July 19, 2014.
The weather is supposed to be very cooperative for a visit to the rock pile, Mt Washington. Low winds and mild temps make for an unusual combination to hit NH's highest peak. An opportunity I can not pass up and perfect conditions to get some more red-lining done. So the trail choice will take me up to some great viewpoints and prolong exposed hiking. I have not been on top of Washington in over two years and am excited to get back.
Arriving at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center just a little after 7 and the lot is completely full. I knew this was going to be a good weather day but didn't expect this many people this early. I parked on Route 16 just outside the entrance to PNVC and end up two cars away from the entrance. The attack plan is to head up to Glen Boulder and then across Slide Peak hitting various trails once on Davis Path and then summit Washington. The return is simple, head over to Boott Spur Trail and back down to the car. Boots on pavement at 7:15 and I make my way over to the Direttissima Trail (try saying that three times fast). Crossing the bridge over the Cutler River and the view of where I'll be heading.
Glen Boulder Trail heads up the left ridge and Slide Peak is the second bump heading right. The middle is Boott Spur and the ridge coming down is my return path. In the back on the left is Mt Washington and far right is Huntington Ravine, a future endeavor. While taking pictures I notice three small objects up near the summit. Zooming in and I am surprised at the sight I am seeing.
First time I have ever seen a powered paraglider and of all places coming off Washington! Turning from the lower parking lot (wish I had known this was here because I would have parked down here instead of on the road) and onto the Direttissima Trail. It basically parallels Route 16 so one would think it would be a cakewalk of a hike following the contours. Instead it is one mile of ups and downs with some break out views here and there and a very small waterfall as you cross a trail bridge.
Forty minutes later and it is a right turn onto Glen Boulder Trail and the real climbing begins. It is a typical trail, bouldery all the way but a short 1.2 miles up to the boulder.
Along the way I come across a man and his grandson and we chat for a little while. They are headed up to the boulder to spread their dogs ashes as he used to hike with the grandfather. Parting ways and I continue up making my way to where the trail breaks out of the trees. Always a magical spot where tree line ends and the openness of the trail begins.
Scrambling up out into the open air and the views are just beginning for the day. Across the valley are the Carters and Wildcats and looking ahead the first glimpse of Glen Boulder miraculously perched undisturbed for centuries.
A few minutes later and I am next to this massive glacial erratic and it is at least twenty feet tall. My hiking poles are leaning up against it for reference.
Across the way and Nelson Crag is in view, part of the headwall to Huntington Ravine (hopefully I'll be climbing that later this summer).
Spending a few minutes at the boulder taking pictures and as I leave to continue up the trail the grandfather and his grandson arrive. I leave them to have their private moment and start the climb up to the next high point. Getting higher up and the first peek at the peak comes into view, Mt Washington and its summit towers.
And just before ducking back into the scrub trees a view of the next two destinations, Slide Peak and Boott Spur.
A pano shot from a boulder at the edge just before going back into the trees. This is from Slide Peak to Kearsarge North, about 180°.
Before popping into the trees I notice a spot behind me and it always amazes me (or I should say it never ceases to amaze me) at the carelessness of people and how they can destroy areas so easily. This illegal campsite was made from cutting branches of the neighboring trees to make a soft bed. And a herd path went off into the scrub to who knows where or why.
Further up the trail and I came across the most docile spruce grouse. Normally they take off with the loudest most unnerving noise right when you get next to them or after just passing them. It is like they lie in wake just waiting for that right moment to scare the bee-jezuz out of you. But not this one he just waddled up the trail ten feet in front of me while I snapped pictures of it.
Now when I turn around to retrieve my hiking poles and head back up the trail the spruce grouse has vanished but not flown off. I walk slowly up the trail looking for it and when I round the corner there is a dog walking towards me with no collar. Neat trick I think to myself, changing from a spruce grouse to a dog! About thirty seconds later a woman is hiking towards me and I laugh to her about the dog and the disappearing spruce grouse. Not sure if she caught the jest of my comment but I found it amusing.
Ten minutes later and I make it to Slide Peak. Nothing major just a bump along the ridge but there are good views down into the Gulf of Slides. On the left is Boott Spur and the ridge I will be hiking down for my return trip.
To the east Jackson, Pierce and Eisenhower make their first appearance.
Heading over to Boott Spur and the walk over is now exposed being out of the trees. These are my favorite parts of any hike, up on a ridge and nothing but views all around. Constantly looking everywhere as familiar peaks make their appearances the higher I get. The cruise over doesn't take long, about thirty-five minutes, and once there Boott Spur is a unique little spot. The exposed rocks are interesting as they are jutted up in the air at an angle and layered looking like thick sheets placed one on top of the other. A little research suggests that this area was once an ocean bed.
I make my way up and hit the two different high points just to make sure I have stood on the right "peak". Before returning to the trail all three Southern Presi's are now visible. Why only three? Because Jackson is not named for the president but for Charles Thomas Jackson a 19th century geologist. So with Jackson are Pierce, Eisenhower and Monroe plus a view of Washington.
If you look closely at the Washington picture you can see the worn/weathered trail leading up to the summit. Reaching the Davis Path and Boott Spur Trail junction and it only takes fifteen minutes to reach the next junction with the Lawn Cutoff. That is my return trail so I bear to the left and stay on Davis Path. The trailway is easily recognizable by the numerous quartz topped rock cairns that dot the way.
At the junction with the Southside Trail there are two guys standing there and I stop to talk to them. They ask me if I am part of the Seek the Peak and I tell them no just out red-lining trails. That is when it hits me as to why the parking lot was full so early in the morning, Seek the Peak, it is an annual fundraiser for the observatory much like a walk-a-thon. I had forgotten it was this weekend but no bother as the trails I have taken so far have been very quiet. So far I have only come across five other hikers. My original plan was to head up Crawford Path to the summit but looking at my map I can't believe I didn't choose the Westside Trail to knock that off my list. A quick change and away I go skirting below the summit making my way over towards the cog railway tracks. This trail is no different than any other trail at this elevation. It is a relatively flat section but still rocky the whole way. But wouldn't you know it I manage to make it this far without incident and I roll my right ankle. This makes the third time in two weeks as I rolled it twice last week on Moosilauke. The pain is tolerable but I lose all strength for a few minutes and just keep forcing myself to walk on it. I thankfully have had this problem with my ankles since I was a teenager playing basketball and for some reason my ankles somehow survive. The Westside Trail.
The view down to Marshfield Station and a look back at Monroe and Lakes of the Clouds.
Reaching the tracks and crossing under them two trains are coming up the tracks. They left the station while I was on the Westside Trail and reach the summit well before I do.
Reaching a view point along the trail and a look down into the Great Gulf and Spaulding Lake down at the bottom. Across the way Jefferson, Adams and Madison through the hazy skies.
Looking ahead and it is still a half mile to the summit. Always teasing you when it is in view but deceiving in how far away it still is.
Finally I arrive via the little section of Gulfside Trail between Trinity Heights Connector and the Crawford Path that I needed also for my red-lining. A shot of the Tip Top House and walking past the summit I decide against the customary sign shot as the line is long with the tourists. Quite a difference when I was up here in March of 2012 when the only people up here were hikers.
The weather is excellent for Mt Washington. Temps are in the low 50's and the winds are slight with no gusts. A quick excursion into the snack bar as I am famished for some food and grab two hot dogs and two sodas. They hit the spot and half an hour later I start the long descent down making my way over to Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
The trail is busy as this is the popular route up from Pinkham Notch. Basically get in line or wait for someone to step aside to let you by. The other option is scoot around them on the rocks but this is a risky venture as the way down is steep and nothing but boulders, the broken rock pile that the Presi's are known for. The ridge in the background in the above pics is where I am heading to and then down. Reaching Tuckerman Junction and I get a good view into Tuckerman Ravine and across the way most of the ridge I will be heading down on the Boott Spur Trail.
At the junction I head over on the Lawn Cutoff trail and again the trail over is easily discernible with the quartz topped cairns. A short ways in and I finally for the first time in my life see the beginning of a stream. It is just percolating out of the ground. Don't quite understand where it comes from or the physics of it especially at 5400 feet but there you have it.
The trail is much more peaceful here as the crowds are all heading towards Lion Head or down Tucks. It is still a rocky way and every step is a calculated one or you risk turning an ankle. I make short work of it making my way over and back onto Davis Path. A little over a half mile more and I reach Boott Spur Trail and the descent soon begins. The Wildcat Ski Area parking lot is visible from up here, which is just north of the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, and it is a long 3.4 miles down to it.
It is another classic slow rocky descent, steep in spots with very few flat relief sections. A view down the trail and twenty minutes later a look back up.
From the same vantage point my first close look into Tuckerman Ravine and the headwall. Part of the trail can be seen and the waterfall also. It does not look so ominous from this vantage point and next weekend the plan is to hike it with the gang.
Just down the trail and a look over to the ridge where Glen boulder Trail is and a zoom in on Glen Boulder.
Passing by Boot Spur Link trail, another trail I will have to come back for someday, and just down the trail is another unique site. Split Boulder, a huge boulder that is split right in the middle. One can either walk through it or around it, I chose to go through.
Up next is Harvard Rock located off the trail on a spur shortly after ducking back into the trees. Not sure of the name but the view into Tuckerman Ravine is the best of the day. Near the center is the Hermit Lake Cabin.
The rest of the 1.7 mile trip down from Harvard Rock to PNVC is a drag. The downhill never seems to let up nor do the rocks and roots. It is one of those when is it going to end trails. Maybe made worse because it is at the end of the hike and I just want to sit down in my vehicle. And just to add insult to the whole thing a very steep and long ladder leading down a section not far from the junction with Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
Reaching the spot where Boott Spur Trail crosses over the winter ski trail and relief is just ahead as the junction with Tuckerman Ravine Trail is in sight. A right turn and it's just 4/10ths of a mile left. But not before a stop at Crystal Cascade.
And then just after crossing the bridge I roll my right ankle again, four times in two weeks, damn if it doesn't hurt. All the strength is gone for thirty seconds as putting weight on it is impossible. Thank god for hiking poles. Slowly I limp away and the strength comes back and ten minutes under ten hours I have finished a remarkable hike with tons of interesting features. Bring on Tucks I am ready!
Final numbers: 12.7 miles, 9 hours and 50 minutes.
Redline Miles: 11, Total to Date: 518.5