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Mt. Washington Trip – Mountains Galore!

Posted on August 19, 2008


We started off by meeting Chris at a gas station not far from where I live. He was coming in from Oakville and needed to fill up anyway. From there we headed east and had our first break at a service station just west of Bellville.

From there we continued to Kingston and waited for the ferry crossings to Wolfe Island and then a second to the US border crossing. Once we crossed the border (which was the fastest chat with US Customs and Immigration that I have ever had), we started making our way towards the Adirondack Park. Our butts became numb, our necks sore and we loved it as the miles clicked away on the odometer.

Once we stopped for dinner in Gouvernour, we entered the park and we were treated to some simply awesome riding roads and spectacular views of the forest, rivers and lakes that we passed through. It’s no wonder this is such a popular place for camping. The miles climbed and the sun began to set as we made our way through Lake Placid, finally arriving at our KOA campsite just north of there near Wilmington, NY. The next morning we decided that since we were so close to White Face Mountain, that it would be a shame to not ride to the summit. So we packed up our site, had a hardy breakfast in Lake Placid and headed for White Face.

When we arrived at the bottom, we were advised that visibility was zero and that it was chilly at the top. Whatever…upward we rode and stopped to take some great pictures along the way.

The view was simply breathtaking once the clouds moved off a little but the best view was just below the clouds, where we were able to overlook the mountain ranges, lakes and valleys off in the distance.

Chris originally was just planning on camping and riding around Adirondack Park for four days, but decided that he would join us to see Mt. Washington. So with that, the three of us headed off towards our second campground in New Hampshire. We crossed Lake Champlain via the ferry into Charlotte, Vermont and headed south to Bristol for another break. From there we headed up RT17 through Buel’s Gore, which is an extremely twisty and technical section of road. I’ll admit that I was nervous in some spots considering how heavy the bike was and how poorly it handled.

Onward we rode through Montpelier, which is the capital of Vermont and I must say that it was here that we encountered by FAR the worst roads on our entire trip! Although, the road climbing White Face was rough…the roads in Montpelier were way worse and our bikes took a serious beating. After a short stop to put on some warmer clothes and rest our pothole-beaten butts, we pushed hard into New Hampshire towards our next campsite, which is not far from Mt. Washington. Once again though, we arrived after sunset and had to setup our site using flashlights to see. This was becoming a pattern that needed to be broken.

Another hardy morning breakfast to start our day before riding to Mt. Washington. This was to be the shortest riding day of the trip. Well at least for Susie and me anyway.

Now for the purpose of the trip: Mt.Washington!
I stripped the bike of all the cases and un-needed gear with the exception of rain gear in case we needed it and some warmer clothes that we certainly would. We reached the base and began our ascent up the mountain with Susie on the back and Chris following behind. The road was actually pretty easy to ride since most of it was paved but what makes it nerve-racking is that it’s only a lane and a half wide and there are no guardrails. This made passing cars coming down the mountain more interesting since there was very little space to get by and in some spots it would have been impossible for two cars to pass by each other.

Part way up the climb, the asphalt gives way to dirt and gravel, then back to asphalt again, making that rougher section just a little more interesting and soon we face a new challenge as we climb into the clouds with strong gusting winds. Visability is now only 20ft in front of us and we crawl up the hill trying to ensure that we don’t over-shoot a tight turn and fall off the mountain or get blown off by a wind gust!

Finally we reach the top and although we feel a sense of satisfaction from the climb, it is quickly replaced with some disappointment from the complete lack of visability through the clouds. We stayed at the summit for a while checking out the gift shop and the cog train that climbs the mountian.

The train is for those who want to travel to the summit but either can’t hike up or don’t have the intestinal fortitude to drive up themselves. This is obviously a common choice for seniors or for those who have a fear of heights and may panic behind the wheel. The train is steam driven and fueled by a coal burning fire. You can see the coal cart from where the engineers have to shovel the coal by hand into the fire.

Finally the clouds passed and we were treated with a breathtaking view of the Appalachian mountains as far as the eye could see.

Now for the decent. Personally going back down was far less intimidating since I already had an idea what to expect for road conditions and with the clouds gone, I could actually see where I was going. Many people get more nervous going down simply because of the visual effect of looking down the mountain and out over the ranges. You get an idea in this image of how steep sections of the road are.

Our only issue was at one point nearly being run off the side by a small SUV that was taking up too much of the road and not watching for oncoming traffic. I had to swerve towards the edge to avoid being hit head-on and my tires came about 1.5ft from the edge! Talk about a pucker moment. My sphincter didn’t relax again until I reached the bottom.

Without a doubt, our tour of the mountains was a great experience. After successfully negotiating the Mt. Washington Auto Road, we headed back to our campsite for a relaxing remainder of the day…for Susie and me at least.

Chris wanted to head back to Adirondack Park to check out Lake George. So after packing up his tent and gear, we said our fairwells and Chris continued his adventure on his own. As for us…we lazed around the campsite late into the night until the rain rolled in.

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