July 28, 2012

Washington and Monroe

It's been almost a month since I last reported additional progress on our 4000 footer goal. In that month, though, a lot has happened. First, in early July, Katy and I decided to plan a "hiking free weekend" for ourselves and take a trip up to Acadia National Park in Maine. We hiked up Dorr Mountain while we were there (oops!). The following weekend, my sister Megan got married to her long time boyfriend/fiance Chris, and we partied hard to celebrate their day (and a great day it was!). Finally, this past week my family took their annual trip up to Suissevale at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Just like last year, we targeted this Suissevale trip as an opportunity to get not only some beach-going and relaxation in, but also to continue tackling the 4000 footers. With the weather looking good for last Saturday, the 21st, we decided it was finally time to have a go at the daddy of them all -- Mount Washington. We were also super excited about this hike because for the first time in about a year, my sister Mo had decided to join us. The rag-tag team of Owen and Katy "plus Mo" was reunited and with our plan to hike up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and looping back down the Jewell Trail, we would be bagging the summits of Washington "plus Monroe."

I had not realized until the night before that last Saturday was actually the annual Seek the Peak event on Mount Washington. For Seek the Peak, volunteers raise money for the Mount Washington Observatory and then all hike up Mount Washington on this single day. It appeared as though the main festivities kicked off from the Pinkham Notch side of the mountain, but Mount Washington is always busy on summer weekends, so clearly there would be high traffic on all trails leading to the top on this day. I suggested that we try and get there as early as possible, and since we were all heading over to Lake Winnepesaukee after our hike, we decided to meet Mo way up at the Park-And-Ride lot off 93 in New Hampton, NH at 7:00AM. After a quick pit stop at Dunkin Donuts and the gas station, we all continued on together to the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead near the cog base station and arrived to a nearly full parking lot before 8:30AM. The sun was out, the temperature was comfortable and warming, and the summit forecast called for partly sunny skies with temperatures rising into the 50's and nearly calm conditions -- an ideal day. We geared up and headed up.

Personally I've hiked up Mount Washington at least three times in the past and have been up Tuckerman's Ravine Trail, Lion's Head Trail, and the Jewell Trail. However, I had never hiked the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. The trail starts out quite easy with smooth grades and is predictably well maintained. With our faster than average pace we quickly started encountering trail traffic with some large groups and some undoubtedly seek-the-peakers. After an easy mile or two we finally reached the base of the headwall of the ravine and begin climbing. There are some decent scrambling sections on this trail but it was very dry and so we didn't have much trouble navigating at all. The irony, though, is that just as we were discussing how nice and dry the trail was, Mo slipped on one of the few wet rocks and scraped her knee! A minor mishap, though, and so we continued on. We went right past the Lake of the Clouds Hut on our ascent in order to head over and bag Mount Monroe before returning back to the hut for a break. Monroe is a stone's throw away from the hut and offered neat views of the southern Presi's and Mount Washington from its perch. After a snack at the hut, we motored up the Crawford Path, passing several groups of hikers on the way to the summit of Mount Washington. The Crawford Path is a really nicely maintained trail and is like a paved sidewalk in comparison to some of the other bouldery trails that you will encounter at the summit cones of the other Presidentials. When we reached the top, we joined the swarms of other hikers, seek-the-peakers, cog rail go-ers, auto road drivers, and observatory staff that were up there.

We were very surprised to discover that the high volume of people on the mountain meant we had to wait in line to get to the true top and get our summit picture! We waited for probably about 10 minutes to get to the top and then another friendly hiker in line snapped a few photos of the three of us at the top. We then wandered around the summit sites for a while, stopped in at the Observatory building and ate our snacks, and just generally took in the views. It's always busy on the top of Mount Washington, but the beautiful day and the Seek the Peak event made it a real zoo up there. After we finally decided we'd had our fill, we began the trek back down towards the Jewell Trail. Hiking down the Gulfside Trail and then the Jewell Trail was a real treat. We were treated to clear views of the northern Presidentials for the first mile or two and also hiked over and alongside the Cog Railroad tracks for ways as well. Continuing down the Jewell Trail we could see into the valley with the Mount Washington Hotel and the Cog Base Station far below. On a clear, calm, warm day, it was great to be above treeline for so long. We finally dipped back down into the trees and continued the several miles to complete the loop and arrive back at the car.

Mount Washington is the clear king of the Whites and the summit that gets all of the attention. I've hiked it from several angles, and it's a challenge from all sides. As far as hikes go, though, it's not the toughest mountain to bag. Our previous hike up Madison and Adams was more grueling and had more elevation gain; peaks like the Bonds, Owls Head, and Isolation are more elusive; but you've got to respect the lure and might of the tallest. We checked this one off which sits at the top of our list -- 41 out of 48 now complete!

No comments :

Post a Comment