This was our first big adventure (and our first blog post together!) after arriving in New England. Exploring Cape Cod on Sunday was nice and scenic and the National Seashore was very awesome, but our Monday Nantucket Island trip was even better.
This also happened to be our first ride on the high speed ferry. Because we were staying just a few miles from Hyannis, we were close to the Hy-Line ferry terminal. Hy-Line operates a fleet of high speed ferries to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard and is the company we used for both island trips.
And high speed is an appropriate adjective to use as I clocked the Nantucket ride at 36 mph. This is not a little boat (158 feet) and it probably had at least 200 people on board, not to mention all of the luggage and other "freight" type baggage. Being a guy... I was really interested in how they made this thing move so fast... and the reason is below.
The Grey Lady IV is the newest vessel of the Hy-Line fleet. It is one of the few high speed ferries that has 3 passenger decks, and when fully loaded, can carry 493 passengers and their baggage.
We arose early to depart at 5:12 am for the first High Speed Ferry to Nantucket. We arrived at the ferry at 5:20 am under some fog and high overcast skies and a temperature of 59º. Most of the other passengers were sleepy workers commuting to work with an early 6:10 am Monday departure time. On this ride, Amy and I paid extra to sit in the "Captain's Seats", the top level passenger deck with more room and larger forward facing seats, and the views were great. All of the pictures and videos that I took traveling to Nantucket were taken from inside the ship from these seats, and I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. You can also get drinks and snacks on board during the ride. The trip was about as smooth as it gets. Other than the vibration from the engines there was no motion at all unless you happened to cross another ships wake. This water can get very rough and visibility can drop to nothing, so days like this are a treat. I spoke with a tour guide that travels back and forth on a regular basis and she told me about one trip where it was so foggy you couldn't see in front of you. She said they blew the horn continuously through the entire trip. They do stop the ferry if the seas get too rough, but I don't know how they determine that.
I have a few short videos of the ferry leaving the Hyannis Harbor and cruising across Nantucket Sound just to give you an idea of the views and the calm water.
As we approached the island the skies were dark from the rain clouds that had passed earlier in the morning. Here are a few pictures of those clouds as we approached Nantucket.
When we arrived on the island at 7:40 am, we were the life on the island! After the hustle and bustle of the ferry passengers settled, Nantucket was still asleep. It was cool, tranquil and quiet. It was so serene that the still beauty stops you in your tracks. The calm AFTER the storm feeling… PEACE that surpasses ALL understanding. It may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words and this one captured the moment perfectly.
Our bus tour of the island wasn’t until 11:00 am so we had some time to explore a little of the town on our own. Of course, food was of interest. While scouting looking for something that was open, we walked around looking at all the cool shops and gorgeous old houses/buildings. Since it was so early, there really wasn't much open, so we headed back to this cute little place called "Provisions" that we saw after stepping off the ferry. We ate a wonderful breakfast sandwich that was just what we needed. "The Original" consist of herbed egg frittata, cheddar, bacon and house-made tomato chipotle jam. They have all kinds of coffee as well as sweets, juices and other light food. Keep in mind, everything is more expensive on Nantucket, but with drinks we paid $19 for our breakfast. Remember... if you get to Nantucket too early... NOTHING is open, it's almost like a ghost town. This may have been one of the reasons it was so surreal. Take the 6:10 am ferry and see what I mean :-)
Once we were fed and we located the bus tour spot, we were ready for adventure. We pretty much scoured the town while Steve was able to capture some incredible images. The sun began to peep through just as the town seemed to wake up. PERFECT in every way! It actually warmed to 74 degrees later in the day. Below is a little slideshow of a few of the downtown pictures before everyone woke up. Notice that many of the buildings will have the date they were built on the front, and you'll see a few here but there are more in the link further down the page.
The 11:00 am tour guide was with Billy from Australia. LOL. He was AWESOME!!!!!!! I wish we had a recording! (EDIT: We found it!) Now I HAVE to return. Here are a few items I learned:
There is a HUGE Preservation Society in charge of everything. Even 2% of real estate sales go to this establishment. Not sure of the political inclination, but if they are responsible for actually preserving this incredible island, then they are doing a mighty act. Only 12 colors can be used on exteriors and Billy spouted them off like the days of the week. The average home is $2.5 million (and I’ve always considered myself above average. HA! and Zillow sales confirm. LOOK!) and they just got squirrels. Can you believe that? Only sweet animals allowed here. I think rodents came over as stowaways. Gasoline is $4/gallon, there are NO traffic lights (Steve can put it on cruise and never stop), there has only been one murder in 150 years, one stucco house (before the conservation society), and CRANBERRY bogs galore. There are 11,000 residents year round and 60,000 during the summer. Oh, and the two hotels run $1000-$1500/night, so this sheds new light on the phrase “DON’T miss the BOAT!” You may end up sleeping on a bench!
The history was fascinating! It embraces you and makes you a part of the island story. So much has stayed exactly the same since the island was placed on the National Historic Landmark District in 1966. It is considered the "finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th and early 19th century New England seaport town". I LOVE that.
This is where naming your vessel began to identify the numerous shipwrecks. The island is referred to as the “Little Grey Lady of the Sea” and our ferry boat was the “Grey Lady IV.” There is a Whaling Museum with a remarkable scrimshaw collection and the quaint shops are curiously inviting. We saw the little airfield where “Wings”, the TV show, was filmed. Our stop at Sankaty Head Light and exclusive golf club was spectacular. The most amazing views and lighthouse stamped golf ball (found courtesy of Steve) were the bonus takeaways.
This island tour was an additional service available through Hy-Line cruises and was $25 per person. It is highly recommended by both of us in order to gain an understanding and appreciation of the total Nantucket experience . Billy’s narrated tour was truly a MUST in our schedule.
The tour was about an hour and fifteen minutes, allowing us plenty of time to tour the town of Nantucket again on our own. Nantucket is the smallest of the two islands and is only about 48 square miles, so it would be real easy to navigate the island by bike. Both islands also have car rentals, so if you chose to get around and explore on your own, you have options. The video below is from the Sankaty Head Light over on the east side of the island. As you can see, there is a reason there are so many lighthouses in New England. Warm land and cold waters make for some pretty dense fog.
We purchased lots of goodies from several shops and also visited the Whaling Museum. I had lots of pictures from this place and I have somehow lost them along with a few others. Hopefully I'll find them misplaced in another folder. I do have a video of an old restored clock that is on display there and I've included that video below. A little history of the clock...
"In 1881, William Hadwen Starbuck presented the Town of Nantucket with an E. Howard No. 3 flatbed striking clock. Manufactured by the E. Howard Watch & Clock Co. of Boston, it was installed in the tower of the Unitarian Church and began operating on May 28, 1881. It powered the four clock faces of the south Tower and the church’s familiar bell, 52 chimes, three times a day, until 1957, when the dials were electrified.
The Howard clock was donated by the Town to the NHA in April 1972 and was moved to the Peter Foulger Museum. It was restored in 2004–2005 to be installed in the glass-enclosed three-story stairwell of the Whaling Museum for its grand reopening in 2005, a location that displays the clock and its intricate mechanism in full view. Today, from the lobby to the museum’s rooftop belvedere, visitors can closely observe the clockworks chime the hours."
It was afternoon and time to eat, so we went back to a location near the ferry dock and secured a lovely patio spot at The Tavern for a late lunch consisting of clam chowder (we were committed to having it every stop), roast beef sandwich, fries, and beer ($54). Yes... no seafood here, Nantucket is a little pricey and we were saving up for points north.
With newfound energy, we footed on, did a little more shopping, and enjoyed all that we could before leaving for Hyannis on the 4:15 pm ferry. We had planned on returning on the 5:40 pm, but by that time we were done so they let us swap.
Finally, we have two short videos of the return trip. It was sunny but very windy and the back of the boat had lots of people on it until we got out in open waters... and then the wind and the spray chased everyone inside except for us, a couple of Hy-Line employees and this one girl. Every now and then she would get blasted by a COLD spray... and she never flinched. One person even came out and asked her if she was ok! :-) We talked with her after we pulled in and discovered that she had moved from Miami to just north of Boston and was here for the summer to work on Nantucket, and on this return trip she was headed back to the mainland. Amy just KNEW that she must have lost a bet. :-) Wouldn't it be great if you could somehow let these people know you have a picture of them? I wished I had gotten a video of her getting sprayed. :-)
Both of these links are pretty explanatory, but if you'd like to see all of the Nantucket pictures, click on the first link. It seems I've probably lost about 100 pictures or so and can't find them anywhere, but the remaining pictures are located here.
This link is to our YouTube playlist that has about 35 videos (still adding some) from the entire trip.
New England YouTube Playlist
So a great day with great weather, and it just so happens that this wonderful weather will be our traveling companion over the following 9 days. We were both blown away by the beauty and charm of the old seaside port and the staggering amount of documented history. It's amazing and not uncommon to see building's from the 1700's that are meticulously maintained and still in use today. The fact that the brick and cobblestone roads and sidewalks have withstood the wind and weather and 300 years of use is amazing. Overall, our island trip was surreal and exceeded our every expectation (as each day has so far). I came as a visitor and left as a faithful friend, and this visit would be tough to beat. But what we didn't know was that the next few days would end up being even better. :-)
Incredible. A must do. Ride, don't drive.
If you ever get up to the New England states and you travel to New Hampshire, a visit to Mount Washington is something you do not want to miss. On a good day you will get to witness one of the most spectacular views anywhere in the country. Reaching 6288 feet into the New Hampshire sky, Mount Washington is the king of the White Mountains and is one of many peaks in the Presidential Range. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you'd see this...
"The Presidential Range is notorious for having some of the worst weather on Earth, mainly because of the unpredictability of high wind speeds and whiteout conditions on the higher summits. Because of the poor weather conditions, the Presidential Range is often used for mountaineering training for those who go on to climb some of the world's highest mountains, including K2 and Everest."
One thing they tell you right before you get off the train at the top is "don't miss the train going back down", You don't want to have to hike down this mountain. Even in the summertime, the top of Mt Washington is covered in fog 90% of the time. During the trip up and down the mountain on the cog railway you'll notice all of the stacks of stones known as cairnes (can be seen and talked about in the videos below). Those are used as trail guide markers for the hikers. Since you can hardly see in front of you in the fog, the markers are placed VERY close together to help keep you on the path and not fall off the mountain. As you approach the top of the mountain the Appalachian Trail crosses the tracks, and the hike across Mount Washington and the Presidential Range is considered to be the most difficult hike on the entire Appalachian Trail.
You have three ways to get to the top of Mount Washington, you can walk, you can drive, or you can take the cog railway, and that is the method we took. It's about a 4 hour hike to the top and then another 3-4 back down, so unless you are REAL adventurous and have perfect weather, that is probably out of the question. You can also take your own car to the top by driving on the Mount Washington Auto Road, but a word of caution. This road has no guardrails and if you mess up, there is nothing to stop you and your vehicle from tumbling to the bottom. I haven't been on it but I hear from others that have that it's terrifying. It's makes it hard to enjoy the views when you have to worry about driving off a cliff. See the video at the very end of this post, then decide. ;-)
So... that leaves the cog railway. THIS is the way to go. This is from their website:
The Mount Washington Cog Railway is a narrated 3-Hour-Round Trip train ride to the summit of Mount Washington on a historic and awe-inspiring railway. Averaging around 1 hour each way, you have 60 minutes to explore and take in the Summit of Mount Washington, including the Sherman Adams Visitor Center. Inside the Visitor Center is a museum, post office, small snack bar and 360° views of the surrounding areas including up to 5 states, Canada and the Atlantic Ocean!
Here's a video of the train that took us to the top pulling into the station. They operate multiple trains up and down the mountain during the day and our engine is one of the bio-diesels that they run. The Cog Railway also has a couple of steam locomotives in case you want that old time feel to the ride. Notice that the engine pushes the passenger car up the mountain instead of pulling. The engine has a cog (it's like a gear) that engages slots in the center of the track and that is how you get pushed up the mountain. The steepest grade is about 38%, so it looks like you're headed off into space at times. If not for the cog, the train would never be able to make it up the mountain.
The passenger car has two sections of seating. The left side of the car (facing forward) has three seats and across the aisle are two more seats. When you make your reservations (and you MUST or you probably won't get a seat and certainly not the best seat) you want to get the front seats on the left because the best views are on that side of the train.
The day we went up was about as good as it ever gets on Mount Washington, so the windows were down on the train. Keep in mind, some of the worst and wildest weather in the U.S. occurs on Mount Washington. Most of the time the mountain is in the clouds with fog and mist. In the winter, that fog and mist become rime ice that covers everything up there. For nearly sixty-two years Mount Washington held the world record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded on the surface of the Earth: 231 miles per hour, recorded April 12, 1934 by Mount Washington Observatory staff. To learn more about the day that wind speed was recorded, click on this link. Another item to note, the tree line starts about 5000 feet. Out in the Rockies, that elevation is about 10,000 feet.
The maximum temperature ever recorded on the summit is only 72 degrees and the high the day we rode up was about 60 degrees, so it was a relatively warm day on the top. The image below shows the conditions right before we started the ride up (we had a 12:30 pm train). It was an incredibly warm day at the bottom, we had seen temps in the low 80's driving to the mountain so we knew the top shouldn't too bad. Even the winds cooperated that day and stayed at speeds that wouldn't blow you off the mountain like they normally do. Notice that our visibility was about 80 miles... today it's 1/16 of a mile (see image below). Here's a link to the current data.
The image below is from today, June 14th about the time we left the station. Compared to our visit, it is much colder with no visibility today. Not a great day to go to the top if you want to see a view.
The elevation at the bottom where you start the ride up is about 1600 feet. It's funny, but Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is 1529 feet high and you think that's tall when you're on top of it, so this being at the bottom helps put things in perspective.
The station has a gift shop, a restaurant, and restrooms. If you didn't purchase your ticket online, you get your tickets here. There are no restrooms on the train so go before you board.
It's very cool looking up toward the top of the mountain from the station. You can barely make out the tower on the top, and off in the distance you can see the train tracks going up the side of the mountain. Now... picture yourself hiking that. :-)
I mounted my GoPro on the window using a suction cup mount. Stupid me... I could have mounted the actual camera part of it in the open part of the window, but instead, the whole thing was behind the window. It doesn't seem to hurt the image to much but I'm sure it helped with reducing the wind noise. Granted, the train only moves about 4 MPH, so the wind noise doesn't come from the train movement. :-)
Anyway... here are my videos from the front of the train. I should have mounted the camera on the left side window to catch the views, and I was going to on the way down, but someone on the other side of the aisle asked if they could swap seats with us for the return trip. And being the nice person that I am, we swapped, so I didn't have the best view coming back down. And trust me, the left side is spectacular. The pictures I have just don't do it justice. The conductor was great and full of information, I was glad I captured his narration on the videos.
It is a ride you'll never forget. I've added a few pictures below, but if you'd like to see them all, you can click on this link.
Keep in mind that during times of bad weather, the train may not go all the way to the top. They will ride halfway and when there is snow, they stop at a newly built platform and everyone can get off the train and hang out at a bonfire and eat s'mores. We were very blessed with our weather and it couldn't have been more perfect. Because the weather on the top is so unpredictable and generally not so good, it makes it very tough to factor in to your plans. You plan for the worst and hope for the best, and in our case, that's the way it worked out, so your visit may or may not go as well. That's Mount Washington.
Once you're at the top there are several places to explore, and if you're hungry you can grab a bite to eat eat while you're there. And there is even a United State Post Office on the top so you can send mail with a Mount Washington postmark. The Mount Washington Observatory on top is continuously staffed even in the winter time. Research is conducted on new weather instruments and manually taken weather readings occur on schedule 24/7.
Not much more to say except you need to add this place to your bucket list. I do recommend the train up, but if you think you may want to drive up, watch this video below. You will be amazed and terrified at the same time. :-)
We made it! We arrived in West Yarmouth about 4:30 pm on Saturday. Along the way we stopped to visit two lighthouses in Rhode Island and eat a lobster roll. :-)
I've added a few pictures and a couple of videos below. Most were taken at the two lighthouses or on the way to them. Oh... and my lobster roll. :-) You can't forget the lobster roll.
We're just getting started so I'll have lots more pictures and videos. Now is when it starts getting good!
EDIT: Here's the link to the photo album.
Here are a couple of videos I took on the ride, and both of these are from the Beavertail Lighthouse. I'll have more later. This first video is from the dash cam and the second video was taken using my S7 with polarizing filter.
EDIT: The bridge and the bridges I talk about below were actually the next day, June 1. They are in Connecticut... I do know that. :-) We arrived at Shelton CT and stayed at a Hampton Inn (the best one of the whole trip) and then continued driving the next day on the road you see above. I think. The days all ran together. :-)
After the fiasco from yesterday, we have decided to skip the stop in Philly to see Independence Hall, and I think that decision proved to be a wise one.
Also... if you travel and use Google Maps... just know that the drive times you see is probably not going to be the time you actually spend on the road. Obviously Google doesn't know how many times you're gonna stop, and it doesn't know how fast you'll travel among other things.
The bridge you see in the picture above is one of many on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. Each bridge is a little different, but each one is very fancy. Those were kinda cool. Here's a link to the picture album with images of 33 bridges. https://photos.app.goo.gl/xNYEnbYg5yvYVKhF8 . There are a total of 42 bridges that cross over Merritt Parkway. We will do another blog post about the bridges, there is a great story and history behind them.
Today we end up in Shelton Connecticut at a Hampton Inn. (EDIT: this was a GREAT place to stay). Tomorrow... onward through the fog!