July 30, 2016.
One of the classics of the Whites on tap today, Caps Ridge Trail. Too short to do on its own and combining it with some other trails I have not done makes redlining it by itself inefficient. Phil and Jen wanted to do an out and back from Caps Ridge Trail to Adams and that sparked an idea to knock off some different trails. I suggested an end to end trip using Pine Link Trail with there not being much difference in the total mileage. The seed was set and that would be the plan for the day.
We spotted a car at the opposite end of the hike on Dolly Copp Road and made our way over to meet Andy and Nancy at the Caps Ridge Trail head. They would be joining us for the first part of the hike to Jefferson and see how they felt once there to continue on or turn around. We were off by 7:30 heading through the thick, blowdown area at the beginning of the trail. Soon the climbing begins as it is only 2.4 miles up to the summit of Jefferson.
The trail is not too difficult in the lower sections but picture taking was a major pain as we were heading directly into the rising sun.
It only took forty-five minutes to reach the infamous potholes set into some large smooth boulder outcroppings. These were most likely created during the last glacial event 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. Ahead of us the ridgeline the trail continues up and the summit of Jefferson still looking a ways away.
Further up we get a look at the first two Caps with the blinding sun glaring the specifics of the outcroppings. It wouldn't be long before we were heading up the first Cap which was pretty uneventful.
Over the neighboring ridgeline the first cog of the day, the coal driven one, was heading up with the only thing visible is its distinctive black smoke. On the opposite side is the Castellated Ridge where the Castle Trail comes up that I did a little over a year ago.
The next Cap was a little more challenging but everyone made it up safely.
After the last Cap a view over to Washington which had finally come into full view. To the right of Washington the Lakes of the Cloud Hut, Monroe and the little engine that could are visible.
In front of us is the target, Jefferson, and it doesn't seem any closer. After reaching the junction where The Cornice crosses the trail it becomes a straight up rock climb to the top.
Finally three hours from starting and one by one we arrived at the summit where the crowds were not that large for a Saturday.
View wise this was the perfect day. Little wind, lots of sun and not a lot of haze for a July day. A fantastic look at the Great Gulf headwall and the scar where the Great Gulf Trail comes up. Looking towards Castle Ravine and some of the trails I still need to do are visible as cuts through the trees.
Down off the summit for a break while Andy and Nancy decide this is as far as they can go and head head back down the way they came up. A few minutes later and we are off to our next peak, Adams, looming large in the distance. Heading down Jefferson Loop and a great shot into the trailless Jefferson Ravine.
The trip over took time as usual. Even though it is only a little over two miles between the two peaks its the terrain that kills the time it takes to get there, an hour and a half. We did encounter a strange dude along the way who was following us for a while. Every time we would stop for a picture or a break he would stop also instead of passing us. This happened a handful of times before we finally stopped for an extended time and eventually he went ahead.
Another break on top of Adams and a good thirty minutes later it was time to get moving as we headed down Airline Trail. More of the same boulder hopping as we make our way down to the Gulfside Trail. Reaching the junction means I have two trails so far for the day redlined. At the junction a look down into King Ravine where I still have a lot of exploring to do and trails that come up out of there.
In front of us are Madison and the hut where we stop for our last break before making our way down Pine Link Trail.
A short break and then off for the last trail of the day. It's 3:25 as we reach the beginning of the trail just behind the hut and only four miles down to the road. Just as we start out there is a group of young kids and an adult heading towards us. Phil asks them how is the trail and the response back is humorous. First the guy asks if the hut is just ahead and we tell him yes. Then they proceed to tell us the trail is nothing but large boulders and too tough so they are going up over Madison to get back to their car which is down in the Dolly Copp Campground. Curiosity got the better of me and I ask which way he is planning on heading down and he wasn't sure of the trail name. I mention Daniel Webster Scout Trail and he says that is it. I just laugh to myself and if he thinks this trail is too tough wait until he gets to the Scout Trail and the never ending rock hop that is plus the rock pile up and over Madison. As we part one of the kids blurts out to watch out for the huge dropoff. This would become the joke for the exposed part of the hike.
Now this was a rock boulder hop like the rest of the trails of the day but nothing like they described. And we never found the dropoff we joked about as we moved along. Pass the junction with Watson Path and then into the scrub where some blueberries were ripening. Forty-five minutes after leaving the hut and we begin entering the treeline and the steep descent down some very varying terrain. From closed in scrubby trees to wet streambed/trail to a mossy covered path.
We make it the first junction with Howker Ridge Trail and stop for a quick break. Surprisingly two guys are coming up the trail heading up to the hut at this late time of the day. The two trails coincide for a bit until past one of the Howkers then go their separate ways. Reaching the Howker and I get the views I missed last year when it was socked in. Further down the Pine Link Trail and there is a sign for an outlook of to the right and we head up to check it out. With the evening sun the view across the valley to Carter Notch is impressive.
It feels like a grind as all exits do but for some reason these last four miles seem to drag on. Maybe its the terrain of rock hopping most of the day that tires out not only the body but the mind. The miles appear to slowly tick off as we pick our way down the trail. Just when the trail looked like it was going to let up and become easier the boulders and descent come back with a vengeance.
Finally the trail lets up and the terrain levels out and after three and a half hours from leaving the hut the road never looked so good. What a long day and I should know by now what looks easy on paper is not so when it comes to the Presi's. Thanks to Phil and Jen who were such sports on a pretty tough trail and helping me redline three new trails today. Like Watson Path, Pine Link Trail will never see me again. Done and never to return!
Final numbers: 9.5 miles, 11 hours and 30 minutes.
Redline Miles: 7.1, Total to Date: 1160.8