Monday round-up: Boise Rock and the amazing survival story of New Hampshire’s original Han Solo

Cannon views: The cliffs of Cannon Mountain from Boise Rock.

So that’s where George Lucas got the idea!

Faced with an aching hernia and freezing temps on Sunday, I was left with the prospect of sitting on the couch or finding something to do outdoors that didn’t involve any effort. So, on the way home from Whitefield, I decided to tootle around Franconia Notch and visit the one pull-off I’d never been to: Boise Rock.

It always seemed strange to me that an attraction in New Hampshire was named after the capital of Idaho, but a little checking into the name revealed a more appropriate meaning.

It turns out that George Lucas must be a student of New Hampshire history. Back in the early 1800s, the Granite State’s own Han Solo, a teamster by the name of Thomas Boise, was driving a horse-drawn sled through the notch when a snow storm struck.

Well, back in the day, getting caught in a blizzard in the notch pretty much meant the end for you. You were a long way from anything, and anybody who’s been there in bad weather knows that the Notch can be a wind tunnel, dropping the temps to deadly degrees. Plus, I’m betting Thomas had no Gor-Tex. But this guy was no wimp. Heck, old Thomas Boise came up with a solution that would make even Bear Grylls cry.

First, he found the giant overhanging boulder, now known as Boise Rock, to take shelter under. But the storm still would have killed him, if not for one thing.

Thomas killed and skinned his horse and wrapped himself up in the bloody hide. Beat that Survivorman! Anyway, nearly two hundred years later, Han Solo used the same technique with a Tauntaun to save Luke Skywalker.

The next morning, the rescue team that set off to find Thomas, discovered him alive under that rock, and had to use axes to chop off the frozen horse hide.

Incidently and apropos of nothing, boise is a French word that means wooded.

So, the Boise Rock pull-off, is pretty much just that rock. The temperature when I arrived was -2, but I had no horse to skin and wrap myself in. So, I made do with my North Face shell.  There’s plenty of space under that rock, so it’s easy to see why Thomas chose it. But the rock is not the real charm of that pull off. It’s the views of Cannon Cliff that make it worth the stop.

In the winter, and with the snow frozen and only a couple inches deep, I was able to make my way past the rock, nearly to the edge of the highway. From there you can look straight up the cliffs, directly in front of you. In the summer, with leaves on the trees and brush all around, it must be more difficult to find such a view.

Craggy cliffs: Close up of Cannon Cliffs.

If you go: Come for the boulder. Leave with the views. The Boise Rock pull-off can be reached only on the north side of I-93, just after the Lafayette Place. There is a picnic area and a restroom which I imagine is open in the summer. The pull-off is plowed but not perfectly so parking inward is not an option. But there’s not going to be anybody there so you can just park diagonal. There is a small info plaque on the north side of the boulder.


A new series: Since September, I’ve been somewhat sidelined by a hernia. Well, in the past couple weeks, it’s become clear that the thing needs to be repaired. The result will be that I’ll have to more or less bid goodbye to Winter 2012. My surgery is scheduled for Jan. 31 and it’s unlikely I’ll be doing any hiking until March. So, what’s a boy to do when he can’t play outside and operates a website that’s all about adventures? Why, write about whatever adventure might come his way, of course, including the injury that’s going to park my butt in front of the TV for a month. Starting next week, I’ll begin a Three-part series on my latest adventure – let’s call it The Hernia Chronicles for now and think of something better later. And no, there is not going to be (m)any pictures!


Contest alert: Later this week, we’ll be announcing a new contest. We haven’t figured out yet what you need to do, but the winner will get a photo of his choice from this website! Stay tuned!

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11 Responses to Monday round-up: Boise Rock and the amazing survival story of New Hampshire’s original Han Solo

  1. Patti says:

    How about taking the time off to finish the Nepal Chronicle? You really left us hanging without the final chapter!!!

  2. Hi Patti, yes, guilty as charged…. There’s a draft done but I somehow keep finding excuses to write something else! Tell you what, with the surgery coming up I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on things I’ve been procrastinating! We’ll finish it up in the next couple weeks.
    Thank you by the way for reading along and the support!

  3. John Swenson says:

    Good post. In all my years exploring the White Mountains, I had not heard this story. Thanks for sharing it. Good luck with the surgery.

  4. Hi John, thanks for stopping by and for subscribing! Please tell your friends about us! And I’m glad we were able to dig up a cool story you hadn’t head before. It was new to us as well. Thanks for the well wishes, I’m eager to get it done so I can begin my recovery! Cheers!

  5. unstrung says:

    wow. lots of wow! glad to have stumbled across your blog.

  6. Hi Unstrung, thanks so much! We’re glad you stopped by as well! And ditto on your blog, great stuff. We’ve added it to our blog roll. Talk to you soon!

  7. unstrung says:

    Thanks! Hope to cross paths on a mountain somewhere, someday. :>

  8. kelly says:

    I was born in Littleton (: I now live in Southern NH and i miss the Notch sooo much! i used to work at the top on Cannon in the restaurant. i enjoyed my trip up and down every day VERY much!! its beautiful there and i miss my Mountains! ):

  9. kelly says:

    oh..i forgot to say thanks for sharing!!!! very cool story

  10. Hi Kelly, thanks for stopping by! Yes, we love the Cannon Cafe as well, nothing like a steaming bowl of chili while watching the skiers up there after a nice long hike in the snow! You took the tram to work each day I assume? That must have been a great way to get to work. Well, at least you’re still in New Hampshire, not too far from the mountains. We hope you still visit. Thanks again!

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