September 5, 2011

Pierce and Eisenhower

pierce1It has been a summer of hiking for me and Katy this year as we've gotten halfway home bagging all of New Hampshire's 4000 footers. We're in the midst of a schedule shift now, though, as Katy has returned to law school for her second year and free weekend days have quickly become scarce. However, this being Labor Day weekend, we had targeted it as a potential opportunity to get one more hike in. Most weather reports had indicated that Saturday would be the best day for a hike, with Sunday and Monday sporting potential showers and thunderstorms. We attended a wedding on Saturday, though, so we would have to make do with our less ideal options. My original thought was that we would hike the Tripyramids since they were the shortest drive away, but with those trails containing some extremely steep and very challenging slides, it seemed as though those should be saved for a drier day. With a busy schedule and a dicey forecast, we went to sleep on Saturday night still undecided about a hike (though we set our alarms for 5:30AM just in case).

pierce2We awoke early Sunday morning to the harsh sound of my alarm clock in the quiet darkness before dawn. Our new thought for a hike was to tackle the simple and straightforward Crawford Path up a couple of presidentials, Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower. The weather reports were conflicting, but included extreme fog warnings for the morning hours, chance of showers in the afternoon, chance of thunderstorms later in the day, and temperatures in the 60's and 70's. "Should we go?" "I don't know I just want to go back to sleep." "Ok we'll go." We threw together some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, snacks, and water, packed some rain gear in our day packs, and were out the door at around 6:45AM. The ride up was uneventful with no precipitation, but we did encounter some significant fog as we got farther north. Once we reached Crawford Notch, though, the fog had mostly lifted, with summits still in the clouds but patches of sun trying to poke through. We were on the trail a bit later than usual but before 10AM under promising conditions.

pierce3The hike up the Crawford Path was a steady ascent but with no real significant steep sections. We went by several small waterfalls along the route and easily made our way to the top of Mount Pierce before noon. Clearly some trail maintenance crews had been through the trail in the past week as we experienced no obstacles and some obviously recently cleared and cut blowdowns in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene a week ago. The summit of Mount Pierce required a side tour off the Crawford Path up the Webster Jackson Trail where we were still mostly socked in the clouds, but could begin to see some hazy views. The Mount Washington Hotel was visible through the clouds into the valley, and most of the trail up to Mount Eisenhower was visible with the summit still covered. We ate our lunch and then pressed on to the summit of Eisenhower, which was blustery but a little bit clearer. It was very hazy, but you could see all the way to Mount Jefferson at this point. We were feeling ambitious, and nearly continued on to Mount Monroe, but ultimately decided against it as that would've turned a simple 10.5 mile hike into a nearly 15 mile slog. We came down off the summit of Eisenhower and took a left turn onto the Edmands Path to work our way down.

We started hearing distant rumbles of thunder during our hike down, and those rumbles continued for an hour or so. The skies were continuing to brighten, though, and the thunder coincided with a few 30 second sun showers but that was it. We made it down to a trailhead parking lot at about 3PM, but still had a 2.5 mile hike on the road to get to the other trailhead where we parked. We did this in under an hour and then made our way back home, stopping at the Tilton Diner along the way for dinner. Once again we beat the forecast, with essentially no rain, some thick and hazy cloud cover but no significant fog, and temperatures eventually reaching the upper 80's. It was a nice hike, an enjoyable day, and I'm really glad we decided to do it.