Autumn in New England means cooling temperatures and leaves changing colors in a splendid display of reds, oranges, and yellows. My favorite place to leaf peep this time of year is the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Mike and I went up for a nice relaxing weekend of camping and taking in the foliage, which changed before our eyes over the course of the weekend.
We drove up on a Friday night in the dark, not able to see anything but the road that was illuminated by our headlights. We stayed at Lafayette Campground, the only campground in NH’s Franconia Notch State Park. Luckily, our tent is super easy to pitch, so setting up camp in the dark wasn’t too much of a hassle. And since it was early October, we brought every fleece blanket we owned so that we could stay extra warm at night. 🙂
Saturday morning, we woke up and ate a leisurely breakfast. Our first activity was a nice little trail run on the Pemi Trail, straight from the campground to the Old Man in the Mountain memorial site. I seem to forget at least one thing on every camping trip. This time, I unfortunately forgot my sneakers. So I ended up “running” in my hiking boots.
The Old Man in the Mountain is still New Hampshire’s emblem. It is on every license plate and highway sign in NH. You can still find key chains, magnets, pins, post cards – pretty much any souvenir you can think of – featuring the Old Man. Discovered in 1805, the Old Man was five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain, carved by glaciers, that looked like the profile of an old man. He was 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide. After many attempts to keep the Old Man where he was, the erosion of the cliff face caused the Old Man to crumble on May 3, 2003.
If you never were able to see the Old Man in the Mountain before it fell, you can still get a similar experience today. A nice memorial was put up at the site where everyone used to go and view the Old Man when he was still hanging on to the cliff. They have a plaza in which you can see a recreation of the Old Man if you stand in a certain spot, based on how tall you are. It’s pretty neat and reminds me of all the times I had seen the Old Man in the Mountain when he was still standing. There is also a little museum with many artifacts and stories about the Old Man.
After we took a look at the recreation of the Old Man in the Mountain, we ran back to the campground on the Franconia Bike Path.
After we got back to the campground, we hopped in the car and headed towards the famous Kancamagus Scenic Byway for some more leaf peeping. The Kancamagus Highway – pronounced Kank-ah-mah-gus, not Kang-ga-mang-gus – is about 35 miles of scenic byway through the White Mountain National Forest with nothing but trail heads and picnic areas. There are no gas stations, restaurants, or any other businesses on the highway. We only drove part of it, but we still got some beautiful views – even with the overcast, foggy weather. Please excuse the spots on some of these photos, most were taken through my not-so-clean windshield. 🙂
Once we made it back to the campground, we took a less than satisfying shower (it was not at all warm) and got ready for our dinner reservations on the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train. We looked a tad out of place dressed up in nice clothes at a campground. 🙂
I didn’t get many good pictures on the dinner train because of the lighting inside and glare on the windows, but let me just tell you – we had a blast! We were sat at a table for 4 with another couple. The food was delicious, a five course meal, so fancy they served sorbet to cleanse your palate before the main course! The cocktails were also particularly delicious, and very strong. The two hour train ride brought us through a range of landscapes, tforest, golf course, farm land and over rivers. All the while, our 1950s era train car played soft Frank Sinatra in the background. It was a lovely experience, and I totally recommend it. Next time, maybe we will splurge and go for the dome level dining.
That night, once we were back at the campground, we built a nice fire and sat by the warmth until we were tired enough for bed. I played around with my camera and got some neat shots.
The next morning, we broke down camp and decided we were much too tired to attempt a long hike. The weather was also not great, so we decided to do a short hike before meandering our way back home. We chose to hike Mt. Pemigewasset, also known as Indian Head. This relatively easy hike typically has amazing views at the summit, especially for the small amount of work you need to do in order to get there. Unfortunately, this day was so foggy we could see close to nothing at the top.
By the time we got down to the parking lot, some of the fog had cleared so we could at least see a little bit of foliage.
I always love going up to New Hampshire, but I especially love it in Autumn. The fall colors are fleeting, and I always seem to time my visits wrong. However, this weekend of camping proved to be successful, even with the fog on the last day. We saw plenty of color and had a great time wandering around the notch. I hope to be back soon!