June 20, 2015.
It's supposed to be a beautiful day and no better place to be than up on the Presi's. I have been intrigued by the Castellated Ridge ever since coming home one day along Route 2 and saw this knife edge looking ridge. I thought to myself, "I wonder if there is a trail up there?". Well sure enough there is and today I am making it my agenda.
I am the second car at the trailhead and ten minutes before seven I start out. The day is already looking fantastic as the skies are blue and cloudless this early. A look up to the destination for the day and the Castellated Ridge I will be taking to get up there.
I'm all excited like a kid in a candy store as I start out on the old Presidential Range Rail Trail. A short distance up and the Castle Trail begins as I turn off the Rail Trail to the left and enter the woods. Another clearing is just up ahead as this is a pipeline corridor that starts in Portland, ME and delivers crude oil to the refineries in Montreal. Passing underneath the power lines and soon I am at the Israel River crossing. No problems crossing today except for one spot out in the middle where the branches are.
Heading up the trail and just enjoying the moment as the river is off to my left with it's rushing water sounds. Slowly pulling away the sounds disappear and soon I am at the junction of my return trip, Israel Ridge Path. The trail is mellow as it slowly climbs up the flank of Mt Bowman increasing in elevation as it goes but nothing too steep. Reaching the plateau with Mt Bowman on the right the trail is a nice fern lined walk.
The trail remains easy along the plateau eventually starting the climb again. Further up and as the climb continues I reach the junction with The Link. A trail that has a notorious reputation for being a rocky and rooty footpath complete with ankle twisting holes. Not sure when I'll tackle that trail but definitely need to be in the right frame of mind that day. From this point on the real climbing of the day begins.
A steep slabby section awaits as it looks like someone poured a huge pile of concrete on the trail. Scampering up it and the views behind me begin to appear through the trees. A look at Mt Bowman which the trail flanked on the right side.
A little ways up the trail and more views now into Vermont. In the distance is Burke Mt with it's neighbor Umpire Mt. Even further north are the peaks that make up Jay Peak which is not far from the Canadian border.
Up ahead is the first castle of the day. Across the way is the headwall for Castle Ravine and the ridge that Israel Ridge Path comes down.
I'm in my glory now as there are views all around. Down in the valley one of my winter hikes is Mt Martha and next to it Owl's Head (yes another one). Both make up the Cherry Mt Range. Looking towards Crawford Notch and Carrigain can be seen with Mt Willey where I spent a long day hiking over this past March.
Enough dawdling as it is time to move on or I'll never accomplish my goals for today. I arrive at the first castle and from here on out it is pretty much an exposed hike to the summit of Jefferson. What a glorious day this is and almost perfect with the winds.
Approaching the next castle which are nothing but large rock outcroppings along the serrated ridge. Down to my left is Castle Ravine and a recent scar from an avalanche.
Off to my right another avalanche path that looks fresh from this winter.
Up ahead is another castle and a view as I head past it. Jefferson still looms far off in the distance.
A look back at the ridgeline I have hiked up including Mt Bowman in back. On the trail is a tough old tree with it's gnarly main trunk all twisted and contorted.
Moving along at a steady pace just enjoying the moment as I make my way up the lengthy ridge. I think I have found another favorite trail and the blue skies definitely help. One of the alpine plants, Labrador Tea, is in blossom which is another first for all the times I have been up on the Alpine Zone. Over the summit of Jefferson are some wispy cirrus clouds.
Over to my left and Adams is finally in view. Meanwhile the trail transitions from a grassy landscape to the craggy rocks that the Northern Presi's are so well known for.
A trip up here would not be complete without a shot of the Mt Washington Hotel deep down in the valley. In the opposite direction, Look up in the sky!, is one of the many planes that are flying on the same flight path.
The next junction I reach is The Cornice. A nasty rocky path that circumnavigates Jefferson from Monticello lawn to Edmands Col. I will be taking this trail after summiting Jefferson, really looking forward to it! From here it is only a half mile left on the Castle Trail to the summit.
It seems to get no closer until just a few minutes away and I see the silhouettes of people on the summit. But I make it to the summit of Jefferson in thirty minutes from The Cornice junction. Surprisingly it is not too crowded considering the conditions as I make my way up the cone to the summit.
I find a spot off the summit facing Adams and Jefferson Ravine to take a break for some water and snacks. Every few minutes more people arrive coming up out of Edmands Col. I relax in the sun just soaking up the views and take a quick eyes shut nap. After a good half hour it is time to make my way down and tackle The Cornice and see how bad I have read it is. But first it wouldn't be complete without a shot of Mt Washington as I get up to leave. Way across in the distance is one of my favorite mountains, Moosilauke. I have yet to have a bad day on that mountain considering I have been up it five times in my short hiking time.
Down the Jefferson Loop heading towards Monticello Lawn. After the junction of Gulfside Trail I run into a couple of thru-hikers asking which way the AT goes. I point the way of the Gulfside Trail with Adams looming in the background to show them the way.
The Cornice junction is not far down the trail and reaching it I make a right turn. There are no blazes on The Cornice just large cairns dotting the way like sentries. Twenty feet in and my right ankle rolls on the uneven terrain and I fall to my right into a rock outcropping scraping my right elbow. These rocks up here are rough and unforgiving. Not a great beginning on this trail and this is the "mild" section. The trail works it way around the flank of Jefferson slowly descending to cross the Caps Ridge Trail. This is the shortest route up to Jefferson coming up off of Jefferson Notch Road.
Passing by the junction and the boulder trek continues as each step is a test in balance as you never know which rock you step on is going to shift or rock under your weight. It's tediously slow following the cairns. Slowly Mt Bowman comes into view and then the Castellated Ridge. I found one old blaze on a rock as I make my way closer to the junction with Castle Trail.
Unbelievably I run into two different groups of people out here and other than an idiot redliner like myself wonder why they take this trail. After a good solid hour I make it back to the junction with Castle Trail, 1.2 miles down and 0.6 miles to go to Edmands Col.
I meet two more groups of hikers on this section heading in the opposite direction and just shake my head. I love being up here but the terrain leaves a lot to be desired. Along the way I come across what I think is the "rock formation that resembles a petrified cousin of the Loch Ness monster" as described in the AMC White Mountain Guide. In the same area I also see another new alpine flower for me, a Yellow Mountain Aven.
Thirty minutes on this section of The Cornice and I am above the Castle Ravine Headwall on the Randolph Path heading up to Gulfside Trail.
From here I need to take the Gulfside Trail towards Adams to the junction with Israel Ridge Path to return back down to the parking lot. A look back at Jefferson and the last snow patch on the Gulfside Trail which I crossed back on my Memorial Day Jefferson and Adams hike in 2012.
Reaching the junction for Israel Ridge Path and now I am descending down the trail on the opposite ridge I was on this morning. I can clearly see the Castellated Ridge across the way as I make my way down. There is also a good vantage point of Castle Ravine from up here.
Slowly I pick my way down reaching the junction with Randolph Path which runs diagonally up from Dolly Copp Road to Edmands Col. From this spot I can make out where I need to get to down off of Route 2 four miles away. It is down by that clearing.
The trail leads back into the scrub and then finally into the woods. A side trip over to the Perch Shelter first.
Back to Israel Ridge Path and the trail continues the descent complete with ladders and one set of wooden steps.
A crossing of Cascade Brook and this would be a great destination in itself during the spring meltoff. Especially over the smooth granite slabs.
Two more sets of ladders with the last one badly in need of replacement as the rungs are rotted and unusable. Luckily coming down the side is viable as I pass a patch of Yellow Clintonia just beyond it.
A few more junctions pass by as this side of the Presis is going to be a logistical nightmare to redline. It is just a mish mash of trails intersecting all over the place.
Pass the junction with The Link, another diagonal trail that starts at Appalachia and ends at Caps Ridge Trail, and there are fresh and I mean fresh as they still glistening moose droppings. It takes two hours and forty-five minutes to reach the bottom of the ravine with Castle Ravine Trail and Israel River.
An easy crossing of the Israel River and then a dry river bed section and I am back at the junction with Castle Trail ten and half hours later.
Fifteen minutes before twelve hours and I am back at the car and a final look back at the day.
A long but very satisfying glorious day doing a great loop. I can definitely see myself coming back someday to do the Castellated Ridge again. Now I just need to figure out how to do the rest of the trails on this side of the Presi's efficiently.
Final numbers: 12.9 miles, 11 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 9.7, Total to Date: 825.6