May 27, 2012. Today I returned to finish what the weather chased me away from yesterday, Jefferson and Adams. The plan is simple but lofty and long. Both peaks are over 5700' tall and are numbers 3 and 2, respectively, for the highest peaks in NH. The weather is supposed to be good for the first part of the day with clouds rolling in the afternoon with thunderstorms and showers. The plan is to head back to Marshfield Station at the base of the cog railway and head up Jewell Trail again as I did back in March when I climbed Washington. It will be interesting to see the difference in the trail with no snow this time. Hopefully I can also find the entrance through the woods to the bypassed section of Jewell Trail. Remember that Hurricane Irene wiped out the bridge at the beginning of the trail from Marshfield Station.
So back to my usual wake up time of 3:30 AM and in the car by 4:30. Sound all too familiar? A quick stop on the way up at the Dunkin Donuts in Lincoln for a breakfast sandwich and I am at the trailhead at 6:40. Ten minutes later and up towards the trail I go. A quick shot of old George and up the steep embankment and hey! look at that, landscapers flag on a small tree indicating the way to the trail. How the heck I missed that back in March I'll never know. Actually I have an idea, head down when marching uphill. Just as I cross the tracks and go up the steep grassy hill to the trail at the entrance to the woods is a Lady Slipper. As I snap a picture of it something to my right catches my eye and I turn to see a hummingbird flirting around about 8 feet away. I tried to get a picture but as soon as I raised the camera to take the shot it flew away.
Off into the woods I head and I see fresh moose tracks, missed one again. Not too long the new trail merges with the old trail and shortly before the bridge that crosses Clay Brook I see the spot where I had bushwhacked to get to the trail back in March. The temp is just below 50° and the bugs are not out yet, what a treat as I head up the trail. The parking lot had only a couple of cars in it when I left. It is kind of an eerie feeling being on this trail on such a nice morning and I haven't come across a soul yet. It isn't long before I reach the spot where I had clouds on one side of the trail and sunshine on the other. This time, however, I have unlimited views with no under cast. First Mt Willey and then Mt Monroe.
Further up the trail and I see the spot where I kept going straight instead of taking a sharp left, not today, fool me once. About an hour and a half after starting I spot a bird on the left side of the trail and for some reason it does not take off. It is Spruce Grouse and they are notorious for taking flight not before you get close to them but right when you are on top of them scaring the bejesus out of you. While taking the picture I notice a tent in the background and see the first person of the day.
A scant ten minutes later and I break out of the trees and where I was rewarded with a magnificent under cast back in March today it is fairly clear with a bit of haze. A shot of the before and after looking west towards the Bonds, Twins and Lafayette.
While heading up towards the junction with the Gulfside trail I hear the familiar whistle behind me coming from the old coal driven Cog. It is the first trip up the mountain for the day and the only trip this particular engine makes. The other engines are more environmentally friendly and run on bio diesel. Might be more "green" but there is nothing like seeing the black smoke rising above the trees as the little engine that could does.
Back on the trail and the alpine flowers are in bloom. Always an amazing sight to see flora that can survive year after year in the conditions that heralds itself as the "World's Worst Weather".
What seems like a quick hike so far and I am at the junction with Gulfside Trail in just two and a half hours. This time instead of turning right onto Gulfside I head left towards Jefferson. The trail is like a stone paved road with cairn sentinels marking the way for the winter travelers.
Off towards Jefferson I go. It is sunny up above tree line with little to no breeze, quite unusual for this area. The trail over skirts around the base of Mt Clay, twice now I have been this close to it and someday I will head up this peak. Down into Sphinx Col and I wonder where this name came from. A search on the internet turns up nothing but there has to be a story somewhere about it. Ascending up from the Sphinx col and reaching Monticello Lawn it's a left turn onto the Jefferson Loop Trail to Mt Jefferson. Just under four hours from starting and I make it to the summit where I see the first hikers of the day other then the one camper off of Jewell Trail. Such a strange occurrence for a beautiful day. After taking a fifteen minuter break on Jefferson it is time to move on to the next destination over two miles away, Adams.
Down into Edmands Col I go and the path is steep. At one spot I have to cross a snow field that is about twenty feet long.
The path over to Adams is an unrelenting jumble of boulders and takes two hours to get from peak to peak. Adams is very similar to Madison in that is, on the surface, a pile of boulders That at one time was probably one solid mass. Over time I can imagine the thawing and freezing have cracked and split the mountain into what it is today.
Another break on top and within a few minutes three other people arrive and I start up a conversation with them. One of them turns out to be ex-Congressman Jeb Bradley. Feeling quite beat up and not really looking forward to returning the way I came over all the rocks I start thinking about heading down towards Appalachia and getting a ride back to Marshfield Station. It took six hours to get here and easily another six to get back. Two of the hikers offer to give me a ride back if I want to head down with them, both heading down in different directions. I actually considered both options and after a little reflection of why I am doing this journey decide to head back solo the way I came. After all this whole adventure started out as a test to my willpower and determination as well as getting away from every day life. So rather than taking the easy way out I went on my way and headed back towards Jefferson.
The trip is slow and tedious taking extra precautions going from rock to rock. I make it back to the bottom of Edmands Col in a little over an hour but in reality it seemed like forever. Another 45 minutes and I am back at Monticello Lawn and really starting to feel the effects of today's hike. I am starting to bonk and need something anything to pick me up as I still have a long ways to go. The wind is also starting to pick up and the clouds too. Being up on the exposed ridge is the last place I want to be if the forecast for the day turns out to be true. There's a spring (Greenough Spring) not far after Sphinx Col and I'm hoping it is running so I can top off with some fresh cold water to help the pooped out feeling. Climbing back up from the col I reach the spot where the spring is and it is dry, barely a trickle. So I stop and have a few snacks and take a rest hoping this will re-invigorate me for the rest of the ridge walk and down into the cover of trees on Jewell Trail. It helps some and three hours after leaving Adams I am back onto Jewell. On down I go and once in the woods I can not wait until I get to Clay Brook so I can rinse off the sweat and cool off a little. It is a refreshing feeling when I get there and gives me a big boost to finish back at the railway station fifteen minutes shy of eleven hours for the day. Two hours shy of book time but never the less I made it and did not take the easy way out. It was a long day but a great day with excellent weather in an area that is usually a crap shoot for weather. The Presidents are now all done leaving five more peaks to go to finish the 48! The three Bonds, Zealand and Waumbek.
Final numbers: 13 miles, 10 hours and 45 minutes, 2 peaks, # of peaks to date - 43.