National Geographic : 1937 Jul
FROM NOTCH TO NOTCH IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS Soaring Heights of New Hampshire Attract Multitudes to America's Oldest Mountain Recreation Area BY LEONARD CORNELL ROY "T HIS is the second greatest show on earth." Thus spoke P. T. Barnum when he stood on the summit of Mount Wash ington and scanned the jumble of peaks and ridges of the White Mountains, spread ing from the waistline of New Hampshire to Canada and from its Maine border to the Connecticut Valley, which separates this Granite State from Vermont. Many New Englanders, dyed-in-the-wool White Mountain fans who insist that no where has Nature endowed a region with such fascinating heights, on first thought questioned Barnum's judgment. To them, the White Mountains show is second to none. However, when they recalled the show man's love for his trained animals, gaudy trappings, and strange creations of Nature that drew millions into his acres of canvas, they felt that his exclamation was the highest praise. WHY THE "WHITE" MOUNTAINS? How and when the White Mountains got their name is as mysterious as many of their often-told legends. "White Moun tains" appeared in a manuscript as early as 1672; and even before that time they were called the "White Hills" by mariners on the Atlantic, sixty miles away, for whom they formed an important landmark. To modern eyes, too, the name seems apt, whether it be derived from the white mist that often hangs over the higher peaks, from the whitish-gray effect of the sun upon rocks of the mountaintops above tim berline, or from the snow that normally covers the peaks of the Presidential Range for eight or nine months of the year (p. 82). I found the White Mountains divided into two distinct areas (see map supplement).* Between Plymouth on the south and the vicinity of Gorham on the north is the high mountain region where every year more than two million men and women en joy testing their leg muscles among New England's highest peaks, motoring on ex cellent highways, and utilizing the scores of recreational facilities, or just looking up from spacious hotel verandas toward the lofty eminences sweeping from quiet valleys. Beyond Gorham is a challenging wilder ness with Dixville Notch its crowning glory and Berlin its only large population center. Here is the paradise of the sportsman searching streams and lakes for trout, salmon, pickerel, horned pout, perch, and small-mouthed bass. The forests shelter bears, deer, and ruffed grouse. It is the high mountain area that has been the White Mountains' chief lure to vaca tionists for more than a century. "We know our mountains are not the highest in the East," a resident remarked. "Mount Mitchell in North Carolina and several peaks in the Great Smoky Moun tains National Park slightly top Mount Washington. But the impressions of Haw thorne, Whittier, General Grant, Webster, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and scores of other men outstanding in politics, litera ture, and the arts of their day certainly warrant the enthusiasm of those of us who see the White Mountains in every mood." "But Grant came to the mountains for relief from hay fever," I said. "That is true, but he, like many others, then and now, came here without knowing the mountains, and left with an indelible impression of their lofty summits, their tree clad slopes, their cascades, lakes, and scenic curiosities, and their legends that have in spired multitudes of artists, writers, and just plain people." My genial acquaintance must have been an Irishman, for he spoke with pride when he told me the story of Darby Field, a son of Erin, who was the first man to con * Members wishing additional copies of the new Map of the White Mountains, distributed as a supplement to this issue, may obtain them at 50 cents each (on paper, unfolded) by writing the National Geographic Society's Washington, D. C., headquarters.