the center of the state. Stopping and hiking at least one of the dozens of trails in the midst of river-pierced primitive woods of Hampshire was unavoidable. The picturesque Flume Gorge, sitting at the base of Mount Liberty, nearby the town of Franconia, seemed like a perfect candidate.
The formation of this massive gorge took an uncountable number of years, over which the erosion and constant pressure of water streams pouring down the cracks in the granite walls further indented the bottom and turned the structure into a narrow deep valley.
Easily number one destination of our New England journey, Mount Washington is also among the most popular U.S. tourist magnets. Known to have the worst and most variable weather in the world, as indicated by the highest wind speeds and snowfall levels recorded there, Mount Washington proved the point for us even in its calmest season.
Arriving at the foot of the mountain, we noted the sky in its blue, irradiated with the light of the still-bright afternoon sun. We certainly wanted similar conditions during the entire way up, which would be ideal for pictures. But we were promptly reminded of the erratic character of the mountain as the guard informed us of the 30-feet visibility near the peak. With somewhat restrained ardor, we commenced the ascend to what was quickly becoming less and less exciting height.
We quickly sank into the fog, and the sun seemed to have ceased shining. Soon, the taller trees on the sides of the road were also gone, making the steering a lot more intense yet amusing. At times, the mist would thicken up so much, it looked as we could take off from the ground and float seamlessly through the sky.
A few minutes later, we crawled up above the first layer of clouds, and even though all of the vegetation has sized down to miniature proportions, we could see a lot clearer what was happening beside us.
It was all foggy again on the way down. I resolutely put the car in neutral, anticipating a carefree descend—counting on good old gravity and generous 12-degree inclines. Hardly a minute into the process, I could smell the singed brakes, and had to again engage the bottom gear for engine breaking. Before we could even finish the second third of the way, it suddenly started raining. Bad weather indeed.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in an interstate race to Portsmouth, passing by the Weirs Beach area on the way. There was not much to see or do, and the mizzle still hung tight in the air, so we would only occasionally stop to have a little stroll, and then quickly return to our ride. We did however drive by a few pretty waterfronts, including the ones in the neighborhood of Laconia.
Before I found out about Mount Washington, Portsmouth was the only point in New Hampshire that I had heard of. And it is usually conversed about as belonging to the same ballpark as other well-known American centers, such as Chicago or Philadelphia. “If it is so important, it must be at least quite nice, if not great,” or so we thought. We had in fact set our expectations too high, as we found out the morning we got to finally see Portsmouth.
The city is rather dull and monotonous with its look-alike brick-building blocks. With very few attractions and practically no distinctive features, Portsmouth’s seeming importance is—as the name suggests—very likely due to the marine function.
We made our farewells to Portsmouth and hastily sailed away for Maine. But New Hampshire would not let us go easily, and we had to dodge around before we could find a suitable detour that would get us to Kittery, our next stop that day.
Below is the map of our travels in New Hampshire.