Mt Jefferson in a Round About Way

August 29, 2017.

Time for the last ravine in the Presidential Range, Castle Ravine. Along the way I'll pick up some stragglers and make a long loop up and over Jefferson.

I spent the night in Gorham to save on driving back and forth. Unfortunately I can never seem to get to the trailhead as early as when I drive up the day of. Up Jefferson Notch Road to start out on the Caps Ridge Trail. It is 8:30 when the boots hit the trail and the cool weather is still hanging around as it is in the mid 40's. It is just under a mile to get to The Link which is located just after the pothole rocks.

 

I have read some nasty stories about this section of trail between here and the Castle Trail. It has a notorious reputation with rocks and roots and holes in between. Not sure how this is any different from a majority of trails up at this elevation so I keep an open mind as I start off on The Link. The trail pretty much follows the contour around Jefferson and the beginning is fairly mild. Ten minutes in and this is the worst section as far as overgrown is concerned. The trail is completely swallowed up by the brush.

 

The Link crosses over a wet section were water is seeping through a wide section and down the mountain side. So far I have not seen any evidence of the nasty sections as it changes from rocks to a nice trail bed.

 

An hour into this trail and I see a large exposed granite face and upon reaching it discover it is a landslide spot. I wonder if this is a skiing spot in the winter as I look down the length of the slide.

 

A look up and where the slide begins might be an interesting adventure some other day. Looking across the swath and Mt Martha and Owls Head and visible beyond the Dartmouth Range.

 

On the other side the trail does become rougher but nothing like what I was expecting.

 

Before I know it I have reached the junction with Castle Trail and wonder what all the hub bub is about with The Link. I didn't think it was that bad. In fact I kind of enjoyed it. The next section of the Link is also supposed to be rough. It is known to be steep as it drops down into Castle Ravine. The beginning seems like pretty good terrain in as far as steep I have seen worse.

 

This section with an old mossy boulder may be as rough as it gets. The terrain and steepness never seemed to appear as I make my way down to the ravine floor in forty-five minutes.

 

The ravine floor is in a very remote and quiet section of the woods with the only sound coming from the nearby Castle Brook. A few minutes up Castle Ravine Trail and I reach the first crossing of Castle Brook. At least it looks like I am supposed to cross here. But there is no evident trail across the brook. The trail definitely does not stay on this side but where is it once I reach the other side? A look upstream and in the middle of the brook is a lone bitch tree with a blaze and small diamond sign attached to it.

 

Across I go and stay on the banking making my way up the brook bed. The next crossing is easier to find as there is a sign on the opposite side and a distinctive path. Not far ahead and the trail leads back down to the Castle Brook and a pile of debris has completely buried the brook.

 

The trail actually crosses over this pile of trees that was deposited here back in the winter of 2010. It looks scarier than it is as I walk gingerly on top of the jumbled pile. Up the trail and I reach the path of the destruction where it came down.

 

Beyond the slide path and the trail becomes much rougher clambering over boulders and then the steep ascent begins.

 

Reaching Roof Rock is a pretty cool feature possibly deposited here during the glacial period. A look into and then a look back after passing through.

 

Ten minutes later and I break out of the trees into the scrub. Above I get the first look back down into Castle Ravine with Mt Bowman acting as the guardian to the entrance.

 

Climbing the headwall is a slow and tedious process which I have come to accept this week. I know it is going to take at least two hours to climb. The trail is a mix of boulder fields, thick grown in scrub and steep bouldery climbing.

 

I just keep plugging along as I slowly make my way up always stopping to rest but more importantly to pause and take in the view behind me.

 

The thing with headwalls is it always seems like the top keeps getting further and further away. But I know I am making progress as I turn and take yet another look back.

 

Case in point as it looks like the top of the headwall is just beyond this large cairn...someone moved the headwall back once I crested that section.

 

But all things eventually end as I reached the final crest and then broke out onto the grassy top of Castle Ravine.

 

Just ahead is the multi-junction with The Cornice and Randolph Path where I sit down for a much deserved break. Looking towards Edmands Col and I don't ever remembering seeing this behemoth up here before.

 

Behind me I here voices and a look at the flank of Jefferson is a large group coming down the Gulfside Trail to Edmands Col. These are the first people I have seen all day and not wanting to be around them I pack up and get ready to move along. I peer across the headwall and decide to get the section of Randolph Path between here and Israel Ridge Trail. This will help take the pressure of tomorrow when I hope to put the Northern Presidential tab to bed.

 

Randolph Path, for the most, part follows the contour along the headwall up here. Which on paper looks pretty easy but the terrain is typical northern Presi as I make my way across.

 

Fortunately it is only a twenty minute trip across reaching the junction with Israel Ridge Trail. A look back across the headwall to Edmands Col and the group I just ran away from is coming across the same route.

 

On the way back I pull off to the side to let the large group pass and then reach Edmands Col. I dread the next section of trail, Edmands Col Cutoff, but I need to get across it again for the second time this week to get back to Six Husbands Trail. I still need the piece from Edmands Col Cutoff to Mt Jefferson Loop. At least the weather conditions are better today as I start across this time knowing what the trail is like.

 

Surprisingly it takes just as long as it did the other day to do this trail. Today it did not seem as long but the numbers don't lie. The view up towards Jefferson at the junction for Six Husbands Trail is much better today compared to four days ago.

 

Six Husbands Trail is a steady climb as first it goes through some scrubby trees then breaking out onto a talus field.

 

At an open spot and I get a look across to the Great Gulf headwall and the trail I climbed two days ago. One more push up another talus field and I reach the junction with the Gulfside Trail. There are two girls with overloaded packs and a thru hiker at the junction. The girls are trying to figure out which trails to take to The Perch where they intend to spend the night. They at least have a map but it does not show all the trails as I tell them which ones to take and try to show them where they are on their map. As she gets ready to put her pack on she is struggling with the weight and I offer to show her a better way to put it on. Lifting it I am shocked at the weight as it is wicked heavy, heavier than when I attempted the AT. She manages to get it on and I wish them good luck as they head down the Gulfside and I continue up Six Husbands.

 

Beyond Gulfside the trail does not change much and cresting over the next section I can see Jefferson just ahead.

 

The end of Six Husbands Trail is just ahead and another trail is finished. It is just a short jaunt to the summit of Jefferson where a lone hiker is on top.

 

I take a break on the summit and have a conversation with the hiker as she is solo before the last push down. While chatting a man and young boy are coming up Caps Ridge Trail with no backpack and I make the comment of how odd that is. He makes it to the summit and made some comment about the roughness of the hike and a six year old. I tell him at least he made it and he turns and says no I left the six year old down below and this one is eleven. Did I just hear what I heard? I think I just found the "Idiot Hiker" of the day! You left a six year old down below above tree line? I've seen a lot while hiking but this one trumps everything. He and his son take off ahead off me and I leave a couple minutes after. They are flying down the trail but I keep them in sight as I slowly pick my way down Caps Ridge Trail. Right at the junction with the Cornice I see him catch up to, wait for it...it gets stupider, not one other kid but two! The third kid is at least a year or two younger than the six year old. As I approach I hear the two girls telling their Dad about how one of them was crying and wandering around while waiting but they came back to the junction. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had to bite my tongue as I passed by. Who the hell brings kids this young up one of the hardest trails and then leaves them behind while he and the son summits Jefferson? The Caps are no place for this group especially when I noticed the shoes they were wearing. Shaking my head I made my way over the first Cap and wondered how they were going to clamber over this one and the next two.

 

As I put more distance between me and them I made it down to treeline and could here them behind me in the distance. Now I left the summit at four and the sun sets around 7:30. The last picture looking back is an hour after leaving the summit. I would almost bet that they did not have any headlamps and the rate they are going who knows if they would make it down by dark. Just before treeline there was this little camp spot off to the left of the trail. Although it is probably illegal it is a sweet spot to spend the night on a calm night. I would not want to be there when the winds are ramping up though.

 

I pass the junction with The Link and it's just forty more minutes to the parking lot. Right before the end I meet a thru hiker heading back up to the AT and he wanted to know if there were any spots to camp. I tell him about the spot just above The Link and then the "family" story takes another twist. Reaching the parking lot and a guy approaches me and asks about his son and the kids. He was beginning to worry with the daylight waning. I tell him they are maybe an hour behind me and that they maybe should have not been up there especially with leaving the other two behind while they summitted. He tells me he was hiking with them and turned around when it got too tough. They probably should have all turned around at that point. I talk to him for about twenty minutes giving other ideas for hikes (far easier family friendly ones) as they are on vacation from out of state for the week. Wishing good luck I head off for Gorham for the night to prepare for the finale in the Presidential's tomorrow. Exactly 23 miles left to go!


Final numbers: 9.1 miles, 9 hours 30 minutes.

Redline Miles: 4.5, Total to Date: 1417.4