January 24, 2012. Big plans if all is well on the trails. Starting with Jackson and then Pierce. Depending on the conditions on to Eisenhower and possibly Monroe. These are the southern Presidentials and from Pierce to Eisenhower it's an additional 1.6 miles and another 2 miles to Monroe. So quite doable with the exception being it is winter and I've never been up in this area. The weather is quite different from two days ago with the temperature in the mid 30's by the time I get to trailhead. The day before it was in the 40's up in Crawford Notch and the day before that -18°.
The early morning wake-up call and on the road by 4:30 am with an arrival time at the parking lot below the Highland Center just past Saco Lake at 7:05. Ten minutes later I cross the road to the trailhead and immediately start sinking in the soft snow. Crap! Conditions are more like spring and this is going to make for a long day. A few feet past the trailhead and off comes the backpack to put my snowshoes on. To put things in perspective I can usually average one mile in 30 minutes but today it is about one mile per hour. The snow is soft and slushy through most of the way. A half hour from starting there is a short path off to the right which is Bugle Cliff and the views are pretty good considering the day is foggy and cloudy. Mt Washington Hotel up the street and the Crawford Notch Railroad is seen down below.
Back on the trail to Jackson and the trail moderates from some steep areas to slight grades. The final approach up to Jackson is steep and as I break from the trees the wind is cold. It took two hours and twenty minutes to get up to the top and it is a wind blown summit. After taking a few pictures trying to find the trail off Jackson isn't easy. The trail is completely blown over and I get a little nervous as I want to get back down below tree line to get out of this cold and biting wind. Finally I find what looks like the trail and it is slick with ice. Carefully I pick my way down back into the scrub and the wind is absorbed by the trees.
Not far from Jackson I come across a strange spot for a bog field. It is a wide open spot which on a sunny clear day would probably have wonderful views. But today the sights are limited as the clouds are quickly rolling in since leaving Jackson.
About an hour and a half after leaving Jackson I make it to Mizpah Hut which is closed in the winter. The picture shows how the conditions are getting worse as the day goes on.
Immediately after leaving Mizpah the trail starts climbing in elevation quickly. The tree branches are all bent over from the heavy wet snow. It has been like this since I left Jackson. I use my hiking poles to knock off the snow in front of me so as not to get dumped on by them. Every once in a while I go under one and get the nice and cold snow wash down the back of my neck. As I approach the summit around a corner comes a couple and again there goes my "no people day". It will be the only people I see today on the trail. One of these days... I reach the summit of Pierce at 11:55 and there is absolutely nothing to see.
Well this is an easy decision to make and there are no regrets at all. Just getting off Pierce and finding Crawford Path is a little hair raising as visibility is horrible. I will not be going on to Eisenhower today. I slowly find the way down or a way down and find Crawford Path. Even this section of the trail is hard to follow and eventually after getting into the trees it is a little better and the trail is much easier to follow. There are spots where the trail is complete slush sometimes six inches deep. I'm sure during the dry season this is a pretty cool trail but today it is a mess because the temps never got below freezing the night before. Anyways, a little over an hour and a half after picking my way off Pierce I am back at the car and it's time for the ride home. Definitely will be back for these two under better conditions and better views.
Final numbers: 8.6 miles, 6 hours and 15 minutes, 2 peaks, # of peaks to date - 29.