National Geographic : 1951 May
VOL. XCIX, No. 5 WASHINGTON MAY, 1951 MAGAZniE COPYRIGHT, 1951, BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, WASHINGTON, D. C. INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED Mountains Top Off New England BY F. BARROWS COLTON With Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer Robert F. Sisson T HOUGH the calendar insisted it was only August 19, a wild and decidedly wintry storm was raging across the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington, top of New England. Well anchored to the rocks though it was, the staunch little tiptop hotel shook, and even the bed in which I slept trembled under the onslaught of the thundering 60-mile-an-hour gale. Outdoors, that unusual night, the ther mometer registered well below freezing. When morning dawned, the whole mountain top was white with rime. A thick cloud blan keting the bare, rocky summit cut visibility to a few yards. Yet, out of sight below us, all New England was basking under a hot summer sun shining in a bright-blue sky. Mount Washington was merely throwing one of its frequent tantrums. Mountain Panorama Unfolds Then suddenly its anger melted. Holes opened in the cloud, sunlight poured through, the rime began to thaw, and far away to the southeast we could see the Atlantic Ocean gleaming off the distant coast of Maine. All around us, as the cloud continued to lift, unfolded the splendid panorama of New Eng land's mountains. Nearest rose the stupendous, hulking shoul ders of the Presidential Range, bare and gray like the backs of gigantic elephants. Beyond, in all directions, the other peaks and ridges of the White Mountains rolled away in wave on wave, spilling over New Hampshire's eastern border into Maine (pages 566-7).* Still farther to the west rose the softer ranges of Vermont's Green Mountains, like parallel furrows in a giant's plowed field. Barely visible on the western horizon were the sharp cones of some of New York's Adiron dacks, 130 miles away. Through five States New England's moun tains thrust up a rocky backbone 500 miles long (map, p. 569). This ridgepole of Yan keeland runs from the gentle wooded ridges of western Connecticut and Massachusetts north through the entire length of Vermont, turns off across northern New Hampshire, and ends with the stark, lonely monolith of Mount Katahdin, jutting up out of the vast rolling wilderness of central Maine (pages 598-9). Vermont Was Independent Nation Colorful past and busy present vie for the spotlight in this far-flung mountain world. Here, though few Americans realize it, the State of Vermont flourished as an independent nation for 14 years, complete with its own coinage, postal system, and army, before its admission to the Union in 1791.t If necessary to defend this independence, wrote doughty old Ethan Allen, "I will retire with hardy Green Mountain Boys to the desolate Caverns of the Mountains, and from there wage war with Human nature at large!" Through these mountains raiding Indians dragged off half-frozen captives to Canada in the dead of winter; here debt-harassed vet erans of Washington's army staged Shays' Rebellion; here in the roaring days of Maine's lumber boom, in the early 1800's, one man bought a million acres of virgin pine and * See "From Notch to Notch in the White Moun tains," by Leonard C. Roy, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1937. t See "Green Mountain State," by Herbert Corey, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, March, 1927.