Ode to the Old Man of the Mountain

This is grievous news:

In the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.

-- Daniel Webster

FRANCONIA, N.H. � The Old Man of the Mountain (search), the natural stone profile that appears on everything in New Hampshire from the road signs to the state quarter, fell from its mountainside, leaving nothing recognizable in the cliff face Saturday.
Niels Nielsen, a state highway worker who died in 2001, was the profile's official caretaker from 1960 until a few years ago, when he passed the job on to his son. Over the years, the two tried to secure the ledges with cables and epoxy. Nielsen told an interviewer in 1999 he thought the Old Man profile would outlive him by many years. "My gut feeling is that any baby that's born on this date, today, will not see the Old Man come down," he had said.

The profile, about 40 feet high and 25 feet wide, was one of the most photographed sites in the state and was considered New Hampshire's state symbol.

I have my own photo of the Old Man which I'll scan and put up as my own memorial. I saw the Old Man twice, both times on fall trips to Franconia Notch State Park while I lived in Boston. My friends Riyaz, Insi, and Murtaza hiked up into the mountains and through the Flume Gorge. The fall foliage in New Hampshire is simply beyond my capacity to accurately describe in words. The best I can offer is, while driving north on I-93 it felt like floating through a tunnel of flame. I think my entire concept of "red" and "orange" has been fundamentally altered. And where do I even start about the purple cloak draped over the rolling hills? But the colors always faded. The Old Man, though, he was eternal.

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