Monday, August 10, 2015

The Smiths Go Northeast Day 6: Mount Washington and Polar Caves

We were so sad to say goodbye to Maine, but we had so many fun things to look forward to still!  I would say driving up Mount Washington was Josh's "thing," like the Eric Carle museum was mine.  There is a super-cool railway you can ride to the top, but it is really expensive!  We really wanted to drive up, but the weather was forecasted to be pretty cloudy, so we didn't know if it was worth the $40+ to do that (yes, to drive your OWN vehicle!)...  We went ahead and did it, and we are SOOO glad we did!  Penny summitted the highest point in the Northeast!
With your admission to the Auto Road, you receive a bumper sticker for your car stating that it climbed Mt. Washington and a CD to listen to on the drive up and down.  There are lots of rules to make sure everyone is on the same page and stays safe.  These are listed on an envelope we received upon the start as well as at the beginning of the CD.
The boys did pretty awesome during the long drive up, and we were able to hear almost all of the CD.  It was really interesting hearing about the undertaking of the HUGE project to build the road and railway all the way to the summit.

This picture shows the results in the change in altitude--look how short the trees are!  It was neat watching them get shorter and shorter as we climbed higher and higher.  We were really concerned about the cold temperatures that high altitude would present.  I hadn't brought any pants!!!  We all wore our sweatshirts, and I carried blankets for both of the boys in case we needed to wrap them up.  It wasn't warm, but it was definitely not as severely chilly as we had thought.  Phew!
Our first mission once we parked and got out at the observatory was to have our picture taken by a webcam placed at the summit.  This webcam is associated with a geocache--you stand in the specified spot and wait until your image has been captured by the camera (it takes pictures every few minutes), and then you take a screenshot of your picture and post it to the caching page to prove you were there.  There are very few of this type of cache left, so that makes it interesting, let alone that it is at the summit of Mt. Washington!  We weren't confident in our cell signals (although, as it turns out, AT&T has the market cornered up there!), so we had planned with Mimi and Bampa for them to log on to the webcam site, see us, and take a screenshot to e-mail us.  It was so fun knowing they were seeing us waving to them in real time all the way from New Hampshire to Illinois!  We met a fellow geocacher at the webcam working on the same thing, and we were able to help him out and make sure he got his shot!
Of course we waited in line for the obligatory picture by the summit sign!
Oh, and then we climbed across a good number of these rocks.  That's about where I ended up drawing my line.  The boys, of course, loved it, but my balance was fighting back with every step I took.  I was happy to get back on the paved ground!
This is a rock "garden" that is also a geocache with lots of rocks painted, brought from home, and placed here in remembrance of the victims of 9/11.  The person who set up the cache explains a planned trip was almost cancelled since it was to take place days after the attacks, but instead, the trip was given meaning.  We did not bring rocks to add, but it was interesting to look at the ones that had been left.
The Cog Railway!

Here it comes!

LUNCH!  We were starving!  There was an excellent indoor area that included a post office (we mailed a postcard to Mimi and Bampa since it received a special postmark), amenities for hikers, a museum, gift shops and a cafeteria!  We had some delicious hot dogs and soup!
Josh found this sign particularly cool!

Starting our descent...
The fog was starting to dissipate, so we actually did get some pretty beautiful views!

Definitely the best gas mileage Penny has ever gotten!  ;)
Back at the base!
What a neat experience and wonderful way to spend the morning!
We hadn't told the boys about the second half of the day, so they were super excited to hear we were headed to Polar Caves next!
I would say this fell into the category of the boys' "thing!"
I wish I had gotten an aerial shot of the set-up here.  You bought tickets in the gift shop and then walked along a boardwalk to the start of the caves.  It looks like a giant maze!  There is a huge rock garden to meander through as well as about a dozen individual caves to explore.  They all have fun names, and some are more of a tight-squeeze than others...

This is an aerial of part of the park...

Fun with friends at the end!

Monkey see...
...monkey do!

We had SUCH a good time exploring all of these super cool caves!  We decided to end this totally awesome, very boy friendly day with a delicious dinner at...McDonald's!  HA!  It was perfect since it was right down the road and we had a bit of a drive until the hotel.

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