October 31, 2015.
A much better forecast for today leads me to Crawford Notch and no changing my plans like yesterday. Webster Cliff Trail is on the agenda which will take me up and over Mt Webster and then on to Mt Jackson. On the way back I'll get the missing piece of Webster_Jackson Trail and then roadwalk back down Route 302 to complete a loop. I'm excited for this one since I have seen some recent reports and pictures and this looks like a day of some great views and fun scrambling. From the notch this spot always looks intimidating but since talking to the guy from PA the other day this hike moved way to the forefront of my to do list.
Getting to the trailhead after 7 and the day looks like it is going to be pretty good. I park at the same spot I did this past March when I did my big winter loop around Willey, Field and Ethan Pond. Looking up at Willey and there is the morning alpenglow hitting it's peak. Across the road and I am on the AT again as I head up Webster Cliff Trail.
Like a kid in a candy store I head up the trail giddy with anticipation of what is around each corner. I'm greeted by one of the first blazes on the trail which is one of the old AT diamonds carved out of wood. I think this is only the second one I've seen in NH and I only have twenty miles left of the AT in NH after today. Crossing over the very tame Saco River down in this area and next to the trail is a dead tree still standing with a port hole built into it.
To my surprise the trail leads back into the woods climbing fairly easily rather than a full assault up the side of the mountain. The terrain is pretty good spattered with a few erratics here and there.
The sun makes its appearance as it climbs above the ridge while the trail still leads around to the back of the mountain. Making a sweeping turn and the trail starts the real climb up to the long ridge line that makes up Mt Webster. The terrain changes through here as roots and rocks become minor obstacles on the ascent. Even a couple of scrambles are thrown into the mix for a taste of everything.
That last scramble leads out to the first views of many for the day. Out on a small open ledge and Carrigain is the first to be seen. Passaconaway is just poking out behind a ridge.
Moving along the ridge line and it just gets better and better the further I go. The higher the ridge line slowly climbs the surrounding peaks make their appearance. The casting call has been placed and everyone wants to be a part of the show. Across the Notch and beyond the plateau of hidden Ethan Pond are Bondcliff and it's towering neighbor Mt Bond. To the south is Chocorua with it's always familiar pointed peak flanked on the left with Bear Mt and to the right Bartlett Haystack.
At the next open ledge a look down into Crawford Notch with the shadow of the long Webster Mt ridge casting it's shadow. It's a great spot as I can see a lot of the places I've been to already from this vantage point. To the north is small in comparison Mt Willard where Lisa and I hiked this summer. Above it are Willey, Field, Tom and Avalon where I had my first snowshoe hike back in November of 2011. Behind Willey are two of the Bonds one of my memorable long hikes doing an out and back in June of 2012. My parking spot down below where I also parked this past winter on a huge loop of Willey to Zealand Notch to Ethan Pond and then down Kedron Flume to Willey House. In the deep shadow on the left is Ripley Falls and to the left of that the bump of Frankenstein and Falcon Cliffs where I was a few days ago. Liking this spot so much it is time for a short break to soak in the views and memories.
Packing up and moving on the trail heads back into the woods. But not for long as the trail pops out onto ledges and back into woods for the rest of the way. For the most part the views are just repeats with the exception of the higher I get the more peaks become visible in the distance. On the other side of the WMNF Moosilauke is just visible to the west. While looking through the notch Burke and Umpire in Vermont are clearly seen.
While trying to spot where I parked I notice something that at first bugs the hell out of me. Just by chance as I am snapping the picture I notice someone looking in through the passenger window. Shouting is futile from this distance and height but is the normal human response. Keeping an eye on the situation and I think it is the guy I met the other day after doing Frankenstein Cliff and Arethusa Fall. At least I hope it is. If not I got you on the camera!
Another short excursion into the woods and I'll definitely be back on this trail again. Nothing boring or ho hum about this one at all. This time when the trail breaks out onto the ledge I am right above the old Willey House site. Looking ahead and I get a pretty good sense of how far the actual summit of Webster is. One of the great things about this trail is there is never any anxiety about how much further because of the constant breaking out for views and varying terrain.
Breaking out onto a level spot there is a huge rock cairn here. I wonder how many people have reached this spot and thought they have reached the top? It is from here that I get the first view of Washington as more views are opened to the northeast and east. I imagine the feelings that run through a thru hiker while he is climbing this ridge and the views open up one by one. Much like breaking out of the trees on Moosilauke and seeing the landscape that they'll be hiking for the next few weeks.
Another stretch of back into the woods before breaking out and a fun scramble up some ledges. From this vantage point a look back at the rock cairn I was just on.
To give you a sense of how long that took it was ten minutes of hiking between those two spots. Getting closer and it looks like this run is unfortunately coming to an end as the summit is just ahead. Not knowing where the trail goes up from this spot I soon learn it is in that rocky section just below the summit. Reaching that spot doesn't take long and it is a fun scramble up the boulders and cracked ledge.
A pano shot from the top of this crag of Willey, Field and Tom across the valley.
I notice two more new peaks while taking this shot, South Twin in between Willey and Field. In between Field and Tom is Hale.
A great view from here to Willard and it's sheared cliff faced wall. After looking for any evidence of hiker activity at every ledge finally at just before eleven there are people there.
Five more minutes on the trail and finally I have arrived to the top of Webster. Finding the actual high point is a bit questionable as I step on top of every weathered outcropping before I am satisfied I have officially made it. You would think after such a great hike that this would be enough to satisfy me but I still have other business before the day is over. I need to finish Webster Cliff Trail as it does not end here bit continues all the way to Crawford Path on the other side of Pierce. I just need the section which looking ahead and I can see my next destination of Mt Jackson with the southern Presi's in the background.
Down off Webster and at the junction with Webster-Jackson Trail I pass by but will return to get that section on the way back. The trip over is wicked mild as it is mostly flat with boardwalks and exposed ledge. There are some icy spots but nothing requiring traction. When I reach the base of Jackson the climbing begins over some exposed rocks and ledges. A couple of tedious spots just below the summit but doable. During icier times I can see these spots being a bit precarious getting up and over.
Just under an hour and I reach the summit of Jackson and for me it has been a long time since I have been up here, January of 2012 to be precise. There would be no summit shot today as there is a crowd strewn out on the actual high point. I sit down to take in the views that I missed the first time I was up here on that very gray winter day. The famous gray jays are out in droves today and they are not bashful about getting close.
The AT continues ahead following the ridge all the way to Washington in the back. On the other side is Montalban Ridge and I have a bunch of mileage to do out that way still. Both on the ridge and in the valley.
After a good thirty minute break it is time to move on as the other group is getting ready to leave and I want to get out ahead of them. They have a couple of dogs and it is good size group and I prefer to go now rather than try to pass them up further. They are right on my rear heading down off the tricky ledges and so are their dogs. I head down them quicker than I'd like just to get some distance but I also don't want to have an accident. It irritates me but I book it once in the flats and make it back to the junction of Webster-Jackson Trail ten minutes quicker than it took going the other way. It's less than three miles down to Route 302 from here including two side trips on some spurs I need. Should take only an hour and a half to get down! Except this is the north side of the mountain and it is a lot rougher and really icy in the worst spots. Slow and tedious is the theme for the way down. Something I really don't care for on the exits.
I reach the fall on Silver Cascade and then completely miss the junction for the other branch of Webster-Jackson Trail that I took that January day in 2012. Not a big deal just would have liked to see it for reference. The descent continues and I reach Flume Cascade and it's small fall and stop to refill the water and a quick break.
Ten minutes from the brook and even though I did Bugle Cliff the last time I was up here I make the very short side trip to see it again. Not much has changed in three and a half years.
Back down the trail and the last diversion for the day is Elephant Head spur which I did not do the time before. It is a little longer than I expected with the views being pretty much the same as Bugle Cliff. There is a good perspective down through Crawford Notch though.
A few minutes later, and a little over two hours from the junction of Webster Cliff Trail, and I am at the The Gateway at the head of Crawford Notch on Route 302. Now it is just a 3.5 mile walk back down 302 to the parking spot. A view of Elephant Head as I am walking down and the name fits the shape. A bit further down and a look up to Bugle Cliff from the road.
Another great day on a fantastic trail that ranks up there pretty high as one of my new favorites as I arrive back to where I parked. And a check on the vehicle that is still there when I spied that suspicious person looking into mine confirms what I thought with it's PA plates. It was the guy I met the other day and looks like he got his wish of climbing Mt Webster today. Would have been nice to see him again and see what he thought of the trail but it is time to head home. Who knows maybe I'll run into him again somewhere on the trails. Oh yeah another milestone for me today, I've reached 1000 miles on my redlining project!
Final numbers: 12.3 miles, 9 hours and 10 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.9, Total to Date: 1000.5