In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech, I always got a little thrill from his reference to “the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.” At first, I thought it was a touch condescending, but after travelling to some other states and regions, I realized it was a pretty good description of the Granite State.
North America has two great mountain chains, one in the west and one in the east. The western one is known as the Rockies its whole length, but in the east it keeps changing its name. It’s the Appalachians, the Adirondacks, the Berkshires, the Green Mountains, and in New Hampshire, they’re the White Mountains.
Compared to the Rockies, though, the White Mountains are kind of puny. New Hampshire’s Mount Washington is the highest point in New England, and it’s barely a mile above sea level. Denver, Colorado is known as “Mile High City,” for heaven’s sake.
But what we’re lacking in altitude, we more than make up for in quantity. I co-wrote a humor column in college, and my partner alleged that “Plymouth” was an ancient Indian word meaning “Hills From Hell.” My home town had one street that ran at about a 35-degree angle, and it had to be closed every winter.
Now I live in Manchester. Manchester straddles the Merrimack River, which means it is part of the Merrimack River Valley. A “valley” is “An elongated lowland between ranges of mountains, hills, or other uplands, often having a river or stream running along the bottom.”
I spell that out for a very specific reason. We all know what a valley is, but hardly anyone ever really thinks about what that means,and just how high these hills can be, and how fast they can rise.
Manchester has a couple high-rise buildings, all along the main street, just up from the river. They are both a good 20 stories high, and dominate the city’s skyline. I’ve taken a few pictures of these two buildings, and uploaded them here. (By the way, the photos titled “alley” were all taken from exactly the same spot, facing in opposite directions.)
Manchester has several parks, a couple of them quite nice. Derryfield Park is on the side of a hill, near a couple schools, and offers a wonderful view of the city’s skyline. I’ve posted a few pictures of and from Derryfield Park here.
Another famous Manchester landmark is Rock Rimmon. Rock Rimmon is a great rocky outcropping on the West Side of the city. It has both easy trails and sheer cliffs leading up to the summit, making it a mecca for hikers and climbers of all skill levels. And it offers a truly panoramic view of the city. I went up there Saturday morning, with camera.
Now, here’s where I tie these three things together. In both the Derryfield and Rock Rimmon galleries, you can see the same buildings as featured in the Highrises gallery — but in both cases, I am pretty much on the same level of their roofs. And while I happened to drive around to take these pictures, in the past I’ve walked from my home to all three locations.
“Prodigious hilltops,” indeed.