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A mostly undeveloped stretch of the White Mountains lined by forests and a few ski areas, Pinkham sits at the base of the best hiking trails on Mount Washington, or as it’s affectionately known by generations of hikers, “the Rockpile.” The first recorded ascent of the peak goes back to 1642, when settler Darby Field made the ascent just two decades after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Since then literally thousands have followed him by foot, train, and car. The modern era of tourism started in 1819, when visionary Ethan Crawford blazed the first trail up to the peak (still in use today). It wasn’t long before Victorian entrepreneurs began building hotels, including the now-ruined Tip Top House, at the summit for intrepid tourists.
Given the legendary bad weather on top of the mountain, one can only imagine the average steamer-trunk tourist of the day braving the ascent for beef Wellington on the summit. In the 1920s, the Appalachian Mountain Club established a lodge in the Notch and began blazing the network of trails that climbers now use to reach the peak.
If your car had a tough time climbing the mountain, you’ll be impressed by the performance of the vintage speedsters in the annual Climb to the Clouds Auto Race (603/466-3988, www.climbtotheclouds.com, July), a tradition on the mountain for more than 100 years. The record of 6 minutes, 42 seconds to the summit was set in 1998. (The race was not held in 2009 for economic reasons, but has plans to return.)
None too surprisingly, there isn’t much shopping to be done in this heavily forested area at the foot of the mountains. But you can grab last-minute hiking and camping supplies in the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center at Joe Dodge Lodge (Rte. 16, Gorham, 603/466-2725, www.outdoors.org, 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. May–Oct.; 6:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Nov.–Apr.).
Laid out with white linens and china and dotted with candlelight, the dining room at Dana Place Inn (Rte. 16, Pinkham Notch, 800/537-9276, www.danaplace.com,, 5 –9 p.m. daily, $21–27) sends out ambitious (and successful) dishes of rainbow trout and brandied apple chicken.
Part of the Appalachian Mountain Club Visitors Center at the base of Mount Washington, the Black Moose Deli (Rte. 16, Pinkham Notch, 603/466-2725, www.outdoors.org, 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.) serves up quick à la carte lunches including soups, salads, and sandwiches.
© Michael Blanding and Alexandra Hall from Moon New England, 2nd Edition