Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 America the Beautiful Quarter

When you ask someone "what is the first mountain that comes to mind when you hear White Mountain National Forest?" chances are the reply would be Mt. Washington! After all, it's the tallest, most history rich, most visited, most accessible, most photographed and probably most well known by those who have not had the opportunity to visit NH's mountains. It was first seen by explorers from the ocean who were intrigued by the bright glow of it's peak. The Native Americans that lived in it's valley called it Agiocochook meaning the Great Spirit.

The US Mint and NH National Park however, decided on a different mountain for the 2013 America the Beautiful Quarter. Mt. Chocorua. For those not familiar with the White Mountains you may think why? For many who have hiked all over NH's lofty peaks including Washington, the 48 4000+ foot mountains and the lesser peaks such as Chocorua there may be an answer. Here is some background to this mountain and my experience hiking it. Read and decide if you think this was the choice to represent our beloved White Mountain National Forest!

Named after an Indian Chief, Mt. Chocorua sits at the South East corner of the White Mountain National Forest. Often called "the gate to the White's" it's granite rock-spire summit and large, steep glacial cirque makes it the most recognizable and most stunning of all the mountains in NH ("probably the most picturesque and beautiful of the mountains of New England" Sweetser; "the most beautiful and striking of all NH hills" John Greenleaf Whittier). The exposed granite of Chocorua is the most extensive  in all of New England aside from Acadia National Park in Maine (The Granite Landscape-Tom Wessels). It is no doubt one of the most beloved hikes in this region of NH and with it's position North of the Lakes region and on the Southern border of the White's, the view from the top is a rather unique one.

As with many of the mountains in the White's Chocorua is rich in history both in Native American and White settlers. The Legend of Chocorua has many different stories. To be basic, Chief Chocorua of the Pequawket tribe had a son. And subsequently while in the care of a trusted White settler Campbell, the son died either by accidental poisoning or was shot for a scalp reward during a hunt. Chocorua, outraged and heart broken retaliated by killing Campbell's wife and child. Chocorua was either chased or found somewhere near the summit ledges where he cursed the White men and jumped to his death or was shot.

Mill sites can be found along the rivers as well as bridal paths. And there once stood a halfway house near the summit of the mountain where I believe the Liberty Cabin now sits. There was also once a fire tower on the Middle Sister peak on the North ridge of the mountain.

Chocorua stands at 3, 475 feet and is surrounded by lakes and rivers and although there are nearly 60 other taller mountains in NH, 48 of them being over 4000 feet, it contains some of the most exciting and steepest trails. Bridal paths, ledges, waterfalls; whatever you fancy in a hike you can no doubt find it here. My personal favorite hike on this mountain and in NH for that matter is Carter Ledge trail. It climbs steeply over open ledges dotted with Jack and Pitch pine with glacial erratics sitting here and there.

The trail climbs over the Sister peaks with magnificent views. You can then hike up the craggy ridge to the summit where you will no doubt be amidst a multitude of other hikers, young and old and of all different nationalities. As you stand on top of this wind swept, sharply pointed chunk of granite, you feel like your flying. The great Lake Winnipesaukee shimmers in the distant South, the bulky, ledge studded Sandwich Range to the West, towering above the valley the Presidential Range to the North and across the many lakes East into Maine; from here you can see all the components that make NH's landscape a special place!

To read my trip reports and see pictures of Chocorua scroll down on the right column under "NH White Mountains non-4000 footers"

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