While I join my fellow New Hampshire natives in my love for grizzled visage of The Old Man of the Mountains and great respect for the sweep and power of Mt. Washington, it has been the relatively modest Mt. Chocorua that has always held my heart.
At 3,500 feet, Chocorua doesn’t approach the heights of Washington, and it doesn’t have the anthropomorphic cast of The Profile. But it has its own story to tell; whenever I’m sitting on the summit, I remember the tragic legend of Chief Chocorua, who lost a son who was under the care of white settlers and carried out a terrible vengeance before throwing himself off the mountain to avoid capture. Looking down the peak’s precipitous rock faces, I can almost feel how those last seconds must have passed.
And what a beautiful mountain — said to be one of the most photographed anywhere, with its sharp peak rising above Lake Chocorua. As pretty as that is it’s even more impressive from the top, with a wide-open summit offering 360-degree views.
Maybe it’s the family connection, but for me it has no rival. If you were to tell me I could climb only one mountain again and again for the rest of my life, this would be it. There are trails both gentle and rough approaching from all sides of the mountain. There are great views, places to camp, and waterfalls. It’s tough enough to be a real hike, but easy enough to be an entry into climbing for youngsters. My grandfather played there as a child, and my parents took me to the top when I was still small. I did the same for my son, and I’m convinced it’s Chocorua’s views that helped cement his deep love for the woods of northern New Hampshire.
And now, the federal government is putting it on a coin.
The U.S. Mint is striking quarters meant to acknowledge America’s most beautiful places. Chocorua was chosen to represent the White Mountain National Forest (the summit of East Osceola didn’t make the list, apparently). ‘‘White Mountain National Forest is one of America’s most visited national forests,’’ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Associated Press. ‘‘We hope this latest recognition will inspire even more Americans to enjoy our nation’s many outdoor recreational opportunities.”
Even if the language is a little stilted, the sentiment is there — Chocorua is one of America’s most beautiful places. That’s something I’ve known since I was a child. Now the rest of the nation will get a glimpse.