"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." ~ John Muir

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Amesbury's Powder House

After our short hike up to Powow Hill the other day, Jill told me that she knew of a location in the area that would be of interest to me. She brought me down Madison Street (in Amesbury, MA) and we parked in a parking lot to an apartment building just north of Monroe Street. We walked for about 500 feet (south) down the road and came to a set of stairs, a sign and a plaque on a rock on the east side of Madison Street. She had brought me to Amesbury's Powder House which I was definitely interested in checking out.

Amesbury's Powder House how it currently looks. It's been fenced off to keep people away from it's delicate condition before renovation occurs.

The stairs lead you up a high embankment on the side of Madison Street and dump you onto a trail heading up Brown's Hill. The trail heads east the whole way (all 0.1 miles of it) and dumps you at the summit where the Powder House resides. From the summit, there's another connecting trail heading north which will bring you to the Amesbury Country Club or to the Christopher Merchant Conservation Area via a public access easement.

Stair Access from Madison Street

Plaque and Sign at Stairs

It's worth noting that the summit of Brown's Hill used to be bare and one could see the ocean from the top...it's now completely wooded. Brown's Hill is actually the 3rd highest hill in Amesbury (over 180') and Amesbury's Powder House is only one of seven remaining in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

There's not a whole lot of information out there on Amesbury's Powder House. From what I gathered on Amesbury's Trails website (here), it is believed to be constructed around 1810 for the purpose to store gun powder and munitions during the War of 1812. It is a round masonry structure (as many powder houses in New England are) that is brick with some type of mortar over it.

It's current condition is pretty poor as it's been riddled with graffiti and has holes through the walls. It's my understanding that there has been efforts in the past to restore and repair the Powder House. There's actually an active effort to do so again right now. I think it's great that the town is recognizing this historical building as something that should be preserved within the town for future generations to appreciate.

The current condition is poor

Map vs. GPS

If you're interested in learning more on the restoration effort, I would encourage you to visit their Facebook page here.

The map for the Powder House trails and the surrounding trail network can be found here. I must warn you though; it was not laid out with north at the top...which is a huge pet peeve of mine!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Powow Hill (or Po Hill) in Amesbury, MA

My daughter had the day off from school for Columbus Day so Jill and I took it off too. We decided to bring her to Newburport’s Fall Festival. It was a fun morning event and we followed it up with some local pizza from Anchor Pizzeria. After that, the afternoon was free so I suggested we head over to neighboring Amesbury, MA to hike Powow Hill.

I grew up in South Hampton, NH which is the neighboring town of Amesbury, MA. I actually went to high school in Amesbury so I’m pretty familiar with the area…but never really ventured up to Powow Hill or “Po” Hill as we called it back in the day. Powow hill is 331 feet above sea level and serves as Amesbury’s highpoint.

Powow Hill (towers visible) from the shore of Lake Gardner

Like many mountain and hill tops, this hill is rich in history. Its name is derived from the Native American tribe that used this hill’s summit as a ritual spot. I believe the Native American tribe was known as the Powow Indians, but this name would have been given to them by the European settlers of the time. The explanation in many history books was that these Native Americans congregated or “powwowed” on its summit. The best account of this is from an article entitled “Powow Hill, A Legend of Essex County” in New England Magazine, Vol. 2 which was published in 1832 and it reads:

“On the border of the Merrimac, some eight or ten miles from the ocean, there rises a steep eminence called Powow Hill. It is a landmark to the skippers of the coasting craft that sail up Newburyport harbor, and strikes the eye by its abrupt elevation and orbicular shape, the outline being as regular as if struck off by the sweep of a compass. It obtained the name from the Pagan ceremonial of the aborigines; for, in ancient times, ere our worthy and pious ancestors routed these heathen from the land, the hill in question was the grand high-place of Indian worship, and the nocturnal powwows held upon its summit were the terror and abomination of the whole neighborhood. While the savages lingered in these parts, they never failed, annually, to assemble on this consecrated mount and practice their mysterious orgies, greatly to the scandal and annoyance of all the Christian folk that dwelt roundabout – they having a pious horror of the practice of powwowing, denounced by Cotton Mather as damnable and demoniacal. Even when the last of the red men had disappeared from the country, the scene of their mystic incantations continued to be regarded with profound awe. A spirit of the Pagan mysteries dwelt about the spot; strange sights were seen; a marvelous legend was current – but let me not anticipate” [1]

Wow!!! Talk about dramatics and spooky stories. My guess is these legends and stories were heavily fabricated by settlers that wanted to justify the taking of the Native American land! I’m sure the Native American Tribe in Amesbury really gathered together up on Powow Hill to smoke peace pipes, party and talk about their glory days as worriers before the English started pushing them out!

More recently, Powow Hill was home to a small ski location which had slopes on its east side. I actually remember watching people ski down it when I was a kid. It closed when I was very young in 1993. I really couldn’t find a whole lot of information other than it was opened around 1949 and was known as Amesbury Ski Tow (which I recall from being a kid) until 1986 when the name changed to Atlantic Forest. The New England Lost Ski Area Project site has a page of limited information here. There’s also some more info and some older (unconfirmed) photos on the New England Ski History site here.

Amesbury has set up an Amesbury Trails website (click here) which has a great little map of Powow Hill and the surrounding trails. The PDF map can be downloaded here. We decided to ascend the hill from the west side starting from the Lake Gardner beach area. There is a parking lot (free) and a kiosk here which also had maps for hikers to take. Heading northeast, we walked down a paved sidewalk which quickly entered the forest on Lake Gardner’s southeast bank. The trail quickly went over too bridges to help avoid the flood plains. This first trail was called the Stagecoach Trail. At the first junction, we headed north on the Batchelder Trail and ascended this path the whole way. The trail system is marked very well with new signage.

Beach at Lake Gardner Parking Lot

Bridges on the Stagecoach Trail

The Batchelder Trail climbed moderately and was mostly comprised of roots and dirt. My 5 year old daughter had no problem skipping and running the whole way up. It soon started to level off and swung to the northwest before dumping you off on the summit, which was very nice.

The summit is actually designated as Batchelder Park and is a flat, grassy area which is perfect for a picnic. The grass continues down the eastern slope for a short distance with some benches looking out over the land. There is also a flag pole, an Amesbury specific benchmark, a kiosk with a view finding legend and some older concrete slabs (I assume artifacts from the ski area that once stood up there). There is also a set of radio towers but they are segregated from the nice park scenery.

Cool Town of Amesbury Benchmark...unfortunately the shadow was in the way

 Proof we were there!

Radio Towers

I also found online that there was reference to a USGS Benchmark on the summit, but no accounts of anyone finding it. Instead, those who have sought it out feel it was buried many years ago. I too fell short and was not able to find it. But the Amesbury Benchmark on the flagpole foundation was cool enough. More on this here!

The view to the east was really incredible. I’m shocked that I practically grew up in Amesbury and had never experienced it before. You could see the Seabrook Station (nuclear power plant), the Isles of Shoals, some local landmarks (like Cider Hill Farm) and Mount Agamenticus in Maine. I think that was extremely cool when put into perspective. You are standing in Massachusetts, literally looking all the way across the State of New Hampshire and viewing something in the non-bordering State of Maine.

View to the East

Left: Mount Agamenticus zoomed in 
Right-Top: Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant with Isles of Shoals in the distance 
Right-Bottom: Cider Hill Farm with Mount Agamenticus in the distance.

After taking a few photos and enjoying the views, we turned around and headed down the same trails we ascended on. Once back to the car, we packed up and headed to our next destination for the afternoon; Amesbury’s Powder House on Brown’s Hill. Hint…my next post will be about this

 Map vs. GPS Track

Signage from this Trek



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Joe English Hill in New Boston, NH

While looking through some recent trip report pictures on one of my friend's Facebook pages, I came across an image of the Uncanoonuc Mountains that I was unfamiliar with. I see these twin peaks traveling west every morning on NH Route 101, the one on the left (or South Uncanoonuc...trip report here) is populated with multiple radio towers and the one on the right peak (or North Uncanoonuc..trip report here) is simply wooded. In the photo I found, the radio towers were on the right, giving it a new perspective for me. It also made me realize that the viewpoint that this photo was taken from must be somewhat close to my office given the proximity of the Uncanoonucs to Manchester. This made Joe English Hill a perfect lunchtime destination.

Unfamiliar view (to me) of the Uncanoonucs from the west, atop Joe English Hill

Joe English Hill is located in New Boston, NH and can be accessed by use of some gravel roads and a couple unnamed, connecting trails. Joe English Hill is actually named after a Native American who lived during the late 1600s and early 1700s. New Boston, at the time, was a settlement only populated by Native Americans. Settlers from Europe had only gone as far west as Dunstable (which is now Nashua). The Native American tribe that made up New Boston was very cautious of the European settlers, but Joe English was able to befriend them and help share resources. Hence, why he was given the name Joe English. Members of his tribe disliked the relationships he built with the white man so they plotted to kill him. Joe English, being a proven warrior and hunter, led his assassins up Joe English Hill and tricked them into toppling over the 300 foot cliffs at the top. Therefore, the hill was named after him. The full story and a very interesting history of New Boston can be found on the New Boston Historical Society website here.

Joe English Hill is also on the list of locations for the New Hampshire historical fire towers that once occupied so many peaks in this State. There's not much information on it other than it was a steel tower, it was operated by the NH Forestry Service and it was removed in 1959. More information and an image of the old tower can be seen on Fire Outlook here.

original credit goes to Iris Baird

I started off at the end of Summit Drive in New Boston, where there's a cul-de-sac. There's a gravel road that leaves the cul-de-sac heading south and immediately passes a beaver pond on the right. After a short way, a more traditional hiking trail begins on the left and ascends gently over rocks before giving way to dirt and roots. After a short distance, this trail leveled off and dumped into a four way intersection with three other gravel roads. Looking down the hiking trail, there were many smaller birch trees that had folded over the top of the trail forming a very cool looking tunnel.

 Gravel road from cul-de-sac at the end of Summit Drive

 Beaver pond to the right of the gravel road upon entering

 Hiking trail starting on the left of the gravel road

Tunnel formed from trees laying over the trail

At the intersection, it was clear there was a small business going on, quarrying rock slabs for pavers and granite stairs. There were piles of pallets, old truck beds setup as loading platforms and some old junkyard parts. After exploring for a bit, we took a left and headed up the gravel road. After ascending a bit, we hit a clearly marking property boundary in blue on the trees. At this point, the gravel road reverted back to a traditional hiking trail and the forest thinned out considerably. Soon, we made our way over the crest and found the hilltop to be large and pretty flat.

Quarry Operation

 Trail turns to slabs near the top

Thinned forest at the top of Joe English Hill

The summit had a small network of trails leading to viewpoints to the east (toward the Uncanoonucs), to the west (I think I could see Pack Monadnock) and to the south. Most of the viewpoints do have scrub and forest growing up and in a few years will be very difficult to get any good views. At the viewpoint to the east, someone had setup two Adirondack chairs between a fire pit. There was also a sign educating visitors about the raptor migration. It's a great location to sit and let some time pass.

 To the west, I believe this is Pack Monadnock

Uncanoonucs to the east, and the Pawtuckaways on the far right in the distance.

Picturesque cedar with raptor migration sign

 Raptor Migration Sign

Adirondack Chair sitting area toward the east and the Uncanoonucs

There's a large pile of rocks, not really a cairn as they weren't organized very well, at the hill's high point. I spent a lot of time looking for evidence of the fire tower that once stood on the summit but was unsuccessful. There are no foundation blocks or guide cable anchors left from the tower (that has been documented anyway). I was told by a friend that there's nothing left behind but I feel there must be something up there. Unfortunately, the summit top is so large that it's difficult to determine where the original location is to execute a thorough investigation. Maybe someone who reads this post can help me determine where this fire tower location specifically was.

Summit Rocks

Joe English Hill was definitely worth the drive during my lunchtime break. The hill's summit is pretty open and there are nice viewpoints in many directions. It's also rich in history. I can say the hike up is mostly enjoyable with exception to the short portion where there was a quarry business being run. This portion was a bit sketchy and made me feel, as a hiker, I had trespassed into someone's operation...even though nothing is posted and no boundaries restricted.

Definitely check out Joe English Hill if you can. It's a New Hampshire historical fire tower location and a New Hampshire town high point for New Boston. These are two lists that are gaining popularity for peak baggers!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Packer's Falls - Exploration and Some History!

Not too long ago, a buddy of mine at work mentioned that his wife and kids were up my neck of the woods. When I asked where, he said they had checked out a small swimming area called Packer’s Falls. I had never heard of an actual falls in my area, but knew there was a Packer’s Fall Road very close by. After doing some Google searching, I found that there was in fact a Packer’s Falls on the Lamprey River located not too far from my house. I also found out that there is a New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker for Packer’s Falls…which means (drumroll) perfect topic for a blog post!!!

The marker for Packer’s Falls is on NH Route 108 on the southbound side, at the intersection with Bennett Road. As the marker states, the actual Falls are 1.6 miles west at the intersection with Bennett Road and Packer’s Falls Road. My guess is that they strategically placed the New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker in a location where more commuters might see or view it, hoping to draw attention to the actual landmark. The marker reads:

“These scenic falls, 1.6 miles west of here on the Lamprey River, once provided waterpower and industry for the early settlers. A deed dated April 11, 1694, shows that Capt. Packer, Jonathan Woodman, James Davis, Joseph Meder, and James Thomas were granted "the hole streame of Lamprele River for erecting a saw mill or mills." Thomas Packer of Portsmouth was a merchant, physician, judge, member of the King's council, and father of the famous sheriff Thomas Packer.”

 The Packer's Falls Bridge on Packer's Falls Road

Packer’s Falls is an impressive set of rapids and is the second in line down the Lamprey River after Wiswall Falls. I found that the rapids are typically rated as Class III in the spring (during the snow melt and run-off) and still remain a Class II most summers. When the water is lower and tamer, there are pools that can be used by visitors to lounge, similar to Diana’s Baths in Conway. There’s a great tour guide pamphlet that can be viewed here on the Lamprey and it’s attractions. [Ref. 1]
The only evidence of Packer's Falls running water on the west side of the rapids. I'm sure it's much more dramatic when the river is flowing full!

I found a lot of history on Packer’s Falls in some Google Books and other blogs. As the marker states, the Falls was granted to the men mentioned for use to build mills. Back then, Packer’s Falls actually encompassed a series of falls down the river (Wiswall and Wadleigh Falls presumably), and the rapids that are now referenced as Packer’s Falls were merely the “second falls”.

Captain Thomas Packer, for whom Packer’s Falls was named after, was granted half the land and a stretch of the Lamprey River for a mill or mills. The others mentioned in the marker were granted the other half. At these falls, from what I can tell, there was an old saw mill and an old corn mill which changed hands throughout the years. [Ref. 2]

It’s important to mention that Captain Thomas Packer was “a merchant, physician, judge and member of the King’s council”, not to be confused with his famous son, Sheriff Thomas Packer. Sheriff Thomas Packer is well known for the execution of Ruth Blay, the last woman executed (somewhat unjustly) in New Hampshire. It’s said that he gave the execution the green light to move forward early after hearing that a pardon was on its way from the Governor for the reason that he didn’t want to be late for dinner. The pardon is said to have arrived moments after she died. You can read more on this famous story here. [Ref. 3]

There’s a small parking area on Bennet Road near the intersection with Packer’s Falls road, only large enough for about three cars. I explored the north banks first, east of the bridge. Here, the banks contain a small maze of trails leading out to the river. There are large stone walls built up into the banking. Near the top of these structures, I found an old brick foundation with ancient looking hardware embedded in. I can only assume these are the artifacts left behind from the old saw or corn mill that was once powered here.

 Maps from Google Maps

  Maps from Google Maps

Old Stonewalls and Foundations on the north bank

Out on the river, I found it was easy to rock hop over the blackened granite boulders. These boulders are typically under water and help create the Class II/III rapids that are standardly flowing. Unfortunately, with the severe drought hitting us in southeastern New Hampshire, the falls were a mere trickle. Moving up the banks and eventually over the bridge, the western side of the falls (or up streams) was the fastest moving part, but still not something I would consider to be concerning rapids. One good thing about the lower river depths is that it makes for lounging in the brisk pools more enjoyable as well as easier to wade into.

This image really shows how dry the river is. Under normal conditions, this would be submerged.

Looking down the Lamprey River toward the east from the bridge.

Trough Foundation, I wonder if this housed the wheel that the water pushed creating power.
Embedded Hardware
It always amazes me how many cool, natural features are in New Hampshire. These features are always tied to history in some way and many times, artifacts are left behind to help tell its story. I know I won’t live long enough to visit every spot on my list of places to checkout in New Hampshire because I add to that list faster than I can visit them! I was happy, though, to find a small waterfall with an abundance of history close to my own backyard to explore.

Facts about this New Hampshire Historical Marker:
  • Marker Title: Packer's Falls
  • Marker Number: #0154
  • Location: On the southbound side of NH Rt. 108 at the intersection with Bennett Road in Durham, NH
  • Installed: 1985 [Ref. 4]....Note the sign has a "1989" cast in it...not sure why the discrepancy in dates.
  • Text: Same on both sides, see beginning of post for full text. 
[Ref. 1] Explore the Lamprey River, By Lamprey River Advisory Committee, pg. 4 http://www.lampreyriver.org/UploadedFiles/Files/LampreyTourGuide.pdf
[Ref. 3] Seacoast NH, The Tragic Story of Ruth Blay http://www.seacoastnh.com/dead/blay.html
[Ref. 4] Mike in New Hampshire Blog, Post Marker #154 Packer’s Falls https://mikenh.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/marker-154-packers-falls/


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Washington Boulder in Jackson, NH

Earlier this month, we visited Jackson, NH for a little rest and relaxation. At some point over the weekend, I activated my Facebook news feed on my phone and to my surprise I saw a posting of a rock formation profile I had never seen before. It was called the Washington Boulder and was of the resemblance of George Washington overlooking Mount Washington in the background. The Facebook post that caught my eye is below.

The image was posted by New Hampshire-then and now, which is a phenomenal Facebook site that posts great, older images of New Hampshire's heritage...many of the White Mountains. The caption for this photo is quoted below:

"This is the George Washington Profile Boulder in Jackson,N.H. In the background is Mt. Washington. The Washington Boulder is located on Tin Mine Road, shortly after Middle Mountain Trail, on the left. It is located close to the road, and is easily seen when driving by, as the boulder is on ground level (not on a ledge like the Old Man profile was). Photo taken by Dick Smith about 1964. www.facebook.com/NewHampshireThenAndNow"

So obviously I set out to find it and make sure it was still there! The directions in the post served me well. The drive up Tin Mine Road was nice. It had a decent uphill grade with lots of great houses and views. Shortly after Middle Mountain Trail (which is really a road) enters on the left, there's a sign on a tree that reads "Washington Boulder". Behind the sign, is a giant boulder on the side of the road between two property lots.

In order to see the profile, you have to stand in the end of someone's gravel driveway and look north. Unfortunately, unlike Dick Smith's photo from 1964, the trees in the background have grown up a bit and Mount Washington would have been obstructed by tree branches if it wasn't already cloudy. My attempts at trying to capture George Washington's profile are below.

From the iPhone (came out a bit dark)

From the point-and-shoot

Below is a comparison of Dick Smith's older photo with my more recent one. The obvious observation is that the photographic skill set of Dick Smith is much, much...much higher than mine. But once you get over that, my goal is to illustrate how much the trees have grown in and show how restricted the view to Mount Washington has become.

 Profile from 1964 vs. Profile from 2016...big difference in the viewpoint!

Lastly, I wanted to share a couple images of old postcards I found online. The first is from 1958 and was published by Bromley and Company. I captured the image from cardcow.com

The next one seems much older, but I couldn't find much information with regards to the date or publishing company. The image was captured from http://www.ohcroo.com/postcard_131052.cfm

It amazes me how many rock formation face profiles exist in New Hampshire. The Old Man of the Mountains is by far the most popular one, however there are several others in New Hampshire that just don't get the recognition that others do. Based on the postcard images I found and the great viewpoints displayed in earlier photos, Washington Boulder was probably a more well known attraction than what it is today. After all, I've stayed in Jackson more times than I can recall over the past 10 years and I had never heard of this rock formation. I'm hoping this post may bring some interest back to good old George Washington's profile sitting up in Jackson, NH!


Friday, September 16, 2016

First Ascent of Mount Washington: New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker #0011

To start off my exploration of New Hampshire’s Historical Highway Markers, I thought it fitting to look into one that was both hiking and White Mountains related. We were up in Jackson this past weekend and I was able to locate the perfect marker for my first topic. It’s marker #0011, First Ascent of Mount Washington.

The marker is located roughly 0.5 miles north of the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, on the northbound side of NH Route 16 (in the Pinkham Notch, just south of the Wildcat Ski Area entrance). The marker text reads on both sides the following:

"Darby Field, a New Hampshire settler, accomplished this difficult feat in 1642 from a southerly approach. Partly guided by Indians and with only primitive equipment at his disposal, he is thus alleged to be the originator of all Mount Washington ascensions."

It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment if you think about it. Just over 20 years earlier, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 which puts into perspective how unpopulated the New England region was around that time. Darby Field, who was a settler in Durham, NH (at the time this land was Exeter, NH) was a known explorer and mountaineer back in Europe. The account of his ascent of Mount Washington was documented by Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony in his journal which read:

"One Darby Field, an Irishman, living about Piscataquack, being accompanied with two Indians, went to the top of the white hill. He made his journey in 18 days. His relation at his return was, that it was about one hundred miles from Saco, that after 40 miles travel, he did, for the most part, ascend; and within 12 miles of the top was neither tree nor grass, but low savins [shrubs], which they went upon the top of sometimes, but a continual ascent upon rocks, on a ridge between two valleys filled with snow, out of which came two branches of Saco river, which met at the foot of the hill where was an Indian town of some 200 people. Some of them accompanied him within 8 miles of the top, but durst go no further, telling him that no Indian ever dared to go higher, and that he would die if he went. So they staid there till his return, and his two Indians took courage by his example and went with him. They went divers times through the thick clouds for a good space, and within 4 miles of the top, they had no clouds but very cold. By the way among the rocks, there were two ponds, one a blackish water, and the other reddish [the Lakes of the Clouds]. The top of all was plain about 60 feet square. On the north side was such a precipice [the Great Gulf], as they could scarcely discern to the bottom. They had neither cloud nor wind on the top, and moderate heat. All the country about him seemed a level, except here and there a hill rising above the rest, and far beneath them. He saw to the north, a great water which he judged to be 100 miles broad, but could see no land beyond it." [1]

"The White Hill"...Mount Washington from South Moat

There was also another account of his travels in a letter by Thomas Gorges to his cousin, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the Governor of the Province of Maine. It is believed this letter came after Governor John Winthrop’s journal entry and is said to be more accurate…but who can really substantiate that? The letter read (and note, I did fix some of the 17th century spelling to modern English due to spell check going crazy):

“…you desire a relation of the white hills. This much I certify of according as it was sent to me by him that discovered them whose name was Darby Field of Pascataqua who about a month since with some 3 or 4 Indians undertook the voyage, went first to Pigwackett, a place on the Saco river according to my draught now 23 leagues from Mr. Vines his house, hence he travailed some 80 miles as he sayeth & came to a mountain, went over it, & a 2d & a 3d, at length came to a ledge of rocks which he conceived to be 12 miles high, very steep, upon which he travailed going to a rock that was at the end of that which he judged 2 miles high, very steep, yet he adventured up, but one Indian accompaynge him, the most being fearful. At the top it was not above 20 foot square, where he sat with much fear some 5 hours time the clouds passing under him making a terrible noise against the mountains. Thence he discovered some 80 miles farther a very glorious white mountain & between 2 other great mountains as he judged some 100 miles…a mighty river bearing North & by East from him of which like or sea he could see no end. On this mountain, he met with terrible freezing weather and, as I took it, on the top of the ledge or rock & at the foot of them were 2 little ponds, 1 of a curious red color, the other black. The latter dyed his handkerchief very black, the former did not alter the colors. There were many rattle snakes but he received no harm. He intends as I hear from them a 2d voyage…about a fortnight hence. I intend with Mr. Vines & Mr. Jocelyn for Pascataqua & to take an ampler account. Our resolution hold for the voyage as yet about the end of August.” [2]

Mount Washington from the southern Presidentials

So, very cool stuff, right! Most feel these accounts allude to Darby Field ascending from the southeast, up over Boott Spur. Most also believe that one of the bodies of water (the red one) that is referenced is the well-known Lake of the Clouds. In Winthrop’s account, Darby Field witnessed a large body of water to the north that he could not see an end too, similar to a sea or ocean. Many people think this was simply a cloud bank playing tricks on him at the time.

This is all very interesting and the fact that someone was brave enough to explore this rugged terrain and ascend Mount Washington in the mid-1600 is notable enough for one of these historical markers, in my opinion. But I have to believe, like many do, that this was not the first ascent of the highest point east of the Mississippi and north of the Carolinas. It’s documented that many Native American tribes believed the mountain to be sacred and would not climb it for religious regions. However, it’s tough to think that this belief holds true through to the beginning of human beings in New England. At some point I’m sure another indigenous person or possibly an earlier explorer set their primitive hiking boot at the summit of the Rock Pile before Darby Field. I think the marker may be more accurate if it said “The First Documented Ascent of Mount Washington” or something to that degree.

By checking out my first marker, I accomplished what I set out to do. I learned something cool about my State, the mountains I love and our history and heritage. I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson as I’ll be posting more in upcoming months!

Facts about this New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker:

  • Marker Title: First Ascent of Mount Washington
  • Marker Number: 0011
  • Location: Pinkham Grant, NH Route 16 – Northbound, approx. 0.5 miles north of AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center
  • Installed: 1963
  • Text: Same on both sides, see beginning of post for full text.

One thing I must mention is that there are many before me that have done a great job documenting this marker and the history behind it. They’ve been more thorough and are better writers. Please take a minute to check out their posts. Links are below.

Ref [1] - Wikipedia of Darby Field

Ref [2] - The White Mountains: Alps of New England: pg. 27-30 (Google Books)