The Old Man of the Mountain

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The Old Man of the Mountain

May 3rd is a sad anniversary for New Hampshire: the symbol of the state, the Old Man of the Mountain, fell to the ground from his perch high above Profile Lake 16 years ago. Years of freeze/thaw cycles finally took their toll in the wee hours that morning in 2003. Appropriately, perhaps, no one witnessed the event due to heavy fog – though some heard the crash. It was (and still is) difficult enough to view the aftermath; it would have been too much to bear to see it happen. I think of The Old Man every time I am in the area.

The Great Stone Face, then, was a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness, formed on the perpendicular side of a mountain by some immense rocks, which had been thrown together in such a position as, when viewed at a proper distance, precisely to resemble the features of the human countenance. It seemed as if an enormous giant, or a Titan, had sculptured his own likeness on the precipice. There was the broad arch of the forehead, a hundred feet in height; the nose, with its long bridge; and the vast lips, which, if they could have spoken, would have rolled their thunder accents from one end of the valley to the other. True it is, that if the spectator approached too near, he lost the outline of the gigantic visage, and could discern only a heap of ponderous and gigantic rocks, piled in chaotic ruin one upon another. Retracing his steps, however, the wondrous features would again be seen; and the farther he withdrew from them, the more like a human face, with all its original divinity intact, did they appear; until, as it grew dim in the distance, with the clouds and glorified vapor of the mountains clustering about it, the Great Stone Face seemed positively to be alive.

Excerpt from The Great Stone Face, a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne

And from New Hampshire statesman Daniel Webster:

“Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.

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