New Hampshire 112: The Kancamagus Highway

Driving North on Rte 302, I was missing Portland and feeling sad when all of a sudden I turned a corner onto Rte 112 and wandered into this:

The White Mountains of New Hampshire. I can’t think of a better rebound! New Hampshire Route 112 winds through the Whites on a road called the Kancamagus Highway. Kancamagus (a name meaning “The Fearless One”) was the third and final leader (called “Sagamon”) of the Panacook (or Pennacook) Confederacy of 17 Native American tribes.

According to Yankee Cruisah:

Passaconaway (Child of the Bear) was a peace-loving chief who, in 1627, united over 17 Indian tribes of Central New England into the Panacook Confederacy. As the first “Sagamon,” he ruled wisely until his death in 1669. Kancamagus (The Fearless One), grandson of Passaconaway, succeeded his uncle, Wonalancet, around 1684 as third and final Sagamon of the Panacook Confederacy. Kancamagus tried to keep the peace between the Indians and the pioneering whites, until aggravated English harassments brought war and bloodshed. The confederacy’s tribes scattered after 1691, and Kancamagus and his followers moved north to upper New Hampshire or into Canada.

Wikipedia fills out the story even further:

One of the first tribes to encounter European colonists, the Pennacook were decimated by introduced diseases and raids by [neighboring tribes]. Passaconaway, despite his [original] military advantage over the colonists, decided to make peace with them rather than lose even more lives through warfare.

[Reported to have lived more than 100 years], legend has it that Passaconaway was a giant, a genius and possessed magical powers such as the ability to make water burn and trees dance. According to folklore, he could make dried up leaves turn green and make living snakes out of dead snake skin. [He was also] one of the first native chieftains to lease land to English settlers in New England.

[Unfortunately], King Philip’s War would make [the Pennacook‘s] numbers fall even further. Although Wonalancet, a chief and the son of Passaconaway, tried to maintain neutrality, western bands in Massachusetts did not. The Pennacook fled north with their former enemies, or west with other tribes, where they were hunted down and killed by English colonists. Those that survived joined other scattered tribespeople at Schaghticoke, NY or fled northward to eventually merge with other displaced New England tribes and Abenaki.

If you’re realizing, as I did, that you’re not quite as knowledgeable about early American history as you once were, these two books about King Philip’s War are supposed to be really great:

Below are some more photos from the park.

Along with providing ample opportunity to pull to the side of the road and wander right into the woods, the Kank (people totally call it that, I didn’t make it up) also offers up a few gorgeous overlook points, where they give you some history and a place to sit. In one of these little mountain cabanas I met two local couples who chatted with me a bit. One couple from Conway was participating in an awesome-sounding scavenger hunt put on by their local library, where you travel through the White Mountains to learn about local history and raise money for the Believe in Books Literacy Foundation, it sounded cool. Seeing my camera, the other couple offered to take my picture, so while I talked to his wife about other parts of the park to visit, the husband snapped a few candids that came out really beautifully.

At another overlook point further down the road I met a couple celebrating their 10th anniversary. Looking over a very green valley with crystal clear peaks in the distance, they danced to an old John Mayer CD they were playing from their car. It was pretty adorable.


One response to “New Hampshire 112: The Kancamagus Highway

  1. It totally looks like it’s straight out of Last of the Mohicans. Which is my favorite movie and I wish I could go back in time to be a part of. Except for the dying and disease parts, those weren’t very cool.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s