August 2, 2014.
So where to go today? Hey, I know someplace I haven't been lately. Mt Washington! So for the third week in a row I am heading back up to Washington this time in hopes of running into a fellow AT thru hiker, Acorn, a fellow New Englander from VT. I met her on my second day on the trail and we leaped frog each other until Franklin, NC and then I never saw her again. Perusing the Trailjournals site the other day and I saw she is in NH and it's a crap shoot if I run into her. But, hey, it's a good excuse to hike on Mt Washington again. The big ambitious plan is to head up Old Jackson Road, hit a network of trails down low, head up into the Great Gulf, then up Wamsutta Trail, across on the Alpine Lawn Trail, then down Tucks and across Raymond Path to return via Old Jackson Road. A very huge loop and one that would net a lot of red lining trail miles.
I park at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and get going at 6:30 as I know I am going to need all the daylight that is available to complete this hike. The trail starts out on Tuckerman Ravine Trail and then quickly reaches the Old Jackson Road Trail. Looking at old maps and the 1907 "Guide to the Paths and Camps in the White Mountains" (the first AMC White Mountain Guide Book) this trail was once a road that connected to the Auto Road at the 2 mile mark.
There is evidence of this being a road as it appears in the historic maps from 1896. It is also mentioned in the 1927 AMC guide referred to as Old Jackson Road and was built in 1885.
It's pretty neat that this "trail" has been in existence for almost 130 years.
Heading up the old road and it is a quiet morning as I make my way past the lower junction with Crew cut Trail. Less than thirty minutes from starting and I reach the upper junction with George's Gorge Trail (say that three times fast).
There is a small group of trails off to the right of Old Jackson Road and I can not go by and them without red-lining the little network. George's Gorge Trail is completely different from the previous trail as it is more rugged from the lesser traffic of the AT.
I reach Liebeskind's Loop and turn onto it making my way to the first viewpoint, Bard's Bluff. over to my right the peak I visited two weeks ago, Boott Spur, with Hillmans Highway visible through the early morning fog.
Back onto Liebeskind's Loop and I pass by some huge ledge walls beside the trail.
The other viewpoint is Lila's Ledge and this spot you actually climb down onto a piece of ledge that is more like a balcony without railings.
The views are not that great today as it is a cloudy day and everything is muted. Across the way and I can make out Glen Boulder and Lion Head (which I still do not see a profile of a Lion's head).
Below Lion Head and I spy something, a slit in the trees but it is not a slide, it looks like waterfalls. A zoom in and it is Raymond Cataract located between Tuckerman and Huntington Ravine. The waterfall's total height is just under 400 feet.
There is mention of a route to this feature in the old guides but today it is a complete bushwhack to get to. Hmmm...something for the future. One of its features is the trail crosses under the waterfall at one section. Mt Washington summit is visible from Lila's Ledge.
Next up is the Crew Cut Trail which first leads down to Route 16 across from the Wildcat Ski Area. A thirty minute trip down and back up to the junction.
Less than ten minutes and the trail meets back up with Old Jackson Road. But I do not get back on at this point as I still have to return to the junction of Crew Cut and George's Gorge Trails junction for the climb back up to Old Jackson Trail where I originally started this side jaunt.
Arriving back on Old Jackson Road and the trail is pretty uneventful as one can see in the photos.
At one point the trail takes a sharp left and there is remnants of it continuing at one time straight. This could only be the remnants of the old road that led to the carriage road. There must have been a bridge at some point because below is a brook separating the two banks.
Up a set of stone steps and the trail opens out into an open forest with a view up towards Nelson Crag. It then passes both junctions of Raymond Path and Nelson Crag Trail where just beyond is a ledge that piques my curiosity.
There is a clouded view over to Adams and a clearer view towards Nelson Crag.
A couple minutes later and I reach the road crossing at the two mile mark of the Auto Road. Across the road and I meet the first hiker for the day and I stop to talk to him. He is hiking the AT and started March 6th with the trail name Martial Arts. I asked him about Acorn and said she was about a day ahead of him so looks like I just missed her. Not bad for taking a shot in the dark in running into her.
Crossing the road and the trail changes to Madison Gulf Trail. This will complete the rest of this trail for my red-lining since I did the other portion with Mike back in June. Just up the trail and there is a spur trail leading up to Low's Bald Spot. On a great day the views would be phenomenal for such an easily accessible spot but today they are mediocre. Across Pinkham Notch are the Carters with the clouds rolling in. Even Wildcat Ridge is clouding in.
Back down to the trail and this section is a rough little area climbing up and down over exposed rocks and lots of stream crossings. It goes by rather uneventful and eventually I make it back down to the suspension bridge that Mike and I inadvertently crossed back in June when we did Madison. Back up the hill to the junction with the Great Gulf Trail and I am excited going into this wild and quite remote area. The trail parallels the West Branch of the Peabody River and its roaring sound is calming and filled with numerous cascades and falls.
Approaching the camping area and there is a huge erratic aptly named Clam Rock.
Just after this and with my usual head down as I am climbing up this trail watching my footing and BAM! I walk right into this tree head first.
Not sure of the logic of this trail maintainer but when you trim back a tree hanging over the trail how about trimming the whole portion hanging over the trail. A short ways up and the trail is close and level with the river so I head down to look and get a view up the river to Jefferson's Knee. It is a shoulder of Jefferson and actually there is a trail that heads up over it that is a future excursion.
The trail goes by quickly as it never climbs steeply and I reach Chandler Brook and stop to take a break for some food and water. Surprisingly as I am sitting there another hiker comes out of the woods heading down and I am not sure where he was coming from at this time of day. A twenty minute break and back on the Great Gulf Trail making the short trip to the next junction with Wamsutta Trail.
It looks ominous at the junction and as I turn left onto it I see what awaits me up ahead. A huge ledgey mass and to top it off the cloud ceiling is lowering and starting to sprinkle. Ledges and rain do not go together and knowing where I am supposed to be heading I start getting a little nervous.
An easy respite and then the climbing begins. On any other day this would be fun but with the rocks getting wet I have to be careful with the footing. It is steep and bouldery and breaks in and out of the trees with gorgeous views across the Great Gulf.
Clay is over to my right and behind to my left are Adams and Madison.
A look down into the Gulf and I can see the cut in the woods of the West Branch that the trail parallels where I came from.
The exposed ledges of the trail and a look over at Jefferson and its Knee.
Back into the woods and then another scramble.
The clouds getting lower and a look towards the old Halfway House site at the four mile mark on the Auto Road.
About to be swallowed by the clouds just before I break the final tree line on the trail and the summit of Washington completely enveloped in the clouds as the rain continues.
Finally at ten minutes to three and I reach the Auto Road where the Wamsutta Trail ends at the six mile mark of the road. I had already made the decision that this hike was over in regards to continuing with my plan of taking the Alpine Garden Trail over to Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Raymond Path. There was no sense in heading down Tucks in the rain with wet slippery rocks.
So the new safe plan was to take the Auto Road back down to the two mile mark to Old Jackson Road and take that back to Pinkham Notch. Let me tell you that four miles downhill on asphalt is a hard walk and for the first few miles I had issues with my right foot. There was a pain right underneath the toes like the sock was balling up underneath and putting pressure on that area. A quick check and that isn't what was happening but the pain eventually subsided. About halfway down and the weather changed as the sun started to peak out but it was too late to change the plan and I knew that the decision I made was the right call under the circumstances. Besides I got a few shots of where I had been earlier today. The first one shows the steep ridge that the Wamsutta Trail came up over and the next one is of Low's Bald Spot, it is the small bump in the center of the picture.
The rest of the trip down was uneventful with one driver actually slowing on his way down asking where I had hiked today and why I was on the road. Back onto Old Jackson Road and feeling a little dejected on the way down due to my not accomplishing my lofty I goal I had planned. About a quarter mile before the Visitor Center and my spirits were quickly uplifted. I heard a noise off to my left after crossing one of the cross country ski trails that intersect the trail. I saw a dark figure and thought it was someone in the woods relieving themselves. When I took a double take I finally got to see what has eluded me from day one when I started hiking. I've been close with lots of fresh evidence and had one sighting after a hike on the side of the road but that doesn't count in my books unless it is on the trail. Sasquatch you ask? Naw my first moose on trail!
She just lingered there eating her hobble bush and slowly meandered back to the ski trail and I followed her to the junction. She wasn't fazed at all by my presence and I just stood there admiring her for a few minutes. Then it was time to finish this hike and head back home on a high note. So if I hadn't changed my plans due to the weather and safety concerns I would not have been on this part of the trail at that time of day and seen my first hiking trail moose. Karma sometimes has her way with things.
Final numbers: 17.2 miles, 10 hours and 50 minutes.
Redline Miles: 10, Total to Date: 533.7