Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Return to Franconia State Park in New Hampshire

Article and photos by Eric H.

On a recent trip to Northeast Kingdom Vermont, we drove through one of New England's most beautiful regions, Franconia State Park in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The mountain scenery and fall foliage colors were beautiful, as always, but the brief visit brought back equally beautiful memories of spending time here as a child.

I remember my Mom and Dad taking us with great frequency to Franconia State Park during the 1960s and 1970s. In the back seat of our phony-paneled wood Ford LTD station wagon, we recorded our voices on a $59.00 Hitachi cassette recorder with a fading phony wood panel and a powerful built-in mike that picked up the road noise more significantly than our voices. With WFEA radio 1370 AM playing the greatest hits of the 1960s and 1970s on the analog car radio and an occasional ABC Contemporary Radio newscast, we shouted over all the musical and road noise-- documenting each landmark of our day or extended weekend trip.

Often, the journey is as exciting as the destination, but in this case, the destination slightly edged the journey. How could it not with attractions like the Flume, the Basin, Echo Lake Beach and the eight miles of scenic highway between the high, dramatic, larger-than-life peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges? Also sweetening the pot was a ride back to North Woodstock where we feasted on BBQ chicken and blueberry pie at the Longhorn Palace restaurant, and watching the trained bear show at Clark's Trading Post.

We enjoyed everything about Franconia State Park with perhaps the exception of the Old Man of the Mountain, a series of five granite cliff ledges. Some people said one of the ledges looked like the profile of a face, but to me it looked like just another piece of granite. The Old Man of the Mountain collapsed in 2003, bringing some people to tears on the nightly newscast!

Everything else on our recent visit remained intact, as nature does not go out of business. The Flume is a natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty and towering granite walls rising to a height of 90 ft. The Basin features a pleasing waterfall and a 20 ft. diameter pothole. Echo Lake Beach is one of New Hampshire's most beautiful lakes -- 28 acres of water serenity and framed by the slopes of Cannon Mountain and the Franconia and Kinsman Ranges.

In my early 30s, I hiked Cannon Mountain and found one of the most amazing scenic attractions: Lonesome Lake. Located about 2,760 ft. up Cannon Mountain (about a 45 minute hike), the view of the Franconia Range across a clear glacial tarn were simply spectacular, and no doubt, still remain that way. Lonesome Lake, seemingly in the middle of a mountain, kept the flame alive in regards to my love for the Franconia Notch area.

Nearly 15 years later, this brief return to Franconia inspired future plans to come back to this simply beautiful area of New Hampshire. After all, there's an eternal connection to the White Mountains, its fresh air, fun attractions, and scenery that created fond memories from yesteryear and, surely, travel plans for the future.

Visit the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation for more information on Franconia State Park.

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