Panic on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

View from the Scenic Overlook

View from the Scenic Overlook

Are you afraid of heights?  I’m not, but I may have mentioned that Hubby is. I rearrange our RV road travel so as not to encounter switchbacks, drop offs or steep inclines. So what was I thinking when I talked him into driving up to the top of Mt. Washington, the White Mountain’s highest peak?  The seven and a half mile Auto Road  has everything he hates: switchbacks, drop offs and steep inclines.

Mt. Washington Visitors Center

Mt. Washington Visitors Center

I guess my thinking was that we’d be in a car not the RV and we could take it slow. Plenty of people drive it with no problem, and since I probably won’t ever hike up it, why not drive.  We had other options. There are vans that will drive you up and the Cog Rail goes right to the top. My arguments must have made some sense to him because he agreed to do it. It was a beautiful clear day and I was hoping it would stay that way for some photo taking at the top. Weather on Mt. Washington is fickle, a summer day can turn cold and foul in short order.We paid our fee and started the climb.

The Cog Rail, How We Should Have Traveled

The Cog Rail, How We Should Have Traveled

The road was curvy and the going was slow, a lot of down shifting going on. Things went along fine until we got above the tree line. Suddenly out in the open, we were faced with a road in front of us that appeared to drop off the face of the earth, all we saw was blue sky and clouds. Slowing down we realized the road didn’t really end, it just turned sharply left. Of course if the car didn’t turn sharply left as well we were flying into the wild blue yonder.

Hubby was stalwart. He could do this, he’d just take it slow and try not to look. Have you ever tried not to look where you are going when you are driving a car? It worked for about two more hair-raising turns. Even I was locked in a death grip with the sides of the passenger seat. The color drained from Hubby’s face and he broke into in a cold, clammy, sweat. He was having a full blown panic attack.

We pulled into a scenic view turn off.  Turn back or carry forward, we debated our options. A decision was made, Hubby would stay in the overlook, sitting on some boulders, facing the road.  Lissa, our Golden retriever, and I would continue on to the top take some photos and would pick him up on the way down. He does try and be accommodating of my love of mountain views and photography.

View From the Summit and the Road Down

View From the Summit and the Road Down

I have to admit it was not fun, that final push to the top. As I said earlier, I’m not afraid of heights but the Mt. Washington Auto Road tested my mettle. I became zen-like in my focus on the yellow stripe in the middle of the road. If I lifted my eyes to check out the scenery  I would see the edge of the road, with no railing and no shoulder, dropping off to oblivion. I’d wait until I got to the top to enjoy the views. We arrived safely. Lissa and I climbed up to the summit, enjoying the unusually clear day. We looked, we oh’d and ah’d, but there was no avoiding what we had to do. We drove down, picked up Hubby and all agreed,  next time we’d take the train.

The Summit

The Summit

About JudithC99

Wanderer. Writer. Artist. Photographer. Learner. Traveler of the Red Roads


  1. Hubby would not enjoy some of the high places we have visited over the years. Your post was my second virtual experience of Mt.Washington. Another blog, The Wandering Wishnies, described their visit several years ago. Perhaps one day I will have a real visit and scramble over the rocks to the summit. Hope so.

  2. JB Brown

    I love the auto road. when ever I can gather together the $23, I make the climb. Even bad weather can be fun.

  3. It is always an adventure. I’ll probably do it again, but Hubby won’t.

    • nutsfortreasure

      Smart man! My Mom told me she wanted her ashes to be let go there I told her to get one of her other 3 kids to do THAT!

  4. jennymiller62

    You’ve got some beautiful pictures here, and some great stories. Thanks for liking mine!

  5. Well for all your trouble the pictures are lovely. These beautiful but stressful moments are great foder for story time. Be well and safe travels!

  6. The pics are beautiful…My hubby wouldn’t have liked either…And being I am afraid of heights, maybe not good for us…Kudos to you both…

  7. I’m not a big fan of heights in any circumstances but driving would probably push me right over the edge, pun intended. I’d sooner walk. But the train looks to be the best choice. I have relatives in that area but have never been. Might have to try it now! Thanks for sharing and I’m glad all three of you are safe and sound!

  8. I would never drive up this mountain. Going down has to be worse. We are taking the cog railway in August and hope the day is as nice as yours was! Great photos! Glad you survived.

  9. Thank you. The Cog is how I’ll go next time. Can’t predict the weather up there, if you stay an hour it’ll change. Have a fun trip.

  10. Barbara

    That isn’t too bad. Try Pike’s Peak in CO! They have an annual road race to the top of that one. Those people are crazy!

  11. Taking sharp turns, on mountain roads, at high speeds? No Thank you.

  12. You really need to put this all in a book! I’d be first in line for a copy!

    • Thank you for all your “likes” and comment. I am in fact taking my posts and reorganizing into a potential e book. E book formatting is a world unto itself, so we’ll see how it turns out. Judith

  13. nutsfortreasure

    In my 1st and only attempt I made I was 40 Mom was 60 Grandma was 80 we got into my new conversion van on a beautifully warm July day. We all looked so pretty as we paid the fee to travel that roadway I always wondered why we got a bumper sticker lol We were in a thick cloud band the CLIMB was nothing for me I have been in the Rockies and on MT Hood in a rig! I was tough well for me it was so pretty as the fog lifted and we could see for miles the dog refused to get out(grandma’s dog Spotty)mine would have been all for the adventure lol maybe not too smart lol Now the fun part Grandma after truly now seeing how high we were and me putting a scare into her by getting lose to the edge for just one more shot, Says “How do we get back down?” I laughed and said Nana you now have 3 choices you have me and my NEW VAN, The 100 years old COG or one of the vans with a yahoo driving lol! She said oh then I will have to go with you. Even in low my new Ford was heating brakes to badly so I had to use pull offs to let her cool. I have refused to EVER go there again and I AM TOUGH lol You know I could relate to your story 🙂 Wear that bumper sticker PROUDLY!

  14. msdeebs

    I apologize I markedd your comment as spam by mistake on your comment to my Day 1…. I meant to approve and reply! Stupid iPhone fingers!!

  15. We hiked up to the summit… 🙂 and drove as well thru auto road its fun.

  16. Ken Barker

    I hiked the mountain at age 19 in August 1960, ‘Twas 90 degrees and humid at the base. We had brought our winter coats and mittens. Good thing too,’cause at the tree line the trail is marked by rock piles (no trees), and temp. dropped drastically and we donned our winter duds! I was in the lead. Suddenly, there was a wall in front of me! It was the observatory! We went inside to get warm and eat something.Then, took different trail down. The sky cleared, temp warmed, we removed our coats, and it was an unforgettable experience. At age 80 I still remember!

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