The Great Stone Face

The White Mountains

New Hampshire

1982 / 2003

One of the remarkable things I have come upon in my travels is the Old Man of the Mountain.  To wit…

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.

—Daniel Webster

If you stand in Profile Lake, or on the shore, and look in a southwesterly direction, there is a big old stone mountain.  Look upward about 1200 feet and perched on the shoulder of the mountain is a forty-foot-high person profile that has stirred the hearts of poets.  An enormous mythology grew up around this natural rock formation, and the symbol of the profile has made its rounds of businesses, government, recreational and social groups.  It even appears on Hew Hampshire road signs and the state quarter.

My New England friend Marc first introduced me to the Old Man of the Mountain during a visit in his part of the country.  From the right viewpoint, five slabs of granite jut out from a mountain so as to present the profile of an old man looking to the east.  This dude had been looking to the east for thousands of years.

August 2013

Twenty-eight miles southwest of Mount Washington, Lisa and I drive past Franconia Notch State Park, former home of a famous New Hampshirite.  In the old days here, if you stood on the shore of what was then Echo Lake, and you looked 1200 feet up into the air and tilted your head in a southward direction, you would see, perched on the shoulder of Cannon Mountain, a forty-foot-high profile of a human face, but made of stone.  If it were flesh and blood, at that size, it would be too freaky.  And yet, this geologic feature has stirred the hearts of poets and writers and promoters of commerce.

The visage adorns New Hampshire road signs and quarters and in 1945, was chosen to appear as a major part of New Hampshire’s official state emblem.

Marc first introduced me to the Great Stone Face, five slabs of granite on Cannon Mountain jutting out in such a way as to present the profile of a craggy old man looking to the east.  This dude had been looking east for at least 2000 years, possibly as long as 10 000 years, give or take twenty minutes.  Until…

Early in the morning of May 03, 2003, the poor old guy had a breakdown:  The stone slabs gave way and tumbled to the valley below.  Face off.  These days, looks like nothing more than a standard beautiful, picturesque, New Hampshire granite mountain.  Alas.  Friends come and go.

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