Lesson 1460 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 8 cont. (Old Man of NH)

Day 8 – Franconia to Lincoln (continued)

Franconia is a little town that is steeped in nature and New England common sense. Borrowing from the beauty that surrounded it, outside of businesses flower gardens bloomed, buildings were freshly painted, and, if you so desired, you could order organic vegetarian food at a very trendy restaurant located smack in the middle of town. Franconia also had a sports store on its main street which catered to the hiking and outdoor winter crews.

Franconia liked the outdoors and it showed.

Alongside town hall stood a small structure that housed public toilets. How’s that for common sense? As Griffin and I sat on a bench in the parking lot (the place where we had arranged to meet Marc) adjusting our backpacks, a police officer who had come out of town hall carrying a package came over to us. “Hey you made it to Franconia. I was thinking about you guys.”  He said.

We looked up and smiled.

It was Officer Zach, our buddy in crime busting. We were excited to see our friend and told him about our morning of walking up another mountain but no bears – or bikes for that matter.  But that we had made it from there to here.

“Let us know if you need anything or if there’s any way we can help” he told us as he walked over to his police car and opened the door.

“Wait,” I said as I noticed he was into a Franconia squad car and not the Bethlehem one we had seen him in the day before. “I thought you worked for Bethlehem.”

Officer Zach looked at me. “I go where they need me.” He got in his car, promised he’d follow our progress online and drove away.

It made sense to share what resources you had. Beside bike theft I couldn’t imagine that there’d be much crime (other than a fair share of beer-related poor decisions based on the Bud light cans we were starting to see on the sides of the roads) up here. When you don’t have a heck of a lot of neighbors, people tend to know each other – and they look out for each other. Police officers going where they were needed, getting to know not only those in the town but those in the surrounding ones, made sense. It’s a way of letting residents know that you were there for them, with no particular team alliance.

It seemed like a perfect way for everyone to get along. A policy based on availability of resources. It’s something that we would do well to duplicate in towns that can afford a full time police force.

Maybe if every police force rotated officers to surrounding town on a regular basis and we got to know them, maybe, just maybe we all might get along a little better.

Our bright red Kia turned the corner and crunched onto the gravel in the parking lot. Marc had  arrived and surprised us with Emma who drove most of the way (getting her much needed driver’s hours in for her license.) Griffin got his meds and his new shirts (a more manly grey) and we got to eat, talk, and relax at a local restaurant.

The kids were fine. Logan and Trevor were safely in their dorm rooms ready for college and NO! Everyone wasn’t eating fast food all week, they had only ordered pizza twice.

I chewed on my salad, savoring the greens, goat cheese, streak and roasted potatoes– and boy it sure tasted good. Even though it had been overcast and cooler, Griffin and I still drank never ending cups of lemonade. Although I longed for a cold beer with my lunch, our schedule of still taking Motrin roughly every 6 hours meant that I couldn’t.

I only had one liver and I intended to keep it as long as I could.

Our plan was to visit the Old Man in the Mountain Viewing station, it was located along Route 93 but (and here was something we hadn’t figured on) it’s illegal for horses and pedestrians to be on the road. That was actually okay with us because it’s a narrow road with fast cars. Up until Route 93, Griffin and I had always felt safe on the roads, neither of us felt safe as we looked out onto the highway.

We all got into the car and Marc brought us to the exit for the Franconia Old Man viewing station.

The Old Man in the Mountain was a series of five granite cliffs ledges carved by glaciers on Cannon Mountain. The story goes that Daniel Webster, a New Hampshire son, once wrote upon seeing the formation “Men Hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hand out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth, but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, god Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”

So proud of this formation is our state that you will find images of it on plates, mugs, posters and yes, even on our state quarter. My favorite necklace which I wear as I would a protective medal is of the Old Man.

The Old Man is everywhere.

But then in 2003, in the middle of the night, a tragedy came to the old man. His countenance fell, the ledges came crashing down obliterating his profile and the old man was no more.

When our kids were younger, we’d take them to this viewing spot every summer when we’d head up north for vacation. I’m not sure they remember the visits to see the formation, but least they know that somewhere in their memory the old man still remains whole.

New Hampshire didn’t take the old man coming down well. There was talk of essentially “gluing” (wiring) him back together. There was talk of creating a brand new image to replace the old one.

None of the suggestions seemed right.

In the end, a memorial was set up at the base of Cannon mountain where if you stood on the designated  foot prints  – according to your height – and looked up at a pole that appeared to have jagged metal attached at the end ,*and* if everything was lined up perfectly, you’d be able to see the Old Man on the Mountain once again.

While we were there, waiting our turn to see the Old Man by way of memorial, I heard young children having gone through the exercise of lining everything up to see the formation say “That’s stupid. Can we go?”

And I heard adults who, after looking up at the mountain through the memorial, recalled in reverent voices how they had once seen the Old Man on the Mountain when he was whole, and oh, how he was missed.


(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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