New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain


The Old Man of the Mountain
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

“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.

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You see him everywhere in New Hampshire and elsewhere representing the state. Highway signs. The state commemorative quarter. Thongs.

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Photo by Cafepress, just to prove I’m not making that up.

But the one place you don’t see him: On the actual mountain.

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Cannon Mountain, 2018. Photo by me.

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.

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I told you it was small from below.
Profile Plaza
Profile Plaza, all photos by me unless indicated otherwise.

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.

Mount Lafayette
The same bike path as The Old Man, not too far from it, a view of Mount Lafayette.

 

 

 

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