Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President(ial Range)s' Day!

A happy Presidents' Day to all of you from my home here in the only state honoring a president,  Washington. Washington has a few mountains honoring presidents, like Mount Adams our second highest peak. In fact back during the Oregon Trail Days there was a movement to name the significant Cascades Peaks after presidents and in effect turn the range into a Presidential Range. That never happened, and Adams stands alone as the 'president" of the main Cascade summits.

However, in my home state of New Hampshire, there is indeed a Presidential Range and perhaps the most famous mountain in America named after a president, New Hampshire's Mount Washington. Highest summit in the Northeast and home to some of the worst and most notorious weather on the planet, Mount Washington has its legions of admirers. I have hiked it numerous times, and while I was a backcountry ranger with the White Mountain National Forest, even got to build a new trail on the mountain. It's a classic summit and due to the non-winter currently happening in the Northeast, this may be the year to hike Mount Washington on Presidents' Day.

Anyhow, New Hampshire has a whole slew of presidents honored with mountains. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe are the big five. There's a Mount Eisenhower too-a well loved president in the Granite State winning the state's first ever first in the nation primary back in 1952. There's a Mount Jackson-but it's not named for Andrew but for a geologist. Andrew lost the state in 1828, but won it in 1832 beating Henry Clay who has a peak named for him in New Hampshire (or did-more on that later!). There's a Mount Clinton-but not named for Bill, but for DeWitt a governor of New York. Clinton was renamed Mount Pierce for one of the most obscure and ineffective presidents of them all. But, he's a New Hampshire native son with a place in the hearts of many Granite Staters.

The most recent presidential peak name change -Mount Reagan-named for Ronald also well loved in New Hampshire garnering nearly 70% of the state’s vote in 1984. However, the federal government still recognizes Mount Reagan as Mount Clay, which was named after Henry Clay who ran for the presidency three times but never made it to the White House. Poor, Henry. New Hampshire took away his presidential peak too.

And not in the Presidential Range but also honoring presidents in the White Mountains are Mounts Coolidge, Cleveland, Garfield, and Lincoln. No Taft though-too bad, for he signed the legislation establishing the White Mountain National Forest; and I believe that our largest president is also one of our least recognized. Just for the record, President Taft was the first person to drive a car in Mount Rainier National Park. Anyone up for changing Mount Rainier to Mount Taft? A big mountain for a big president! Happy Presidents' Day all and happy hiking!

(Photo caption: Guidebook Author Jeff Romano and Heather Romano (this guidebook author's wife) hiking up New Hampshire's Mount Washington via Tuckermans Ravine-September 1999)

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