We’re packing up and leaving NH this week. Lots of end-of-season chores and time-consuming errands to do. Parting from a loved one is never easy and, after living in this beautiful place for five months, we feel that pang. So this seems like a good time to relate the story of the Old Man of the Mountain.NH’s iconic Old Man was a group of rocks on a cliff edge that, when viewed from a particular angle, appeared as a rugged man’s face gazing over the hills. The view was so popular it was used as the state emblem on license plates, coins, and millions of tourist gifts. When I was a child, my family would drive to Franconia Notch Park every summer to view the Old Man and other White Mountain glories. In 2003 he succumbed to gravity and water damage and fell. Wikipedia has a lot of info about him if you care to visit. What that site fails to mention is what we consider to be the “real” story . . .
Native Americans in the White Mountains tell of a chief who met his beloved at an intertribal pow wow far away. He was able to bring her back to his mountain home only by promising her father that she would be able to visit her family from time to time. The couple were very happy together for many years and their tribe thrived. Eventually however, the woman wished to see her family again and a trip was arranged. She left in the early summer and was expected to return by fall. As the months went by, the chief deeply missed his wife and started climbing to the top of one mountain to look out over the land, searching for signs of her approach. He went every day and stayed longer and longer. The weather was growing colder and winter was approaching. As the days shortened, his tribe became concerned for him. They begged him to stop waiting on the mountain top – she’d come in the spring, they said. The chief however, simply asked for a warm blanket and to be left alone. He’d maintain his vigil until she appeared. And maintain it he did. When the tribe next checked on him they found nothing but his stony face staring from the cliff, awaiting the return of his love.
Many, many years passed. Eventually, the spirit of the wife who could not return somehow made it back to the mountains. Her love, still strong, released her chief from his long wait so they could spend the rest of time together. And the stones fell.
Modern men made efforts to shore up the stone visage which so many people came to see. The chief may have been forgotten, but his image was much loved. So well loved, in fact, that a group raised funds and created a monument to him called Profile Park which makes it possible to see again the chief awaiting his love’s return.