October 7-12, 1926: Franconia Range trip report

OCTOBER 12th

When I woke I saw, over in the south, a great patch of brilliant blue sky. Enormous white clouds were scudding across like the smallest of ships in the boundless sea. Sometimes shadows would fall over us, as a group of some of that weird brown murk flew over. The stern peak of Liberty loomed up before us, as we went out of the cabin, fringed with snow. There must be frost feathers up there! Dark blue Cannon with its stupendous cliffs loomed up out of the mist, its rounded peak clear, Kinsman, too, shook herself away from it. But still a long bank hung over the peak of Moosilauke over in the west. Its two smaller peaks, Mount Jim and Mount Blue, were clear, and when the sun struck them we could see their bright crest of snow. Slowly they crumbled away and lifted like a fringey curtain, and then we saw the peak, bright with snow, sharp and white. And then a sunlight shadow moved along the top of Kinsman, changing dull green to bewitching red, and now it glinted upon Moosilauke, moved up the peak until all that snow was rimmed with brilliant silver. For a moment it hovered there, then slowly glided along over the south peak and down, changing the blue and green to red–magicking the snow-whiteness into silver. The farthest mountains were bathed in a flood of rich green light. There, on the horizon, the sky was green, and the mountains there were like part of the sky itself. Red trees gleamed scarlet even way off there, where the sun struck–sun, the magician of all. Dusky purple shadow lay between the weird little peaks off there, and the glow of golden sun shadow.

We tramped up to the peak of Liberty–we saw purple looming Flume with its cap of snow, magic-crested Moosilauke, shark-toothed Chocorua. But the chief glory of them all was frost-feathered Lincoln, with a sublime crest of snow where the sun broke and made it gleam. The peak of Lincoln looked like the peak of the Matterhorn–where in all the Alps could a mountain be more heavenly? Far off, at the end of the range, was Garfield, prinked with the whiteness of snow and then the Twin Range, the sun shining full upon the snow along that ridge. Spectacular cloud shadows drifted about in the valley between us and the Twin Range, drifted and cooled the fiery anguish of the trees, which slowly blended into the fresh green of balsams and spruces, which became also blended in among waving streamers of the snow-line, whiter and whiter way to the top of the knife-edge.

Then there was the great Presidential Range–still buried in crumbling mist–but we  saw sometimes a lofty pointed peak, breaking, like a fairy dream, away. The snow reached far down on their flanks, the mist and clouds over there shadowed the white with the strange dusky blue of ice-bergs.

We could not get near enough to the crags of Liberty to see the frost feathers closely, but there were big ones there, certainly. Why must we go? The knife-edge was clear, why could we not stay one more day, and do it in the sunshine, and take some frost feather photographs to be sure of. No, we must go!

We dipped into the slope of snow-trees on the steep mossy trail to the shelter, shouldered our packs, and unwillingly plodded down. Through the Flume again,–but what were those strange two-legged creatures mincing along with over-pink cheeks and over-white legs? It is a sad thing that we must go through the Flume again, not because I do not like the gorge. Daddy and I some day shall explore and explore until we find a gorge as spectacular that has not got five or six hotels in its bottom.

The sunset was glowing ahead when we pulled out of the Flume House Garage. The clouds were fluffy, soft gray on the dark side, bright gleaming pink on the sunset–there were heaps and billows of pink rolling in the sky. I happened to look behind us, and quickly I told Daddy to stop the car and look. Snow-crowned Lincoln was plunged in the glow of sunset, and all over its sharp peak the snow was a sublime pink, now fading, fading away to that cold moon-white which looms out of darkness. But shyly, Lafayette was shrouded with pearl-white mist, the edges of it catching the rose on Lincoln–veiled and hidden by itself thinking–wondering why on earth two such strange tiny beings had climbed her that day, but she had suffered them to come unharmed and see her treasures. And she gathered her long undulating shroud about her closer, and waited for the feathers to come. Some mountains love to stand free, but some like Lafayette and Washington and Moosilauke love more the white mist and the frost feathers.

Again we sped on, and reached the little cabin by the brook after dark.

OCTOBER 13th

Every day that we had been up there by Liberty Shelter we had been worried sick about Leo. Had he broken an ankle on the way up, alone? Had something gone wrong with the car in which he was driving to the foot of Liberty? Had something gone wrong with the trip in which he was taking Mother and Sabra back to New Haven? Had he stayed there to help them out of the mess of first arriving? That, and having our films developed, was the only consideration which made us wish to get down.

That morning we broke camp fairly late, and started out for Lake Sunapee again. The long green field was fresh and glittering with dew–there again were our mountains–glorious snow-crested Lincoln, and mist-wreathed Lafayette. We stopped, and watched to see if Lafayette was breaking from the clouds–once we saw her very peak free and gleaming white, but it shut in quickly again.

Onward, onward we sped, and between Bristol and Danbury, by the side of a rushing brook, the little Dodge died. We stopped some fellows headed for Danbury, and asked them to send us some help–then we sat down and waited. I explored in the woods and found two fungi. Suddenly a blue-painted car whizzed by like an arrow. All I saw was a flash of a red-and-black checked shirt, and a little blue cap. “Leo!” I screamed. The brakes went on–it was Leo. But not only Leo, for Captain Hook and Smee were there, too! Right behind them came aid from the garage at Danbury. So much help coming at once–we were overwhelmed.

It seems that Leo had had malaria chills every night, and thought it would not be safe to go into the mountains. But he had expected us sooner, and he was as worried as we were. He had set out to the rescue to find the Dodge, which he thought probably had broken down. And there it all was. We got the Dodge new parts, and started home.

Then it was that we saw the most gorgeous moonrise I have ever seen. The moon was behind long tiers of black cloud which her radiance fringed with silver–so the sky was covered with marvellous night caves set with fringey light.

Always dreaming, as I now dream, of mist-shrouded peaks, we spun along home.

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