PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. - It has been hiked blindfolded and backward. It has seen multiple evolutions of transportation, from horse-drawn carriages to steam-powered automobiles to high-powered race cars to a Segway.
In 1857, one man even counted his steps to the top (16,925). It's been traveled via sled-dog team and a camel. In September, motorsports competitor Travis Pastrana zoomed up at 72 mph.
For 150 years, the steep, narrow eight-mile road to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington has been delighting and scaring the living daylights out of visitors, with its lack of guardrails and harrowing sheer-cliff drop-offs.
To celebrate the Mount Washington Auto Road's anniversary this summer, officials are preparing tributes to daredevils, record-holders and drivers whose only claim to fame is a copy of the bumper sticker "This Car Climbed Mt. Washington."
David Roy recently recalled his first trip as a tour guide on the road in 1974. He had driven more than halfway, reciting the road's history, when suddenly his two female passengers disappeared from his rearview mirror. They were lying on the seat, afraid to look out.
"Boy, I wonder if they're all like this," Roy recalls thinking.
Visited by about 250,000 people a year, the road up the highest peak in the Northeast is billed as America's oldest man-made tourist attraction. Mount Washington itself has been dubbed "Home of the World's Worst Weather" for its extreme cold, fog and wind, including a 231 mph gust in 1934 that stood as a world record for more than six decades.
The anniversary events got started on Saturday with "Alton Weagle Day," named for a man who during the 1950s did a series of "firsts": trips barefoot, blindfolded and backward, then one pushing a wheelbarrow with a 100-pound sack of sugar in it the whole way. Participants on Saturday accomplished their own first-time stunts, such as unicycling, roller skiing and backing a car all the way up.
The toll road's story begins in 1853, when Col. David Macomber obtained a charter from the New Hampshire Legislature to build it.
The first company to undertake construction blasted a path with black powder - there was no dynamite then - but ran out of money. Another firm, known as the Mount Washington Summit Road Co., took over and still maintains the road.
When it opened in Aug. 8, 1861, the crude, dirt road was known as the Mount Washington Carriage Road. Hikers were charged 16 cents, those on horses or driving carriages more.
Today, the road is about 80 percent paved, but otherwise hasn't changed much in the intervening 150 years.
Visitors can drive themselves or take tours by guides, still called "stage drivers." The rate for driving yourself in a car is $25, plus additional fees per passenger. Guided-tour rates are a little higher.
Special anniversary events include the return of "Climb to the Clouds" (June 23-26) after a 10-year absence and a Carriage Road Weekend on July 16-17, during which the road for a time will be open only to horseback riders and horse-drawn carriages.
There also will be a sesquicentennial gala on the weekend of Aug. 6-8.