September 27, 2014.
So where does one go when the weather is suppose to be beautiful? I'm talking clear skies little wind and warm temps on a late September day? I just couldn't pass up a day like this and even though a month ago I swore I was done with Mt Washington for the year this is exactly where I was going to be heading today. How could I possibly pass up a day like this plus a little revenge for when I did the Wamsutta Trail and had to bail back in the beginning of August. The original plan was to head back to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and up Old Jackson Road to Nelson Crag Trail. I left the house real early this morning just to maximize my hiking time on the trail. But once in Gorham and heading down Route 16 I decided to change my starting point to the two mile mark on the Auto Road. Only problem is the road does not open until 8 this late into the season.
I arrive at the base at 6:45 and the long wait begins. But it does not go unrewarded as I watch the early morning sun hit the mountains with their fall colors blooming. A view of Nelson Crag and then Adams and Madison together all in the phenomenon known as alpenglow when the sunrise makes everything have that red appearance..
I sit patiently and to help pass the time get out a few times to take some more pictures as the sky is a perfect blue. What a great day this is going to be.
Finally the waiting is over and the attendant is opening the gate. Paying the $28 fee does not bother me as it saves three and a half miles of hiking and I know I am going to be thankful for that at the end of the day. Timing wise I would be on Nelson Crag Trail by now but not by much. I only need to get to the parking area just beyond the two mile mark so it does not take long to get there. Ten minutes after eight and I am beginning my hike.
Nelson Crag Trail is a rugged trail that climbs unrelenting through some great woods. It is never overly hard or over daunting just a great climb on a great day. I appreciate the fresh legs as I make my way up anticipating the views as I get higher and higher.
Breaking out of the trees and the first reward of the day is the view behind me of the Carters and Wildcats.
This is just one of those days where everything is perfect. The energy is up, not a cloud in the sky, hardly any wind and the fall colors are popping.
Reaching a plateau and I can see Nelson Crag right in front of me and to the left is the rim of Huntington Ravine with the summit of Mt Washington visible.
It takes just an hour and a half to reach the five mile mark of the Auto Road where the trail goes right next to.
Back into the scrub and the final push up to Nelson Crag takes forty-five minutes. Along the way the southern Presi's come into view to my right, Jefferson and Adams with Madison.
From the top of Nelson Crag a pano shot of Mt Clay, Jefferson, Adams and Madison.
Even though I have been up on Washington five times now this year I never get tired of the awesome views. There is no way to describe the feeling when I am up here and the all the mountains are spread out in front of you. Maybe awe inspiring are the words. The trail continues across this plateau passing by Alpine Garden Trail and then Huntington Ravine Trail before climbing up to Ball Crag, another bump along the way. A look towards Ball Crag from the junction of Huntington Ravine Trail and a shot back towards Nelson Crag from above Huntington Ravine Trail. Notice all the cairns marking the trails path.
Just a short three hours from leaving the car and I am on top of Ball Crag looking to the summit of Washington about three tenths of a mile away.
Reaching the Auto Road for the second time today and I cross it and also the cog railway tracks. It is here that a monument was built to memorialize the spot where Lizzie Borden died almost 160 years ago. Hard to believe they were this close to the safety of the summit and never knew it on that fateful day.
At 11:30 I have reached the summit of Washington for the fourth (five times on the mountain) time this year. Time for lunch and my usual two steamed hot dogs.
Taking a half hour to enjoy my hot dogs and time to head back out on the trails. Down Nelson Crag Trail and back up and over Ball Crag. Down at the junction with Huntington Ravine Trail and I head over to the Auto Road to walk down it to the beginning of Alpine Garden Trail.
I reach the point where the Wamsutta Trail meets the Auto Road, the spot where I bailed almost two months ago because of the change in weather. Across the road is the Alpine Garden Trail and it is a steady climb up to the junction with Nelson Crag Trail.
It is flat after passing by Nelson Crag Trail as I make my way across. Just past here is the headwall of Huntington Ravine where the most difficult hiking trail in the Whites comes up out of. The plan was to do this with Mike and Andy this year but the plan never panned out. It intrigues me as I stand there watching hikers come up out of the ravine. I have a chat with two women who just did the trail and am amazed that they just hiked Huntington Ravine Trail.
My day will come to tackle that trail but today I have other trails to complete. Across the alpine lawn I go and it is a fantastic walk through here on this sedge grass plateau.
I cross paths with Lion Head Trail and reach the junction with Tuckerman Ravine Trail. I head up to Tuckerman Junction and the plan is to wipe out all the little pieces of trails between here and Lakes of the Clouds Hut. First up is the Southside Trail which heads out over Bigelow Lawn to Davis Path.
A left turn onto Davis Path and down to Camel Trail with views of Monroe and Franklin behind it. The cairns leading the way across Davis Path looking towards Boott Spur.
Turning right onto Camel Trail and this leads right down to Lakes of the Clouds with Monroe looming in the back.
Another right turn onto Crawford Path and very quickly the last trail is Tuckerman Crossover. It climbs up and away from Crawford Path with Mt Washington off in the distance.
Returning to Tuckerman Junction and it is time to make the push back to the car. The Auto Road closes at six and I have no idea how long someone waits at the gate for stragglers. Down I go via Tuckerman Ravine Trail making my way down to Raymond Path.
I do not stop to take the abundance of pictures through the ravine since I was just here two months ago. Pass Hermit Lake and down to the west end of Raymond Path. Crossing a sign for Raymond Cataract and it does not sink in where I am. Just above this location is a series of waterfalls and an old unofficial overgrown path lies. Future adventures that maybe I can talk a certain bushwhacker into.
Just pass this spot and lying across the trail is a cable coming from and going to I have no clue. And just beyond this the first of sections of trees with the tops snapped off.
Continuing on and I pass the junction with Huntington trail for the last time today. And for the rest of the way Raymond Path is a mild trail skirting along the shoulder of Washington back to Old Jackson Road just below my car.
Shortly after six and I am back at the car and getting pass the gate proves to be a non issue. A tremendous day up Ole George which I'll remember for quite some time. Terrific scenery under fantastic conditions. Moral of today's' hike: NEVER SAY NEVER!
WARNING: There is an over abundance of pictures in "The Pics" section. Peruse at your own risk! Hey it is my website after all!
Final numbers: 13.8 miles, 9 hours and 55 minutes.
Redline Miles: 9.3, Total to Date: 611.5