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The Old Man Of The Mountain

Editor's Note: 5/03/03
The Old Man of the Mountain fell from the mountain today.

Clik for larger view

High above the Franconia Notch gateway to northern New Hampshire there is an old man. He has been described as a relentless tyrant, a fantastic freak, and a learned philosopher, feeble and weak about the mouth and of rarest beauty, stern and solemn, one of the most remarkable wonders of the mountain world.

Daniel Webster once said, ..."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." Thus it happens that New Hampshire has her Profile, "The Old Man of the Mountain," sublimely outlined against the western sky; a sign unique, distinctive, and inspirational as to the kind of men the sons of the Granite State should be. **

The Old Man of the Mountain has several names including "The Profile", "The Great Stone Face", "The Old Man," and "The Old Man of the Mountains".

The Profile is composed of Conway red granite and is an illusion formed by five ledges, that when lined up correctly give the appearance of an old man with an easterly gaze, clearly distinct and visible from only a very small space near Profile Lake. When viewed from other locations in Franconia Notch, the same five ledges have a very rough and ragged appearance, and there is no suggestion of The Profile.*

Geological opinion is that The Profile on Profile Mountain is supposed to have been brought forth partly as the result of the melting and slipping away action of the ice sheet that covered the Franconia Mountains at the end of the glacial period, and partly by the action of the frost and ice in crevices, forcing off, and moving about certain rocks and ledges into profile forming positions. It is supposed that the Old Man of the Mountain was completed during the latter part of the post glacial period, from 2,000 to 10,000 years ago.**

The Old Man is formed on a shoulder of Profile Mountain, which juts out abruptly into space, some 1200 feet above Profile Lake. It is composed of five layers of granite ledge, one exactly above the other, the lateral distance being 25 feet. Of these five layers one forms the chin, another the upper lip, a third the nose and two layers make up the forehead. The Old Man has been measured as being forty feet and five inches in height. It is all together, just as it appears to be when viewed from the road or lake below.*

The Old Man
by Robert F Doane
Published 1939 at 13 years of age
Campton New Hampshire

On the crest of a mighty mountain
Looking over the lake below,
A face with a human expression
Watches many a century go.

It was made from a mountain of granite
With the skill of a sculptor's hand,
And guards the green valley below it
As time passes over the land.

At dusk when the birds cease their carols
And the wind murmurs through the trees,
There's a sense of sadness about you,
As you stand in the evening breeze.

You feel that a great respect's due him -
So mighty beneath the blue sky,
There are few who have not been inspired
By that face as they've passed it by.

And to me, as to Daniel Webster,
The thought comes now and again
That in the great State of New Hampshire
The Master of Sculptors makes men.
The Old Man
By Cameron D. Tanguay
Written 2003 at 12 years of age
Chelmsford Massachusetts

Down fell a face
Of a million years counting

The king of the mountain
And guard of the valley below

The last generation
The very last era

Never to see again
From Gods sculpting hands

“The mountains of New Hampshire,
God Almighty has hung out a sign to show,
That there, He makes man.”

Only memories will do now the justice
Of Gods great creation
Of the man who peeks out from the mountain,
The monument,
The icon,

The Old Man in the Mountain

The Old Man of the Mountain may be viewed from Interstate 93, northbound, in Franconia State Park from several cutout parking areas. The area is well marked and you will have no trouble locating the viewing areas. Southbound on Interstate 93, take Exit 2 into the Canon Mt Tramway parking lot and follow the signs for the "Old Man viewing area".

Information: Franconia State Park - 603-823-5563
'Old Man' Caretaker: David Neilsen - 603-323-9309

* "The Old Man's Reader" - History & Legends of Franconia Notch - Mudge - 1995
**"The Profile" - A brief story - Rev Guy Roberts - 1920

Other articles about the Old Man from the Manchester Union Leader - 5/06/03

*Mutha's MWV Home Page

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10-13-95 - 12:03:12 EDT

Last modified 09-29-09