June 27, 2015.
The plan for today was to do Owls Head and Mt Martha to finish those trails on the Cherry Mt Range. Getting off the highway in Lincoln to get my breakfast at DD and I noticed two hikers thumbing next to the on ramp. I had a pretty good feeling that they were thru hikers and promised myself if they were there on the way back to the highway I was going to stop to help them out. Sure enough they were still there so I gladly gave them a ride up the highway to the AT just past The Flume parking lot. It is supposed to a beautiful day so as I reached the junction of Routes 3 and 302 I changed my plans and took a right onto Route 302. I have not done Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail yet and today just seemed too perfect to not go back up to the Presi's. Besides I had some pieces of the Crawford Path I needed that I was supposed to get last year hiking the AT and then again when I hiked with Peaches and Cream but aborted it when we got to Mt Washington due to crappy weather. So today would be about some new trails and a little redemption above tree line on a fabulous ridge.
Heading up (or down as the picture alludes to) Base Station Road and I have to stop to get the picture of Mt Washington with the Cog Railway path quite visible.
With my good samaritan diversion this morning it's a later start than I had planned as I hit the trail at eight. Heading up into the woods along the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and I have no idea what to expect. Sometimes I do not like to read the trail descriptions so everything is a surprise. Of course there are times when that has its drawbacks and I miss some things. Crossing over Franklin Brook and there are two parallel pipes across the trail. Would love to know the history of those two.
It doesn't take long to reach the junction of where the winter trail comes up from Marshfield Station. Straight ahead is the Ammonoosuc River with a large railing structure. Not sure if this is meant to hold back debris or to bring water down but just up the river and looking back there is some serious damage to the pipes. It has been folded right around the trunk of a tree.
The river is constantly to the left as I head up and drowns out all noise making for a soothing hike. There is evidence of damage whether Irene or Sandy or some other significant event as the storm swept trees are stacked up in the river.
Beside the trail on the right side is a memorial plaque on a boulder dedicated to Herbert Judson Young a Dartmouth College student who died in 1928. He and a group of students were hiking from Carter Notch and heading up to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and missed it. They ended up coming down Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail where he began to become hypothermic and collapsed near the spot of the plaque. He would die that night as they attempted to carry him out to safety.
Up the trail and it is a pretty easy hike so far. The trail is in pretty good shape and going off trail down to the river there are peeks at the ridgeline ahead.
Reaching the Gem Pool there is a small waterfall that feeds this small pool and on a really warm day would be refreshing to soak the feet. Unfortunately it feels like a tourist trap as there is a crowd here even this early in the morning. Crossing over the edge of the pool and the trail turns right and changes dramatically. It is steep and rocky as it really begins to gain elevation.
The Gem Pool video:
A few minutes up and there is a side trail to the right that leads down to a very steep gorge. There are two separate waterfalls both amazing in their own right.
At the bottom there is an emerald pool where they both dump into. This is a perfect secluded spot as everyone who was ahead of me and behind me did not come down here. I have this spot to myself for the whole time which is unusual but just fine with me.
Back to the trail and it is now a typical rock trail that I have grown so accustomed to. A few minutes later and there is an opening in the trees with the Mt Washington Hotel visible.
As I get higher there are more waterfalls each having its own uniqueness and character.
The trail begins to get slabbier in sections and behind the views are opening up. The Dartmouth Range comes into full view first.
Crossing the river one more time in between two waterfalls on a flat slabby section. Breaking out of the trees and over the ridge is a plume of smoke from the first train heading up the cog track.
Off to my left and the familiar towers from Mt Washington's various antennas make their first appearance. Ahead is, yes you guessed it, another waterfall. I think I have found a new trail to add to my favorites list. It is never dull or boring with first the soothing river and then all the waterfalls combined with the opening scenery.
It is after this spot that I run into a crowd of people. I slowly pick my way through them and then a guy with his dog is standing by the trail. I pass him and shortly he starts up again. Now anyone who knows me knows I have no love for pets but I have less appreciation for a pet owner who can't control his dog around other people. He is a good twenty to thirty feet behind me but his dog is up with me. First he stays behind me then goes in front of me pushing his way through. He repeats this several times almost pushing me over. I bite my tongue and finally stop and let them pass and get ahead to avoid any confrontation. I calm myself down as I admire two new, for me, alpine plants; pink Bog Laural and yellow Mountain Aven.
Monroe finally comes into view from the trail and two and half hours from starting I am at Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
I have not been up here since that fabulous day back in March of 2012. It is just as picturesque now in the summer as it was then in the winter.
I head into the hut to take a break and refuel. Only thing is I forgot to bring my money as they always have some good snacks and depending on the time of the day their soup is delicious. So I settle for my nut mix and leftover donut from this morning. After a good thirty minutes it is time to move on as there is a lot of terrain to cover today. Looking back I am glad I'm not heading in the other direction. Mt Washington was in the clouds when I arrived and as I leave it is in and out of the clouds.
I head out on the Crawford Path to get the missing piece between the hut and the southern end of Mt Monroe Loop. I love being up here as the views are awesome and on a good day long. The trail is easy as it skirts around the base of Monroe.
There is one rocky very small up and down over some boulders section before reaching the junction with Mt Monroe Loop. I debate for a second on turning right and heading up Monroe but decide against it as I still have a lot of miles to do plus one long roadwalk to get back to the car. Ahead is the Crawford Path and a side trip to Mt Franklin which is the bump on the left. Looking back and a shot of Little Monroe and Monroe with Mt Washington sandwiched in between.
Along the way I can see Marshfield Station which is where the cog railway starts its ascent. Just down the road from that is where I parked. And to think I am walking further away from it up on this ridge. Reaching the summit of Mt Franklin in just ten minutes from the Monroe junction and I can see the next two destinations from here, Eisenhower and Pierce.
Back down to Crawford Path and about a half hour later a shot from close to the same spot as that March 2012 day.
I come across the first of at least three of these sets of pins in the trail. Come to find out they are leftover from when Crawford Path was used as a bridle path with horses bringing people up here. The pins purpose was for the horses to have some traction in the difficult sections. Passing by the junction for Edmands Path and then Mt Eisenhower Loop I continue on Crawford Path to get this section of trail. This is a bit rougher than the section around Monroe. There are another set of pins along this section.
It only takes twenty minutes along this section to get to the southern end of the Mt Eisenhower Loop. Surprisingly I meet a few day hikers along this section. At the junction I head up the loop trail as I need this piece from here to Eisenhower's summit. It is a different little section of trail as it climbs up complete with multiple ladders and swings left and right up the slope.
It takes less than fifteen minutes to reach the summit. I do not linger as I get perturbed at two different groups who are sitting on the fragile grassy sections, one group is seen in the picture on the left. I take a couple of pictures and head back down the way I came and my last summit is dead ahead, Mt Pierce.
From the junction it is only 1.3 miles to Pierce and this is new territory for me. I've only been on Pierce once and that was back in January of 2012. I had intentions of heading over to Eisenhower that day after doing Jackson and Pierce but deteriorating conditions made me abort it once I reached Pierce. The trail in between has a little bit of everything. From slabs to muddy sections to back in the woods to even some bog bridges.
In short order I reach the junction with Webster Cliff Trail, my new path, as Crawford Path turns right to head down off the mountain. This is the turn that I had a hard time finding when coming off of Pierce that day over three years ago. I reach the summit just an hour from leaving Eisenhower and it is a night and day difference from the last time I was here.
This is the view north today compared to the view north that day I tried to find my way off this summit.
I keep moving as Mizpah Spring Hut is just eight tenths of a mile down the trail and a good place to take my next break. It only takes fifteen minutes to reach the bump sometimes known as South Pierce and there are some great views from this bald little spot. Straight ahead is Mt Carrigain as I pop out onto the ledge. Over to the left is a unique look at Chocorua and its very cone shaped peak. Looks more intimidating from this perspective.
Passing through a blowdown patch and I remembered a steep section after passing Mizpah when I was heading in the opposite direction in 2012. I reach it and there are ladders here that I do not recall as they had to have been buried under the snow.
The trip down from Pierce to Mizpah takes only thirty minutes and again a comparison shot.
I take a quick break having some snacks and water plus refilling my bottle at the hut. I see a large group getting ready to leave and exit just before them so as not to get stuck behind them. I make a dash for the trail and reaching the junction with Mizpah Cut-Off I turn right onto it for another new trail. It's only six tenths of a mile on this trail but it seemed longer even though it only took twenty minutes to get down it.
This is the time of day when the mind starts playing with you as trails seem longer and time stretches out. I do meet up with four or five croo members carrying there unique pack frames loaded with food and supplies up to the hut along this section of trail. Reaching the junction with Crawford Path and I try to turn on the after burners to speed up the exit but the trail is not really conducive for it. In reality I make pretty decent time as I reach the short spur down to Gibbs Falls.
Back to the trail and just before the junction with Crawford Connector there is the remnants in Gibbs Brook of an old dam and then a six inch diameter steel pipe right next to the trail. This once supplied water to the old Crawford House.
Having already been down the section of Crawford Path down to Route 302 I turn right onto Crawford Connector to get this section of trail. Crossing the bridge over Gibbs Brook and there is a trail that leads off to the right. Wanting to not leave any stragglers behind I turn onto it. Due to my changing plans this morning I didn't have maps for this area so I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into. The trail sign only indicated Crawford Cliff with no mileage so this was going to be a surprise.
The trail started out rather mild meandering through the woods and leading in and out next to the brook. Then the trail turns sharp left and the climb, a very steep unrelenting climb, begins.
It only took twenty minutes for the four tenths of a mile trail but I swear it took longer or at least felt longer. The "reward" was a view across the way to Willey, Field and Tom with the Crawford Notch Depot and Highland Center complex down below. That's the depot in the picture.
A lot quicker going down as I make it back to Crawford Connector in less than fifteen minutes. Reaching the road crossing of Mt Clinton Road and then the parking lot for the Crawford Connector and this trail is done. I only wish my car was here. I have a five mile roadwalk to look forward to and the last part is uphill when I reach Base Station Road, UGH. Thankfully I book it up the road and make it in an hour and forty-five minutes. I am so glad I changed my plans as it was a perfect day up on the ridge. A lot of holes filled and a little redemption to boot.
Final numbers: 16.7 miles, 10 hours and 15 minutes.
Redline Miles: 7.4, Total to Date: 833.0