“We humans are a self centered race. We see ourselves in everything. We assign identities and emotions where none exist. And we remake our world in our own image.” -Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics.
But the one place you don’t see him: On the actual mountain.
The devotion people have to this set of ledges, a natural formation resembling a face, first recorded in 1805 is touching, in its own way. It’s not large when viewed from below and only visible from a certain angle. But it looked human. And to visitors that was what mattered.
Thanks to writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Daniel Webster though, who both wrote about it, and the natural desire to identify with things that look like us, people loved that face as though it was an actual person. In 1958 people tried to hold it up with steel rods and turnbuckles.
But in 2003 after years of being stuck on a mountain and unable to live free, the old man died. I had looked at him many times. But now I can’t.
The ledges crumbled, as ledges tend to do, despite many efforts to preserve the monument. Much of the country didn’t notice. After all, the Iraq war was starting that same year.
But people loved the old man and, they couldn’t just let it go unmarked. Indeed you can still see The Old Man, but not as a rock. Instead, it’s a shape on a metal post, visible up there through a trick in perspective at Profile Plaza, as shown in these photos I took on site.
Some people may wonder what all the fuss is about. But even without the Old man, the other less humanoid cliffs and mountains surrounding the area, visible nearby on the Franconia Notch Bike Path are magnificent. More on that later.