Friday, August 13, 2021

Famous Old Man Fell

Tuesday July 20, 2021                                           Most Recent Posts:
Moose River                      Days of Frustration & Play in Northern Vermont
St. Johnsbury, Vermont                                       Jody Takes Me on a Tour

Moose River Campground is very close to the New Hampshire line so I ventured over there today to see Franconia Notch and found a lot more than I’d bargained for.  It was a very full day climaxing at Flume Gorge.  TOTALLY different from Queechee Gorge the apparent pride of Vermont.  There must be some better place to view Queechee than at the state park.  Wish someone would let me know.

Anyway, today I took I-93 south, thinking I’d visit Franconia Notch State Park but before I got there I ran into the Old Man of the Mountain.  I’d heard of it but didn’t really know anything about it.

Turns out it is a BIG deal in New Hampshire.

I got a parking spot and started off down the path.  There was this cute little information house along the way.


Inside there was information about the Portrait Lake Area and the Old Man of the Mountain.  The old man was called The Great Stone Face in a work of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The face was a series of 5 granite cliff ledges on Cannon  Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The rock formation was 1200 feet above Profile Lake, was 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide.
BIG to say the least.


From its discovery by white men in 1805 to its final crumbling in 2003 the Old Man has been New Hampshire’s state emblem since 1945, is on beloved by its people.  For nine decades they  have gone to amazing lengths to keep the conway granite old man in place on Profile Mountain.  In 1916 Massachusetts quarry man Edward H Geddes carried tools and supplies up the steep trail to the top of Old Man, drilled holes into the forehead stone and installed the first turnbuckles to anchor the profile.

In 1957 tools and equipment were ferried to the top by helicopter.  Over the course of 700 trips were needed to install 4 turnbuckles to divert the water flow over the profile .  A wire and fiberglass canopy was installed to prevent water from seeping into the crevice between the two large head stones.  If you click the picture below you see some of the men who did this work.

Despite all efforts between midnight and 2am May 3, 2003, the Old Man collapsed.  I read that dismay was so great people visited to pay tribute and some left flowers.

Other interesting information in the little building told the story of the grand Profile House Hotel which opened on the lake in 1853.  At various points, the Profile House had a stable large enough to house 350 horses, a dormitory for its 300 employees, a 200 car garage and a fish hatchery.  There was a  post office, telegraph office, barber shop, and souvenir shops along with tennis and croquet courts, a bowling alley, a billiard hall, a golf course and bridal paths that allowed guests to ride to mountain summits.  The hotel owned thousands of acres in Franconia Notch including Old Man of the Mountain.

The Profile House also had it’s own power plant, a large farm and garden for providing food for its famous dining room.  The army of employees included stage coach drivers, a blacksmith, railroad employees, hostlers to look after guests horses as well as women working in the laundry and as waitresses and maids.

The hotel was destroyed by fire in August of 1923.

The interpretive shelter where I learned all of this is at the end of the green trail on the right of the map.

The black square below the red rectangle is the Old Man Memorial Plaza right along the lake.  It’s an amazing tribute to the Old Man.


At the plaza which is in the same spot where people have stopped to view the old man for years, they have this quote from Daniel Webster which when published  created a great deal of the old man’s fame.


There are information boards showing the Old Man as he was and the pieces of granate and how they were stacked.  You can click any picture to blow it up

In the center of the plaza they have created a unique interactive sculpture using 7 large rods to allow you to again “view” the old man.


The directions for viewing the old man are to find the pink granite foot prints closest to your height.  They come in feet and half feet.  Then sight along the profile rod in front of you with one eye closed and align the bumps on the side.
The profile should come into view just as it was once high on the cliff.


I could see the old man when I stood just barely up from the 5’ feet but obviously I couldn’t take a good picture of what I saw.  My first one was not on the cliff face


And my second one was too low.


From the internet I got this picture of what a good photographer can take standing here.  This is what you are supposed to see.  Feel free to laugh at my efforts.

Old  Man

But still, I saw it and it was amazing.  Here’s what the rod I was looking at actually looked like.


They also had two viewers set up like those that must have been here to get a close up of the Old Man. The viewer on the left shows a 3D image of what the Old Man’s profile used to look like.  The viewer on the right shows the current view of the granite face without the Old Man.


I was able to take a picture through the viewer so even though I never got to see the real Old Man, I feel as though I know what he looked like.


From there I went back up the path to the red rectangle on the map and took the bridge over to the trail around the lake.  I thought I’d better get some exercise.  I had no idea what the afternoon was going to present.


It was a lovely trail though the path was quite narrow and at some points right on the edge of the lake. 


No big fence protections here.  Fall in if you will.


Unfortunately for my pictures, it was another hazy day.



At several sections I wished I’d had my hiking pole but I had no idea when I came to the plaza that I’d be hiking.


I got to the south end of the lake and crossed the bridge over to the other side.


This view is taken from the bridge looking back.  I went a little way up the other side and realized that walking up the other side of the lake meant crossing the busy highway in a tunnel and actually just walking in the woods on the other side of the highway.


Instead I turned around and walked the sweet path back to Ruby and we checked out Tramway.


I’m not much for ski lift tramways unless it really isn’t possible to actually hike to the top of the mountain and I was even less interested when I saw the price and remembered how hazy the day was. I might have gone at the price for New Hampshire Senior Citizens just for the fun of it.   .



Back in the car, I headed on down the road.  The next thing that jumped out at me was something called The Basin also part of Franconia Notch State Park.  I can’t really figure out where the park begins and ends. It appears that all of these things are part of Franconia Notch State Park and for most there is no admission  The only thing with an entrance gate is the campground.

This seems like a lot of information for one post so at the risk of getting further behind, I’ll save the rest of my very full day for the next post.  If I can get it all in.


  1. Looks like an interesting destination in New Hampshire. We know where we will be visiting next year in Vermont, but only have NH as a location to visit with no details planned as of yet. Great information on the geology of the Old Man.

    1. In New Hampshire, you must visit Franconia Notch. Wait until you see my next post. It was close to where I was staying in Vermont since I was only a few miles over the NH line.

  2. The sculpture to see what the old man looked like is interesting. I had to read it twice to figure out what it was. Hike looked lovely-xxxooo

    1. Yes it was a hard thing to explain but amazingly clever as an engineering feat. I guess it was engineering. I'm sorry I missed him before he fell. I had nearly 200 years to get there but didn't manage it. HA!

  3. I've heard of the Old Man and the fall, but have never been there.

    1. Might be time for a road trip. The plaza is very interesting.

  4. I had forgotten all about The Old Man and Franconia Notch! We had gone so many times pre RVing to Lake Winnipesaukee and up to Franconia Notch. I remember hearing about the collapse of the old man, so glad they've honored the mountain in that way.

    1. Haven't made it to lake Winnipesaukee. It may be too big for me. Did you ever take the Notch hike?

  5. I'm glad you showed what you saw through the scope because the other pics I just see a wooden pole and a green mountain. Interesting place and I love that they have so much information. Franconia Notch is one of my fav places in the area so I can't wait to see what you think.

    1. Sorry you couldn't see the old man at the end of the poles in the plaza. I guess that means you've been to Franconia Notch. Was that on an RV trip there?

  6. Just an FYI. Did you try Googling "best place to view Queechee Gorge"? That's my go to source for that kind of travel info. Either that or on a Facebook group dedicated to the tourism in the area I am visiting.
    Really enjoyed your descriptions of the Old Man.

    1. I did google. Where I went was what was recommended. I guess no one else cares about the big fence on the bridge. They said you could put your camera through it to get a picture. Which is what I did

  7. Enjoyed your post of the Old Man. Nice to find new things to see.

    1. Thanks for the comment Tom. Hope your summer is cool unlike most folks.

  8. Your post brought back memories. We visited the Old Man and Franconia Notch years ago, pre RV, probably early 90s. Wish blogging was a thing back then because we have only vague memories, but we do have vivid memories of the aerial tramway ride because it was so windy at the top. Beautiful area that we always said we would like to revisit but we haven't made it back there.

    1. Thanks for your comment, I know what you mean about wishing blogging had been a thing so you'd be more able to find the pictures you took of things you visited before rving.

  9. Those kind of hotels would be wonderful today, but probably too expensive to build, staff, or visit. Love the old man and, like you, have seen many faces in rock but not so much effort to save them. A great discovery along your journey.

    1. I would love to stay in one of those hotels but even in their Hay Day I would never have been able to afford it.

  10. We visited this park when Allegra lived in Boston. We have great memories of it!

    1. It's really been one of the highlights of my stay and it's not even in Vermont. Thank goodness I'm in the northeast corner of Vermont.

  11. Since the Old Man fell, they need to recall all those NH state quarters and grind his picture off them. After all, we need to be accurate, don't we? :cD

    1. Hahaha! You realize that that's blasphemy in New Hampshire don't you?

  12. We were in Franconia Notch in fall of 2019 (I haven't written about it yet in out blog, LOL). The fall colors were outstanding! But I didn't know anything about the Old Man. I always learn something new from your blog! Most of all, I love that sweet hike you did along the lakeshore.
    Are you tempted to stay in Vermont for the fall colors? We just extended our stay in North Carolina into October. :-)

    1. Oh you smart thing first of all to extend and you Lucky thing second of all to be able to extend. You must be liking North Carolina. Unfortunately I have an impossible to get annual visit doctor appointment in mid-September in Virginia or I'd make a serious effort to extend into the fall.

  13. This was all very interesting. I had never heard of this "man," but it must have been terrible for the locals when it fell.

  14. I remember when the Old Man fell, people were heartbroken.


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