Madison via Madison Gulf Trail

June 6, 2014.

Today is the big test before heading back to the AT next weekend. Mike is bringing me up to Katahdin and he wanted a challenge before heading up also. So out of the three choices he presented I chose this particular hike since it would resemble a Katahdin ascent as close as possible. The plan is to head up the Great Gulf Link Trail from Dolly Copp to the Great Gulf Trail. From there it's all the way up via the Madison Gulf Trail over the head wall of Madison Gulf to The Parapet then on to the Madison Hut. Up to Madison and then down via Osgood Trail and Daniel Webster Scout Trail.

Arriving a little later than we planned to it is a beautiful day today with temps in the low 60's. The sun is out and the very mild Great Gulf Link Trail is surrounded with greenery of spring. We set out on a pretty good pace and only stop to check out the Peabody River which is right next to the trail.


It only takes a little over fifteen minutes to reach the junction with the Great Gulf Trail. Beyond this junction is pretty mild also and we are making very good time. A few more stops down to the river as the rushing water just lures you in.


The trip up to The Bluff goes just as quickly as the 3.3 miles up only gains a bit over 1000 feet. The legs are feeling good, the company is great and the skies are a gorgeous blue. Couldn't ask for a more perfect day! From The Bluff the first view of Madison and there is a patch of snow across the way just below the Auto Road on Mt Washington.


We reach a junction and continue down the embankment to the suspension bridge and something does not feel right. We both stop and Mike checks his GPS and we are on the wrong trail. Actually the right trail just the wrong direction!

We went straight on the Great Gulf Trail/Madison Gulf Trail instead of turning right onto the Madison Gulf Trail. The two trails coincide between here and the other side of the suspension bridge. Back up to the junction and the climbing begins. The trail parallels the Parapet Brook all the way up crossing it a few times. On the way up there are peeks through the trees of Mt Adams and the Great Gulf.


Quite a ways up we stop as Mike needs a break from the pace. I feel bad that I am wearing him down and at the same time good because I am ready to go back and the strength is back just like before I got knocked off the AT. This area is amazing as Parapet Brook is a huge rock boulder lined path in the woods.


A couple of the crossings are questionable as to where the trail goes but we figure it out and the adventure continues. Reaching the base of Madison Gulf and we are rewarded with a glorious waterfall, Sylvan Cascade.


And the video of the cascade.

Heading through the Gulf and it is flat before heading back up and on the trail is remnants of winter. Through the trees there is a slab of snow on the ledges.


The climb up is challenging and fun and in a few spots a little difficult finding hand and foot holds. Parts of the trail coincide with the brook making it even more challenging.


Getting higher up and every once in a while we turn around to enjoy the views. This one across Pinkham Notch looking at the Carters and Wildcats. To the right Washington slowly makes an appearance.


Getting closer to the top of the headwall.

Just below the top and the alpine flowers are in bloom.


Finally reaching the top of the headwall and it is one of those magical spots in the Whites. There is the view looking back down from where we came out of.


Traces of snow are still left behind form this winter which is odd since this is the southern exposure. A Lapland Rosebay is in full bloom.


Taking a decent break and enjoying this spot for a little bit then it is time to move on. We make our way over the Parapet Trail to Star Lake, a small mountain tarn. Towering high above is Mt Adams and behind me is Mt Madison.


Onward we go and a stop at the Madison Hut. I was looking forward to a bowl of their delicious soup and oddly enough they do not have any ready at one in the afternoon. I settle for some baked goodies and Mike and I fuel up for the rest of the journey. It is time to move on and the next objective is Mt Madison which sits behind the hut.

We make good time and reach the summit in a half hour with the winds in the twenties and the temp around 50°. It is slightly chilly but tolerable as we soak in the views especially the way down along Osgood Ridge at least until the Daniel Webster Scout Trail diverges to the left.

Starting the trek down and it is a little tedious picking our way through the broken rocks. We make it to the junction with the other end of Parapet Trail and Daniel Webster Scout Trail. The trek down really slows down as it is tedious and mentally painful coming down this trail. It is nothing but a talus field pathway. Rocks all jumbled together making every step a cautionary placement.


At one point while still above tree line we meet a family heading up and they have some real young kids with them, maybe 7-9 years old. They are whining about how much farther it is to the summit and I can't help but feel sorry for them. I would never bring someone so young up this nasty trail. Hell Mike and I both agreed we would never set foot on this trail again. Praying for tree line in the hopes it would get better but when we do it is just relentless. The end result is it took about two and half hours to get down a 3.5 mile trail. An amazingly slow time for going downhill all the way. Reaching the Dolly Copp Campground road never felt so good. All in all it was a great day hiking with my brother and next week the adventure continues with the trip up to Katahdin.

Final numbers: 11.9 miles, 9 hours and 10 minutes.

Redline Miles: 10.7, Total to Date: 499.9