Well if that’s not a vacation draw, I don’t know what is. Who wouldn’t want to head straight for the “worst weather in the world”, right?
If I had to plan all over again I think I would have routed our New Hampshire stay somewhere around Lake Winnipesaukee but friends had stayed at Mount Washington and since we were still mid-pandemic when I was planning the trip, I was sticking to the default script.
At first glance, the Omni Mount Washington Resort looked promising.
It definitely has a bit of a Grand-Hotel-Mackinac-Island vibe going for it.
But my friends’ praise for the hotel was faint, extremely faint, so I booked us at the Omni Bretton Arms, a smaller ancillary property down the hill from the resort. It was…okay. And a shuttle runs between the two so we never waited more than a few minutes for our ride up the hill. I was a just a bit regretful that we didn’t have the grand common areas to enjoy:
And the sweeping views.
But then we met a family in the dining room (the food and service were great, by the way) who bent our ears for a good long time about how dreadful their rooms were. Along with other horrors, apparently the floors sloped alarmingly – not a good state of affairs in the dark at night. The hotel was built in 1902, and from what we heard, has perhaps not been much updated since then.
So, we thought, we’ll just be happy in our little place down the hill. And we were.
Until the lights went out.
Oh, and also the heat.
We were already chilled to the bone from our expedition on The Mount Washington Cog Railway, which is where we learned that indeed, that particular spot holds the distinction for “the worst weather in the world”. In April of1934, the highest surface wind speed ever directly observed by man was recorded at the summit of Mount Washington: 231 miles per hour!
The highest temperature ever recorded at the summit is 72º (F), and the lowest, not including wind chill was… -47º! It takes nearly an hour for the little train car to make its way vertically to the summit and on the October day we were there we had white-out conditions so we didn’t see much.
The wind speed when we alit from our coach at the summit was 50 mph – we were told they shut it down at 60 mph and I can see why – I felt like I might be blown down every step of the way from the rail car to the Visitor Center.
Oh it can’t be that bad, you might be thinking. After all, it’s only about 6,000 feet high, a mere slip of a hill, right? Well then, just consider this – in the winter months, Mount Washington is the place where prospective Mt. Everest climbers train because the conditions are similar. 161 people have died on the mountain since 1849, including a highly experienced hiker who perished from hypothermia this past June.
We made it down from the treacherous mountain to discover an icy rainstorm brewing in the town below. We were trying to dial up the temperature in our room when everything. just. stopped. And went dark. The common areas of the resort were powered by a generator so we hitched a ride up there to contemplate our fate in warmer climes. The CE was all for packing up and getting out of New Hampshire, but alas, our next destination was fully booked that night. We went instead with my Plan B, which was to order a cocktail in the hotel bar and hope for the best. It worked! The lights finally came back on!
We were not, however, tempted to hang around. We got an early start the next morning, but with the weather somewhat “fowl”,
we opted not to drive the famed Kancamagus Scenic Byway. Big mistake. We will have to go back someday. Instead, we meandered south on route 153 and the east on 25, admiring the fall colors muted by the rain as we went. We stopped to chat with a flock of turkeys and warned them to keep their heads down come late November.
We had been wandering somewhat aimlessly when we crossed the border into Maine and found ourselves in the charming little town of Cornish. It was lunchtime and when we stepped into Krista’s Restaurant we knew we were in the right place. I highly recommend that you take any detour you need to find your way here, ask for a seat on the back porch overlooking the creek, and by all means order the “big bowl of chips”:
New Hampshire was not what I would call the highlight of our trip, but then again, we went from the “worst weather in the world” to possibly the best lunch in the world, so all in all it was a win!