Crossing the Kanc … and a Rocket?

New Hampshire State Route 112 is named for Chief Kancamagus, "The Fearless One." Kancamagus was the last leader of the Pennacook Confederacy, a union of more than seventeen central New England Native American tribes, first forged by Kancamagus' grandfather, Passaconaway, in 1627. Kancamagus tried to maintain peace between his people and encroaching English settlers, but war and bloodshed forced the tribes to scatter, with most retreating to northern New Hampshire and Canada.

It was a perfectly cloudless, cold but not too cold, two days after a big snowstorm so the roads were clear and dry, peerless sightseeing day as we prepared to leave Maine and return to the quarantine apartment back in Jersey, and we were determined to make the most of our road trip. That meant something I have done several times but he never has, a drive over “the Kanc,” as locals call the Kancamagus Highway over the White Mountains. It’s known as a perfect place to see fall foliage, but I’ve never been there on the right weekend for that. I think it’s just as gorgeous in the snow.

The eastern end of the highway follows the Swift River, a quick-moving, rocky, twisting course. The road veers closer and farther from the banks, as the trees and terrain allow. When there isn’t snow, you can pull off at more than one point to get close to the rapids of the river; we could only see it through the trees from the road.

Then the road starts to climb up towards the Kancamagus Pass. There are a few pull-offs along the way to take in the view, and some of them were sufficiently plowed to let us pull off in our little car and hop out.

Topping off at 2,855 feet on the flank of Mt. Kancamagus (there’s a little sign, though not a good place to pull off and get a picture), named for the last sagamore (chief) of the Pennacooks, the Kanc starts back downhill. It becomes steep quickly, and watch out for that hairpin turn on the western slope….

Now off the western end of the Kanc and into a different section of the White Mountain National Forest, I made my partner pull off the narrow road twisting through the trees so that I could capture the extraordinary effect of frost limning each tiny fractal branch of every tree and sparkling splendidly in the bright sunlight.

We had gone back ad forth for days on whether it was better to take the faster interstates, or the more scenic back roads for our return to Jersey. On the one hand, I had things to do back home, while on the other, we just don’t get these opportunities to travel to New England as often anymore, and the recent snowfall offered an opportunity for something special.

I’m glad we decided to take the scenic route. It was definitely worth it just for the Kanc and the crystalline trees, but….

I Promised You a Rocket…

We’re cruising along through woods and fields, over rivers on iron truss-and-girder bridges, through small towns and farmland, approaching the perfect seventeenth-century town center of Warren, NH … and there it was, sticking up out of the snow in front of the village church, the only town with a Redstone Missile that once bore nuclear warheads in its public park!

We simply had to stop for pictures.

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