2014  HIKING, CYCLING,

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   HIKING THE SOUTHERN PRESIES TO
THE SUMMIT OF MT. WASHINGTON, p. 2

FRIDAY, JULY 25

 
 

Continued from the previous page.

FORGOT ABOUT SO MANY ROCKS, TOO 

I also didn't remember that the A.T. in the southern Presidential Range is mostly a continuous bunch of rocks. I do remember that the northern Presies are even worse and that's why I will probably never hike them again.

I used two trekking poles, which helped both uphill and down. In a few places I also had to use my hands/arms to go up and over some rock formations, and go backwards to slide down some descents. There was a lot of smooth bedrock that was dry, fortunately, and thousands of boulders and rock steps.

There were even some iron L-shaped bars. I have no idea how you're supposed to use those going up or down:

Even though rocky trails are a pain to hike I'm always drawn to the beauty of colorful rocks, especially when they have moss or lichens growing on them. There are plenty such rocks in the New England mountains.

Here are close-ups of two large boulders on the ridge:

 

And here are more photos between Mts. Eisenhower and Franklin:


Heading down again to a pass between the peaks


More clouds building up over Mt. Washington and the northern Presie peaks


Just follow the cairns . . . Monroe (L) and Washington (center) get closer and closer.


You can't really see them in this small photo -- there are two people silhouetted on Monroe's summit.
Mt. Washington's summit (R) is still visible but playing hide and seek in the fast-moving clouds.


Looking back south toward Mts. Franklin and Eisenhower from Monroe;
it's getting more cloudy in that direction, too.

SCENIC LAKE OF THE CLOUDS

Despite the various trail challenges I had a really good time today. I tried hard to get to Mt. Washington's summit before 2 PM, which is when there was a 20% chance of rain per NOAA.

The only stop I had was about 20 minutes at the Lake of the Clouds hut below Mt. Washington. These photos show the approach to the hut, which I also visited in 2005 on the A.T. Adventure run:


Contouring around the NE side of Monroe, Washington's summit is still visible to the north.

 

This is probably the most popular hut along the A.T. in the Whites because of the spectacular views and its proximity to Mt. Washington.

It is also the easiest hut to reach, as it sits just 1.4 miles below Washington's summit. Most hut visitors drive up the Mt. Washington Rd., park at the summit overnight, and walk down to the hut. Some others hike farther in from various side trails in the valleys to the east or west.

 

I got a bowl of corn chowder -- still only $2 for all the soup you want -- and had to wait about 10 minutes for the "croo" to heat it up. I got to the hut at 12:30 (five hours) and hadn't had anything except espresso Hammergel to eat until then. I had plenty of food in my pack but I wasn't hungry till then.

I just love the views of all the ponds near this hut. I took these photos after I left the hut and continued north (all uphill) to Mt. Washington's summit:


View across pond to Mt. Washington's summit, where you can see communication and weather towers.


Looking SW to the Lake of the Clouds hut (under arrow)
and mountains on the western side of Crawford Notch


Looking more directly south to Mt. Monroe; the hut is to the right behind the lake.

ASCENT TO THE SUMMIT OF MT. WASHINGTON

The hike from the hut to the summit is 1.4 miles of rough uphill walking -- or running, if you're in great shape. Even when I was younger I would have had trouble with my footing on all the rocks, as you'll see in the rest of the photos in this section. It's a pile of rocks most of the way up.

I wasn't in a big hurry today, however, so I stopped often to take pictures in front of and behind me.

There were more people on the trail this morning the closer I got to the Lake of the Clouds hut, and even more between there and Washington's summit:


A middle-aged couple in front of me on the way to Mt. Washington


Looking back to Mts. Monroe and Franklin after passing the couple

The trail between the hut and the summit wasn't nearly as crowded as the weekend day I climbed up from the south when I did the A.T. trek, though. That's one reason I wanted to go on a weekday this time.

THE SUMMIT

The sky was mostly sunny until about a mile from the summit.

I could see clouds moving in and out over the top of Mt. Washington all morning, as can be seen in my photos on the previous page.

 


It's hard enough to follow the trail on this ascent on a clear day;
it would be very difficult if it was fogged in at this elevation.


These teenage boys were the only hikers that passed me going up to the summit from the hut.


As I neared the summit of Mt. Washington I turned and noticed that
the tops of Mts. Monroe and Franklin were also getting socked in.


More hikers a quarter mile from the summit of Mt. Washington

The summit was totally socked in when I reached it, making it more tricky to follow what passes for a "trail" over all the rocks. The fog didn't really bother either one of us, though, because the two times we were up there in 2005 it was sunny and clear. We'd already seen the panoramic views from the summit.

Besides, I like hiking in mountains when the clouds are coming in and out; they add interest to the hike and the photos. 

The NOAA prediction for wind was 20-25 MPH on the summit today. It was more than that, with gusts between 30-40 MPH when we were there. Some of the passes and western slopes of the other peaks were pretty windy, too.

The thermometer at the summit read 47 F. when I got up there. It was in the mid-70s down in the valleys. It was warm enough that I was comfortable all day in convertible pants, a long-sleeved technical running shirt, and a lightweight burgundy fleece ATY race jacket. I had gloves, a wool sweatband, and a Marmot rain jacket in my pack but didn't need any of that.


  Almost there, although it's hard to tell with all the fog;
I had to really concentrate to find each successive cairn.

We were hoping our cell phones would work better now than nine years ago -- not so much. I was able to reach Jim about halfway through the hike to let him know my progress and estimated time at Washington summit (he drove up with the dogs after going back to the camper for a while). We both tried a few other times to connect but didn't until I reached the Lake of the Clouds hut.

That wasn't a problem today but could have been if something had happened to change either of our plans. We have to keep spotty cell coverage in mind for the other hikes I want to do in the Whites.

Jim got to the trailhead on the summit about half an hour before me. Because of the clouds he couldn't see me coming up as far away as he did nine years ago. This is one of the pictures he took of me as I emerged from the fog:

We found each other easily, then went over to the summit cairn to get our picture taken by another hiker:

We "passed it on," as Jim took a photo of the next group in line. Considering how foggy it was, there were a couple hundred people milling around on the summit and in the visitor center.

There are several buildings on the summit, including the old gray weathered stage house shown at the beginning of this entry, the Tip Top House (below), and the visitor center.

There is a new display in the visitor center about the extreme weather on Mt. Washington. Entrance for one person is included in the basic $28 fee to drive up the mountain. If I'd been in the truck going up, there would have been an additional fee because of the museum.

I should have been charged $5 entry to the museum but the nice young woman collecting tickets let me in free after I told her how long I'd been hiking to get there.

Although we already knew about the extreme weather on this mountain it was interesting to see some of the old equipment used to measure wind velocity, temperatures, and depth of snow.

The exhibit I liked the most was an interactive video showing panoramic views of the nearby peaks at different times of the year. At another interactive exhibit visitors can "drive" a snow machine along the Mt. Washington Road when it's covered in several feet of snow.

Before heading to the truck Jim took this picture of me below the summit cairn with a tall wooden hiker statue and a sign about the historic Crawford Path:


At 5'9" tall (maybe a bit less now), I don't usually look this short next to someone else!

Jim took the next photo in the parking lot while he was waiting for me:

When I downloaded it to the computer my first thought was, "Why bother??" Maybe they could see more than I could!

HEADING HOME  

Even though I rode up to Mt. Washington's summit on Day 126 and down on Day 120 nine years ago during my A.T. thru-hike, I didn't remember the scenery along the seven-mile road today. Yes, it seemed new to me, just like much of the trail today.

I went up to the ridge from the west side, Crawford Notch. The road to the summit is on the east side of the ridge, Pinkham Notch.

It was foggy just below the parking area but cleared more as we descended to the valley. The part I could see above treeline reminded me of the road on Pike's Peak, with terrific views to the north and east:

 


Hikers at an overlook part way down the road


Part of the road is dirt, part paved.

It was still partly sunny in the valley when we got down to Pinkham Notch.

As you can see from the photos, the Mt. Washington road is very narrow -- too narrow to allow bikes to go up or down. Jim was hoping he could ride it down today but we found out online that bikes aren't permitted except in two or three official races so he didn't take his bike to the summit.

ETC.

Note that there is a third way to get to the top of Mt. Washington -- a cog railway up the west side from Crawford Notch.

It wasn't up at the summit while we were there today. I took this picture on the summit on a very sunny day in late August, 2005 after my hike to the summit on Day 120:

Since we went down the Pinkham Notch side of the mountain the ride back to the campground was longer than it was to the trailhead in the morning.

We drove through the town of Gorham and back to our campground in Twin Mountain. We didn't remember any of that, either, although we drove the same route in 2005 to get to the campground where we stayed then (Zealand Falls).

On the way home we looked for trailheads to the Presidential Rail Trail that runs from Gorham to a little airport north of Twin Mountain. Some of it looks good -- mowed grass or gravel -- and some is overgrown with weeds.

The shoulder on US 3 and NH 115 north of the campground was wide enough for Jim to ride about four miles to the western end of the trail. He rode various parts of the rail trail several times while we were in the area. I never rode on it but took photos from a couple of the trailheads.

This was a good confidence-building day for me. When I got done my main thought was, "Now, what other gnarly White Mountain trails can I tackle??"

Next entry:  fun with friends in Franconia Notch -- The Flume Gorge, The Basin, the black bear show and other activities at Clark's Trading Post

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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