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THE NEW-YORK VISITOR
And Lady's Album.
J. W. Harrison,]
FOR JANUARY, 1842.
THE NOTCH HOUSE,-WHITE MOUNTAINS. The wild scene, which the artist has here chosen for illustration, exists in one of the most romantic defiles of that section of country, denominated "the Switzerland of America ;" although the resemblance may possibly fail to be recognized by one who has travelled in the classic region of the Alps. The vast piles of the Crystal Hills, or White Mountains, as they are now termed, which lift their snow-clad summits above the clouds, do, indeed, cover with their base a territory as large as some entire sovereignties of the old world; but there are wanting, to make the resemblance true, the clustering vineyards, and scattered hamlets, nestling about the feet of the mountains; and, more than all, the air of romance which, in the twilight of ages, hovers over the classic summits of Europe. It may, indeed, be questioned, whether in any part of the Alps, there can be found wilder precipices, or deeper or darker glens, than are to be seen in the NOTCH OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS. Here the mountain, otherwise a continued range, is cloven asunder quite down to its base, opening a passage for the streams which, trickling down the sides of the mountains, here form the head waters of the Saco. The entrance to the grand chasm is flanked by perpendicular walls of rock, overhung by frowning and irregular masses of stone, in some places crowned with sturdy trees, waving their huge limbs high above the passing traveller. For nearly two miles the chasm is distinctly marked by the cliffs and precipices on either hand, receding as you pass onward, until the valley becomes widened, and little strips of meadow, formed by the debris of the mountains, skirt the silver stream.
through the Notch is in some places so narrow, that it has been found difficult to maintain a carriage-way--the sudden and violent rains, which sometimes visit the mountains, coming down in torrents that sweep everything before their path. On either hand, as you pass down from the north, will be seen the beautiful water-falls, to which Dr. Dwight gave the appropriate names of the Flume, and Silver Cascade.
Near the entrance of this magnificent pass, within a few years, has been erected the NoTCH HOUSE, a welcome and comfortable restingplace for the traveller. The inmates of the mansion, are of a tall and muscular race, well fitted to encounter the perils of the forest, and whose iron frames, nursed and nerved amid the storms, are capable not only of enduring, but of enjoying labours, under which the traveller would fear to sink. From this house, built and occupied by Mr. THOMAS JEFFERSON CRAWFORD-as noble a specimen of the hardy and hospital mountaineers as ever lived-the route of ascent to the summits of the mountains commences. Cradled among the hills, our host is familiar with every summit, glen, or precipice, and can lead to every tiny lake, or glittering cascade, formed by the springs that pour out their crystal waters, high up the mountains. For the convenience of travellers, he has cleared paths for some distance up, so that the ascent is much less difficult than formerly, and numerous pleasure parties of ladies and gentlemen now annually visit these mountains.
Situated north of the forty-fourth degree of latitude, these mountains are covered during eight months of the year with snow. June to September, is the usual season for visiting and exploring their cliffs and caverns. Leaving the comfortable dwelling at the Notch, the traveller, who wishes to obtain the richest rewards for his toil, in the magnificent scenery around, passes up the summit of Mount Pleasant, or the Dome, so called from its conical form. Here he is struck with the beauty of the mountain itself, upon the highest point of which he finds a smooth circular field of five or six acres, sloping gracefully away in all directions. Over the whole is spread a green carpet. of grass, growing in little tufts three or four inches high. Among these tufts, in a southerly exposure, the small and delicate mountain flowers are thinly scattered. The prospect from this summit most visitors have pronounced to be beautiful. To the north, Mount Washington rises against the sky; north-west, some twenty miles distant, are to be seen the settlements in
Jefferson; westerly, you trace the windings of the Ammonoosuck, as on a map; south-west, the lofty Moosehillock, and the Great Haystack Mountains are seen; south, the Chocorua Peak; south-east and east, the distant settlement in Bartlett, bounded by dark forest and mountains, as far as the eye can reach.
From the Dome, the traveller crosses a deep ravine, thence over the top of Mount Franklin, descending which, he passes towards the craggy precipices of Mount Monroe. Before reaching the base of this mountain, the ridge along which you pass, is suddenly contracted to three or four rods in width, presenting to the eye on the right hand and left, gulfs two or three thousand feet deep. You feel a sudden emotion of terror, and your step, involuntarily, becomes more cautious as you advance along the eastern edge of the precipice. Passing between the two highest points of Mount Monroe, you soon find yourself on a small plain, at the foot of Mount Washington. Here is a fine resting place, at the eastern margin of a beautiful pond, of an oval form, three-fourths of an acre in extent. The waters are clear as crystal, and very deep and cold. Not a living creature is to be seen in the pool at this height upon the hills, nor do vegetables of any kind grow in or about its margin. A small spring is seen discharging its pearly waters into this little reservoir, near the south-east angle; and the outlet, winding among the gullies and ravines to the west, joins the head waters of the Ammonoosuck. This lake is found at an elevation of almost five thousand feet above the level of the ocean, and forms quite an interesting object to the traveller, who usually loiters a while to drink of its refreshing waters, or to pass around the margin, peering down into its transparent bosom. The mountaineer, who has guided you thus far, amusing you the while with tales of adventures among the mountains, in pursuit of bears and wild cats with which they abound, will give you a name for every spot you visit; and this little lake, he will tell you, is now known as the Blue Pond-a designation which no natural object, in or around it, could have suggested, but which was bestowed upon it from the whimsical circumstance that a party of gentlemen, ascending the mountains, having indulged a little too freely in the juice of the grape, on reaching this spot, found themselves unable to proceed, until sleep, and a free bathing in the sparkling waters, had refreshed their exhausted bodies.
Directly before you rises the lofty and regular dome of Mount Washington, twelve hundred feet above the surface of the pond where you stand. A walk, or rather scramble, of half
an hour, will bring you to the top of the highest summit east of the Mississippi. The spectacle here presented, has been too often described to need repetition. To be appreciated, in its full beauty and extent, it must be seen under favourable circumstances of sunshine and air. The view at sunrise, in clear air, is dazzling. As the first rays of the morning appear, a long line of ocean is seen skirting the eastern horizon, changing and brightening, until the broad disk of the sun appears above it; and the traveller, who has been standing all the while upon the hoary summit of Mount Washington, musing upon the starry scene above, and the dark sea of mountains and forests around, is suddenly enveloped in a flood of light, which gilds first the pinnacle on which he stands, and then sinks lower and lower, till the bright rays encompass the wide and boundless expanse before him. You may now trace the courses of the great rivers of New-England, the Saco, the Androscoggin, the Merrimack and Connecticut, which find their head springs in the mountains, by the curtain of vapour which overhangs them. You can detect the waterfalls by the wreaths of fog that curl upward, and float away in the atmosphere; the broad lakes begin to unbosom themselves to the eye, as the vapours ascend, and their waters glitter in the sun. The prospect in every direction is a magnificent one, and baffles description.
The tops of these mountains must be forever sterile they rise too high to sustain vegetable life; and yet a kind of long moss spreads around their sides, and lichens, of meagre growth, may be found in clefts of rock, looking as if they had wandered from their proper zone, into these regions of desolation. Although the waters of these summits apparently give life to no animal or insect, yet in the heat of summer, a little black fly has sometimes annoyed the traveller. The grasshopper is also found as gay as on the arid plains beneath. The swallow, too, appears to hold his flight as high above the mountain as he is wont to do above the plains. The place, however, is one of extreme, impressive solitude.
The vicissitudes of sunshine and shade are here very frequent-not exactly like shadows flying over the plain; for here the traveller is enveloped in the cloud, or sees it passing far beneath him, while there it passes over him. The cloud is discovered at a distance, rolling along the surface of the mountain; it approaches, and in an instant encircles you, and as soon passes away, to be followed by others in endless succession. These phenomena are presented, however, only when the clouds are light and scattered. When they are surcharged with